Advantages of Epoxy Vapor Barriers

      By: Greg Williams , ISCoatings®


      This is an introductory blog from Industrial Safety Coatings into the use of epoxy vapor barriers as part of our product portfolio.  ISC will follow with future blogs about the risks associated with slabs and some limitations we have experienced with the use of vapor barriers.  But for now this is a simple introduction to their advantages.


      There are many advantages to epoxy  vapor barriers.


      To begin, Industrial Safety Coatings has experienced great success using epoxy vapor barriers.  There are several manufacturers with competent technical field support and training programs that offer extensive field training and guidance on the installation and use of epoxy vapor barriers.  We have found, there are several factors that support the use of epoxy vapor barriers and some reasons to approach projects with some caution that we will address in a future blog post.  Some caution and real world understanding or their limitations is critical, in our experience, to having success and avoiding issues with the use of epoxy vapor barriers.


      Advantages exist for both new and existing concrete slabs that require finished flooring.


      NEW SLABS: we have found with the use of epoxy vapor barriers include: New or “green” concrete that has not fully cured.  Usually the general rule of thumb is 28 days cure time for 4” slabs (with underslab plastic vapor barrier) that is required for concrete to read as acceptable for non-breathable floors like epoxy flooring.  An advantage of vapor barriers (in the instance of a new concrete pour) is a contractor is allowed to apply finished resinous floor systems to green concrete prior to reaching full cure.  Additionally epoxy vapor barriers may be necessary under traditional VCT (Vinyl Composite Tile) and LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) floors.  The ability to apply certain vapor barriers in this condition will allow a contractor to put the new concrete floor in service long before the 28 day cure requirement for 4” slabs.


      EXISTING SLABS: Epoxy vapor barriers can offer an in-expensive approach to coating or applying other floor surfaces to older or existing floors without vapor barriers.  Some signs that indicate floors may need a vapor barrier include adhesive appearing between tiles or planks in VCT or LVT floors and prior epoxy coatings blistering or releasing due to vapor transmission. Addressing older or existing concrete slabs with properly installed vapor barriers allows owners or contractors the option and flexibility of changing floor design or use as needed.  This often is the case with renovation projects where a new owner or tenant moves into an existing space and changes the use of the space to fit their needs or are simply remodeling.


      Cost:  A key advantage of epoxy vapor barrier is the relative cost of material and labor for installing an epoxy vapor barrier.  Given the cost of finished flooring material and labor and the risk of not providing a vapor barrier, we have found $3.00-$4.00 a foot installations of epoxy vapor barriers as a benefit to customers who need them.  The alternative cost to not applying a vapor barrier, could be losing adhesion and function of the new floor system.  The added cost of a business interruption to remove flooring and replace can be hard to calculate depending on the size of the job and how the customer uses the floor space. Given that some manufacturers offer their certified installers 10 year material warranties, the investment in the vapor barrier can be pennies per foot over the life of the finished floor system.


      This is a general introduction into advantages we have found in the use of epoxy vapor barriers with our customers.  We look forward to positing soon about the general risks and things to be aware of when considering the use of epoxy vapor barriers in flooring projects.