Advantages of Epoxy Vapor Barrier Part II


      This is a continuation of advantages of epoxy vapor barrier installations for existing slabs that help mediate moisture transmission. If high RH readings are present in existing slabs and require epoxy vapor barriers a couple of risks should be considered.

      One of the biggest risk is prior surface contamination. In many of our epoxy flooring projects we work with owners that may have an automotive shop or industrial space that has heavy concrete surface contamination. Epoxy flooring installations are a great way to improve the function and cleanliness of floor spaces in areas like these and in many cases is a requirement by the facility we are working in. We approach this type of work with not only an eye on the age of the slab and RH readings but we also try to get an understanding of the processes over time that have contaminated the slab. We have seen airborne misted oil, improper chemical removal of asbestos that contaminates concrete in commercial areas, cutting fluids, and even silicone as contaminants. When you combine certain contaminants with high RH the risk of a failure in the epoxy vapor barrier application is very high.

      Steps to Reduce the Risk: If you read the technical data sheets for reputable vapor barrier manufacturers they will spell out what is required for warranty. Basically it is proper concrete surface profile on clean, dust free, hard concrete without contaminants.

      Our first step in assessing the risk is to ask the customer what are the processes and materials that contaminate the slab. Once we have a feel for the history and what may be in the slab we try to determine if we can accept the risk. Many times we have of core sampled the concrete using an outside lab testing firm to look at what contamination is so we know what level of surface prep is required. Other steps always include some type of surface prep usually shot blasting and when contamination is known we will try different forms of cleaning to remediate the contamination. For example if we know its oil we will use microbial enzymes for treating oily floors. Once this step is complete and the floor is dry we will proceed with epoxy vapor barrier. Most of the time we are finishing the moisture remediation with a finished epoxy floor, urethane, or chemical resistant floor coating that meets the customer’s needs.

      Informing the customer in our proposal that contaminated floors have risk of bond failure especially in older slabs with moisture problems. That risk is not one the our company takes on, we always disclaim responsibility for bond failure if contamination is confirmed. Most of the time we are able to proceed with projects with an understanding that our best efforts for surface prep and addressing contamination the best it can be. But other times we have lost or turned away contracts or work that present too much risk to Industrial Safety Coatings or the customer.

      In any event if slab contamination is addressed properly the odds of a successful epoxy vapor barrier are pretty high. The key for us has been to get agreement and an understanding of risk before proceeding.

      Advantages of Epoxy Vapor Barrier

      Advantages of Epoxy Vapor Barrier


      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.