Last summer, our local floor coating installer, Monty Patton, was contracted to install a new polyaspartic floor coating in the bathroom facilities of the Austin Yacht Club in Austin, Texas. The requirements for the yacht club bathroom floor stated that it needed to be easy to clean, impervious to water, dirt, mud, mild soap/shampoo, and look good. With those requirements in mind, Monty knew that a resinous polyaspartic floor coating would be perfect for this job. The floor was completed in May of 2018. The GM was pleased with the floor - another happy customer!
"Ooooohhh I like it!"GM, Austin Yacht Club at Lake Travis
~ 6 months later ...
On October 16, 2018, the Highland Lakes in Central Texas received significant rainfall resulting in massive flooding along the chain of lakes. The surrounding areas received 8-12 inches of rain that Sunday through Tuesday, 6 inches of which came early Tuesday morning. Lake Travis is the second to last lake in the chain, closest to Austin, Texas. Lake Travis' all time highest water level was 710.44' on December 25, 1991. On October 20, 2018, Lake Travis reached 704.39', 23' over capacity, marking the 5th highest water level for the lake, and the highest water level in the last 26 years.
Flooding devastated communities around Lake Travis for several weeks following October 17, 2018. In January of 2019, our flooring contractor finally heard from the GM of the Austin Yacht Club. To their surprise our polyaspartic floor held up during and after "the flood". They stated they could not believe it since their facilities were under water for several weeks and covered in all kinds of mud and grime. They washed and cleaned the floors and were surprised they came back to looking brand new. Polyaspartic flooring withstands flooding, quite the testament to our flooring chemistry.
"Monty, I have to tell you that your floors held up well during 'the flood' on Lake Travis last October. I couldn’t believe it, but they were under water for at least 2 weeks with slime, seaweed and nasty water. When it was all washed and cleaned the floor looks like new. That is an amazing testament to your flooring." GM, Austin Yacht Club at Lake Travis
Polyaspartic polyurea coatings are extremely durable technologies and offer many advantages over traditional lower cost, lower performance, self crosslinking acrylics and alkyd paints of yesterday. The inherent strength of polyaspartic technology comes from its aliphatic backbone and high crosslinking density that allows it to be strong and resistant for many applications. These coatings were originally released as environmental control / protection coatings for architectural and structural devices. Think bridges, water tanks, rail cars, pipes, oil platforms/rigs, etc... Pretty much any metal or concrete surface exposed to salt, water and UV conditions; such conditions are known to deteriorate substrates and coatings over time. Along the coast salt fog spray and UV exposure can cause steel to rust, polyaspartic and other polyurethane 2k type coatings offer excellent corrosion protection specifically for these environments. Eventually, this technology was adapted for flooring and automotive top coats because of its superior traits featuring excellent durability, corrosion resistance, and quick application/return to service times.
However, this floor was submerged in water, why aren't we concerned about moisture vapor transmission (MVT) delaminating the coating? MVT can certainly present itself as an aqueous layer and pressure that can interfere between substrate and coating layer. In moisture related flooring failures the weakest link in the architectural system will fail first, which is usually the coating. Fortunately for the Austin Yacht Club we don't take shortcuts on our flooring preparation methods. In this case the substrate, concrete, was diamond grinded. This allows the polyaspartic to soak into the concrete and to fill gaps in the pores locking itself to the concrete. It would take a lot of MVT over a significant period of time to delaminate the coating.
In this situation the floor survived because it was installed correctly six months prior. The polyaspartic polyurea coating fully cured months ago and is basically a 100% solid plastic layer bonded to the floor, technically a thermoset plastic or highly crosslinked polymer resin (involving a catalyst and exothermic reaction). When substrate prep and primer are applied correctly this floor coating can tolerate moderate MVT for short periods of time. A short period of time for example would be during/after a rainstorm when the surrounding soil is wet, but returns to normal within a few days. The Austin Yacht Club can thank physics and luck for saving their floor. When water / moisture vapor pressure manifests itself beneath a floor for extended periods of time it can cause coating delamination, peel, popping and bubbling. However, when moisture is beneath and above the floor like when the flood submerged the floor, the water pressure forces were equalized. After the area drained and the concrete returned to normal moisture levels the floor remained intact because any possible MVT did not remain for extended periods of time. It's currently April 25th as I'm writing this, if the MVT remained elevated since October of 2018, we would have seen problems by now. Moisture laden flooring problems typically manifest themselves within 4-6 weeks after installation or a moisture related problem such as flooding or a pipe burst.
Sources of Excess Moisture in Concrete
All of these points are important to keep in mind when hiring a concrete contractor, since moisture can seriously impact the strength of concrete. Too much excess water in cement results in lower concrete pore density, which results in less dense concrete. Less dense concrete is weaker concrete, it has significantly reduced compressive strength and durability. This occurs because as the concrete cures, the water slowly evaporates and leaves air behind in its place. For instance, concrete with 10% trapped air density can result in compressive strength reductions of as much as 40%!
Now lets look at the last four bold points as they are extremely important in applying decorative concrete coatings. Applying the wrong coating at the wrong time can negatively impact the performance and appeal of your floor. Solvent based coatings and 100% solvent reducible coatings are extremely vulnerable in these situations and can result in coating failure. Excess moisture negatively affects the rate of cure, adhesion, appearance, and physical strength/chemical resistant properties.
Some concrete slabs will have abnormally high moisture levels for life simply because of where they are located. Think of concrete slabs located in environments with rain year round, where their water table level is closer to the surface. These high moisture environments can present a challenge for all types of concrete workers. For pourers it can significantly affect the cure time and strength of the concrete. For decorative concrete applicators the moisture can significantly impact their ability to get a coating to adhere to the floor. Knowing how to address these issues is what sets the pros apart from the rest.
The solution to moisture laden concrete slabs could be a moisture mitigation coating system, these are also called vapor barriers. Vapor barrier coatings are useful when other means of moisture mitigation were not taken or have failed. Traditional vapor barriers or vapor retarders included plastic tarping/sheets (polyethylene plastic) laid beneath concrete pours to prevent water vapor from penetrating the slab. Water vapors penetrating concrete slabs can cause issues such as cold, damp, clammy feeling concrete that never goes away, delaminating coatings/sealers, discoloring acid stains, producing efflorescence on the surface, damaging aggregates, and even causing the concrete slab to crack, bend or curl and move beneath objects in the floor.
Thanks to new coating technology you don't have to forgo decorative concrete coatings or live with cold, damp, clammy concrete any longer. New concrete coating vapor barriers are high solids, extremely low viscosity coatings. Our new Epoxy 150 W coating is a high solids, extremely low viscosity, low VOC coating. It features specialty wetting additives and siloxane technology to ensure excellent adhesion to properly prepared concrete. Our specialty epoxy formulation was designed specifically for use in moisture laden concrete slabs. This means it can be applied to green concrete (freshly poured concrete) in addition to older concrete that happens to be moisture laden. This epoxy primer vapor barrier features excellent adhesion, reduction or elimination of gassing bubbles in concrete, and sealing water penetration. The key to its success is its extremely low viscosity and additive combination that allows it to wet into concrete, it fills empty pores densifying the concrete surface creating an ultra strong surface bond. This vapor barrier is capable of withstanding 6-12 lbs of MVT depending on solids percentage and number of coats applied. For more information on this vapor barrier please contact us.
Before and After photos of the Austin Yacht Club bathroom floor from May 2018.
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About The Author
Samuel Strayer is a trained chemist with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from Arizona State University with an emphasis on material and polymer science. Samuel has been involved in developing and testing coating systems for over 10 years.
Keywords: Austin, TX, Texas, Polyaspartic, Floor, Flooring, Coating, Flood, Lake Travis, Flood, Flooding, Yacht, Club, Impervious, Durable, Polymer, Coatings, 78734
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