An installer applying metallic epoxy on a kitchen countertop
30
Jun

Adept Or Inept: The 7 Deadly Sins of Metallic Epoxy | Blog Post #8

The 7 Deadly Sins of Metallic Epoxy

With interest in metallic epoxy applications and installations are gaining traction every day, more and more metallic epoxy installers are popping up in the market. How do you tell the professionals from the simply unskilled?

In this article, we list the key mistakes, as well as the tell-tale signs, which may help you differentiate and assist you in your decision to picking the right installers: The 7 Deadly Sins of Metallic Epoxy.

cracked and warped epoxy
Sometimes, epoxy which is meant to help solve a problem such as a cracked countertop, becomes the problem itself.

Like every other product and service, metallic epoxy coatings are offered by a variety of suppliers — some individual contractors, others larger firms. Today’s post seeks not to evaluate either source, but rather to give you the tools to distinguish good workmanship from bad. For ease of reference, these telltale signs of poor work will be listed in ascending order — from mere eyesore to catastrophic malfunction.

metallic epoxy blue galaxy living room floor
Metallic epoxy is so difficult to manipulate, and design is extremely subjective. So here we have a gorgeous metallic blue galaxy epoxy floor done by us!

1. Poorly Manipulated Patterns Or Designs (For Flat Surfaces)

Imagine having chosen an exotic-patterned metallic epoxy floor for your bathroom, with bold golden streaks accenting a jet-black background. You return home, after the installation, to find that the design of your floor has fallen incredibly far off its mark. The broad golden swirls are little more than vague patches of gold pigments; the vast stretches of empty black space between the gold accents mirror the expanse between reality and expectation. This is nothing like the catalogue, you scream in your head.

While poor execution of the intended design doesn’t directly compromise the integrity of the floor, it does cast doubt on the contractor’s ability to deliver on any other prior promises — you’d better start running down this list and checking your floor.

2. Bubbles

Bubbles are fun in the air, bubbles are great in your drinks. Bubbles are neither fun nor great when they’re in your epoxy floor. These small defects in epoxy coatings are usually due to one of three factors — improper pouring and spreading of product, tiny particulate within the epoxy, and outgassing from concrete floors. While the first is a strong sign of an amateur installer, and the second could indicate poor pre-installation cleaning or inter-installation contamination, the third factor is rather debatable in terms of culpability.

Outgassing occurs when air in cement rises and gets trapped in the epoxy layer above it. The amount of air released from cement is dependent on the type of cement mix used to construct the floor, a factor that is out of the epoxy coating installer’s control. However, any installer worth his salt is fully aware of outgassing, and applies a layer of sealant and primer below the epoxy to greatly minimise any outgassing.

bubble craters in epoxy surface
small bubbles that pop resulting in holes and craters in your finished metallic epoxy surface
microscopic bubbles in epoxy
Microscopic bubbles such as these on the edge caused by natural warm climate or the difference between the epoxy and surface temperature is considered within industry standards.

3. Stains

Since epoxy is a non-porous material and can’t actually be stained, the term ‘stain’ is a bit of a misnomer. The hideous ‘water-stains’ that most homeowners see on poorly installed epoxy coatings are largely due to two reasons — moisture trapped within the cured epoxy or the epoxy partially peeling off the surface it was applied on. The former is usually due to improper pre-installation cleaning, while the latter is commonly the result of using low quality substrate that epoxy does not adhere properly to. Professional installers clean the installation site thoroughly, and employ one or more sealant and primer layers to further reduce moisture and increase the epoxy’s adhesion.

stains on metallic epoxy
Metallic epoxy is a non-porous and seamless material, which results in it being stain- and waterproof! But cheap material and poor application can result in oil stains as seen above.

4. Uneven Surface

The average epoxy mix takes just over an hour to cure — ample time for the capable installer to finish arranging patterns within the epoxy and smooth it over. Such a simple process is another matter entirely for inexperienced or inefficient contractors; taking too long to finish the pattern arrangement means less time to smooth the epoxy coating over before it fully cures, resulting in a rushed job and a highly uneven surface. While applying a topcoat helps to even out minute irregularities, larger dips and rises cannot be removed entirely. These dips may trap food or shallow puddles of liquids in which bacteria or mould can grow, while making it more difficult to clean than a smooth and regular surface.

uneven epoxy floor
Unskilled epoxy application resulting in uneven and non-levelled epoxy finish.
uneven surface epoxy floor with bubble craters
Craters caused by bubbles poorly covered up with a sloppy, additional layer of epoxy

5. Mould

The primary cause of mould on a mould-free material is installer error. In much the same way as Sin Number 2, subpar cleaning and cutting corners on applying a sealant and primer layer can allow moisture to penetrate from beneath the epoxy layer. On its own, this allows mould to grow in isolated colonies under the epoxy coating, but not extensively. However, coupled with the cracks, fissures and many bubbles in a poorly poured epoxy layer, the mould has free reign to spread throughout the flooring, sometimes even reaching the surface. Such damage can only be repaired at great cost — by hacking out the entire affected section and repouring the epoxy. Often times, the damage is so extensive that it’s simply more economical to remove and recoat everything.

mould on epoxy countertop
One of the many key advantages of metallic epoxy being non-porous and seamless, allowing it to be stain- and waterproof. However, cheap and low-grade quality epoxy can result in mould as seen above.

6. Warping

Warping is often due to poor adhesion between the epoxy and its coated surface at a critical part of the application process — curing. As epoxy cures, it contracts by a very small amount. Across a large space, this can add up, causing the epoxy layer to pull up and away from spots that it poorly adheres to in dramatic fashion. The results are obvious — exposed bare floor and a highway beneath the epoxy for bacteria and mould to fester. While one reason for such poor adhesion is simple — poor cleanliness before and during installation. The other is a little more obscure. The surface that epoxy is laid on has to either be coated with primer for good adhesion, or be a surface that naturally sticks with epoxy. Some surfaces that are poor matches include sealed concrete or flooring with layers of polish or anti-stick material. An amateur installer who skips the primer coating and doesn’t check for such surfaces often produces a warped epoxy coating. Fortunately, warping occurs right as the epoxy is curing, giving you ample time to dispute the issue with your installer and seek redress. Still, an unuseable surface rates this sin pretty high on the list.

warp epoxy countertop
Skipping even one step in the whole process can lead to a warped countertop above.

7. Peeling

This is the greatest sin of all, a point at which you would be better off with a naked surface. Due to catastrophically poor adhesion across the entire epoxy layer, the epoxy coating begins to peel right off the coated surface while remaining in one solid sheet. This problem is most notable at the edges of bathroom walls, or the edge of a countertop facing a sink, where water and organic debris will enter and fester beneath the epoxy layer. If your installer installed a nice, clear coating, you would have a front row seat to watch the mould bloom beneath the coating while being entirely unable to clean it up. The main reason peeling epoxy is such a grave sin is because it may only be observed weeks after installers hand over the project, at which point shady contractors may refuse to perform repairs. Unlike warping, your only options are probably a full installation by another contractor. The reasons for such poor adhesion are similar to those in Sins Number 1 through 6 — improper pre-installation cleaning, low quality substrate, and improper mixing of the epoxy product.

Skipping on the necessary steps and using low-grade products reduce turnover time and costs are just some of the things installers may resort to in order to obtain a low price point. Epoxy peeling as seen in the image above is a sitting time-bomb waiting for mould, dirt and bacteria to fester and grow.

Red Flags

While it is useful to be able to evaluate the quality of your installed metallic epoxy coatings, few would argue that it would be infinitely more useful — and less expensive — to be able to tell a good contractor from a bad one.

Some of the best ways to find a good contractor are client reviews — Facebook, Instagram, Google. These are indispensable resources for the careful homeowner, and precious currency for business owners.

The first sign to watch for is possible fraudulent social media material. Shadier contractors tend to get stock photos from industrial sources and insinuate that the installations in the photos are past projects of theirs. If you notice suspiciously similar photos across a few contractors, the odds are that one or more of them are not being honest.

The next sign is simply using what you’ve learnt about the seven sins and observing photos that the contractors post. Despite posting only the least incriminating photos, bad contractors are typically unable to avoid showing defects in their installed floors. Poorly executed design (Sin #1) and an uneven or scratchy surface (Sin #4) are the easiest to spot, besides bubbles.

The final sign is cost. You often get what you pay for. While expensive services can sometimes turn out to be disappointing, it is more often the case when deals that are too good to be true prove the rule. Shop for quotes across different contractors — if a contractor offers a surprisingly low price for services, further digging often turns up skeletons.

With these tools at your disposal, we hope that it’ll be easier for you to hire a good contractor and get what you pay for. To view our works and testimonials from satisfied clients, look no further than our Facebook page and our testimonial page. For an obligation-free, all-you-can-ask consultation with our experts, feel free to drop a message or call us for an appointment.

With all those said, do note that metallic epoxy is volatile, and as it is hand-drawn, it takes skill and experience to manipulate and create the designs and effects requested by clients.

Environment as well is a key factor; the closer to a “clean-room” environment the epoxy application is installed in, the better the finishing product. The type of surface, the levelness, and the working conditions all affect the outcome of the finishing look and feel as well.

Minor variations, be it in colour or design outlook from the proposed samples, or natural occurrences such as dust spots or minor spots due to the metallic pigments, may happen in any project and should be accepted if within industry standards.

Check out our FAQs for more information on the technical and design aspects!