All about polyurethane floors
By Painters USA Team
— Last updated October 03, 2021
Polyurethane: What is it?
When choosing the right flooring options for your commercial or industrial facility, polyurethane is another great option. Polyurethanes are polymers that are part of a chemical group called carbamates. The carbamates stick with the polymers to create a strong floor covering. In turn, this chemical makeup provides protection from bacteria, chemicals, and moisture.
There are a plethora of benefits with polyurethane floors, such as floor performance, safety, and aesthetics. Let’s dive into some specific details.
Humidity and heat tolerant
Polyurethane stands up well to humidity and moisture. Because of the flexibility, it won’t buckle under extreme temperature fluctuation. The flooring will expand and contract, so cracks are less likely to form. It also has approximately double the heat tolerance of epoxy—up to almost 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Outdoor flooring—or indoor flooring with a lot of UV exposure—eventually fades and deteriorates under the sun. With a polyurethane topcoat, the flooring is safe from harmful UV sunlight. Oftentimes, UV sun exposure results in a floor yellowing. A protective polyurethane coating can prevent that unappealing discoloration.
Chemical and stain resistant
Because polyurethanes are the most chemical resistant, they are less likely to stain or fade and hold their true color longer. Polyurethane floors stand up to corrosion, inorganic alkalis, organic alkalis, and solvents much better than epoxy, lending to them as a good fit for the chemical industry. They’re particularly protective against natural chemicals, such as lactic acid, which makes them a popular choice for dairy farms. The polyurethane topcoat protects the floor from eroding and staining when inevitable spills happen. Polyurethanes are the only product to hold up to airplane hangers’ skydrol (airplane hydraulic fluid).
Smooth and seamless
Because it is poured, urethane is smooth and seamless. The smooth texture makes urethane floors aesthetically appealing and extremely easy to clean and care for. It is worth noting that because urethane serves as a surface film, it can be a little difficult to apply to small cracks and imperfections. (When it comes to masking flooring blemishes and imperfections, epoxy wins.)
Moisture and heat resistant
Heat and moisture can cause major flooring damage. Floors will warp and even buckle under temperature and humidity extremes when not treated properly. Polyurethane protects the floors even in extreme heat. It’s a strong and resilient protective layer for your floors.
There is no denying that polyurethane flooring is sturdy. In fact, it often has at least double the lifespan of uncoated epoxy. The chemical compounds in polyurethanes make them very resistant to impact and abrasions. This protects even the most heavy traffic floors
There are a few different attractive polyurethane floor options for your business space. These include satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss finishes, depending on the level of shiny you desire in the floor. However, these finishes not only make the floor look better, the additives in the finishes can increase the safety and wear of the polyurethane topcoat.
Types and uses of polyurethane
All the different types of polyurethane are strong, and tailored for specific uses. Whatever type of polyurethane gets chosen, know that your floor will be long lasting and attractive.
Polyester — Vinyl Ester
Polyester and vinyl ester in the paint world refers to a certain type of polyurethane that is resistant to acid spills. It’s also a chemical resistant urethane (CRU). This makes it great at combating chemical spills such as gas, oil, salt, grease, and most acids. Polyester makes a great finish for containment and secondary containment areas where meeting EPA regulations are imperative.
Another suitable type of polyurethane is acrylic. While most polyurethanes are oil-based, acrylic is water-based. Acrylic flooring has beautiful color retention and a shiny gloss finish. It’s UV resistant, which makes it durable for outdoor use. Additionally, the lack of oil in acrylic means it won’t yellow or fade over time.
As a low-VOC formula, acrylic releases less odor into the air when drying than the average polyurethane, making it an environmentally-friendly and healthy option.
Moisture-cured polyurethanes deliver a high-performance finish that cures even in the presence of moisture, and it cures fast and remains flexible. It also can handle higher dry temperatures than epoxy. However, it’s important to be aware that moisture-cured flooring does tend to change color over time and can have an extremely potent odor. In addition, application requires highly-trained professionals with proper PPE protection.
Aliphatic polyurethanes are widely used in an interior or exterior setting. They are the hardest and most scratch-resistant of the urethane family as well as UV resistant and maintain their color for a long time. They can be a nice decorative topcoat on concrete.
Polyurethane is generally more resistant to scratching, chemicals, UV rays, and general wear and tear than epoxy. However, epoxy and polyurethane can be used together to create a very strong flooring system. Epoxy serves as a thickness underlayer or topcoat; polyurethane is strictly a topcoat.
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