Table of Contents
Industrial demands on concrete flooring
The concrete floors in warehouses, factories, and other industrial structures take a beating, especially in facilities that operate 24 / 7. Destructive forces include:
- Weight and pressure of machinery and stored goods.
- Heavy loads transported around your facility.
- Wear and tear of foot traffic.
- Environmental factors like temperature and humidity.
It’s crucial to keep a regular inspection and maintenance schedule for expansion and control joints, and Painters USA is a national contractor with the expertise needed for this work. If left unsealed or unfilled, joints collect dirt and debris. When filled and sealed, normal expansion and traffic can cause the joint filling to tear and deteriorate over time, especially when poorly done. No matter how they're implemented, lack of proper maintenance leads inevitably to safety hazards, unsanitary conditions, and potentially expensive damages.
The impact of deteriorating control joints in commercial floors
Expansion joints are what keep concrete slabs stable and solid by accommodating thermal expansion and contraction, foot and equipment traffic, and heavy loads. Instead of cracking and disintegrating, they enable concrete slabs to flex, which creates a more durable floor.
Yet these joints also have downsides, as they:
- Collect dust, debris, and moisture.
- Obstruct smooth transfer of equipment and wheel loads.
- Create tripping and other potential safety hazards.
Monitoring the area around your expansion joints and keeping them in good working order will go a long way, because as expansion joints deteriorate, the rest of the floor will follow.
Why expansion and control joints fail
Concrete expansion and control joints are prone to failure in a few ways:
- Slabs become uneven or the concrete chips and cracks along the joint lines.
- Floor coatings fail when they are poorly applied or unsuitable for the setting. For example, when installing an epoxy flooring system, some contractors apply the epoxy right across the joint. Since epoxy is rigid when set, it then tears and snaps over time as the control joint flexes.
- Environmental issues like temperature and humidity fluctuations over time.
- Poorly mixed concrete and bad slabs can set a shaky foundation.
Damaged expansion joints cause a tripping hazard for employees and an unstable surface for stored products and vehicle traffic.
Handling any control joint priorities
Every client we work with has unique requirements for control joint maintenance, depending on their operations and the industry they’re in:
- Variances in utilization, traffic, weight loads, and environmental factors.
- Regulatory requirements, especially critical in industries like food processing and pharmaceuticals.
- Limited downtime, especially in 24 / 7 operating environments.
- Heavy use of chemicals and other corrosive materials.
- Requirements for flooring and expansion joint warranties.
- Financial and business concerns like budgets and the expected lifespan of the facility.
With decades of experience, Painters USA has managed every client requirement as part of our services and commitment to quality.
How to fix failing expansion and control joints
Cleaning and smoothing before epoxy coating
A lot of commercial and industrial painting companies would simply replace the epoxy coating over the floor, but that’s really a band-aid that does nothing to keep the issue from coming up again. It would be like painting over rust on your car, providing a clean surface for just as long as the paint lasts but never solving the problem. Our process includes the following:
- Using a grinder to clear out the epoxy coating, concrete, and any other debris. If there is microbial growth, that will need to be cleaned before proceeding.
- Once the grinding and cleaning is done, epoxy mortar is used to rebuild the concrete control joint.
- The surface is then leveled and smoothed, before finishing with an application of epoxy over the entire floor with a line cut through the surface, into which we apply a flexible joint filler made of polyurethane to keep the joint flexible and prevent epoxy coating failure.
Abrasive blasting to prep concrete floor
Abrasive blasting is a versatile industrial cleaning technique that can roughen smooth surfaces or smooth rougher surfaces, depending on your needs. Abrasive blasting is also an effective way to remove surface contaminants or shape a surface.
Sandblasting is a type of abrasive blasting that uses highly-pressurized sand to improve the quality of expansion joint surfaces and prepare them for industrial painting, commercial painting or heavy-duty cleaning in an industrial space.
Filling and sealing with one joint filler product
For many years, filling and sealing floor joints were two separate tasks. Recently, it has become widely accepted to use a polyurea joint filler to accomplish both goals with one product. And, when used in conjunction with our automated mix pump machinery, we can take on even your largest joint filling and sealing needs in the most efficient way possible. In addition to being an all-in-one product, the polyurea system offers the following benefits:
- Allows control joints to function properly while providing a barrier against moisture and debris.
- Quickly cures so you can be back up and running within 1-2 hours
- Can be used in extremely cold temperatures, in some cases as low as -20F.
- Meets all aspects of control joint protection while still accepting up to 15% joint movement.
The Painters USA team uses a specialized piece of equipment called a Plural Part Polyurea Machine for this work. The efficiency of this machine saves time and money, while our skilled hands ensure quality results.
Control and expansion joint cleaning and filling expertise
Painters USA offers control joint cleaning and filling services to protect against cracking, spalling, and other deterioration. Our floor maintenance services will keep all your heavily traversed surfaces in good shape and give your floors a barrier of protection against any destructive or corrosive forces.
Best crews in the business
Many vendors can say they have experience; our joint repair teams have years of experience plus extensive training and certification, like SSPC Concrete Coating Applicator Specialist certification for control joint filling and sealing.
Best fillers and sealers in the business
Rest assured that Painting USA uses the best commercial products for filling and sealing, giving you the most suitable option for any building or operating environment.
Money and time savings
Our specialized joint filling machinery combines a two-part poly-urea system into one, saving time and money when it comes time to address your floor issues.
Regulatory inspection support
We keep your floors safe and sanitary for USDA, FDA, OSHA, and third party audits and inspections with use of the right products to prevent safety hazards and contamination.
Capabilities for multi-site needs
Painters USA is big enough to manage Fortune 500 clients, national companies, or medium businesses with a few locations, giving you convenience and consistent results.
If vendor diversity and variety are goals of your business, Painters USA can check that box. We have been annually certified by WBENC as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) since 2014.
Joint filler customer story
Epoxy floor and joint filling project for business move in the Quad Cities
Painters USA recently had the chance to help a manufacturing facility as they prepared their new property in the Quad Cities. To make things just a bit more interesting, our deadline for work completion was very tight. While the new property did meet the needs of our client, the flooring needed some help before it could be considered ready for service. The work included:
- Filling floor joints to create an even, smooth, safe surface that is ready to stand up to the wear and tear of a manufacturing environment. For this project we used a polyurea system.
- Filled cracks and repaired spalls, the types of flooring failures often caused by expansion and contraction that comes from numerous freeze / thaw cycles in places like Iowa and Illinois.
- Prepared the surface by grinding the floors with our diamond grinder to create a receptive, fresh surface.
- Application of a two-part epoxy floor system to provide a layer of moisture-resistant durability.
- Work completed during off-hours and over the weekend so as not to interfere with the client’s operational schedule.
Give us your downtime challenge--Painters USA is more than willing to meet your scheduling demands, it’s part of our commitment to client service and satisfaction.
Expansion and control joint FAQs
What is the difference between expansion joints and control joints?
A control joint prevents cracking by relieving stress due to shrinking as concrete cures and small movements caused mostly by moisture. An expansion joint is designed and created for expected structural movement in building materials.
Should expansion joints and control joints be filled?
To support joint edges from stresses imposed by heavy, hard-wheeled traffic, joints should be filled full depth with a material that has good compressive strength. Joints in slabs that will not be subjected to heavy hard-wheeled traffic can be left unfilled or sealed with a flexible sealer, but it’s not recommended in commercial buildings as control joints can become areas for dirt and debris to collect and cause problems. In food processing, pharmaceutical, and medical facilities, they can become even greater problem areas by harboring moisture and bacteria if not properly filled and maintained.
Failure to properly seal or fill control joints may also result in moisture migrating through the joint into the base and subbase and incompressible debris filling the joint, impacting adjacent slab sections. When that happens, consequent base, subbase and slab distress can result in rocking slabs and even vertical displacement. Originally published in Concrete-Construction.
What is the difference between filling and sealing?
Joint sealing is done with a flexible (elastomeric) material typically installed over a backer rod to give the seal the proper shape in the joint. Filling is done to the full depth of the joint with a material that has enough compressive strength to support the edges of the joint from stresses imposed by heavy, hard-wheeled traffic. Joints in slabs that will not be subjected to heavy hard-wheeled traffic can safely be left unfilled or sealed with a flexible sealer. Originally published in Concrete-Construction.
What do you use to fill expansion and control joints?
Polyurethane caulking is the best material as it is cost-effective, offers high bond strength, and meets the flexibility requirements of expansion joints.
What is the difference between polyurethane and polyurea?
Polyurethanes have been used for many years as adhesives and sealants; polyureas are relatively new. According to Dr. Dave at Adhesives & Sealants Industry (ASI), "The most important difference is that the polyurea reaction is much faster than the polyurethane one, and the systems can gel within a few seconds after mixing."
When should expansion joints and control joints be refilled and resealed?
Fillers and sealers should be refilled and resealed as soon as you detect cracking and/or separation from the joint edges, which is why regular inspection is necessary to ensure long-lasting performance. Since expansion joints tend to crack slowly and steadily over time, it’s important to fix problems as soon as you spot them. Issues that require prompt attention include hairline cracks that can develop into bigger ones, loose and dislodged pieces of filling material, and discoloration.
What causes concrete floor joint fillers and sealers to crack and break?
Temperature changes are a major cause of cracking, as well as forces that pull the filler apart and compress it back together or that push the filler downward. The use of improper materials and poor installation can have an adverse effect on how well joint fillers hold up. Any one of these factors can damage adhesion and edge protection, which leads to cracking or disbonding from the joint edges.