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High-Gloss Decorative Epoxy Flooring Maintenance

By Jack Josephsen

Congratulations! You've put down a stunning decorative epoxy floor. So, how do you keep it looking like new?

First of all, I should clarify this post is all about high-gloss flooring maintenance. If your floors have a semi-gloss or matte finish then you’re fortunate because that can often simplify floor maintenance greatly. High-gloss floors, however, can be really tricky for a number of reasons and require a bit of work to get on top of.

An example of a high-gloss epoxy floor that would benefit from measures to help protect it from scratching and scuffing.

High-gloss flooring maintenance options

When I first started looking at maintenance for my high-gloss floors many years ago, I began with side-by-side tests of three common options: epoxies, polyurethanes (PU) and sacrificial polishes. I’ll define a sacrificial polish as an acrylic or wax emulsion that’s typically applied with a mop and buffed to increase its durability and shine. In my very simple way of looking at it, which one to use would more or less boil down to how well they resisted day-to-day scuffing, scratching, spills and the like - you know, the usual wear and tear that gradually dulls a beautiful high-gloss floor.

From what I saw in those tests and have experienced since, the best of these finishes when it came to maintaining the original finish was a PU. From that, it might seem logical to conclude that a PU should be applied wherever possible and rest can be forgotten. Well, in my opinion, this isn’t quite the case and PUs aren’t always the solution to high-gloss flooring maintenance. In fact, I prefer to use a floor polish more times than not.

A PU isn’t always the best option

So why aren’t PUs always the answer? Well, the number one concern I have with PUs on high-gloss floors is the gloss levels they are capable of themselves. Whether it’s a single-pack, moisture-cured product or two-pack, solvent-borne, I am yet to come across a PU that can consistently get near the same finish as a decorative epoxy resin. They are acceptable in some projects, but in my experience most clients are disappointed with the final result once a PU is applied (especially if they’ve seen the epoxy finish beforehand). PUs can also be difficult to sand, which makes over-coating troublesome, and compatibility issues can arise between epoxies and PU from time to time.

In that case, you might be wondering why putting another epoxy over my decorative epoxy floors isn’t the preferred option either. An epoxy will certainly hang around a lot longer than a polish and be easier to work with than PUs, however they tend to mark more easily and that’s obviously one of the things we’re trying to avoid in the first place.

That leaves floor polishes and, like I said, I often find they’re the best option for maintaining a high-gloss floor. Yes, they don’t last as long overall, but they generally offer good resistance to scratching and scuffing and are very easy to re-apply whenever it’s time to restore full shine.

What makes a good floor polish?

Obviously not all floor polishes are the same and effective floor maintenance hinges on finding a good one. When sourcing a suitable polish, I want to find one that:

  • Can be applied by the client.
  • Can get a high level of gloss, preferably without buffing as most clients don't have buffing machines and don’t want to pay for it to be done.
  • Can be stripped back with a basic stripper if I need to repair or extend the floor.
  • Is cost effective.

There are tons of sacrificial polishes out there, and like every other type of product, they all sound the same when you read a data sheet. As always, you need to invest time in testing it out for yourself to make sure it can do the job. While you’re at it, find a good cleaner to complement the floor polish - something with a strong cleaning action that also delivers a streak-free finish.

Just in closing, one of the somewhat hidden benefits of using sacrificial polishes for high-gloss flooring maintenance is the fact they encourage the customer to look after their own floor rather than rely on a permanent topcoat to magically last forever. All floors need regular maintenance and if you can put together a good floor maintenance program for your clients it will not only ensure they take responsibility for the care of their floor, it will give you a great “value-add” product to offer as well.

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