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The Challenge of White Glossy Floors

By Jack Josephsen

For as long as I’ve been doing decorative epoxies there’s been strong demand for pure white floors, particularly from homeowners. But, are they really a good flooring choice?

Now, I can certainly understand why the pristine white floor you see in glossy magazine spreads would capture the imagination of a lot of people. Those photos can certainly look amazing! However, after many years of doing them and seeing them done, I also realise that similar results are by no means guaranteed and  these types of floors have a considerable downside. 

The main problems with glossy white floors

The following are four major issues that make me think twice about proceeding with a glossy plain white floor:

  1. Imperfections - Glossy white floors, more than any other, will show up defects in the final film. Of course measures can be taken to ensure the surface is meticulously prepared, high-quality application tools are used, and the floor is sealed off to prevent bugs and dust landing on the floor, however in reality perfection is very hard to achieve. All you need is a small dip, a few bubbles, or a stuck insect and the dream of a glossy white floor can turn into a nightmare because most floor owners will have visions of a white mirror across the whole floor. 

  2. Cost - Installing a glossy white floor will generally require more coats or a very thick single coat, which means more product and a higher cost. There are two main reasons for this: firstly, white needs greater thickness to fully block out the surface underneath, and secondly, extra build is required to level out any unevenness and deliver a flawlessly flat finish.

    You can read a more general discussion on epoxy flooring cost in a separate know how article.

  3. Finish - Speaking of flawlessly flat finish, perhaps the biggest hurdle for anyone chasing a glossy white floor is the fact that even with everything else falling into place during application, not all resins can actually deliver it. Just any old epoxy binder isn’t going to form a beautifully smooth, glossy finish regardless of how thick it’s applied and specialist decorative epoxies are the only hope.

  4. Maintenance - No dirt is white and glossy white floors have a great knack of showing up even the slightest hint of everyday dust. Scuffing and yellowing also tend to take on an extra dimension when they have a white canvas to work with. All in all, those with a white floor can find cleaning becomes a full time job.

With all those points in mind, you can start to see why I’m a little cautious when people ask for the perfect white floor.

A more forgiving white floor

So, if white floors aren’t necessarily the way to go, what do I recommend instead? I think the best thing contractors can do in these situations is to try to offer their client the same type of look/feel, but with a few small changes to make the floor more forgiving and drag the odds back in their favour.

A good option here is the use of metallic effect pigments in combination with off-white colours - something like a shimmering pearl finish will add an extra dimension to the floor, help draw attention away from the surface itself, and, at the end of the day, appear very close to white when side by side with most décor. If the client isn’t sold on that sort of tweaking and insists on plain white as the colour, then I’ll turn my attention to the gloss levels and see if something less than a mirror is acceptable. The use of sacrificial polishes (or even clear non-slip topcoats) to create a semi-gloss look will be a massive help in concealing imperfections and dirt while at the same time providing improved scratch and scuff resistance. It's why we recommend using a matte finish on all our metallic floors these days.

A light grey epoxy floor with a subtle metallic effect.

Education is the key

Although it may sound like it, I am by no means suggesting that beautiful glossy white floors are impossible. They certainly can be done. What I do want to stress, however, is that they aren’t easy and it takes high-quality preparation, application and decorative epoxies to do it, as well as a hint of plain good luck in some cases.

For contractors thinking about taking on such work, I highly recommend you educate your clients about the possible issues that can arise before you start and don’t sell yourself short when it comes time to quote because they can’t be done cheaply. The biggest problem with white floors is that expectations rarely match reality and to avoid disappointment you need to make sure you’re both completely on the same page.

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