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Are You a Painter or a Flooring Applicator?

By Jack Josephsen

Lots of people think floor coatings are just like standard house paint and ask their painters to do the flooring for them as well.

Is this a good idea? Do you really need a flooring applicator, or can a painter do the job just as well?

Of course they appear to be very similar trades in that they both use brushes, rollers etc., but there are actually several key differences between them and I think you need to be very careful when choosing one over the other.

Painter v floor coating applicator

As a general summary, painters:

  • Are used to applying low-viscosity paint, with up to 60% solvent or water content, in thin films and solid colours.
  • Use products with long working times.
  • Are used to applying onto walls and roofs with simple hardware (including low-pressure spray equipment).
  • Have a clear idea on preparation of metal, plasterboard and cement sheeting, but not so much concrete.
  • Tackle floors as well, but treat it like an extension of a painting project.

In contrast, flooring applicators:

  • Are used to higher viscosity materials, i.e. high solids or solventless, applied in thicker films and often with colour blending techniques.
  • Use products with shorter working times and have skills to combat this.
  • Are more focused on preparation because flooring is their “bread and butter” and they understand these surfaces get abused.
  • Own their preparation equipment, e.g. diamond grinders, shot blasters.

Painters and floor coatings

With the observations above, you can see why painters might have a tough time getting the best results with a floor coating. Having worked with paints for so long, I’ve found the biggest hurdles they face with floor coatings are the shorter pot life, relative “stickiness” to apply, and expense per litre/gallon. Because of these three things they almost always have a desire to thin the epoxies down with solvent, which in itself can lead to a host of issues an inexperienced floor coating user might not be aware of.

I know there will be people out there who don’t feel there is a big difference and will correctly argue that painters put down thousands of square metres of flooring. While that’s true, the question I have is how many of these floors stand the test of time? With the failures I’ve seen over the years, I feel the chances of incorrect product selection, solvent entrapment, and delamination through poor preparation only increase when the client has asked their painter to do the flooring as a convenient add-on.

Painter v flooring applicator suitability

It’s obviously important to choose the right trade for your flooring project and, in my opinion, I’d stick with floor coating applicators. Asking a painter to apply the floor, or an applicator to paint the house, simply isn’t the best use of the skills these trades have. This isn’t to say that one can't make the transition successfully to the other, but it takes time and only works if they’re committed to learning the right way. In fact, with the right training and the right habits under their belt there’s absolutely no reason why painters can’t become great flooring applicators!

Finally, I certainly don’t mean to be critical of one trade or the other. They each have their own set of skills that are orientated around their bread and butter products. As a manufacturer of solventless two-pack floor coatings, the majority of users I work with are classified as applicators and I think it's important to understand that distinction.

Let me know if you agree with my thoughts.

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