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The Benefits of Surface Tolerance and Moisture Tolerance

By Jack Josephsen

You've probably heard the old saying about practicing tolerance and how it can lead to a more peaceful life. Well I think the same goes for your epoxy coatings!

What on earth am I talking about? Put simply, products that are tolerant of both surfaces and moisture can bring great benefit to any coating application business by saving time and money, winning more work, and, as I just mentioned, helping to create a less stressful work environment.

What do surface tolerance and moisture tolerance mean?

Before I get into how surface and moisture-tolerant products can achieve all of the above, I’ll clarify what is meant by the terms.

The idea of surface tolerance relates to the ability of a product to fully coat a surface that could otherwise be viewed as troublesome. To paint a quick picture, some coatings will work well over perfectly clean concrete, metal or other films, however crawl at the slightest hint of contamination, dust or even gloss. A surface-tolerant product, on the other hand, will be capable of providing full coverage in these situations because it has a more forgiving formulation that delivers better levelling properties. This type of tolerance also extends into areas such as adhesion and a product’s ability to stick when ideal surface preparation is just not possible (marine and underwater coatings are prime examples).   

Moisture tolerance is perhaps a little more self-explanatory and is a topic I have raised regularly throughout this blog. To recap, some don't like moisture of any kind and can experience adverse reactions ranging from blushing to softness to bubbling (in some polyurethanes). Moisture-tolerant coatings aren't so sensitive and can be used if it's humid, damp or, at the far end of the scale, completely underwater.

A diver performing repairs to a tank underwater using a moisture-tolerant epoxy coating.

Why is surface and moisture tolerance important?

Ok, now to the good stuff. Why do I think surface tolerance and moisture tolerance can help your application business and make a big difference to the stress levels? Well, there are a few ways:

  1. Help avoid failures - You can't make money on jobs that fail or require callbacks. Using tolerant products helps overcome many potential sources of failure, from poor surface preparation to unexpected weather conditions or even human-related catastrophes. I often tell the story of a flooring project on a Royal Australian Navy ship involving an open water valve flooding a freshly laid epoxy floor and remarkably ending well because of the product’s amazing moisture tolerance. Having that sort of reliability built into your application business does wonders for your confidence and peace of mind.

  2. Save in costs - Not only do tolerant products help avoid failures, in some instances they can also reduce the amount of product, number of coats and overall time required in the first place. Surface-tolerant products can be particularly effective in this regard if their use means you can skip the extra cost and time of applying a primer, for example.

  3. No delays and more control - As a small business, being able to plan and carry out work regardless of the conditions can’t be underestimated in my opinion. With surface and moisture tolerance on your side, the "what ifs" are drastically reduced and jobs tend to run more smoothly. This feature is critical on commercial flooring projects with tight shutdown demands as they can't afford delays of any kind and often need around-the-clock work to be completed on time (which means lower temperatures and dew points can come into play). The ability to perform all-weather work can also have a big impact on cash flow because there’s no risk of sitting on your hands for a week when wet weather sets in.  

  4. Win you more work - The net effect of offering all of the above is an application business that has fewer failures, runs smoothly with no delays, can work at any time and in any place, and can often be cheaper when the total costs are added up (even if the material cost is higher). Being able to offer such a service is extremely powerful and likely to open up all sorts of work opportunities that simply wouldn’t be there otherwise.

How to spot surface and moisture tolerance

I know what you're probably thinking now: “How do you find such products? How can you tell what is or isn’t tolerant?” Fortunately there are usually some pretty big clues given away in technical data sheets of epoxy coatings to steer you in the right direction.

For starters, any mention of the compulsory use of a primer is an obvious indication a product might not offer much in the way of surface tolerance. The same goes for most products with a really quick turnaround because they don’t have as much time to bond with the surface. I think epoxy floor coatings definitely fall into this category and the curing agents they use can also be hard to control from a levelling point of view. Sections listing product limitations can also provide some valuable insights into the type of coating you're dealing with. You should be able to easily determine if the coating has moisture issues because there'll be warnings around humidity, dew points, hazing or, if you’re talking epoxies, amine blush.

If that kind of detective work leaves you uncertain, you can always try the direct route and simply ask the manufacturer to see what they have to say.

Now, I’m definitely not suggesting every contractor needs to dump their bread and butter coatings or risk business failure. The aim of this post was more about highlighting how some products are more forgiving and reliable than others, and the sizeable advantages that can come with that.

If you’re frustrated by inconsistent results, struggling to plan your work schedule or wasting time waiting for the right conditions, you might find things become a whole lot easier and a whole lot less stressful if you can find products with greater tolerance. 

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