Before we dig into the difference between water-based epoxy and 100% Solids epoxy, we should first look at what epoxy is.
If like many people, you’ve never dealt with epoxy, you might consider it just another floor paint. Just like enamel or semi-gloss. But this would be like saying a Ford Focus is a Lamborghini, just because they both are cars and do almost the same thing.
Epoxy is a two-part product, consisting of a Resin part and a Hardener part, which are mixed together, before application. Epoxy coating can be solvent-based or water-based.
In comparison, regular floor paints, that you can buy from your hardware store are one part either oil or water-based.
When the epoxy is fully cured, it bonds to the concrete in a plastic-like texture.
Now that we’ve cleared that one up, let’s look at the two types of flooring resin that are most often used by epoxy flooring companies.
Water-based epoxy uses water as the carrying medium as opposed to solvent-based epoxy. Adding water to the epoxy, extends the pot life, meaning when part A & B are mixed, you can spend a long time applying it on the floor, without worrying it will solidify after 30 min.
But simple science tells us that water has the quality to evaporate. It’s like when you apply latex paint to your walls and an hour later there is water running down the windows and the room feels like you are in the tropics. And then you look at the walls and you can see through the paint.
Well, the same happens to water-based epoxy. When the water evaporates, the coat becomes thinner, as it has lost all of the water. So if you applied 7mm of epoxy, after drying it will be only 3 mm left. The end result is weaker, less durable, and lowest quality epoxy coating.
Water-based epoxies are only really suitable for areas that don’t get a lot of traffic like office environments and laboratories where VOCs and other contaminants need to be avoided.
By far the best quality floor epoxy is solids based, with 100% solids being the best type.
A solids-based epoxy is the most basic kind: it’s just resin mixed with hardener, without any water or solvents added (VOCs).
No additives added mean that 100% solids-based epoxy creates the thickest and strongest floor coating.
But why 100%? Well, 100% is always better than 50%. 100% discount = free, 100% at work = promotion. It’s pretty much the same with epoxy flooring.
100% solids mean that you apply 100% of the epoxy, without losing any product due to evaporation. It means the coat applied will not get thinner when fully cured. Because of the chemical reaction when the two parts are mixed, 100% solids cure rather than drying by evaporation, like water-based epoxies.
For epoxies that are not 100% solids, the percentage leading to 100% will be the percentage that it will evaporate away as it dries. The part that evaporates is usually solvent in the case of solids epoxy or water in the case of water-based epoxies.
For example, if epoxy is 50% solids it means that 50% of the coating you apply will evaporate away as it dries.
The lower the percentage of solids is, the more coats of paint you will have to apply to achieve a durable coating. The more coats applied = lower quality and more money spent on epoxy paint.
Without any hesitation, we say 100% solids. It is the strongest epoxy type on the market, providing excellent durability. It is more expensive per m2 to install, but it guarantees better quality and a longer life span. It’s ideal for heavy traffic areas like warehouses, car garages, repair shops, etc. Depending on formulation and installation, 100% solids epoxy can be chemical and impact resistant.