Epoxy vs Polyurethane Floor Coating

December 9, 2019


Concrete is a practical choice for commercial buildings... but that doesn't mean it looks good. 

Concrete has a rough, bland appearance. On top of that, it can stain, crack, and get damaged easily. That's why you need to consider an epoxy or polyurethane floor coating. 

So what's the difference between the two?

We've put together this guide to help you find out. Let's get started below!

What's the Difference Between Epoxy and Polyurethane Floor Coating?

Epoxy and polyurethane are both coatings for concrete floors, but beyond that, they're as different as their names sound. 

But what exactly is the difference?

Here's a quick but closer look. 

Epoxy 

An epoxy floor coating is made of thermosetting polymer. There are several different types of epoxy coatings, but the most common are water-based, solvent-based, or made of 100% solids.

But don't let those terms overwhelm you.

They simply refer to the thickness of the coating. For example, water-based epoxy is often 3 mils thick per application, but a 100% solid epoxy can be as thick as 10 mils per application. 

Epoxy also bonds to concrete very well (much better than polyurethane). 

Polyurethane 

Polyurethane is also made of thermosetting polymer. 

What's so different about the two coatings then?

Polyurethane is made of 60 to 70% solids (in most cases), but it is much thinner than epoxy. The average polyurethane coating is only 2 mils thick per application. You can't adjust this thickness like you can with an epoxy coating. 

But this doesn't make polyurethane worse than epoxy. In fact, it's often considered the preferred concrete coating material.  

Pros and Cons of Epoxy 

Though epoxy bonds with concrete well and has a lot of other benefits, it also has its fair share of disadvantages, too. 

Here's what you need to know about the pros and cons of epoxy floor coating. 

Pros 

Epoxy is hard. This makes it durable and resistant to scratches and impact damage. 

The thickness of the epoxy also creates a smooth and flat surface. Since the coating is so thick, it has a self-leveling characteristic. The epoxy fills in imperfections and hairline cracks and evens out the surface. 

Because of this, you can use epoxy to resurface old or worn-out concrete.  

Cons

Epoxy doesn't hold up well under exposure to UV rays. If you don't keep it out of the sun (which is sometimes impossible), it will fade into a shade of yellow or amber. 

Make sure you choose epoxy that has UV inhibitors. But keep in mind, while these inhibitors will help, they won't prevent the discoloration in the long run. 

Other abrasive chemicals, such as certain types of cleaners, can damage an epoxy coating over time. If you install epoxy, do your best to keep any chemicals away from the floor.  

Pros and Cons of Polyurethane

Polyurethane is thin but strong. It can do things epoxy can't, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have downsides as well. 

Here's what you need to know about polyurethane. 

Pros

Polyurethane isn't as strong as epoxy, but it is more flexible. That flexibility gives it more impact resistance. 

It is also more resistant to abrasives and chemicals than epoxy. On top of that, it won't fade or turn yellow when exposed to the sun. 

Because of tall this, polyurethane can last a lot longer than an epoxy coating. In some cases, it might last three times longer than epoxy. 

This type of concrete coating also has a variety of finishes, such as a satin finish or a glossy finish. So polyurethane often looks nicer than epoxy. 

Cons 

Remember, polyurethane is thin. This means it doesn't have a self-leveling component. If you put this coating over worn-out concrete, the floor will still look worn out when you're done. 

Polyurethane also doesn't bond to concrete as well as epoxy. You might have to apply several coats before you get the surface you're looking for. 

Because of their high VOC level, you'll also have to wear a respirator during the installation process. 

So Which Floor Coating Is the Better Choice?

The short answer to this question is neither. 

You shouldn't focus on trying to choose which option is better for your floor. If you use one or the other, you won't get all the benefits of either one. 

The best decision is to use both epoxy and polyurethane on your floor at the same time. 

Think of epoxy as a primer. It bonds to the concrete, fills in small imperfections, and creates a level surface. When you apply polyurethane on top of that, you protect the epoxy from damage and get a nicer finish. 

So don't pick one or the other. 

Using both epoxy and polyurethane coatings on your concrete floor will give you the best results. 

Understanding the Difference Between Epoxy and Polyurethane 

Epoxy and polyurethane are two different types of concrete floor coatings. They each have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. 

Because of this, you should avoid using just one or the other. Applying them both to the same floor will give you the most durable surface possible. 

But don't make this mistake of DIYing your way through the installation. 

The process is tricky, and if you don't know what you're doing, you could end up making several costly mistakes. Let a professional take care of the application for you. Hiring the right help will end up saving you a lot of money in the long run. 

Not sure who to call?

We can help! Don't hesitate to get in touch with us today!

The Author | Melissa Petrusse
Melissa Petrusse, President, Petrusse-Norris Painting - Licensed Painting/Decorating Contractor and Color-Expert. Please feel free to reach out to Melissa with any painting project questions, as she is happy to be of service. Simply fill out the Contact Form found on our Contact Page, as Melissa personally receives each request. View More Post from Melissa Petrusse