The first step is to grind...
The first step is to grind off any epoxy or other contaminants that would keep the base from properly adhering to the floor.
Don't you hate it when you're on your back under the race car and you drop a nut, bolt, or some other small fastener and it takes 10 minutes to find it on your old worn-out shop floor? Yeah, we do too. In fact, we hate it so much that from the day we signed the lease on our new race shop we knew we wanted to upgrade the floor. Our Circle Track/Project DLM race shop is located in a typical industrial park around the corner from CT's main offices. It's a 24 by 48 space and has an older concrete floor. Although stained, the surface is flat, even, and largely undamaged.
After performing the water...
After performing the water test recommended by RockSolid we sprayed an undiluted industrial strength degreaser directly on the areas where the water beaded up.
We could have gone down to the local Home Depot and picked up a few gallons of epoxy garage floor paint at $30 per gallon. But experience told me that was not the way to go. Years in the construction industry taught me that high-traffic areas and spaces where hard-core work such as race car fabrication, preparation, and routine maintenance take place need a floor that can stand up to abuse-a lot of abuse. So we spent some time surfing the internet, polling other race teams and generally researching floor coatings, all the while trying to decide exactly what we were going to do. We were running out of time because we wanted to get the floor completed before we began building the new Project DLM. That's when we ran across Rock Solid Floors.
You have to be sure the floor...
You have to be sure the floor is dried completely before etching.
Founded in 2007, RockSolid Floors may be a young company but it is an affiliate of Citadel Floor Finishing Systems whose history reaches back 38 years, starting with waterproofing solutions and concrete restoration, and then evolving into to industrial Polyurea floor coatings. The transition from industrial Polyurea floor coatings to the do-it-yourself garage floor coating came in response to customer demand for a garage floor coating far more durable than your typical floor paint. Being the manufacturer of the product made it an easy transition. What RockSolid basically did was reformulate the industrial version of the coating to allow the home owner more time to work with the product, and the patented "RockSolid System" was born. The system comes in different unique formulations and colors and includes an instructional DVD to show you exactly how to install a RockSolid Floor.
But Just What Is It? According to the Polyurea Development Association (the trade association for the global Polyurea industry), a pure Polyurea coating is derived from the reaction product of a polyisocyanate component and an amine-terminated resin blend. This resin blend may be made up of blends of amine-terminated and/or hydroxyl-terminated polymer resins. Yeah, I had the same reaction, "Huh?" OK, in other words it's two chemicals coming together in a reaction to form a product that can be effectively used as a coating. Think of a two-part epoxy on steroids.
Polyurea has been utilized for more than 25 years in industrial applications as coatings for pipe/pipelines and linings, water treatment plants, manhole and sewer linings, and molded automotive parts. In fact, if you are familiar with spray-on pickup truck bed liners, you are familiar with Polyurea. Fast cure times, flexibility, and abrasion-resistance are all inherent properties of Polyurea. When you think about that, Polyurea is a logical choice for a race shop floor.
Why Use It?
Next we mopped the entire...
Next we mopped the entire floor surface with a diluted (5:1 ratio) version of the same degreaser.
Like I said before, in my day job as a general contractor I have seen garage floor paints start to peel, flake, and degrade in less than a year under just moderate use. As racers, we beat the snot out of our shop or garage floors on a weekly basis. So we want something that is tough and durable. That's the main reason we chose RockSolid. Polyurea is extremely durable, like four times stronger than epoxy. Plus, it's chemically resistant to oil, gas, and other harsh chemicals that might accidentally find their way to the shop floor. It's also 98 percent more flexible than epoxy, allowing for natural concrete movement. Less critical in our subtropical shop location in Tampa, but for you racers up north where frost heave is common each year, Polyurea will not crack or peel.
Working in a 10x10-foot section...
Working in a 10x10-foot section of the floor, we pour the etching solution evenly on the floor and then scrub it in with a stiff bristle broom.
RockSolid Floors offers a kit that provides enough material to cover a 275 square feet, or a standard single-car garage for a retail price of $375. Naturally, a typical two-car garage would use two kits. In our case, the shop is a lot bigger than a typical single car garage, but that's not a problem since RockSolid also sells the flooring system in larger containers. The coverage of the coating is dependent on the porosity of the concrete being coated and the application technique. If you are doing a large area like us, we suggest ordering more than you think you'll need. That way you're sure to have enough.
You can see the solution fizzing...
You can see the solution fizzing (the white foam), a sure sign that it's working.
Getting this stuff to properly stick to the concrete requires some floor preparation. You just can't slap it on and expect a perfect finish. There are a number of things to be checked. The very first thing you have to do is to determine if the concrete has been previously sealed. Ours was not, but if you don't know, all you have to do is pour a small amount of water onto the floor in different areas. If the water beads, it's most likely been sealed and you'll have to chemically or mechanically remove it. You can do this with a diamond grinder available at a local rental store.
One note about previously coated floors-if that coating is well-adhered to the surface, you can re-coat over the previous coating if you scuff sand the surface using 40-80 grit sandpaper. A final wipe with acetone will remove any residue.
When the fizzing stops after...
When the fizzing stops after 4-5 minutes you can move on to the next section of the floor.
Here's how you can test that old coating to make sure it has properly cured to the concrete:
1. With a razor blade, cut an X through the coating and down to the concrete.
2. Apply a 5-inch piece of duct tape over the X and press down firmly.
3. Completely remove the tape with one quick pull.
4. If more than 10 percent of the taped area is removed, the original coating is not bonded well and needs to be removed chemically or mechanically with a diamond grinder.
By the way, if you do need to remove any old coating do yourself a favor and wear an NIOSH-approved respirator, then clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop.
To ensure that all of the...
To ensure that all of the etching solution is removed, we rinsed the floor four times with clean water. Anthony Griffith mopped while I squeegeed.
OK, the next test is for moisture. Water and damp conditions are not ideal for applying RockSolid's system (as we found out thanks to Florida's summertime weather patterns), so you need to test your concrete surface for moisture. Lay a 3x3-foot sheet of plastic (such as a heavy-duty garbage bag or plastic sheeting) to an area of the floor. Tape down the edges with duct tape and allow it to sit for 24 to 48 hours. If water droplets appear on the inside of the plastic or if the concrete appears wet (darker in color), the moisture in the concrete is high and your slab should be waterproofed prior to coating. RockSolid manufactures a Polymatrix Gel Waterproofing, made specifically for this purpose.
In addition to the clear coat...
In addition to the clear coat that gets applied later, RockSolid's system comes with two parts, Primer-Body Coat A and Primer-Body Coat B. To begin you must mix both sides separately until a uniform color appears. We opted for a mini concrete whip on a cordless power drill.
It stands to reason that since concrete is a local product it is going to be different in many regions of the country. Some regions will have hard concrete while in others it will be soft and chalky. The bottom line is you have to create a good anchor surface for the RockSolid primer-body coat and you do this by etching. Now if you have soft and chalky concrete, RockSolid recommends diamond grinding the surface with 20-50 grit diamonds to remove the soft fines. For areas of the concrete that have spalling, chipping, or cracking, RockSolid makes a patch kit.
As part of our kit we received the RockSolid Floors Safe Etch Solution. This etching solution is used to open the pores of the concrete thus providing the proper adhesion. Our concrete floor was old but it was also virgin (read not coated/sealed) concrete, so we ended up going straight to this step after grinding a few old epoxy puddles from the previous tenants.
With both A&B mixed to uniform...
With both A&B mixed to uniform color, we stepped outside the directions and used a contractor's trick to ensure our floor will be an even color when finished. Since we were doing a large area, we were forced to use multiple gallon cans of the Part B (that's the color). So we mixed the cans together to ensure uniform color consistency across each one. Sure it took a little longer but the finished product was perfect.
By the way, the etching step does not clean the concrete. That has to be done prior to etching. We used an industrial strength degreaser mixed with water to thoroughly mop the floor before starting. With the floor completely swept and mopped, we applied a mist of water to the surface. Pay careful attention here because the concrete should accept the water evenly and consistently across the entire surface to be coated. If there are areas of beading on the surface, it represents a possible contaminate that will interfere with the adhesion of the new floor. Any of these areas need to be completely cleaned.
RockSolid provides calibrated...
RockSolid provides calibrated 2.5 quart mixing containers with the kit. It couldn't be easier: 20 oz. of the Primer-Body Coat Part A, mix into 40 oz. of the Primer-Body Coat Part B. Following the directions, we mixed for two minutes, scraping the sides the whole time.
With everything clean, slowly add 1 quart of the professional Etch Solution to 3 quarts of water in a plastic watering can (1 gallon total). Working in a 10x10-foot section of the floor, pour out the etching solution evenly on the floor. Scrub the solution around with a stiff bristle broom. The etching solution should fizz for about 4-5 minutes while being scrubbed. (Note: if the concrete does not fizz it means that there is a sealer on the floor and must be chemically or mechanically removed).
Once Parts A&B have been mixed...
Once Parts A&B have been mixed together the coating should be completely uniform in color and consistency. Now get rolling because the pot life of this coating is only 20 minutes.
When the fizzing stops, hose off the solution and move on to the next section. When all sections are completed, rinse three times while scrubbing with a stiff bristle broom. A wet/dry vacuum should be used to pick up all the water. To speed up the process, use a floor squeegee to push excess water to the center of the floor, then vacuum. Do not leave pooled water on the floor. Let the floor dry at least 2 hours with a fan operating to move air over the surface.
This is really, really important. The floor must be completely dry before applying any coatings. If it isn't you will have problems with the application and the product could fail.
Having two people roll the...
Having two people roll the coating onto the floor maximizes the amount of coverage you can get in those 20 minutes.
The kit for our main shop does not have decorative chips but the one for our showroom does. Chips get broadcast over the coating's surface after it has been applied. We'll cover this application in a separate story. One thing that Mike McAllister from RockSolid warned us about is to follow the instructions to the letter. So, without interpretation here are the exact instructions for applying this floor:
While the instructions call...
While the instructions call for an 18-inch roller, we found a standard 12-inch roller to work just fine, plus the smaller roller will save you a decent amount of money.
Never mix more than half of the kit at a time.
1. Place a tarp on the ground and thoroughly shake the Rock Solid Primer-Body
Coat parts A and B
2. Remove the lids of both sides and mix separately with a paint stirrer until uniform.
3. Utilizing the calibrated 2.5 quart mixing containers, measure 20 oz. of the Primer-Body Coat Part A and add 40 oz. of the Primer-Body Coat Part B. Remember, it's imperative to only mix half of the kit at a time. Use the supplied paint stir stick to mix the combined materials for a minimum of 2 minutes, making sure to scrape the sides of the container and blend thoroughly. The pot life of the material is 20 minutes. It will be important to utilize a helper to brush in edges while the second person is rolling.
Here's one section of the...
Here's one section of the floor with the Primer Body Coat complete. You'll note that we taped off a section of the floor. Our shop floor is made up of four sections, each with its own cut line from where the concrete was originally poured. These cut lines made the perfect stopping points since we didn't have the luxury of moving everything out of the shop. We essentially coated the shop floor in four sections.
Pour the mixed material into an 18-inch paint tray, keeping a small amount in the mixing container for brushing in edges. Using a 3-inch paintbrush, cut the material in around the perimeter on half the area to be coated. Fully saturate an 18-inch roller and apply material in 4x4-foot sections in a thin and even coat across the floor using an "M & W" pattern. This pattern will provide the most uniform results and ensure that the material will spread over the desired area. Once a strip across the entire back wall has been coated, you may broadcast the RockSolid Floors Decorative Chip if desired. The performance of the coating will not be affected with or without chips-it is simply a decorative touch to enhance the look of the coating. It's important when broadcasting the chip to leave yourself a "wet edge." This is a 6- to 12-inch section of the coated floor that will not receive chips until the next section of coating is applied and rolled into the "wet edge," allowing for a seamless application. Once the next section has been rolled you may broadcast chips again and continue this system throughout the floor, cutting in edges as you go. Mix the remaining half of the kit only after the first batch is completely applied to the floor. Do this quickly to avoid having material dry on the roller.
Not surprisingly the cure time depends on temperature and humidity but averages 6-8 hours for foot traffic. You'll need to keep the whole area clear for 48 hours before you start working on your race car.
Things We Learned Twenty Minutes Means Twenty Minutes
RockSolid also has a Clear...
RockSolid also has a Clear Top Coat which provides additional protection and a high sheen finish. While you don't have to use it with the floor system, we highly recommend it.
When the directions say that the pot life is 20 minutes, they mean 20 minutes-not 19, not 21, 20. After that 20 minutes expires any unused material is junk. In addition, remember I said we had an issue with the weather? For those of you who haven't been to Florida in the summer, it rains every day down here, usually around 4 p.m. The other thing about Florida in the summer is that when the weatherman predicts no rain he tends to be wrong.
Magazine deadlines being what they are, we were forced to pick a day with little chance of rain (according to the weatherman) and take our chances. Well, Mother Nature decided to test us. A mid-afternoon shower while we were working on the floor essentially cut 5 minutes off of the pot-life of the coating. If you can wait to apply your RockSolid floor during a clear, less humid day, do it. Keep in mind that the ideal temperature range when working with Primer-Body Coat is 40 degrees F to 90 degrees F (4 degrees C to 30 degrees C). Warmer temperatures can shorten working time while cooler temperatures will require longer cure times. As we found out, humidity can also affect the dry time of the Primer-Body Coat. Higher humidity will shorten the pot-life of the material and will cause it to set quicker.
Cheap Rollers Will Become Useless
Do not try to skimp on rollers. Buy the professional-grade stuff at a real paint store. A member of the team who shall remain nameless thought he could save some bucks by buying the economy pack. This real Polyurea coating ate right through the cheap roller.
Do not reuse mixing containers, rollers, or paintbrushes If you allow the partially cured material to come in contact with freshly mixed material, the new material will cure almost instantly. This translates into a higher cost because you'll need additional rollers, containers, and so on.
The Bottom Line
Our freshly powdercoated new...
Our freshly powdercoated new chassis sits on the finished product as Project DLM sits quietly semi-retired in the back of the shop.
This floor coating system is truly an industrial-strength coating system. You have to work quickly and concentrate on what you are doing. You're also going to need more than one person if you're doing a floor of any reasonable size. But the bottom line is the finished surface is Formula 1 quality. RockSolid backs up the floor's good looks with an industry leading 3-year warranty against delamination that they'll boost to 5 if you use the Clear Top Coat as well. One look at our finished product and you can tell that this coating is definitely RockSolid.