Choose The Right Plant Flooring

Jan. 21, 2008
Avoid problems with the right choice in flooring.

Look down; what do you see?

Ultimately below your feet is your plant floor. It’s one of only a handful of ubiquitous elements or components of all food and beverage plants, regardless of the food category you’re in.

Widely used topping systems include epoxy, polyester, vinyl ester, methylmethacrylate (MMA), polyurethane, polyurea and tile technologies.

“While cementitious urethane technology for flooring applications has been around for quite some time now, the characteristics of these systems are not widely known by key decision makers within the food and beverage processing industry outside Europe,” says Jim Ratliff, strategic account manager for Sherwin-Williams Industrial and Marine Coatings’ food and beverage market segment (

In the process, he gives a hint at Sherwin-Williams’ favorite floor.

Concrete is the best foundation, he says. But concrete alone is not enough. “Concrete is the most widely used construction material in the world. [But] like any other construction material, concrete has specific strengths and weaknesses. The well-chosen flooring system provides properties that complement the properties of concrete in a given exposure.”

Why urethane? “Urethane cement floor topping materials have demonstrated excellent comparative performance properties in wet food processing environments and in areas subject to severe thermal cycling, especially within the harsh conditions present in meat processing facilities,” Ratliff continues. “Their resistance to organic acids and alkaline materials provides an effective barrier that protects concrete from attack by the chemicals typically encountered in food plants. Their relative permeability mitigates the effects of moisture vapor transmission- and alkaline-silica reactions-related failures that are commonly experienced with the impermeable topping systems often used in these environments.”

They’re also easy to install. “Urethane cement toppings are very low in odor, and they cure to service very quickly,” he continues. “They are ideal for projects with very short installation and cure windows. A properly selected, installed and maintained urethane cement topping system will provide a rugged and dependable wear surface that effectively and economically meets the challenging requirements of the food and beverage processing facility.”

Keep the beer flowing

Valspar Flooring (, a division of Valspar Corp., also is a fan of urethane concrete. Valspar distributes in North and Central America Flowfresh urethane concrete, which has good resistance to impact, abrasion, aggressive chemicals/acids and thermal shock. Developed by Flowcrete PLC, Flowfresh RT was used in the 2005 floor renovation of a Cincinnati brewery acquired by Boston Beer Co., makers of Samuel Adams beer.

Flooring contractor E. B. Miller Contracting installed Flowfresh RT on thousands of square feet of fresh (or “green”) concrete poured for the facility expansion’s walkways and base floor. Flowfresh RT is a non-slip, heavy-duty rake and trowel urethane concrete that is chemical-resistant and includes Polygiene, a built-in antimicrobial that inhibits growth of bacterial odors and guards against degradation from microorganisms.

In addition, because it has the same coefficient of expansion as concrete, Flowfresh RT withstands extreme thermal shock, allowing it to tolerate sudden temperature changes without cracking or delaminating from the concrete surface.

In addition to the expansion, Flowfresh was chosen for renovations to some older parts of the brewery. “The older section of our brewery has the unique heritage, pride and tradition that characterizes Samuel Adams beer. However, we wanted it to share in all the state-of-the-art production capabilities found in the expansion,” said Todd Roseman, assistant brewing manager.

In the aging filtration room, where processing conditions are hot and steamy, workers had to remove the failing coatings from the floor, walls and ceiling. Preparation was completed using sand blasters, scarifiers, needle guns and demo hammers. Negative pressure was maintained using a 20,000 CFM dust collector with HEPA filters. A half-inch of standard epoxy, cracked from thermal shock resulting from moisture becoming trapped underneath, was completely removed from the floor. Build-up on the walls and ceiling was also sandblasted to sound substrate.

On the floor pit area and walkway, E. B. Miller Contracting applied Flowfresh SR for its heavy-duty durability, heat resistance up to 210° F, and superior slip resistance.

Flowfresh FC floor coating even was selected for the ceiling of the filtration room, instead of a conventional coating. “The exterior ambient temperature was bringing the dew point into play, and the constant wash down of the yeast room located above the filtration room added concerns,” said Adam Jordan, Valspar’s technical sales representative. “As a result, the concrete ceiling had high moisture content, more than a typical coating would allow. I knew that Flowfresh FC with Polygiene would prevent mildew and odor-causing organisms from taking up residence in the coating.”

“The filtration room’s ceiling gets the brunt of the humidity, and probably more punishment than most industrial floors,” notes E.B. Miller installer Greg Hardig. “No standard ceiling coating was going to work, so we went with the one thing that would: Flowfresh FC.”

Two coats of Flowfresh FC, a lighter duty coating with chemical and abrasion resistance, was carefully sprayed on with a large pump and gravity hopper.

Assistant Brewing Manager Roseman is pleased with the results: “As great as these high-performance, long-lasting coatings look in the filtration room, the real bottom-line benefit is the reduced maintenance requirements that are yielding immediate savings. Washdowns are much easier to perform, especially for the ceiling, and because the floors resist abrasion, chemicals and impact, we are not interrupting production for repairs or recoating.”

In another brewery south of the equator, Grupo Bavaria SA decided to modernize its largest facility, in Duitama, Colombia, including all new floors in the receiving and staging areas. The plant already had a Stonclad HT flooring system from Stonhard ( in its bottling area, which had performed well for more than eight years. So Grupo Bavaria again selected Stonhard for the job.

Stonhard was contracted to install in the receiving and staging areas another Stonclad HT system, an ultra-corrosion resistant, epoxy mortar system that can withstand temperatures up to 200°F. Stonhard company reps also would re-seal the existing Stonclad HT floor in the bottling area with a layer of coating to renew its appearance and for added protection. In addition, a small nitric acid storage area in the brewing area was to be coated with Semstone 756, a fiberglass-reinforced lining system designed specifically to withstand nitric and chromic acids.

In preparation for the installation in the receiving/staging areas, the crew first removed an old epoxy flooring system using grinders and chisels. Then shot blasting equipment was used to prepare the concrete substrate for priming. The concrete was now free of all contaminants and foreign matter and was ready for a two-component, chemical-resistant primer.

Stonhard’s HT Primer is formulated specifically for use with Stonclad HT. It ensures a secure bond to the substrate, prevents draining of liquids from the flooring system and makes application of the overlayment easier.

Next, the three-component Stonclad HT was mixed and applied with a screed applicator to ensure the proper finished thickness (1/4 in.). Steel finishing trowels were used to compact and smooth the surface. After the floor cured, the surface was ground to remove any trowel marks or other imperfections and vacuumed to remove all dust particles. The Stonclad HT was then ready for a final coating of Stonkote HT4, a two-component, 100 percent solids epoxy coating with excellent resistance to high temperatures, acids, alkalies and most solvents. It improves cleanability, enhances appearance and increases chemical and abrasion resistance.

As with the new floor, the existing Stonclad HT in the bottling area was ground to clean and profile the surface and then coated with Stonkote HT4.

Then, it was on to an even more aggressive environment, the nitric acid storage tank area. Prior to installation of the Semstone 756 system, the substrate was prepared in the same fashion as for the Stonclad HT. Stonhard’s 800 Series Primer was used to ensure maximum product adhesion.

Once this layer was tack-free, a two component saturant base coat was applied with a notched rubber squeegee. Then, a fiberglass engineering fabric was laid into the liquids and overlayed with another coat of saturant. This time, a ribbed roller was used to ensure the fiberglass was thoroughly saturated.

After approximately five hours, the material had cured and was ready to be ground to eliminate any protruding fibers. After vacuuming the surface, the three-component mortar coat was applied. After that cured, a final two-component top coat was applied using a roller, completing the installation.

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