Understanding the Cold Weather Impact on Floor Coatings

by Ray Gutoski - Sales Representative for Southern California


When it comes to epoxy and urethane coatings, it takes more than just knowing your surface and how to apply the materials. It’s vital to understand that cold weather during the fall and winter seasons can affect coatings. There are a few rules of thumb when preparing to apply a coating as the weather cools. Among them:  


Material Handling and Storage


No matter what part of the country you work in, chances are good that the materials you use will need to be shipped to your job site. This usually means that a trucking company will pick up the order from the manufacturer, stage the materials at a regional or local warehouse and then deliver to a job site, all which expose the various materials to cold temperatures for extended periods of time.


Contractors typically focus on the ambient temperature of the area where the material is stored, but failure to recognize the temperature of the materials when they land can prolong the time needed to bring them into the proper working temperature range. Surprisingly, this is especially true for sand or powdered components, which are typically stacked on pallets that allow the bags to hold the temperature much longer than if they were in liquid form. Adding cold sand to properly stored liquids has a negative cooling effect on the system, and can lead to problems with installation or coating failures.


Once the materials have arrived at the worksite, it’s best to separate the bags of powdered materials so they can warm up to ensure that all components are ready for use.


Environmental Control


While so much is out of the contractor’s hands when it comes to environmental conditions, there are two elements that can be controlled on any job site: ambient and substrate temperature, which  are equally important to a successful installation.


The goal is to have each of the temperature readings between 65 degrees and 80 degrees F. One without the other can lead to slower cure times and limited product workability. Substrate temperature is increased more effectively by use of radiant heat than by HVAC.


There is also dew point to consider, or the temperature at which condensation begins to form. This adds the relative humidity in the area into consideration. The general guideline is that no coating material should be installed when the dew point is within 5 degrees F. Below is a quick-reference chart to help guide contractors on optimal application.


Timing Performance and Completion


Most coating products are tested for physical properties at the baseline temperature of 77 degree F, which includes viscosity and cure times. When temperatures go below this baseline, the materials lose workability and their cure times increase.


A common misconception is that the use of “fast cure” manufactured formulas will hasten cure time. Unfortunately, this is not true for all types of coasting materials. If a coating is not cured properly prior to preparation or recoat, it opens up the possibility of system failure, making it incumbent on the applicator to adjust the installation techniques to these variables.


While cold temperatures greatly affect the product and end result, with a little careful planning around preparing materials, understanding temperatures and taking timing into consideration, a quality epoxy and urethane coating can be applied successfully.