Is using a 25 percent solids floor finish a good option for you? High solids floor coatings have become very popular. But with the higher cost and reputation for difficult application, are they really worth it?
A while back I wrote a post about how many coats of floor finish you should use to protect vinyl tile floors. In this post, I used images, taken with a microscope at 400x magnification. With these pictures, it was easy to see how thin layers of floor finish first filled in the pores and then created a protective layer on top of the tile.
As stated in the original article, I used a 20% solids floor finish for this demonstration. But not everyone uses these types of floor finish. There are many types of floor finishes. In fact, finishes with 25% solids have really started to take hold in the market and thus made me want to redo the experiment. But first, what is a 25 percent solids floor finish?
What Is A 25 Percent Solids Floor Finish?
While I have covered this topic at length in this previous post, let’s recap how floor finish solids work.
First, solids are the material that is left on the floor after floor finish has dried. These are made up of polymers which is a type of plastic that is suspended in liquid form until applied to the floor. Once applied, the liquids evaporate leaving behind the protective coating. When use a finish with a higher amount of solids, obviously there is more material left on the floor.
While this sounds like like an obvious choice, traditionally higher solids meant that the finish was thicker and more difficult to apply. Also, because of the additional solids, the purchase price is usually higher. But newer technology has made higher solids finishes easier to work with and made the increased price much more justifiable. After all, if you can the same or better floor protection from 4 coats of 25% finish that you would from 6 coats of 20% finish, then the added labor dollars of those 2 extra coats can easily offset the higher price.
So with that said, on to the pictures.
25% Solids Floor Finish Up Close
The images above are taken at about 50x magnification. They are done in a progression from bare floor to 6 coats of a 25% solids floor finish. I applied the finish with a microfiber cloth. In fact, early on, a strand of microfiber was left at the lower portion of the test area. I was a little bummed about this at first, but it ended up being a good point of reference because believe it or not, at that magnification, it is difficult to zero in on the same spot each and every time.
One thing I noticed right away was that the 25% finish did add thickness much faster than the 20% did. While 5% may not sound like much, it is actually quite a lot. When you take into account that it leaves about 20% more material on the floor after it dries. That means that if you typically add 3 coats of 20% solids finish, with 25% finish, you are applying the equivalent of 4 to 5 coats.
You can either choose to apply fewer coats to save short-term labor, thus cost. Or if you are looking more long-term, stick with the same amount of coats and add more protection to your floor and increase the time between refinishing.
25% Solids and 20% Solids Side By Side Comparison
For this image, I have applied 6 coats of a 20% and 25% solids floor finish side by side. For these image, I did not take pictures between coats, as I wanted to preserve the sharp line for each. If you look closely, you can even see some of the blue painters tape residue. (I used the best tape I could find that claimed “No Tape Residue!” Ha!)
Just looking at them with the naked eye, there was a pretty significant difference after the first 2 coats. The 25% showed a pretty good gloss after only 2 coats compared to the 20%. But coats 4, 5 and 6, they evened out to be pretty close.
But up close…. There is some difference. The 25 percent solids floor finish does not appear to be as thick? I am still a little perplexed by this but the only thing I can come up with is that it is more dense. Meaning that the polymer molecules are packed in tighter. I justify this theory because the 20% finish seemed softer or more tacky, even after 24 hours of dry time. The edge of my microscope actually left and indentation in the 20% but not in the 25%. If anyone who is more scientific than me can explain this, then I am all ears.
As for shine, both appeared to have similar gloss and both leveled out very well. Leveling has always been a concern of mine with 25 percent solids floor finish due to being thicker during application.
Recapping The 25 Percent Solids Floor Finish Experiment
After all is said and done, I am still a believer in using the best value finish. My experience over the years has been that if applied properly, higher solids hold up better over time. Keep in mind, I am not a scientist and this was not done in a lab. It was actually done in my office, on my desk. (Which is clean) While I tried to keep it as controlled as possible, things such as airborne and surface contaminants could have interfered.
Every floor care environment is different and has its own challenges. That is why there are so many types and brands of floor finish out there. Just remember, while what you are currently using may seem to be working, thanks to technology, there is always the possibility that a new product and/or procedure may be just around the corner that could perform better. Always be on the lookout for ways to improve you floor care program.
Thanks to Chase Yacko (@Chaseyacko) at Canberra Corp for posing the 25% vs 20% solids question.