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Home » Mechanical Surface Prep: Safer, More Effective Than Acid Etching

Mechanical Surface Prep: Safer, More Effective Than Acid Etching

Mechanical surface prep is the future!

Contractors have long relied on acid etching for surface preparation in their epoxy flooring projects. But if epoxy flooring as an industry knows anything, it’s that innovation and new knowledge is constantly around the corner. Recent developments & experiences have shown that mechanical surface preparation methods, e.g. shot blasting and diamond grinding, offer significant advantages over acid etching. So don’t get stuck in the old ways!

In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of mechanical surface preparation. We’ll help you understand why it’s become the preferred choice for contractors seeking safer, more efficient, and environmentally-friendly concrete prep methods.

Acid Etching’s Limitations

Acid etching has been a widely used method for preparing concrete surfaces, but it comes with its limitations. The process involves using acidic solutions to create a textured profile on the concrete, allowing the epoxy to adhere better.

The principle of acid etching is solid; you need to create a slightly roughened surface profile for epoxy to bond. While it may provide adequate results in some cases, it simply cannot beat mechanical surface preparation in some key areas.

1 | Limited Surface Profile Control:

Acid etching lacks precision when it comes to controlling the surface profile. A concrete’s surface profile is one of the most important factors in determining the success of your epoxy resin’s bond. If your acid solution is too strong, or too weak, it’ll be impossible to efficiently get that CSP you need! Inefficiency and inconsistency in surface profile will lead to uneven results, create weaker floors, and possibly even ruin a day’s work of laying resin.

2 | Safety Concerns:

There are enough safety hazards on a flooring job site. Grinders, resin, VOCs, dust and more. As you could probably imagine, acid-based solutions pose some significant safety risks to contractors. Obviously, there are best practices that minimize these risks, but acid will always inherently come with some danger.

Even putting aside basic skin contact, exposure to harmful fumes and chemicals calls for safer alternatives. As AllGarageFloors points out, “…muriatic acid it will eat through most anything it comes in contact with including metal, clothes, and skin. The fumes alone can burn the lining of your nose and lungs if you aren’t careful.” All it could take is some laziness or impatience on the job site for a disaster to happen when you’re working with acid-based solutions.

3| Environmental Impact:

Acid etching involves the use of harsh chemicals (most popularly, muriatic acid) that can harm the environment, and the disposal of chemical residues requires careful consideration to prevent environmental contamination. Safe disposal of these chemicals isn’t impossible, but when safer, easier alternatives are available, it’s impractical.

Whether it’s from the rinse residue of the solution you’re using, or from the solution itself, acid seeping into the ground from a concrete preparation job could introduce future exposure hazard. It’ll also likely kill any plants, grass or organic life it comes in contact with if not disposed of properly.

A high-grade, diamond-tipped industrial floor grinder used for mechanical surface prep.

Advantages of Mechanical Surface Prep

1 | Precise Surface Profile Control

Mechanical methods, such as shot blasting and diamond grinding, offer superior control over the concrete surface profile. Contractors can adjust the intensity and pattern to achieve consistent, customized surface textures suitable for specific epoxy applications.

The possibilities are endless when you’re working with a grinder, especially. Change out the tips and polishing pads, use diamond tips, etc. You can fully customize your surface preparation solution to your project’s needs. The degree of control massively outcompetes acid etching.

2 | Enhanced Safety Measures:

Safety procedures for avoiding the risks that come with mechanical methods are much more effective than any acid-based solution. Contractors should invest in proper safety equipment, such as:

  • Masks
  • Industrial-grade dust vacuums
  • Appropriate shoes
  • Training for operating a floor grinder safely

Your priority should always be to minimize health risks and promote the well-being of your team.

3 | Improved Efficiency and Time Savings with Mechanical Surface Prep

Mechanical surface preparation is considerably faster than acid etching, reducing project timelines and increasing productivity. Especially when you invest in a quality grinder! With acid etching, you may end up taking multiple hours just trying to hone in on that CSP.

Contractors equipped with a quality grinder will complete concrete prep more efficiently, which will allow you to take on more projects and grow their business!

4 | Environmentally Friendly:

Acid-based solutions simply don’t align with environmentally-conscious practices. As we pointed out before, they come with a load of inherent environmental risks that simply aren’t present with mechanical surface prep solutions. And to minimize these risks takes away precious labor time you could spend installing a resin layer!

All in all, it just doesn’t seem to make sense for contractors to rely on acid-etching anymore. Especially when mechanical surface preparation is simply more efficient, cleaner, safer and more consistent!

Mechanical Surface Prep: Methods & Techniques

Mechanical Surface Prep Method 1: Shot Blasting

Shot blasting is a mechanical surface preparation technique that involves propelling small steel balls at high velocity onto the concrete surface. Any flooring resource supplier, like EpoxyETC, should have the equipment you’ll need.

Shot blasting removes surface contaminants and weak concrete, which will create that clean and rough profile you’ll need for epoxy adhesion. It’s highly efficient, especially compared to acid-etching, obviously. And just like with a diamond-tipped grinder, the size of the shot blaster you get should be appropriate for the size of the job.

Mechanical Surface Prep Method 2: Diamond Grinding

A floor grinder designed for surface preparation utilizes diamond-tipped tools & polishing pads to sand and roughen up the concrete surface. But, the pattern and roughness of the grind will depend on what tips & pads you choose to use! This means you have a high degree of precise control over the surface profile. The EpoxyETC store sells equipment packages with everything you’ll need to start grinding!

You may want to use a grinder over a shot blaster if you need to level an uneven surface or removing stubborn coatings. And in general, a grinder will be the more efficient option. The resulting surface texture is perfectly designed for epoxy adhesion, and will always deliver that finish consistently.

Conclusion

In the world of concrete preparation for epoxy flooring, acid-etching has always been considered the quick, efficient and trusted method. But the tides are shifting. More and more contractors are embracing mechanical surface preparation methods as a safer, more efficient, and more consistent method. Contractors are embracing shot blasting and diamond grinding techniques for their efficiency, safety benefits, and environmentally-friendly practices.

At Epoxy Classes, we prioritize equipping flooring contractors with the knowledge and skills needed to adopt these advanced methods. That’s why we offer a 5-day training course to help you learn the best methods, best practices and safest ways to operate on the job! Choose safety, efficiency, and superior results—choose mechanical surface preparation with Epoxy Classes.

If you still want to know what surface preparation method is right for you, reach out at (954) 287-3797 to get specialized assistance today! For DIY enthusiasts or contractors, the EpoxyETC online store has everything you’ll need at competitive rates.