Epoxy Coatings - Tips for Coating Fire Departments’ Apparatus Bays
Over the past 20 years, we have interacted with many Fire Departments looking for epoxy coatings for their apparatus bays’ concrete floor. Many do not get the installation due to funding constraints, but sometimes that is because the department has convinced itself it wants types of coatings that should not be used in that environment.
To help, we’ve created the following list of tips about coating these floors with details about each further below:
- Use solid colors in the apparatus bays.
- Use higher compressive strength systems for the apparatus bays.
- Make backup lines configurable.
- Use epoxy cove base only where necessary to control costs.
- Use decorative chip floors in the admin areas.
- Tint windows on bay doors for UV protection.
- Ensure grit profile in the coatings is adequate.
- Coat all apparatus bays at the same time.
- Retract tire chains before backing into apparatus bays.
- Keep the apparatus bays swept clean of stones and grits.
- Ensure soap scum is removed during cleaning to ensure the floor does not become slippery.
TIP 1 – Use solid colors in the apparatus bays.
A solid color coating, such as gray, will make it easier to see anything on the floor while still having high sheen and enhanced aesthetics. A solid color background allows your department members to see equipment, parts, or even just dirt/debris off the truck.
Be careful with dark colors, as again it will make it harder to see items on the apparatus floor. Unless a pigmented urethane is used, some epoxy colors will shift color from UV exposure. For example, a blue epoxy (not blue urethane) will color shift to green with too much sunlight exposure.
A solid color coating also makes it easier to see backup and guide/stop lines.
While everyone likes the look of metallic epoxy (the wavy, artistic floors), this type of coating should absolutely not be used in an active fire station for the apparatus bays.
TIP 2 – Use higher compressive strength systems for apparatus bays.
Fire trucks are heavy. Even though they are on rubber tires, the downward force combined with stones in the tires can damage (crush) thin-mil coatings. Don’t even consider DIY epoxy paint kits, they are just a waste of your department’s time and money.
Thicker coatings of epoxy - reinforced with sand between each layer - greatly increases compressive strength. If you choose to use media in the coatings to create the floor’s final appearance, colored quartz (single color or blended) is a great option.
TIP 3 – Make backup lines configurable.
Wherever possible, use high-quality, reflective tape for guide and backup/stop lines instead of a permanent solution. This allows for changing the lines if your apparatus/equipment changes. When the lines are placed using coatings, changes become problematic or impossible.
Example of heavier duty tape for the floor can be found at Creative Safety Supply.
TIP 4 - Use epoxy cove base only where necessary to control costs.
While epoxy cove base was once popular in commercial coatings installations, it is rarely necessary. Often between $12 - $20 per linear foot, it quickly boosts the project costs and makes future changes costly. Most firehalls have block walls meeting the concrete floor, so there is no need for cove base to protect the wall surface from water.
TIP 5 – Use decorative chip floors in the admin areas.
While the apparatus floor benefits from a solid color epoxy coating, the opposite can be said of the offices, hallways, and other non-service areas. In those areas, a decorative flake floor coating creates a more pleasant aesthetic and hides minor dirt, dust and debris.
TIP 6 – Tint windows on bay doors for UV protection.
Over time, sunlight takes its toll on colored surfaces and can even cause some materials to brittle or weaken prematurely. Even if a UV stable coating is used, tinting the windows greatly reduces UV damage in the very long term to wherever the sunlight lands throughout the day.
TIP 7 – Ensure grit profile in the coatings is adequate.
Too often, departments start off wanting a smooth floor but forget to take into account low coefficient of friction on a wet floor in fire fighting boots. Adding grit to the floor can help with wet and dry coefficient of friction.
TIP 8 – Coat all apparatus bays at the same time.
While it may seem like a good idea to coat a bay at a time, doing so will cause several problems:
- Coatings often traverse several bays without a defined boundary (such as a control joint). Except for those joint boundaries, the coatings should be seamless for both aesthetics and functionality.
- Preparing the concrete surface involves diamond grinding or shot blasting (see: Grinding vs. Shot Blasting), both of which can cause dust even with the best dust vacuum/extraction systems. For that reason, all apparatuses should be out of the bay areas.
- Experience has shown that the areas receiving coatings can't often be taped/roped off enough during department calls or training, so the coatings can be impacted.
In summary, it's better to just make the entire apparatus bay area of the station off limits and get all of your coatings completed at once.
TIP 9 – Retract time chains before backing into apparatus bays.
Traction chains damage coatings and the concrete surface, especially due to the high weight and point load of the vehicles. The damage traction chains cause is not just unsightly, but it may also be crushing the concrete surface under the coatings resulting in extensive repairs to the entire tire path of the vehicle.
TIP 10 – Keep the apparatus bays swept clean of stones and grit.
Just like the tip above about tire chains, the extreme weight of fire fighting vehicles can cause damage when grinding stones into the coatings (or even the uncoated surface). Whenever possible, keep the floors swept clean of grit and stones.
TIP 11 – Ensure soap scum is removed during cleaning to ensure the floor does not become slippery.
Along with the grit mentioned in TIP 7, proper cleaning will keep the coefficient of friction higher (wet or dry). When wet, residual soap scum will make smooth (or coated) surfaces more slippery. Fire departments investing in concrete coatings should also budget for a floor auto-scrubber to make maintaining the floor easy and complete.
Coating the apparatus bay of your fire department may seem like a daunting task, but with these tips and tricks, the end result can be an aesthetically pleasing and easy to maintain floor. For more information and/or an estimate, fill out our contact form and one of our experienced territory managers will get into contact with you.