Doing the job the way it should have been done has become the lucrative specialty of Marc Freiermuht, president of EZ Out Floor Removal in Oldsmar, Fla., and Les Thomas, president of Elite Epoxy in Indian Rocks, Fla. Their businesses are thriving thanks to surface contractors who look for shortcuts and don’t follow manufacturer instructions.

“If I had to say why a floor failed, it was because there was no prep done,” says Freiermuht. He specialized in floor removal and surface preparation when launching his company in 2005 because he wanted to provide an uncommon service. “Sometimes the coating contractor just pressure washes or acid etches. Neither gets the concrete surface profile (CSP) the manufacturer specifies.”

Thomas agrees, adding that epoxy coatings fail prematurely because many contractors also don’t know how to apply the product or what to put on top of it.

“I have as much work as I want,” he says.

All three factors caused the green epoxy at Firehouse 33 in Pinellas Park, Fla., to last about half its expected 10-year life. The city replaced the badly stained and delaminating coating with a bright blue Increte Systems epoxy designed to provide high-gloss, high-build protection for concrete and masonry. The 100% solids formula has less solvent odor than typical industrial coatings and is easily buffed. To save money, it was embedded while wet with silica sand instead of quartz to create a non-skid surface.

Admiral Blue wasn’t one of the company’s 30 standard colors, but something Increte made for another customer and had available. When shown a sample, the fire department loved it.

Proper prep as specified by the manufacturer includes cleaning the surface to remove oils, waxes, and contaminants, and then grinding the surface to create the manufacturer’s recommended CSP.

Substrate condition determines how EZ Out Floor Removal approaches a job. “If the concrete is hard, we use a larger array of tooling,” says Freiermuht. “If it’s soft, we can only use the grinders and scarifiers. The firehouse had a section that was softer, so we used a ride-on scraper with special carbide blades for removal and a planetary grinder for surface prep.”

The process took two days. Removing epoxy costs $1 to $2.50 per square foot, depending on how much must be removed.

Another important step is checking for moisture, which can cause the epoxy to separate from the surface. An internal relative humidity test can determine if the concrete is dry enough to proceed. Primers can be used to hold back moisture or for a floor without the preferred profile.