Silverback series - Chris Norris - Flake Flooring

I'm a firm believer that our industry will not evolve fully unless we learn from those that have years of experience. I affectionately refer to them as our silverbacks.

On this occasion I was invited out on a job site to see how Chris went about doing a flake flooring system in a residential double garage.

It's always good to see how the floor is done, but while I was there I also took the opportunity to ask Chris some questions around his planning at different stages of the project to see what we could learn.

In this first video below, we discuss planning for the flake basecoat:

Planning for a Flake Floor System - Basecoat Planning

Video Transcription: 

Jack: So here you've now finished the preparation. You've done your patching of cracks, your divots, you've done your sealing around the edges. I see you're setting up now to do the roll coat. So garage granite, you're typically doing four square meters a litre for a base coat, but it can use more, depending on how you're feeling on the job. Is that how you're seeing it?

Chris: That's right. So the first step here, each slab is different, some slabs will use a lot more, and never less, so we're looking at 250 microns per square meter as the base coat coverage. So the way I work, I mix up a litre and a half or a litre and would do a cut round the outside first. And then I've got my main, if I'm doing it on my own, in the winter, I'll mix up a full six litre mix of epoxy and get ready to squeegee that out.

So if it's in the middle of summer and I'm on my own, I don't make the mix as big, because I find that it tends to get a little bit stiff towards the end of it, it's nicer to work with a fresh mix.

And different epoxies are different. So this one here I find is really good, it holds well and we don't have any problems. The other thing that I'm watching out for is, once I've cut around the outside, the exterior perimeter of the garage is where it tends to bleed in. And if you don't put enough on, it becomes dry and the flake won't stick.

So the whole key of what we're trying to do here is to get an even coat of epoxy across the whole floor and of enough volume that the flakes will bond into that epoxy and at the same time absorb into areas that may be a little more porous than others.

So it's a lot easier, perhaps, when there's two on the job, you can move a lot faster and the time is a lot quicker. But in saying that, it's very easy to do a double garage on your own.

Jack: Okay. You just mentioned porosity there. This slab seems pretty good as far as porosity goes, but if you had a slab that was rain affected and was particularly porous, how would you approach that differently to how you're doing this slab?

Chris:  It's really to do with volume of epoxy. In the past, I've used prime coats, where we'll actually prime it. And if it's so porous that we need to prime it and come back the next day, then that will be the approach we take. But I very seldom do that now because of this epoxy.

We just tend to put on a thicker coat of epoxy and a proportion of that will bleed into the porous slab. So really, it's just ensuring that you've got that 250 odd micron of epoxy sitting on top of the slab. If it is a porous one, then it may mean rolling it out, waiting for five or 10 minutes, and then maybe mixing up a little bit more and just topping up areas that have... It'll tell you where it needs more.

It'll show up, and we just roll out and back roll it, let it sit. And once it's stabilizes, then we can cast our flake.

Jack:  Just on that flake, if you're talking about 250 microns or even 300 microns, if you're allowing for more porosity, then you are also budgeting what, 10 square meters per five kilo box? Or are you allowing more than that?

Chris:  When I'm casting flake, I always budget on 10 square metres per five kg box. Different manufacturers make different size boxes of flake and it all becomes a bit confusing. But I budget on 10 square meters per box of flake and I find that that's always enough.

We often have some leftover, or it allows us to really just do a full flooded flake on the floor. And you reap that reward the next day when you come to seal it, because it just looks so even.

Jack: So you've got your even coverage and you know that even if it was a thicker section, you don't have any banding going on or anything like that.

Chris: Correct, yeah. I never get banding. And it's all to do with making sure that we rolled out the epoxy evenly across the whole floor. And so we'll start with a cross roll, a double roll, get it out over the whole floor, and then we do a finish roll before we cast the flake.

Jack: Very good. And then tomorrow when you come back, you actually recover a portion of the flake as well?

Chris:  We'll recover a portion of the flake. I don't like to use that in the next job, it's more there as a backup for a top up if we're running a bit short, because each time we handle it, it tends to break up a little bit and the pieces get a bit smaller.

And I'm finding that with the system that we are using, we don't get a lot of recovery, it actually builds itself into the floor.

Jack: Excellent. Good points. Let's see how this goes. 

In the second video below, we discuss planning for the flake topcoat:

Video Transcription:

Jack: We've got the base coat (flake) down. Looking good so far. What's your steps from here Chris?

Chris: Okay, well the first step is to take down the plastic. But one thing about the plastic, there's a little bit of a breeze today. You can imagine if we didn't have that there, there'd be flake all over the driveway and would be hell of a mess before we even start.

So that's one of the key benefits of having plastic up. So we remove the plastic, we use a Stanley knife to cut along the front edge and then we go about scraping up the flake and there's a system or a pattern that I use to cover the floor. We do what we call a cross scrape, so we're going at right angles and then we scrape round the edge to just knock down any flake that might be sitting up on the bead, that we put on yesterday.

Then we vacuum up and get ready to coat with the Ezypoly. Now one of the considerations that we have to look at today with Ezypoly is, or any polyurethane that you choose to use over the top, is we've got a part of this floor in the sun and we'll be at a different temperature to the back of the floor. So we're dealing with two different parameters here. So we just need to be aware that the front, depending on how hot the surface is, may require a slightly different approach to the back, but we manage that as we go.

Jack: Now you mentioned scraping on the floor there.You'll see some people will talk about wanting to sand the flake. What's your sort of take on your preference for scraping versus sanding and the differences?

Chris: Okay, my take on that is, I usually talk to the client first to try and understand what sort of finish they would prefer on their garage floor. I have a standard finish, but I do give the client an option whether they want it a bit smoother or a bit rougher or a bit more slip resistance, depending on their needs in the garage.

For example, if it's a steep access into the garage, you don't want to smooth a garage floor. Otherwise when you put the brakes on your car, nothing's going to happen. They're coming off from the rain and you'll go straight through the wall. Alternatively, you don't want it too rough, because it does become quite hard to clean. So over the years we've got a balance where we've got a texture that is my standard finish, which got some texture, a level of slip resistance.

And I've had that slip tested and that meets the Australian standard for flooring in garage as well and truly meets it.

Jack: Very good. Yeah. We have also talked previously about certain slabs, whether they're undulating and whether that's going to cause you problems if you try to sand the floor. So the more forgiving floor is, where you're scraping as you're doing today, that'll handle the undulations better?

Chris: The undulations do present some problems and they are common to most floors to varying degrees. And undulations, we mean hollows, the effect of scraping. Sometimes the scraping doesn't get into the hollows and the flake has got more texture there when it's finished.

This can be overcome by using scrapers with different width, a bit more pressure. Or we will run a small sanding unit over the whole floor to get a more consistent finish. I'm all about getting a finish that when you look at it, looks quite consistent across the whole floor.

And it's quite hard to do if you're on a floor that's got a lot of undulations or ripples in it.

Jack: Very good. And if you've got that style of floor, so you use Ezy Polyurethanes and particularly in this example, and you'll show it here. So what sort of advantages do you see with Ezypoly over potentially an undulating floor and so forth, versus other materials that you've used in the past?

Chris: One of the benefits I see with Ezypoly is that it's viscosity. When you're finished rolling out Ezypoly, what you see is what you get. And whereas other top coats that I have used, they may require two, sometimes three coats to get the same result and we have to deal with a solvent smell. Ezypoly, there is no smell. It leaves a brilliant finish as we'll see on this floor. And it's as tough as anything.

Jack: And you've got the time to re-roll if you need to, if you're looking at it from different angles?

Chris: Absolutely. The thing with this product is once again, over other products that I've used, we have a good length of time to re-roll and make sure that we've got an even film of 130 to 150 microns over the whole floor. And that makes all the difference when it's finished.

Jack: That's a key point if it's a one coat system, isn't it? Chris: Absolutely.

In the final video below, we discuss his choice in flake flooring system:

Jack: Chris, you've wrapped up this project here using the garage granite system. But taking a step back, you've been doing this a long time. How did you get to this point? What makes you settle on this system?

Chris: I think one of the main factors to using this system is using the advent of Ezypoly and looking for a system that does not have any solvent content because I was affected quite badly with polyaspartic that I was using as a finishing coat and it started to get rashes up my legs and quite severe sometimes. 

I had to stop using that and it was either going back to a water based sealer, which didn't have the qualities of some of the moisture cure products that we were using. And with the advent of Ezypoly, it led to understanding a bit more about epoxy and the different sorts of epoxy and some of the pros and cons of epoxy.

Having used epoxy for the last 15, 16 years, I thought I understood it but really I didn't. And starting to realize that the advantages of a good quality epoxy over some of the cheaper epoxies that tend to have a lot of filler in them, I just found we managed to deliver a much better product in terms of the flooring system.

Jack: You feel more confident about the product itself, but the number one question that always comes up is, I guess, the cost of it. And as a complete system from A to Z, how do you feel that it sits compared to what you used to do, which was with cheaper products? How do you compare the two on a square meter rate and how do you feel that it sits?

Chris: Well, I'll be honest with you, I haven't really changed my pricing at all. Some of the quality of the floor we are delivering is, I feel, much better. And one of the key factors in that is being able to deliver a floor in two days. And I believe that the quality of that floor is better than some of the four or five coat systems that have been put down over a period of three or four days. I honestly believe that this floor... I'd like someone to show me a better floor than this.

Jack: And the actual cost savings then is because you're not making multiple trips?

Chris: Correct. The cost saving is being able to do it in two days, makes it cost effective for me and enables me to run my business in a professional way with insurances and good gear and be able to use what I believe are some of the best products available and that in turn delivers a quality floor.

Jack: Excellent. I thank you for your time and your cooperation and letting us come out of here and film this and see you in action.

I learn something every time I go to a job site and speak to an installer. They've all had to learn many lessons the hard way, and, because there are value in those lessons, many installers are reluctant to share. Chris is one of those installers that understands the vision to "make resin flooring mainstream", and I want to thank him for sharing.