• HPS Flooring

Surface Preparation Selection - The Method Selection Process

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

The International Concrete Repair Institute (ICRI) revised and updated technical guidelines No. 310.2R-2013, “Selecting and Specifying Concrete Surface Preparation for Sealers, Coatings, Polymer Overlays, and Concrete Repair” in 2013 and yet many architects and

resinous flooring experts have still not modernized their practices.

These guidelines outline what equipment is needed to achieve each concrete surface profile (CSP) grade and the correct CSP for the protective flooring system chosen.

This is very helpful for an installer as flooring product manufacturers specify the type and quality of the surface preparation that is required to ensure the success of their product.

While it would be difficult, if not impossible, to explain all of the various techniques used to perform a complete survey of existing conditions this blog post will explain the basic criteria that are assessed.

So how do these guidelines aid the selection of the proper concrete surface preparation method that adheres to the manufacturer’s specifications? One of the best tools provided is a checklist for assisting in specifying surface preparation, including:

1. Evaluation of:

  • Substrate condition

  • Material to be installed

  • Job-site conditions

2. Review of surface preparation method(s)

3. Selection of surface preparation method(s)

4.Surface preparation requirements

  • Profile (CSP)

  • QC testing criteria.

Before you even start evaluating the condition of the substrate you will want to consult with the manufacturer’s specifications to determine what special properties or characteristics the flooring system material may have.

The next step is determining the condition of the substrate. You will want to evaluate the substrate for qualities such as strength, deterioration, existing coatings, and many other factors to help determine the type and amount of surface preparation needed.

The ICRI provides a checklist for a thorough substrate evaluation to help visualize the general to specific qualities to assess.

Substrate Conditions Evaluation Checklist

- Surface Conditions

  • Efflorescence, Encrustations, Solid

  • Surface Imperfections

  • Previous Patches

  • Bond Breaking Contaminants

- Soundness

  • Delaminated concrete depth

  • Cause of deterioration

  • Pull-off tests

  • Chloride content and penetration depth

  • Carbonation depth and pH

- Hazardous Materials

  • PCB

  • Frangible Asbestos

  • Chemicals

  • Lead

  • Heavy Metals

- Finish

  • Formed Wood Float

  • Metal Trowel

  • Power Trowel

  • Broom Finish

  • Sacking

  • Storing

  • Block

  • Shotcrete

- Moisture

  • Concrete Maturity (Fresh/Green Concrete)

  • Hydrostatic Pressure

  • Substrate Moisture

  • Vapor Barrier Present

  • No Vapor Barrier

  • Drainage

- Joints and Cracking

  • Cold Joints

  • Construction Joints

  • Expansion

  • Dynamic

  • Static

  • Crazing

  • Leaking

- General Observation

  • Permeability (inhibit penetration)

  • Section thickness

  • Required depth of removal

There is no way to select the surface preparation method without first knowing the properties and application requirements of the flooring system to be installed. The repair material and/or flooring system will strongly influence the surface profile and surface preparation needed.

Speaking generally, the protective system and repair material should be analyzed by its substrate strength, profile, application thickness, moisture tolerance, and alkali tolerance. Again there is a checklist provided for a thorough substrate evaluation.

Material Requirements Evaluation Checklist

- Substrate Strength

  • Tensile Bond Strength

- Profile

  • Sealers 0-3 mils (0-0.075 mm) CSP 1-2

  • Thin Film Coatings 4-10 mils (0.01-0.25 mm) CSP 1-3

  • High Build Coatings 10-40 mils (0.025-1.0 mm) CSP 3-5

  • Self-Leveling 50 mils-1/8 inch (1.2-3.0 mm) CSP 4-6

  • Polymer Overlays 1/8-1/4 inch (3-6 mm) CSP 5-9

  • Concrete overlays, toppings and repairs >1/4 inch (>6 mm) CSP 5-10

- Other

  • Application Thickness

  • Moisture Tolerance

  • Cleanliness (dust)

The most difficult and lengthy factor to evaluate is the job-site conditions as there are so many variables to assess such as noise, vibration, dust, and water.

There are also many concerns the facility owner may raise such as uninterrupted use of the facility, concerns about the operating environment, or property damage potential may limit the choice of surface preparation method.

The areas of concern can be broken down into three main categories: Accessibility, environmental considerations, and mechanical data – utility supply (type, availability, access location, and cost). All concerns can be seen on the checklist below.

Jobsite Conditions Evaluation Checklist


  • Physical Conditions

  • Surface Orientation

  • Obstacles

  • Exposure

- Environmental Considerations

  • Recycling/Disposal

  • Airborne (i.e. abrasive blasting)

  • Liquid (i.e. hydrodemolition water)

  • Solid (i.e. shot blasting)

  • Debris (i.e. concrete)

  • Hazardous Waste (i.e. existing coatings)

  • Containment

  • Temperature Conditions

- Mechanical Data – Utility Supply (type, availability, access location, and cost)

  • Electricity

  • Compressed Air

  • Ventilation

  • Water

  • Sanitary Facilities

  • Fuel

Performing a methodical, thoughtful system of evaluation, review, selection, and specification, the proper surface preparation method(s) can accurately and efficiently selected and verified.

While it is not possible to completely outline every step and consideration for undertaking a survey of existing conditions of a project, the guidelines, checklists, and charts provided in the “ICRI technical guidelines: Appendix B” is a great starting point and will greatly enhance the odds of a successful project.

Remember that there is no substitute for an experienced, knowledgeable resinous flooring expert. Armed with your evaluation and selected criteria the next step is to identify the method, or combination of methods, most likely to produce the desired results for the project.


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