Your Place: Paint on basement floor needs repeat treatment

Sample of paint peeled from readers' basement floor.
Sample of paint peeled from readers' basement floor. (The mail brought a sample)
Posted: March 16, 2012

I received a letter from readers in Hatfield about the failure of a paint they had used on the concrete floor of their basement.

Enclosed was a sample of what was peeling from the floor.

Rather than quote from the letter word for word, I'll give you the gist of what happened:

The couple had bought a washer and dryer that had to go into the basement. A year ago, they went to Lowe's looking for concrete floor paint to pretty the place up.

They told the salesperson what they were doing, and he "highly recommended" Valspar Porch and Floor Paint. They painted the floor and it "looked nice."

The tub into which the washer drains became blocked, and it overflowed all over the floor. They quickly mopped up the water, which was on the floor no more than a few hours.

"The paint had bubbles all over the floor, which started peeling off" everywhere, the couple wrote.

They said they followed the directions. It was not inexpensive paint, was called "high performance" on the label, and now these senior citizens have to clean up all the loose paint before they can paint again.

They won't, however, until I can reassure them that it won't happen again.

Let me talk about my experience. My first rule is no matter what product I use, I assume there's always a chance it will not fully live up to the promise on the container.

I live in South Jersey, land of the high water table. I use Behr's 1-Part Epoxy Concrete & Garage Floor Paint on my basement floor, following all the directions on surface preparation and application.

I keep the can handy. Why? Because sometimes the floor underneath the paint is damp from the rising water table, or someone spills water on it, and the surface bubbles.

I scrape the old paint off, prepare the surface, and repaint - sometimes every six months.

I use it even though it clearly says on the label it is not recommended for surfaces subject to hydrostatic pressure - in places that are, I know I'll have to provide more frequent maintenance.

It's part of the home-ownership routine, as far as I'm concerned.

Deborah Zimmer at Dow's Paint Quality Institute in Spring House said she and the institute staff agree "that water is a big issue" and recommend using an epoxy paint to reduce the chance of product failure.

The underground water table can especially be a big problem. Of course, before painting, surface prep must be complete, Zimmer said.

Some websites I checked out recommend sealing the floor with an acrylic sealer. The next step is top-coating with an acrylic paint.

After an Internet search for incidents similar to what the Hatfield readers reported, I came to a site called www.epoxyandepoxyflooring.com:

"Migrating moisture, as opposed to simple standing water, creates a more difficult problem. The common sign of this kind of failure is water-filled blisters."

The site went on to say that this typically occurred while the paint was curing, and my readers didn't say how long after they painted the accident occurred.

This excerpt from the website gives the rationale behind my regularly maintaining the basement floor:

"Water in the concrete is a major cause for premature epoxy floor coating failures. Floors can have dry areas and damp areas, including some damp areas that never dry out."

What should the readers do? Well, if the paint had performed well until the accidental overflow, then I would scrape, carefully prep, and repaint. If unaffected areas showed signs of similar stress, I'd write to the manufacturer to see if compensation was in order.

There's no harm in trying, especially if the directions on the can were followed and the paint was recommended by the retailer.


Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at aheavens@phillynews.com or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies. He is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing).

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