It’s estimated that about three out of four projects in the coatings world will fail due to improper surface preparation. Properly prepping your surface before applying coatings is the key to having a successful adhesion.

The most basic form of surface preparation when applying any type of paint, sealer, coating or system is having a clean surface. All surfaces should be cleaned of loose dirt and debris by either sweeping or vacuuming. The surface should then be properly cleaned to remove any topical contaminants such as paint, dry wall mud, light stains, etc. This can be done by using a mixture of hot water and a neutral-based cleaner, such as Tri-Clean Green.

The degree to which we continue with surface preparation will be based on two factors:

  1. What type of surface are we planning to apply Tri-Chem coatings to—metal, wood, concrete, etc.
  2. How thick the recommended Tri-Chem solution will be. The thicker the products we recommend will determine how much of a bond-profile we will need to ensure long-term success of our projects.


Most metal surfaces can be coated. The challenge associated with coating metal is that once they are prepped, oxidation, or rust, begins almost immediately. We have found that using a drill with a wire wheel brush is one of the most effective methods and fairly easy to perform. Once cleaned, the metal surface should be aggressively scratched. Then, as quickly as project timing allows, apply a coat of Tri-Chem’s DTM (Direct to Metal) primer. This is a very easy-to-use primer applied by a brush or a dip and roll method with a roller cover. While there is a unique odor to this product, it has zero VOCs and does not require the applicator to wear any special respirator or breathing protection.


Coating wood presents a challenge as it is very porous and flexible (where most products are rigid once fully cured). All projects with wood need to be sanded to not only help clean, but to provide the bond profile for the next layer. Wood surfaces need to be “over” screwed before applying products. As an example, if a customer has plywood on the floor of their project, the installer likely placed a screw every 8″-16″. In order to make the wood more rigid, we need screws placed every 2″-4″ to eliminate the use of a flexible membrane coat.

Once the wood is firmly attached and sanded, it can then be primed and coated. Most of Tri-Chem’s epoxy products will work well as a primer, especially on the floor where we have gravity on our side. On walls, the thinner products are a better recommendations as they prevent runs, like the 233LV or 144. Once successfully primed, a coating can applied afterwards.


Very similar to wood, drywall is very porous. It has a layer of paper covering called gypsum. Both of these factors cause coverage rates to be very low, about 75-100 sq. ft. per gallon. Our recommendation for coating drywall is to use 233LV as a primer coat, followed by epoxy coats of either Z-Poxy Vertical or 233HV. The surface can then be top coated with 144 as a graffiti-proof protector while providing easy housekeeping and a high gloss or matte finish.

Ceramic & Quarry Tile

For vertical tile projects, the tile must be cleaned then sanded with an aggressive-grit palm sander, such as 16 grit. The tiles should then be wiped down using a micro-fiber cloth or pad. Making sure all of the particles created during the sanding process are removed is a vital step.

For quarry tile, most often found in commercial kitchens, the best surface preparation method is to diamond grind or shot-blast. The cleaning of grout lines is probably the most important step. Again, clean with hot water and a cleaner designed for grease, such as Tri-Clean Green.


By far, concrete surface preparation is the most common before applying coatings. 99% of all concrete projects have a very thin film curing agent applied to it. This helps the concrete dry without cracking when initially poured, but is an enemy to epoxy coatings. Therefore, this thin layer of silicone-based compound needs to be completely removed. This can be achieved by aggressively standing, diamond grinding or shot-blasting the concrete. The end goal is to have a surface that feels like 36 grit sandpaper, also called CSP-3 (Concrete Surface Profile) as defined by ICRI (International Concrete Repair Institute). If you can get your concrete to this step, the success of coatings and systems will be increased by ten times!

Existing Coatings

Will Tri-Chem coatings stick to my painted floor?” This is not a question we can answer easily. We need to know how long the coating has been down, what the makeup of the coating is, if you have a Technical Data Sheet from the current coating, etc. However, the easiest test you can do right in your own facility is called an x-scribe test.


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