FRP vs. Epoxy
In the subject of covering walls whether in cleanrooms, hospitals, or any application where the hygiene, cleanability and maintenance is important, there are two main choices: Epoxy paint or Fiber Reinforced Plastic/Polymer (FRP).
Common residential/commercial solutions such as regular acrylic paint is of course out of equation. A cleanroom (Or hospitals, labs, and certain healthcare settings) wall has to have certain properties which acrylic paint complies with none of it. Not only durability and strength against scratch, chip away, and day to day wear and tear becomes highly important, the chemical resistance, water resistance, and bio-safety are added to the requirements. For example, there is always a chance for personnel misconduct and mistakes resulting in splash of chemicals or generally any solutions on walls (and of course floors). But even in safest and most expert conducts, routine cleaning and sanitizing is a corner stone in a cleanroom and alike environments.
To that end, a common disinfecting solution for sterilizing the surfaces is isopropyl alcohol. Hence the wall coverings has to be of certain standards in order to stand the circumstances.
As mentioned in the beginning FRP and Epoxy paints are both valid choices. Choosing which over which however, may require a bit more due diligence. In this short article we aim to help you make the better choice for you. Keep in mind though, that both solutions are widely used, acceptable, and has passed the test. Choosing one over the other merely depend on your details of requirements and a cost/benefit analysis specific to your application.
— Durability and Strength: In this case FRP has slight edge over the epoxy. Let’s clarify something though. Epoxy paint used on flooring comes in a wide variety and in almost all cases have a better resistance to damage and scratch in comparison to FRP. That’s because we are talking about floors which in general have to stand tougher conditions in comparison with walls. Epoxy paints designed for walls however are different. While the material and chemical components are similar to that of epoxies made for flooring, there are differences as well. The most important difference is that it is not possible to apply the same thickness on the wall as you would on the floor (for obvious reasons of course). Otherwise the epoxy paint itself has nothing short of FRP panels when it comes to resistance to damage.
— Repairability: This, to a certain extent, depends on the location of damage. However as a general rule, it is easier to fix a damaged paint spot, in comparison with a sheet/panel. There is not a valid solution to repairing FRP (that I know of) other than changing the whole sheet, which can in turn have its own hassle. Repair of the epoxy paint on the other hand could be minimized to rolling over couple of scratches, and done.
— Seamlessness and Uniformity: In this case Epoxy paint has clear advantage. Just like regular paint, it can be applied to a large surface in a uniform seamless manner. This is truly important when it comes to cleanrooms and similar environment. Seams, cracks even in the tiniest, are sources for the air particles to get trapped. They are also an important issue when it comes to cleaning/disinfecting routines. Cleaning over FRP joints are never as effective as if you were cleaning over a uniform and smooth surface.
— Installation: When it comes to “clean” installation, FRP may have an advantage. However there are different aspects which we will go through briefly.
Firstly, there are two main categories of FRP panels in terms of installation. For the most common and less expensive category while panels are glued to the wall, a connector or joint rod is used to connect the two sheets together, as illustrated in the image.
This does not require any special tools or process. The two sheets fit inside the railing or a pocket the the connector provides. A more expensive option, and for an attempt to make the joints less visible and more uniform to the panel itself, the panels are welded together. The process is very similar to the vinyl (or similar) flooring. A polymer wire/rod is heated and applied to the joints to weld them together. While this helps to provide a more uniform surface, it’s still far from seamlessness.
In both case, the process is a clean and relatively tidy process. The only part to deal with is the smell of the adhesive.
In terms of Epoxy paint it may not be as hassle free though. In order to get the beautiful and uniform surface there are sacrifices to be made. For one, just like the smell of adhesive from FRP panels, epoxy paint is odorous. Difference?!, well the smell is more intense and you have to stand it for a longer period till the paint is dried and cured. An effective ventilation when applying the epoxy is a must.
Needless to say that in both case you have to turn into professionals. The best material and solution if applied by amateurs can defeat the purpose.
— Coving: This is an important detail for applications such as cleanroom, hospitals or even places where constant cleaning is required. An odd example might be washrooms in the airport. Nevertheless if you notice, almost in all cases the floor is coved to the wall. In case of cleanrooms this goes a step further and sometimes it is required that wall corners are also coved. The are pre-made pieces to be used with FRP panels. Some cleanroom specific FRP panels (often packaged as modular cleanroom) even come with corner joints designed in coved shape. In terms of Epoxy there are two choices. The cove has to be made prior to painting or once the room is painted, the a coved corner to be applied. For the former, it may require some work. but once done, the same advantage of why one would prefer Epoxy, applies here as well: uniformity and seamlessness. In terms of coving floor to the wall that is entirely different, since in this case the coving is provided during flooring.
— The Verdict: You may have guessed halfway through the article that there is no obvious answer. It really depends on your specific application. Feel free to contact us if you have any question. Our consultation is free with no obligations.
If you specifically need a cleanroom, you have two choices. you can either go with modular rooms or build one yourself. There are many good reasons why you shouldn’t go with a modular room. But for the obvious part, if you already have the space and need modification to turn it into a cleanroom or lab space then your best bet is epoxy paint.
If you go with modular room then there is nothing to choose really. Pieces come and they are assembled together. The material often is PVC. Be aware of some acrylic panels/doors/windows out there. They are NOT suitable for cleanroom application. They are damaged by alcohol-based disinfectant.
In terms of bigger spaces such as hospitals, epoxy paint is the prevalent choice unless there is specific areas where standards or application requirement calls for otherwise.
Commercial kitchens and some of the commercial places tend to choose the FRP. However this trend also is slightly changing in recent years due to advancement in the epoxy resins and paints.
What we can do for you: Beside providing consultation, we can offer you turnkey or part solutions. We offer both modular and stick-built (modification of a currently existing space) solutions.
If you would like to get an idea of Epoxy paints/resins or FRP panels, here are a few links and resources to look into.
In terms of FRP panels, you can buy them in many places. Just make sure you choose the right material and option for your application. You can buy them in HomeDepot , Lowes or better search for companies that specifically manufacture FRP panels. This is because there is no variety in stores such as HomeDepot or Lowes. A simple search in google can direct you to many sources.
Epoxy paints as long as for floor applications, can be purchased in HomeDepot, Lowes, Rona, or a few other similar stores. However the variety is limited. For a wall epoxy paint or generally wider variety of epoxy paint, best would be to turn toward manufacturers. Düraamen is a solid one. We have used wall epoxy paint produced by them and they have surpassed our expectations.
A particular wall coating is Perdüre E44 There is also a primer Perdüre E02 available which helps the strength and bonding of the epoxy paint itself. Below is an image of a wall painted with E44. This is shot is taken from a cleanroom wall.
E44 comes with a variety of colors.