Metallics and Epoxy Mix to Create Elegance, Movement and Depth

metallic epoxy dust was used in this truck distributor lobby - charcoal, slate and pearl
The floor of this truck distributor features a mix of Charcoal, Slate and Pearl from McKinnon Materials Aurora Epoxy Dust collection. Photo courtesy of Advanced Epoxy

When asked what he likes most about McKinnon Materials’ Aurora metallics, the answer came quickly to Advanced Epoxy’s Ryan Stowell. “Its elegance,” says the Wichita, Kansas, company owner. “The final look is at the top of the line with any flooring choice.”

Stowell has used the metallic epoxy dust floor system and Aurora Metallic Epoxy Dust for roughly 10 years. That’s about as long as it’s been around. In his part of the country, he typically installs Aurora flooring in residential basements. Lately, though, he’s put it in what he calls “shop homes,” metal-clad buildings that house a residence on one side and a business on the other.

And, of course, he’s done his share of metallic garage floors in high-end homes, a popular trend nationwide.

metallic epoxy dust was in a custom garage floor
Stowell finished this custom design featuring Aurora with quarter-inch metallic silver pinstriping around each color. He poured each color individually and used a 4-inch grinder to straighten the edges before pouring the next. Finally, he sanded and prepped the floor before topcoating it with a high-performance urethane. Design colors feature Aurora in Onyx and Gun Metal, as well as Sandbar from Torginol. Floor expanse is done with Champagne Aurora Epoxy Dust. Photo courtesy of Advanced Epoxy
Tools of the trade

To give Aurora Metallic Epoxy Dust floors movement, Stowell uses a squeegee. He says he used to use an 18-inch roller and back roll but he didn’t like the lint and other things getting into the floor. The squeegee, on the other hand, blends the colors together in a unique way.

copper metallic epoxy dust was used to create movement and elegence on this concrete floor
Stowell finished this floor with wax so the homeowners could maintain it themselves. In the future, they simply apply wax as needed so their floor always looks new. The color mix seen here is Bark Brown, Yellow Gold and Copper, a popular combo in the Midwest. Photo courtesy of Advanced Epoxy

“One of the neater things about Aurora is that it’s powder-dust suspended in epoxy,” he says. “Unlike pigments that blend together and form different colors, metallics suspend without destroying their (individual) color.”

Artisan Ron Francis uses Aurora Metallic Epoxy Dust to fashion elegant tables often highlighted with SeppLeaf powder. Here, he used water to manipulate the material and clear coated the final pieces. Photo courtesy of Ron Francis LLC

Stowell generally averages three colors per floor, with Bark Brown, Yellow Gold and Copper a popular combo in the Midwest.

For commercial jobs, he prefers to finish Auroa floors with a polyaspartic or a high-performance polyurethane. However, for residential jobs he likes to use a wax finish. “That way customers can maintain the floor themselves and wax it once a year.”

An artist’s take on Aurora

Artisan Ron Francis, owner of Ron Francis LLC in Tampa, isn’t in the flooring business. Instead, he’s into art. He uses Aurora to create everything from tabletops and counters to wall panels and staircases. He’s even used it make a 14-foot in diameter, seamless ceiling panel.

“It almost feels like I have unlimited choices when I use Aurora and epoxy,” he says. “If you know how to use metallics and epoxy, you can go in any direction.”

And he means that literally. Francis created an entire staircase clad with Aurora, including the undersides and risers of the individual steps. “It looks like marble,” he says. “I controlled the veining process by mixing different colors, putting them on stir sticks and swirling them around.”

It wasn’t an easy task, he admits, especially applying the Aurora mixture upside down without it running. “It’s taken me 20 years to learn these tricks,” he says, and the methods will remain proprietary.

Artisan Ron Francis crafted this staircase out of epoxy and Aurora to replicate the look of veined white marble.

Francis even managed to continue the design on the stairs’ undersides, which was no easy feat. Photos courtesy of Ron Francis LLC
Trade secrets revealed

But Francis will share this. Just like the famed Jackson Pollock, he uses a stir stick like a pencil. As the colors run, he moves the stick and lets the mixture fall. “It’s all about control and freedom,” he says. “The colors seem to float. You have a certain amount of time to move them around, break them up or intertwine them with something. It’s both fun and challenging.”

Besides sticks, Francis uses “a ton” of different spray paint and plenty of SeppLeaf gold powder to enhance his designs. He likes to put the gold powder in an air gun or in the palm of his hand and blow it onto his work. The artisan also uses very fine, ground glass.

Francis likes to put the gold powder in an air gun or in the palm of his hand and blow it onto his work. Photo courtesy of Ron Francis LLC

“The glass gives a piece sparkle without the color running,” he says. “Unlike cheap glitter that will run and bleed, the glass retains its vibrant color.”

Francis notes he thinks it’s incredible how artisans can manipulate metallics and epoxies with fire, air, denatured alcohol and “all kinds of stuff” — even water.

“Water creates a pit in epoxy,” he says. “You can flick water with your fingers to create a freckle on the surface. I found this out by accident when I was working and it was very hot. My sweat left divots in the epoxy.”

The design here features divots created by droplets of water. Photo courtesy of Ron Francis LLC
The allure of color

According to Glenn “Buster” Osteen, technical director for McKinnon Materials in Tampa, Florida, McKinnon introduced Aurora metallic epoxy dust about 10 years ago, although Australia had metallics on the market several years earlier. Over the years, the company has tweaked its formula to contain far less mica than it used to. It replaced some of it with pearlescence, the same thing auto manufacturers use in their color blends.

“The Federal Drug Administration approves the product we sell,” he says. “It’s the same colorant sold to cosmetic industries like Avon and Max Factor.”

Just like a white Lexus has an iridescent pinkish tint when you look at it from a certain angle, “The pearlescence creates an illusion that’s not really there. The material looks deeper,” Osteen says, and appears multicolored.

Today, the company regularly stocks 12 colors, with another 32 in its standard offering. They come in 4-ounce and 16-ounce containers. Custom colors are available on request.

Osteen discourages applicators from using multiple colors because McKinnon’s metallic products already combine colors for you. Each metallic presents in three different hues, light medium and dark. “This gives you a 3-D look as they each settle in multiple layers inside the epoxy,” Osteen says.

McKinnon technical director Buster Osteen discourages applicators from using multiple colors of Aurora for a project. Each metallic color the company sells already contains three different hues and he doesn’t believe more colors are necessary. This floor features Copper. Photo courtesy of Advanced Epoxy

This blend of colored pigments has smaller particles than what McKinnon Materials has used in the past. They also vary in size. “When you mix them together, the epoxy starts on a journey,” Osteen explains.

“The reaction makes the epoxy thin itself out viscosity-wise. As the epoxy makes itself thinner, the pigments start to drop. With metallics, you can take advantage of that because you want the color to move around and settle at different depths.”

Special effects through and through

Because of this internal movement, Osteen discourages chemical disruptions such as spraying alcohol on the surface. “When you spray a solvent, it’s only going to react with the top couple of mils,” he says. “It will disrupt the surface and you’ll get some nice-looking effects. But only surface deep.”

Instead, he prefers blowing air on it to stir it up. Or using mechanical disruptions like pulling a trowel or gauge rake through the epoxy when it has thinned but hasn’t quite set. If you go the gauge route, he adds, it will put a cornrow looking design on the floor. This can be remedied by walking out with spike shoes and lightly backrolling the material.

“You don’t want to redistribute the material,” he says. “You just want to make the cornrows go away.”

As for manipulating the material, “If you disturb the epoxy in the beginning, (the pattern) will look plainer,” Osteen says. “Disturb it a second time — just before it starts to tighten up — the epoxy will hold the color more where you see it in suspension.”

He cautions installers not to use blue-steel, V-notched spreaders when putting down a primer. “You’ll get kinky little hairs floating in the material,” Osteen says. “It will scratch the primer and then pieces will float in the epoxy and in your job.” Instead, he advises, use a silicone-blade squeegee with u-cuts to better spread materials.

This basement floor consists of two metallic colors from the Aurora line: Charcoal and Slate. Photo courtesy of Advanced Epoxy
Keeping it simple pays off

Osteen, who’s been in the decorative flooring business for 38 years, believes a gauge spreader makes the job easier. “It makes sure you leave enough product on the floor,” he says.

He advises priming the floor first to stop the air from releasing into the epoxy and creating little “volcano-like disturbances.” Next, he says, combine a 4-gallon kit of epoxy with 16 ounces of color. Dump that onto the floor and pull it out with a 20-mil gauge spreader. You can cover between 60-63 feet per gallon if you pull twice in the same area, he estimates. If you only pull once, the material will cover between 48-50 feet.

When McKinnon Materials holds its training classes, which it does twice a month, Osteen focuses on this method. “It’s the easiest and fastest way to turn out a floor with the least amount of error and then get paid,” Osteen sums up. “Not to mention, it’s one of the best and best-looking industrial floors you can put down.”

Got more questions about your project?

  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: jpeg, jpg, gif, png, pdf, Max. file size: 50 MB.
      Allowed formats: jpeg, jpg, gif, png, pdf
    • How would you like us to respond?

    • Note: Some questions will be published anonymously with their answers at the end of this story to share with other readers.