What is the best sealer for my garage floor? This question is probably asked more than any other when it comes to sealing the concrete in a garage. As simple as this question seems to be, the answer needs to be preceded with a few more questions, such as; How much money do you want to spend, are you going to do it yourself or hire a contractor, does the outward appearance matter, how long are you willing to be without your garage, and how do you plan to use it?
As you can see, it’s kind of like asking a shoe salesman what the best shoe is. There are too many variables to consider. With these questions in mind, let’s look at the different options available and see if we can determine what the best garage floor sealer is for you.
In terms of durability, appearance and quality, most people will agree that the best sealers for a garage floor are the multi-coat epoxy and polyurethane systems. These coatings offer maximum performance in terms of protection for your garage floor while delivering amazing looks at the same time. They provide protection against chemicals, oils, gasoline, road salts, water, and staining.
Epoxy floor systems also prevent spalling from freeze thaw damage, they are very difficult to scratch or chip, and can last ten to fifteen years or more depending on the type of application. These sealers are so tough they are used commercially for warehouses, manufacturing, showrooms, restaurants, and many other industrial applications.
So why doesn’t everyone use a multi-coat epoxy sealer for their garage floors? The answer lies in both cost and application. As wonderful as these sealers are, they are more expensive to use and sometimes difficult to install properly for the average homeowner. A contractor will charge between $4 and $5 a square foot to install this type of system. If you are fairly confident in your DIY skills as a homeowner however, you can install a multi-coat epoxy flooring for around $500 to $600 dollars in materials and supplies for a typical two-car garage depending on the product you choose.
Don’t expect to install a multi-coat epoxy garage floor in one day though. Four days is the typical amount of time that is needed before your garage can be returned to service after the sealers are applied. This is due to the curing time needed for 2-part resinous sealers.
If you can’t go that long without your garage, there are very tough polyaspartic garage floor systems that are available with the same looks and similar protection as epoxy. Your garage can be returned to service by the next day, but at a price. These systems are generally installed by a professional floor coating contractor and pricing usually starts at close to $6.00 a square foot.
The next option that still falls in the category of epoxies would be the epoxy paint kits that you can purchase online or at your local home improvement centers such as Home Depot, Ace Hardware, or Lowe’s for example. These kits start as low as $69 for enough epoxy paint to seal a one-car garage with one thin coat and some paint chips to throw on top for looks and some anti-slip properties. These are fairly easy to apply and can be ready for use the next day.
The issue with these kits however is their durability. If installed properly they will last for a few years or so if your garage doesn’t see much use. The biggest problem is they tend to wear due to hot tire pickup or peel from not cleaning the concrete correctly.
When looking into the option of epoxy paint or epoxy coatings, it’s important to understand the difference in materials and terminology. We recommend reading this article about the differences between epoxy and paint.
If you don’t want to spend the time or effort in concrete preparation for an epoxy sealer but you would still like a glossy looking floor, then an acrylic sealer may be what you need. Applied on bare concrete, this type of sealer will highlight your bare concrete with a clear acrylic coating. It’s not the best sealer for a garage floor, but it will give moderate protection against chemicals, stains, oil, water, and creates a dustless surface just as other coatings do.
You can apply it with a pump up sprayer or roller with minimal preparation of the concrete other than cleaning up any oil stains and scrubbing your floor prior to application. Some fairly dense concrete floors may require a mild acid wash. Once applied, you can walk on it by the end of the day and drive on it the next. Most quality acrylic sealers will last 18 to 24 months before you need to reapply it.
A good acrylic sealer will cost $30 – $40 a gallon. Depending on the manufacturer, one gallon will treat between 200 and 400 square feet. So if you don’t want to spend a lot of money or invest a lot of time into your garage floor, then an acrylic sealer may be the best sealer for you.
If you don’t need a glossy coating and don’t mind the look of your bare concrete, then a penetrating garage floor sealer is a popular choice. The cost and installation is similar to that of acrylic sealers, but they will last for years without the need for re-coating. They penetrate into the concrete and create a sealed barrier at the surface. These are considered non film forming since they do not coat the top of the surface like other sealers.
These are one of the best concrete garage floor sealers in terms of value for protecting against road salts, concrete dusting, spalling, and pitting. They also provide for the same slip protection as bare concrete.
Finally there are also concrete densifiers that are starting to become popular as a garage floor sealing option. Though technically not a sealer, densifiers chemically change the surface of the concrete by filling the pores to make it more dense and stronger. This density helps to create a layer that most liquids cannot penetrate. They are the easiest to apply as well. Once the concrete is clean, you just mop or roll it onto the concrete.
There are a lot of variables to determine what the best garage floor sealer would be for you. If it’s in the budget, then a multi-coat professional grade epoxy coating would be your best choice. However, if you need to get the best protection and looks that you can for less money, then the other choices are very good alternatives depending on your needs.