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Your resource for garage flooring options, ideas, tips, and repair

How to Choose the Best Epoxy Coat System for Your Garage

best garage floor epoxy coating

Trying to figure out the best garage floor epoxy coating system for your garage as well as your budget isn’t always easy. With so many epoxy products, manufacturers, and commercial installers to choose from, it can be frustrating and somewhat overwhelming if you don’t know exactly what you want or how an epoxy coating system works.

The easiest way to tackle this problem is to break it down into the different types of epoxy products available and explain how they are installed together as systems. You can choose to purchase and install the epoxy yourself or hire a garage floor coating contractor with their own products. Either way, our goal here is to help eliminate the confusion about epoxy and to educate you on the different options available in order to choose the best epoxy for you.

There are many reputable brands of epoxy available. What it comes down to when determining the best coating for your garage floor is, what type of epoxy is it and how is it used as part of a system? So please read on to learn what constitutes your basic epoxy products and systems all the way to the best that you can install for your garage floor.

Waterborne Epoxy Paint

Water based epoxy is easy to apply and has a longer pot life that reduces the worry of getting it applied as quickly as other epoxy products require. It’s almost as easy to apply as paint and is why it’s advertised as epoxy paint. Because of this, it is the favorite type that companies like to market to the DIY crowd.

Your first choice is the “do it yourself” epoxy paint kits by brands such as RustOleum or Quikrete for example. They can be purchased from your local home improvement center or hardware store for anywhere from $50 to $70 depending on brand and are available in either gray or tan.

These kits are designed as a single coat system with roughly 50% solids content of epoxy and a coverage rate of around 250 square feet. They roll on easy and cure to a thin coat of approximately 3 mils with a matte to semi-gloss finish.

Though inexpensive, this is the least durable of epoxy to apply. They are based on older formulations and are not the best value for your dollar. Their resistance to stains and chemicals are not as good as other types of garage floor epoxy and they are susceptible to hot tire lift.

If you like the easier application requirements of water based epoxy, you can increase the durability and protection with a more professional multi-coat kit that offers a second coat of epoxy clear as a top coat. This also doubles the coating thickness from 3 mils to 6 mils. Some brands such as The Original Color Chips offer kits such as these. They are a better value for the money with more current epoxy formulations and pricing starting around $175.

High Solids Epoxy

The next step up is the commercial grade epoxy products. They have the best resistance to stains, chemicals, and abrasion. They also have high solids content with the best being 100% solids epoxy.

The 100% solids single coat system is much thicker and will cure to approximately 10 mils or more depending on the brand. In fact, a single coat of 100% solids epoxy is more durable than two coats of a typical water based product. High solids epoxy make for a great color base coat to a multi-coat system due to their high build and are available in many choices of color options as well.

Cost for these commercial grade products vary depending on the solids content and brand. Expect to pay a minimum of $115 for clear epoxy only that will cover 250 square feet. The price goes up from there for standard colors and custom tints. For an average price of $180, many of these kits include the tools required to apply them plus a bag of colored acrylic paint flakes or chips to apply to the floor as well.

Though this type of epoxy is a much better value, it is not as DIY friendly as water based epoxy. It has a much thicker viscosity and needs to be back rolled when applied. The pot life is shorter as well, requiring that it be applied to the garage floor within 30 – 40 minutes after mixing.

Clear Epoxy or Polyurethane Top Coats

To improve upon the single coat 100% solids epoxy, the next step is to add a coat or two of clear epoxy or polyurethane. This is referred to as the top coat. This clear coat system adds not only durability and thickness, but is also what gives your floor that deep gloss and shine.

If adding a topcoat, you also have the option of adding additional paint chips to your base coat. They can be sprinkled on sparingly or they can be applied to full refusal. Full refusal is the process of throwing on chips until they don’t stick anymore.

There are two reasons you may want to do a full refusal broadcast.  The first is that it will give the floor some texture, increase thickness for durability, and help to produce an anti-slip surface. The second reason is pure cosmetics. With the multitude of different colored chip combinations to choose from, you can give your garage floor any custom look that you like.

Best Garage Floor Epoxy Coating System

The best coating that you can apply to your garage floor will be a premium multi-coat epoxy system. This will consist of a primer coat, 100% solids basecoat, acrylic colored paint chips if you desire, and one or two topcoats of clear epoxy or polyurethane. It’s not uncommon for such a floor to be between 30 and 40 mils in thickness. These type of floor systems can last 15-20 years or more.

Any premium epoxy system will involve a primer. Most primers will be anywhere from 50% to 70% solids content which will make for a thinner coat and consistency. There are many reasons for using a primer. The thinner consistency allows for the epoxy to seep deeper into the pores of the concrete to create a better bond. It also creates better adhesion for your basecoat and helps to prevent pinholes and bubbles which are caused from out gassing of the concrete.

Though this epoxy system is the most expensive of garage flooring options, this floor coating will give you the best return for your dollar. Cost varies depending on the size of your garage. Expect a minimum cost of $850 in materials for an epoxy primer, color base coat, acrylic color flakes, and clear top coat for an average sized 2-car garage if installing it yourself. Garage flooring contractors start around $4.50 a square foot for a similar system and go up in price from there.

Final notes

If you are going to apply an epoxy coating yourself you can create any one of the above combinations. Just remember when looking at different brands, compare both the coverage rate and solids content along with the price. If product A covers 250 square feet per container and product B covers 300 square feet per container, you are much better off going with product B if you have a 540 square foot garage. Do not attempt to stretch it out or you are destined to receive poor results.

Another factor to consider is the supplies that come with these kits. Some brands include rollers, mixing paddles, spiked shoes, paint brushes and other supplies in their price.  Lastly is checking to see if they offer technical support. If this is your first time at applying a good quality epoxy and you want to make sure all your questions are answered, a manufacturer with good customer service is worth every penny.

If you are looking into hiring a contractor to install an epoxy coating for your garage floor, make sure to ask how many coats they use and what each coat does. Many times flooring contractors will substitute lessor quality epoxy or less coats in order to compete in price.

So remember when choosing the best epoxy coating for your garage floor and budget is to make sure you have enough to cover your floor. Multiple coats will increase the wear and durability of the floor and always go with a higher solids content if you can afford it. The dollar cost average over time for the floor is much better if you do. And finally, if applying the floor coating yourself, choose an epoxy manufacturer with good customer service to insure a good experience and a quality floor.


Comments

  1. This helped to clear up a lot of questions. It’s was confusing trying to figure out what I need to do. Do you sell epoxy?

  2. I didn’t know there were so many ways of doing this. It makes sense now. I think the first guy I talked to about doing my garage floor was just blowing smoke. At least now I know if they are or not.

  3. Frederic says:

    It’s full of information here that is very helpfull. Thanks!

  4. Looking for manufacturers of commercial grade epoxy. Any suggestions?

  5. My question. I have a 500 square feet patio. The concrete pour was colored a slump stone tan at the concrete company. Then we mixed a black iron cobalt with paint thinner and sprayed the top of the concrete before it set
    up, then stamped a large leaf pattern into the concrete. We let it dry about 3 days. Clean up was a big mess. We then rolled a sealer with a gloss look to it. Looked great at that time.

    Now four years later I want to take off the sealer and remove some of the black look. Almost impossible . A 3000 PSI pressure washer will not even touch it. Tried paint stripper in a small spot, works on the sealer , won’t even touch the black stuff. So can I cover up this sinful mess applying a top of the line primer and colored epoxy? My big question , will the primer adhere to the sealer, and should I wash and scrub the surface with a etching chemical first ? Spending all kinds of money to remove my original coatings seems wasteful . I would rather spend the money by going over the top with primer and epoxy.

    • Hello Ted and thanks for visiting our site. You have quite a project on your hands! Unfortunately you can’t apply an epoxy primer over sealer. The epoxy needs a porous surface in order to adhere to the concrete. Also, unless it is a covered patio, epoxy shouldn’t be used outdoors because the U.V. rays of the sun will amber the epoxy (turn it yellow). There are polyurea coatings that will work outside, but you need to remove the sealer first. You can remove the sealer one of two ways – either by chemical means or mechanically. If you remove it chemically with a stripper, you will still need to at least acid etch the surface after stripping to make it porous for a coating. If you do it mechanically with a shot blaster or sand blasting, the surface will be ready for a coating.

      Another option you may want to consider is to apply a polymer cement topping to the surface once it is prepped properly (removing the sealer). These toppings are stronger than the concrete itself and can be applied in almost any color you desire. You will end up with a smooth surface unless you want to stamp it again.

  6. Hi – I have a 4 1/2 car detached garage (20’x20’/2 doors front, 30’x20′ back). The front was an old 2 car garage .. the back was added on much later but previous to me.

    I have two older muscle/collector cars that occupy the front bays and the back is a workshop / storage area. Old cars like to “mark their territory” .. and occasionally require the engine to be pulled so my needs are high tolerance to all auto fluids as well as being able to tolerate the occasional engine hoist with 500# hanging from it being rolled around.

    The front was a mess from years of a mechanic doing side work at home .. and it even had a 5’x5′ sink hole .. so along with our home improvement / driveway redo, I had the front two bays’ concrete ripped out and a new 5″ slab poured. This was back in May and I have done the moisture test (now early Nov.). I have been living since May with a myriad of “stuff” on the concrete to prevent any staining but it is time …

    While I don’t want to say that cost is not an issue, I want to do this once and the best way possible – we don’t plan on moving so this is my one chance to address this project and nail it the first time.

    For now, only the front 20’x20′ will be done – maybe later the back area as well.

    Your thoughts and experience are welcome

    … thx Much
    Alan

    • Hello Alan, great question! Based on your requirements, you definitely want to grind and not acid etch. In terms of a good epoxy system, we recommend a primer first followed by a base coat of 100% solids epoxy. A full broadcast of color chips helps to increase the thickness of the floor as well as impact resistance, but isn’t a requirement if you want a solid colored coating. Follow that up with two coats of polyurethane and you have a very tough floor that will handle engine hoists, rolling tool boxes, floor jacks as well as automotive oils and fluids without any issues.

      For an even tougher floor, you can do a full quartz broadcast instead of paint chips. A polyurea or polyaspartic clear coat is even tougher, but this option isn’t the best if you are a first time DIY installer as polyurea is best applied by experienced installers.

      • Thank you Shea for your timely response

        You advise to grind instead of acid etch – I thought with a fresh concrete pour (with no sealer or anything else on top) that I would not have to do either of those steps.

        Can you please explain why this is necessary on a fresh slab ?

        Thank you for your time

        Alan

        • Yes Alan, concrete is always finished to provide for a smooth and even finish. This finishing reduces the porosity of the surface of concrete and is the reason why you still need to profile a newly poured slab. Some slabs are power troweled which can almost close off all the pores to concrete, but this isn’t usually done for a garage. I suggest you read this article about grinding vs acid etch which helps to explain some of this.

  7. Your blog is very nice.These tools are really very helpful…:-)

  8. Great info. Thank you. I learned a lot from your article. Good luck.

  9. Hi there!

    I am feeling a little overwhelmed with all of the information. I am looking to put a salon in my garage. I want an epoxy covering that is durable, has a little gloss and paint specks in it, and where it is easy to sweep up hair using a broom. Can you recommend the kind I should get and the coats? Also, I have a two car garage that I would be applying it on.

    Thank you,

    Haleh

    • Hello Haleh. We recommend that you use a 100% solids epoxy as your color base coat. This is what you would apply the color flakes to. You then will need to apply a top coat of clear epoxy or polyurethane over the base coat to lock in the color flakes and give your garage floor both gloss and depth of color. This top coat will not only protect the base coat, it will also make the floor extremely easy to clean up hair with a broom. Though not an absolute requirement, if a primer is in the budget we recommend that as well.

      There are quite a few good companies that offer these products, too many to list, but the home improvement centers are not one of them. Legacy Industrial sells these products and have great customer service, you may want to check with them first. Good luck!

  10. I have a 4 year old garage floor that was sealed when new. Now I want to paint. Would you recommend muriatic acid to remove the sealer?

    • Hi Gary. Muriatic acid will not remove sealers. The acid works by reacting with the free lime in the concrete. When the concrete is sealed, the acid can’t react with the lime and just sits on the surface doing little. If it’s an acrylic sealer on the floor you can remove it with a chemical stripper first then acid etch the concrete. If it’s anything else you will need to grind the concrete to remove it. Grinding will not only remove the sealer, it will prep your floor at the same time.

  11. Sherief says:

    Thank you very much for the helpful information. I unfortunately painted my garage floor last year with waterbased epoxy. Over the winter a lot of areas have peeled. Now I want to get it cleaned and done once and for all. My question, can I paint the solid epoxy over the coat already there??
    Thank you very much in advance :-)

    • Hi Sherief. If the epoxy you put down is already peeling up all over, the best thing to do is completely remove it first. The new epoxy will only adhere as well as the base it is applied to. If you apply it onto epoxy that might peel then you are taking a chance. It sounds like you may not have prepped your floor properly the first time anyhow. If you grind your floor and remove all the old epoxy, you should have a good profile for the new epoxy to bond to.

  12. Thanks for the info. I have a brand new garage and concrete floor. How long do I wait before putting down the epoxy? I assume I just wash the new concrete but don’t have to etch it or any other prep. Likely will go with the premium multi-coat epoxy system.

    • Hello Bruce. You need to wait a minimum of 28 days from the day the concrete was poured before you apply epoxy. You DO need to etch at a minimum or grind the concrete to prepare it for epoxy – especially with a new floor. This is a common misconception that people have about newly poured concrete. Concrete is generally troweled smooth and closes up the pores at the surface. The etching or grinding opens up the pores and profiles the concrete correctly in order for the epoxy to bond to it effectively. We suggest you read this article here to learn which process may be best for you.

  13. Jimmy P says:

    Hello, Thank you for posting such a great site to help us DIY people get it right the first time. I am getting ready to do my 2-1/2 car garage and will make the investment and go with a 100% epoxy system. My concern is my house was built in 1976 and while it is a virgin floor I have many oil stain areas and over spray from past owners using paint cans. It also has somewhat of a smooth surface. My question is what is the proper preparation steps I need to go through before I lay down epoxy? My experience that to have a successful outcome the prep work is the key. Thank in advance for your help.

    • Hello Jimmy and thanks for the kudos! You are 100% correct that successful prep is the key. The best way to prep your concrete is by grinding the surface. Grinding will open up the pores of the concrete to allow for the best bond. It will also easily remove the old paint spills. Clean the oil stains up first before grinding. We recommend that you read our article on applying garage floor epoxy as well. Follow some of the links and it will really help you to understand the process.

  14. Paul Cook says:

    Shea,

    I have a bit of a problem. I live in Arizona. My back patio is about 960 sq. ft. I have a well and the salt content of the water is high. I have a pool that is filled from that well. This creates a high salt content in the pool. This is where it gets interesting. I have two golden retrievers that constantly play in the pool. When they get out of the pool, they are soaked and walk over to the concrete and shake, drip, and occasionally even lay down. All this salty water has ruined the back patio. Obviously I can repair the concrete but it is just going to happen again. From your article, it appears as though my best option is the high-solid epoxy and then put a sealer over it. I will probably also need to mix some sand or something in it so it isn’t slippery.
    Am I on the right track? Any suggestions?
    Thanks, Paul

    • Hello Paul, it sounds like your dogs are like ours, they think the pool was built for them. Actually, epoxy is a sealer and a very good one at that. Unfortunately though it is not designed for exterior use as the sun will cause the epoxy to amber. We recommend that you apply a product like the one we highlighted here. It’s a topical sealer that is easy to apply, can be used on exterior surfaces, it can be tinted if you like, and it has good salt resistance. Plus, it’s much less expensive than a multi-coated sealer like epoxy. Legacy Industrial also has a soft skid anti-slip aggregate that can be mixed in as well. Ask for Scotty.

      Another option is a penetrating sealer/ water repellent. Concrete Sealers USA has a good product here that is used around pools and is resistant to salt as well.

  15. Shea, rather than pay someone $4.50+ Per sq. foot to apply new floor, how would tiling the floor work if a strong durable and cheap tile could be put down assuming leveling, etc. is okay? I just drive in and drive out of the garage. merely want a floor to look good.

    • Hi Tom. Porcelain tile is a very durable garage flooring option and we discuss it here. You can find it for as little as $1 per sq.ft. if you shop around. If you know how to lay tile then porcelain is the best value in tough flooring that you can find.

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