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 it works. The easiest way to tackle this problem is to break it down into the different epoxy coating systems that can be applied to your floor either by yourself or a contractor. Our goal here is to help eliminate the confusion and to educate you on the different options available in order to choose the best epoxy coating for your garage.
Your first choice is the “do it yourself” epoxy paint kits by brands such as RustOleum or Quikrete for example, that can be purchased from your local home improvement center or hardware store. They cost anywhere from $50 to $70 depending on the brand and are available in either gray or tan. These kits are designed as a single coat system with approximately a 30% solids content of epoxy and a coverage rate of around 250 square feet. This allows it to roll on easy and cures to a thin coat of roughly 3 mils with a matte to semi-gloss finish.
Paint chips come with these kits and can be thrown on top of the epoxy after it is applied. This is the least durable of epoxy to apply and is why it is typically referred to as paint. A second coat of clear is available to make it a two coat system if you like. This will add some gloss and depth to the coating as well as increase the durability.
If you like the idea of a simple kit like these, some of these brands offer professional versions of their epoxy that has a much higher solids content and will last longer. They are the better value for the money with pricing starting around $95.00 depending on where you shop. These generally are a solvent based product which will require precautions because of the higher VOC’s associated with the product.
100% Solids Epoxy
The next step up is the commercial grade epoxy systems. These epoxies have a high solids content with the best being 100% solids. The 100% solids single coat system is much thicker and will cure to approximately 10 mils or more depending on the brand. This is also regarded as a basecoat and is available in many choices of color options.
Cost for these commercial grade products vary depending on the solids content and brand. Expect to pay a minimum of $150 for a 100% solids kit that covers 250 to 300 square feet. These include paint chips as well. As you can see, you are getting three times the amount of thickness as well as durability for about twice the price.
Clear Epoxy or Polyurethane Top Coats
To improve upon the single coat system, 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 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. Before applying the topcoat, the paint chips that did not stick are scraped and swept up. 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. There is a multitude of different colored chip combinations to choose from to give your floor that custom look you may be after.
Best Epoxy Coating System
Your most premium multi-coat epoxy systems will involve an epoxy 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.
A premium epoxy garage floor coating will generally consist of a primer coat, basecoat, acrylic paint chips if you desire, and two topcoats of clear epoxy or polyurethane. It’s not uncommon for such a floor to be between 40 and 50 mils in thickness. If you are looking into hiring a contractor to install an epoxy coated system, make sure to ask how many coats they use and what each coat does.
If you are going to install 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 are 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 support may be what you need.
So remember when choosing the best epoxy coating for your garage floor and budget, 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, choose an epoxy manufacturer with good technical support if you think you need it.