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

Making Sense of Garage Floor Sealers

garage floor sealer

A garage floor sealer sounds simple enough when you want to seal the concrete in your garage, but did you know that they come in two categories; topical sealers, such as epoxy, paint, and acrylics, and then penetrating sealers.  Which do you choose?  What are you trying to accomplish?  Which is best for your application?  Getting bewildered yet?  Don’t worry, it’s not as confusing as it might seem at first.

Many times when someone is deciding on sealing the concrete in their garage, they are working on the premise of protecting the bare gray concrete for a nice clean look at the most economical cost.  However, the many colored epoxy and paint coatings available on the market today are technically sealers as well.  We will look at the different type of garage floor sealers available, discuss their properties, and determine how they will work on your garage floor.

Topical Garage Floor Sealers

acrylic concrete garage floor sealer

Acrylic sealer in a matte finish

Topical sealers adhere to the surface of the concrete.  Known as film forming sealers or floor coatings, the most economical of these are acrylic.  Most acrylic sealers are clear and form a thin protective layer on bare concrete.  They are very easy to apply using either a pump sprayer or rollers, with two coats applied for the best protection. They will protect the floor from water and chloride intrusion, and give moderate protection against oil stains, vehicle fluids, hot tire pick up, and road salt if cleaned up fairly quickly.


Acrylic sealers can also enhance the look of the floor in your garage by giving it a somewhat wet, glossy look or you can opt for a less flashy matte finish.  Once applied it will dry to the touch in a few hours.  It can be driven on the next day and sometimes sooner depending on weather conditions at the time of application.   Look for an acrylic sealer with UV protection if you have parts of your garage floor that is exposed to sunlight because it can yellow over time.

Though they are the least durable of the topical sealers, they stand up well to light traffic and need to be reapplied once every 18 to 24 months.  For a more durable alternative, we recommend looking into the newer acrylic/epoxy hybrid sealers.  These have endurance properties similar to epoxy but are applied like acrylic.

epoxy garage floor sealer

Epoxy coated garage floor sealer

The next choice in topical sealers is epoxy.  Being one of the more popular garage floor coverings, epoxy creates a  cross linking adhesion in the coating due to the chemical bonding it provides.  This makes epoxy sealers a much thicker coating than acrylic and very durable, but they are more difficult to apply.  They require thorough concrete preparation, they are time sensitive during application, and must go on using rollers.

Epoxy sealers can withstand heavy traffic and are abrasion resistant.  They are also  resistant to water, most chemicals, oil, vehicle fluids, road salts, and hot tire pick up.  It’s generally not a problem if you are slow to clean up any oil or fluids from your car that usually stain concrete.  When you do clean, they will wipe right up and all the floor needs is mild soap and water to clean.

Care should be taken when it gets wet because an epoxy sealer can be a little slippery if not put down with any anti-slip agents.  Epoxies are available in a clear coat as well as pigmented finishes and have a glossy shine that will enhance any color in the concrete.  They are susceptible to UV rays however and can yellow if exposed to sunlight. A good quality epoxy coating can last for years on your garage floor.

Many of the garage floor coating systems today are made with a combination of layers of pigmented and clear coat epoxy to give a garage floor a very durable, chip resistant finish that will last many years.  If that’s not in the budget, then a simple clear or pigmented coat on your floor will still give you greater protection for a longer period of time compared to acrylic sealers.  Dry time is usually 18 to 24 hours and you have to wait 48 to 72 hours depending on temperature before you can drive on it.

Next on the list of topical sealers is polyurethane.  Polyurethane has many of the same properties as epoxy and is even more durable.  It also has the added benefit of being resistant to UV rays.  So if you have a garage floor that is exposed to sunlight you don’t have to worry about it turning yellow.  It used to be that polyurethane was only used as a clear coat sealer, but that is slowly changing however with manufactures starting to offer it in colors.  One thing to keep in mind is that polyurethane does not bond well to bare concrete and usually needs a primer such as epoxy applied first.  You also have a choice of finish from matte, to semi-gloss, to glossy.

Like epoxy, most polyurethanes can be slippery when wet.  Because they have a thinner film thickness than epoxy, polyurethane makes for a great top coat to apply an anti-slip agent.  Application difficulty and dry time is similar to epoxy as well.  Though it is a little more expensive than epoxy, polyurethane may be what you need if you have a garage floor that is exposed to sunlight and you want something other than a glossy finish.

Last on the list is the newer polyurea and polyaspartic floor sealers.  These are a sub group of polyurethane and have a similar finish to epoxy coated floors.  Unlike epoxy and polyurethane, these coatings can be applied in extreme temperatures from below freezing to over 100 degrees and have extremely fast return to service times.  You can actually drive on them the next day.

Penetrating Garage Floor Sealers

concrete densifier and sealer on garage floor

Concrete densifier and sealer on a garage floor

Penetrating sealers is the next category in concrete sealers for a garage floor.  There are four different types of penetrating sealers for concrete, but only two need be discussed for a garage floor.

The first of these is a siliconate sealer.  Though this kind of sealer is used extensively for exterior concrete such as sidewalks and driveways, it will work just as well in your garage if you just want to seal the floor without changing the way it looks.  It works by penetrating into the upper surface of the concrete and reacting with free lime.  This will form a calcium silicate that essentially strengthens the concrete by filling pores and prevents liquids from migrating through.

This process works to help prevent freeze-thaw damage and deterioration due to corrosion.  It has a matte finish that doesn’t change the appearance of the surface because it penetrates the concrete.  It’s easy to apply using a pump sprayer or rollers and generally only needs one coat.  Some of these sealers are expected to last 20 years or more.

The second choice that is being used among the bare concrete purists is a concrete densifier or densifier and sealer combination.  Used primarily for polishing concrete and adding strength to newly poured concrete,  these sealers are being used more on garage floors by people looking for a no nonsense simple solution that will prevent dusting and harden the surface of a working garage as well as repel liquids.

Final thoughts

One thing to keep in mind; if you have small issues with moisture coming through the concrete, a penetrating garage floor sealer is a good choice to consider.  Because they work by filling the concrete pores, they do well for blocking moisture coming up from underneath your slab.   If you like the finish of acrylic sealers, make sure the solids content is not more than 25% and that it is not applied in more than two coats.  This should be permeable enough to let the moisture transmit through the sealer.

Most epoxies and urethanes will not allow moisture transfer and will peel or damage the surface of the concrete.  To see if this is an issue, you can test your floor by taping all four sides of a 12” square piece of clear plastic to your floor.  Wait 24 hours to see if it has collected any water to the plastic.  If it has, then you have moisture coming up through the concrete.

For more information about the durability of concrete sealers, here is a chart from the Concrete Network that compares sealers and what they do.

Depending on what you want your garage floor sealer to do for you, decide which product is best suited for your requirements and budget.  Either way you choose, a good sealer will be a nice investment in the care and finish of your floor.


Comments

  1. Hi. Can a white-ish stain on a brown epoxy floor be fixed? Actually not sure it is epoxy, but it is at least a mil or 2 thick. It is used as the finish floor in the entry, den and kitchen of a house we bought–from bank so no idea what is actually on floor. Does chlorine bleach, perfume, cleaner or any other chemical one usually has in the house take the color out of epoxy? Thanks in advance.

    • Hello Ed. It’s hard to diagnose a stain without seeing it in person. If it is an epoxy coating then you can use fairly strong chemicals if necessary. A white-ish stain as you put it may be some sort of mineral build up. CLR works well for that. We recommend starting with mild cleaners and working up from there, just stay away from solvent based cleaners. While a good epoxy coating will stand up to many solvents, an epoxy paint product or paint itself will not. A green scrubbing pad works well and be sure to rinse thoroughly afterwards.

  2. My garage floor is letting moisture through (minor, no puddles) . When all is dry I have a white, fine powder to sweep up.. Can I put on a penetrating sealer and follow this with a polyurethane top coat for some gloss???

    • Hello Susan. Is the moisture coming up through the substrate or is it condensation on the surface? If you are not sure, we recommend conducting a moisture test first to see what you are up against. If it is moisture coming up through the substrate, many times you can apply a densifier or impregnating sealer such as this one that will allow you to use a coating over it. Not all penetrating sealers allow for coatings afterwards. Test the concrete for moisture afterwards before going to the next step. Applying polyurethane requires an acid etch at minimum if not grinding the garage floor. If you don’t require such a tough finish you can always apply a topical sealer such as this one which is available in a glossy finish and is much easier to apply.

  3. Earl Wright says:

    I have an added challenge to address. Besides the normal garage issues I’d like to protect against, one half of my garage will eventually be a glassblowing studio. Drips of molten glass, upwards of 2,300 degrees F, will happen. Is there a garage floor coating that can stand up to this extreme abuse?

    • 2,300 degrees? Wow, that’s some hot stuff Earl. Most people just ask about welding, but glass blowing? That is really awesome. Unfortunately there isn’t a garage floor coating that will stand up to that. That is why the hot zone of glass blowing shop floors are generally bare concrete.

  4. Joe Collins says:

    What is the top of the line garage floor sealers? Impervious to oil, car tires and traffic!!!

    Thank you Joe

    • Joe, epoxy, polyurethane, polyurea, and polyaspartic garage floor coatings are the toughest sealers for garage floors. They are impervious to what you listed plus they are extremely resistant to many caustic chemicals as well.

  5. Randomgrrl says:

    Hi, I’d just like to know how a sealant could effect the temperature of the garage/concrete floor after it’s been applied? I want to finish my garage and use it for a bedroom and studio, and I like the look of stained and sealed concrete, but am concerned that in the winter it’ll just be too cold. Does sealing concrete protect against the cold temperatures of concrete floors? Thanks!

    • Hello Randomgrrl and thanks for the good question. Unfortunately sealers do not insulate concrete from the cold of winter. They are too thin to have any affect. Carpet, mats, and interlocking floor tiles would be a better choice if you are worried about a cold floor.

  6. Do the clear water based epoxies darken the concrete?

    • Yes, the concrete will take on a slightly darker color. Also, if you colored the concrete with acid stains or dyes the epoxy will make the color pop and look much more rich.

  7. I have stained the concrete in my basement and started to put on a water based sealer in 3 of the rooms. The one thing with that particular sealer is it does not give my concrete that smooth appearance. I was thinking that maybe I should use a polyurethane? If so, can I put the polyurethane over the current sealer that I already put down on the other 3 floors? Will polyurethane peel easily?

    • Hi Catrina. It sounds like you may have put down a water based acrylic sealer. These are very common to use indoors over stained concrete. They are applied very thin and do not give the same “smooth or glassy appearance” as a thicker 2-part epoxy or polyurethane coating. If this is what you have, then you cannot apply the polyurethane over it. Polyurethane is extremely durable, scratch resistant, and chemical resistant, but it needs to be applied over unsealed, properly prepared concrete or over an epoxy based coating (stain is not a sealer). It will not peel when applied this way.

      • Thank you. Just one more question. I am trying to find a polyurethane sealer for the other rooms, but unable to find one for concrete. What would you recommend? And where can I get it?

  8. We just built a new house and I want to properly seal the garage floor. My main concern is winterizing and eliminating pitting caused by road salt, and I also would prefer this to be a DIY project instead of hiring out. Any recommendations on a good product?

    • Based on your needs, it doesn’t sound like you are looking for decorative sealer such as epoxy. If that is the case, we are a big fan of penetrating siliconate sealers. They are easy to apply and don’t change the look of your concrete. If your floor is hard troweled and doesn’t absorb water well, it may require some sanding before application. There are many good products out there, we have always been happy when using PS101 from Concrete Sealers USA.

      • Thanks for the reply. That sounds like exactly what I need. Can you tell me if that same product is also appropriate for a driveway? How about the basement floor?

        • Your welcome. It depends on the finished surface of the driveway. If it’s troweled smooth then you can use the same product. If it’s a more porous surface or broom finished, they have a PS102 to use instead. It terms of the basement, the PS101 works well, but you may want to give them a call because they have a few different products you can use in the basement depending on your needs.

  9. This may or may not be the place ask this question… I just stained the concrete in my house, however I cant seem to find the sealer I want. I am wanting like a glass look/finish. How can I get that? What kind of sealer do I need? Please help

    • Hello Felisha. What you need to look for is a high sheen or high gloss acrylic sealer. These go down thin in 2 or 3 coats and then are waxed to protect the sealer. The other option is a moisture cured 1-part high gloss polyurethane sealer. These last longer than the acrylic and do not require a protective wax coat, but they are more expensive.

  10. We had put a concrete sealer on the floor of our shop s couple of years ago. Unfortunately whereever the vehicles havve been dripping snow and salt in the winter the conrete has become rough and bare (not sure if this has to do with the in-floor heating). How could we refinish the entire floor to provide a more durable finish?

    • Hello Bev and thanks for the question. In-floor heating doesn’t cause sealers to break down, but it will create puddles from melting snow and deicing fluids which can wreak havoc on a thin filmed topical coating if it’s left to sit. Since you want something more durable and its a shop floor, we would recommend a multi-coat flooring system of epoxy and polyurethane. If you want a quick return to service of your shop floor then a multi-coat polyurea or polyaspartic coating would be better. Both systems are extremely resistant to road salts as well as other chemicals and are used for flooring in industrial settings everywhere. The top coat of these sealers allow for the use of anti-slip additives as well to help prevent slip fall accidents. You will need to grind or shot blast the concrete to remove the old sealer and prep the concrete for these type of coatings.

  11. Hi. Great info! Thanks for running this site.

    I have a one car garage that is attached to our condo slab. The building is about 30 years old, and we live in the northeast US. The floor of the garage must have some kind of sealer on it. It beads up in the spring when the air and floor temps are very different. The 6 inch concrete walls of the garage are powdery, but the floor isn’t, so I assume the walls have never been treated. The floor is starting to crack. I have no idea what was previously used to seal the garage.

    Any thoughts on what I should use to fix the floor and seal it all up? What do you recommend to people who have no idea what was used in the past?

    • Hello Noah and thanks for the kudos! For fixing cracks, most home improvement centers have good polyurethane, epoxy, or polyurea concrete crack repair products that are applied with a caulking gun. Do not use a latex based product as latex will always shrink and eventually pull away. You can read more about garage floor repair here.

      It sounds like you have efflorescence on the short stem walls of your garage floor. This can usually be removed with a mild acid etching and scrub brush and then sealed after that. From your description of the rest of the floor, it sounds like it has a penetrating sealer on it or a cure and seal product was used after the slab was poured. Without knowing the exact product, your only alternative would be to grind the concrete to remove the old sealer if you want to reseal the floor.

  12. I have finished my 500 sq feet garage floor with 2 coats of 2 parts epoxy followed by Full Broadcast of decorative chips and one coat of clear epoxy . I had to get 2 gallons of the 2 part clear epoxy to finish the last coat . Now I notice that I have missed some minor spots . Can I use an acrylic based clear sealer ( 28 $ )on these minor spots to finish the job instead of getting another gallon of clear epoxy ( 95$ ). That way I save 70$ .

    • No, unfortunately that will not work for a couple of reasons. The first is that the acrylic sealer is not compatible with the epoxy and is much thinner. It is not designed to coat color flakes. Second, it would stand out from the rest of the floor and wear much quicker. You may want to contact the vendor where you purchased the epoxy and ask if they sell touch up kits. That may be enough to cover the small spots you missed. Keep in mind you only have a 24 hour recoat window. You will need to sand the epoxy surrounding the bare spots that new epoxy coating comes in contact with in order for it to adhere properly.

  13. Kim Chapple says:

    I just painted my garage floor with a concrete/garage floor paint. I was hoping to then seal it for easy clean up and to avoid paint peel when we do clean it. Unfortunately I cannot find any sealant that does not say “use on clean, bare concrete”. Is there anything I can use on a painted floor to seal & waterproof it? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Kim. Unless you used a 2 part epoxy paint on your garage floor, you cannot seal latex acrylic concrete paint or 1 part epoxy concrete paint. They are inexpensive for a reason and this is one of those reasons. Concrete sealers adhere by attaching to the open pores in concrete. Once you close them up with paint a sealer will not work.

      The good news is that painted floors are very easy to clean. Paint peel generally happens from hot tires and caustic chemicals such as gasoline or unattended oil spills. Painted floors will not look pristine for long periods of time but they are easy to touch up.

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