Why Epoxy is a Premier Garage Floor Coating

garage floor epoxy
Flooring by Mission Custom Builders

One of the toughest and most durable finishes that you can apply to a garage floor today is an epoxy coating.  Not only does it protect your garage floor, it can instantly transform your boring or ugly cement into a professional looking floor of beauty and function.  And since the garage is fast becoming more than just a place where you park the car, the benefits of garage floor epoxy have quickly made it one of the top choices for garage flooring today.

Used for both residential and commercial applications, epoxy will give your garage or shop floor that showroom shine that says “look at me”!  Depending on which application you choose, you can select from a variety of understated solid colors and hues, to custom colors and blends of color flakes that match your style or even your favorite sports team.

So let’s examine briefly what an epoxy coating really is, what the benefits are for you, learn how it’s applied, and some of the costs involved.

What is garage floor epoxy?

We’ll start by ending some confusion about epoxy right now.  An epoxy garage floor coating is not paint.  Paint for garage floors is a latex acrylic product.  Some paints will have a small percentage of epoxy added to the mix to make it more durable than standard paint, but it is still paint.  These are known as epoxy paints or 1-part epoxy paint.

epoxy garage floor with contraction joints

Epoxy is an actual thermosetting resin that is applied as a coating.  It is formed when you mix one part epoxide resin with one part polyamine hardener.  The hardener acts as a catalyst and is what gives epoxy its strength.

Unlike paint that has to dry, epoxy cures.  When the two parts are mixed, a chemical reaction is started which creates an exothermic curing process.  This curing process produces polymer structures that are closely cross-linked giving epoxy its superior strength and durability.  The end result is a coating that is much thicker than paint and bonds tenaciously to a properly prepared surface.

Benefits of a garage floor epoxy coating

So what makes an epoxy coating one of the best finishes for your garage floor?  Besides looking nice, the hardened and thick application that you get from epoxy creates a coating that is very durable and resilient to impacts, chipping, chemicals, stains, and surface abrasion.  You don’t have to panic about damaging the floor if you drop a wrench or a bicycle falls over.

The thicker coating also does a great job of covering over minor imperfections such as small spider cracks and flaws in the concrete.   Because epoxy is a topical sealer, it is also anti-dusting.  Much of the dust in a garage is created from the powder that a cement floor can shed.  Normal traffic on bare concrete can kick up this dusty powder that has a tendency of collecting on cars, tool benches, and storage items, as well as being tracked into the house.

As a topical coating it is also naturally moisture resistant.  This is a great benefit for people who live in snowy climates.  It makes for easy cleaning of icy brines and road salts that can collect on the floor during the winter.  Just a little mild soap and water is all it takes.  Dust and debris can be collected with a dust mop or soft broom when the floor is dry.

Depending on whether you added colored acrylic flakes to the floor and the type of topcoat used, some surfaces can be slippery when wet.  For people who live in drier climates this usually isn’t an issue.  If you want some extra grip however, you can add slip resistant aggregate to the final coat that will create a non-skid surface.

gray garage floor epoxy
Flooring by Closet Organizing Systems

Epoxy coatings receive high reviews from the home mechanics and hobbyists as well.  Since it is both chemical and stain resistant, oil, brake fluids, anti-freeze, gasoline, and other caustic car chemicals can easily be wiped up without worry – even if it sits for a while.  Rolling tool boxes, jacks, and jack stands will not damage the floor either.  It also brightens up the garage environment because it is very light reflective depending on what type of finish you choose.

As tough as this type of garage floor covering is, it’s not resistant to everything however.   Welding is hard on epoxy because it can create burn marks from the hot slag that falls on it.  It’s also not a good choice for garage floors that have moisture issues.  The rate of moisture vapor transmission from underneath the slab can cause epoxy to delaminate if it is too high.

Review the different coating options for epoxy floors

A common question that pops up about epoxy garage floors is hot tire pick up.  This is caused when the hot tires from your car can soften lessor quality coatings.  The tires then cool down and contract after driving which causes the tire tread to literally grab and pull at the surface of the still soft coating.  This process will actually cause the epoxy to delaminate as the tire pulls it up off the floor.

This is a problem that is associated more with the lesser quality products such as store bought epoxy paint kits.  These are usually water based coatings that are 50% solids at best and only 3 mils thick, as compared to 100% solids epoxy that is 10 mils or more thick.  This is found in quality commercial product or professionally installed coatings.

Because the thicker, multiple coat epoxy floors wear so well, warranties of up to 15 years or more for installation by professional installers is becoming common.  Many manufacturers of 100% solids epoxy warranty the product against defects for the life of the floor.

How garage floor epoxy is applied

Epoxy garage floors require good floor preparation which is critical for a successful coating.  This usually involves some form of either floor grinding, shot blasting or acid etching of the floor to profile the concrete for the epoxy.  It’s very critical that it is done right or the epoxy coating will not adhere properly. Patching or repairing any cracks or other damage to the concrete before the epoxy is applied is required as well.

Quality epoxy floor systems usually involve multiple coats to insure a very tough and resistant coating that will last for years.  Many times this will involve an epoxy primer which is applied first.

diagram of epoxy floor systemThe primer is what binds to the concrete to provide adhesion for the subsequent layers and provide for a higher build.  Some primers will also act as a moisture barrier for those cement floors that are somewhat susceptible to moisture vapor that moves up from the soil through the concrete to the surface.

The next coat is the color coat or base coat.  This may sometimes be applied without primer depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations.  This coat will also receive the application of colored acrylic paint chips to add density and texture if so desired.  The final coat is the clear top coat.  This is what gives the finish that glossy look and depth that these floors are known for.

Epoxy coated garage floors in various colors and paint chip applications

One option would be a system that includes a polyurethane top coat.  Epoxy will yellow or amber, as the industry calls it, when exposed to sunlight over a period of time.  Polyurethane is a two part polymer that hardens just like epoxy and is used as a sealer and protectant.  When used in the color coat and top coat with epoxy, it will resist the yellowing effect that happens when exposed to sun.

Garage floor epoxy  costs

The least expensive method to achieve a quality coating is to apply the garage floor epoxy yourself.  This isn’t too difficult for the ambitious “do it yourself” person.  A quality single coat 100% solids epoxy kit that will cover a standard 2-car garage can be purchased for less than $300.  This doesn’t include any expense for floor prep or additional tools however.  Expect to pay approximately $200 more if you want to add a clear top coat.

A professional installation usually starts around $4.00 a square foot.  This usually includes a minimum of 3 coats and the cost goes up from there depending on the amount of top coats involved and how much color flake is applied in the base coat.  A typical 2-car garage is approximately 400ft² to get an idea of cost.

Because of the curing time needed between epoxy coats, total time to complete the job and be able to park your car is approximately 4 to 5 days.  There are now newer polyaspartic and polyurea floor coating systems that are fast curing that can be applied all in one day and driven on the next.  Professional installation of these systems start around $6.00 a square foot.  Because of their fast cure rate, they should not be applied by the average DIY person who is not confident in their abilities.

When reviewing the different epoxy options available, the best garage floor epoxy is going to be a 100% solids multi-coat system.  Though it is the more expensive option for a floor covering, it is arguably one of the most economical of installations when compared over the duration of the floor.

Whether you are turning your garage into a show piece for storage and cars or just want something to protect your garage for years to come, a good system such as this will last years and give you one of the best returns for the dollar.


    • Shea says

      Congratulations on the new home! The best time to do a floor is when the garage is empty. It can be overwhelming at first if you are attempting to do it yourself, but if you establish a game plan with all the supplies and steps involved, you will find that the job itself is not that difficult.

      Good luck!

  1. Steve says

    Wow, I knew that epoxy floors are popular but I had no idea how tough they really are. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my garage but now I’m fairly sure this is what the wife and I want. Some of these floors look awesome!

  2. Greg says

    I have a large garage with a basement. Water from melted snow and rain from car tires finds its way from the first floor/ground cement floor level into the garage basement. We would like to remodel the garage basement but first we need to address the water issue. I had planned to apply an epoxy covering available at chain hardware store myself to the first floor. We would like the first floor of the garage to look good but addressing the water migration issue is our first priority. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Shea says

      Hello Greg and thanks for the question. A quality epoxy coating will not allow any standing water that is on the surface to migrate through the epoxy and into the concrete. If you have any joints that the water can migrate to, then you will need to address those first with a joint filler. If the water is working in some other way, we recommend that you contact a contractor in your area that deals with water issues such as yours in order to get to the root of the problem.

  3. Anonymous says

    I am building a 900 Sq Ft garage, How long should I wait before applying epoxy to the new concrete?

  4. C. Z. says

    Can a person apply it in sections like floor wax. Do one half one week and apply the second half the next. Or does that leave a large easily seen seam between the two applications.

    • Shea says

      Hi C.Z. If your floor has contraction joints to use as a border you can do one half one week and the other half the next. Just make sure that if you are using more than one container of Part A colored resin that you mix the two together first to insure color uniformity. If you do not have the contraction joints to use as a border then you will definitely notice where the two meet. It’s not pretty.

  5. Tasos says

    I probably should have found your website BEFORE I applied epoxy paint on my tile floor… 😛 I used everything that you mentioned except the flakes and the top coating. Thing is that while it looks really really nice, it gets really dusty and dirty as soon as I step on it… Can you please tell me why is that and if I can counter it..?

    • Shea says

      Hello Tasos. The color of the floor generally will dictate how much dust you see from footprints and such. Darker floors show dust much more than lighter colored floors. Also, your floor should feel smooth and not tacky. If it’s tacky then it hasn’t cured 100% and will attract dust.

  6. Shane says

    Just something to point out. I believe they mean the average garage floor is 400 sq. ft. and not 400sf² as that is saying to square 400, which is 160,000 sq. ft. Although I must say, would make for an awfully nice garage. :)

    • Shea says

      Lol….. Thanks Shane! We went through a debate a while back when trying to decided whether to use sq. ft. or ft². I don’t think we have come to an agreement yet. However, I don’t think we discussed using sf². Thanks for pointing that out and taking the time to read our post.

  7. todd says

    i have been researching and searching for a very long time for a self-leveling product to level my whole garage floor. If you have any recommendations i would be greatly appreciative. So far almost all manufactures that i have contacted will NOT recommend their product for 1. garage floors, as they are considered “wear” surfaces and 2. not compatible with having epoxy over them most require a flooring over them . So this subject is one that i haven’t seen covered here. the two products that i have found are; Eddison Coatings, level-x 52. and Mapei makes two, the Ultraplan 1 plus and the ultraplan m20 plus. All are pretty expensive but u don’t want to short cut the prep and splurge on the finish. any more help is really, really needed.

    • Shea says

      Hi Todd. The reason you are having a hard time finding something is that you are searching in the wrong arena. All of the products you mention with the exception of the Edison Coating are underlayments for tile and other flooring and for indoor use only. They are not designed as a wear surface or for high compressive strength. The type of product you need is a polymer-modified cement that is available mostly from concrete construction suppliers.

      MG-Krete 1260 by IMCO Technologies Inc. is an excellent product. Their TDS sheet on the product is here. You can apply any coating or sealer you want on the product. Use their distributor locator or give them a call for further questions.

      Ardex also makes a good product. Their Ardex 301 is a self leveler. Remember that when using these types of product, you still need to honor all contraction joints and expansion joints.

  8. Jeff says

    I’ve been doing a little research on epoxy coatings and after reading your articles, I decided it would be best to go with a commercial grade product rather than the typical kits found at the local hardware box stores.

    Can you suggest any commercial grade brands / kits?

    I have a standard 2 car garage, about 400 sq ft.


    • Shea says

      Hi Jeff. If you are looking for a kit, EpoxyMaster would be one of our choices and they offer clear top coats as well. You can read an article we did on their kits here. Legacy Industrial is also a good choice. They offer multi-coat systems which include primer, color coats, and top coats. If you have any question regarding their products, just give them a call. Both have good customer service.

    • Shea says

      Hi Audrey. You are not the first to ask this, but it’s not a good idea. The main reason why is that epoxy will amber (turn yellow) when exposed for a period of time to U.V. light. That is why you only see it indoors and in garages.

  9. stew hizey says

    Hi, would you consider a hands-on class in doing these garage floors? I learn much better by watching somebody and then doing it myself with them observing. this would be a small amount to pay to feel confident that I was doing a good job.


    • Shea says

      Hello Stew. Unfortunately the logistics for something like that are too difficult. Many floor coating distributors do hands-on training, but it’s for their own clients (contractors) and it’s usually not cheap.

  10. Pat O'Leary says

    How do I find a qualified contractor to apply epoxy system to my garage floor?
    One who will stand behind his work and guarantee the job.


  11. Shane says

    Hi and what a fantastic site full of helpful info.
    Just wondering about the best product for under a carport… These finishes look great

    • Shea says

      Hello Shane. Epoxy is not a good choice for a carport because it will amber in the sun. That is why it’s used indoors only. Polyaspartic and polyurea coatings can be used outdoors since they are U.V. stable. What most people turn to however is a good acrylic sealer. Clear is the standard, but many can be tinted different colors. They are easy to apply and require much less prep work.

  12. Brandon P says

    Hi there,
    I just came across this website and it is very informative. I’m currently building a 600sq ft shop and am looking for a floor coating system. I have a DIY epoxy kit that I purchased at Home Depot for my garage, but want something that is better quality as I’m not thrilled with the way it came out. I’m not opposed to options other than epoxy, but want clean up to be easy.
    Are there DIY epoxy kits that you would recommend that don’t break the bank, or other flooring systems that could be used besides epoxy?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Shea says

      Hello Brandon. There are good quality DIY kits that you can purchase from floor coating vendors. The epoxy kits from the home improvement centers are not the best quality, especially in a working shop. We’re not sure how much money would be “breaking the bank”, but we suggest looking at kits from vendors like EpoxyMaster, Garage Flooring LLC, or Legacy Industrial. These are all high solids epoxy that is head and shoulders better. Plus, you can build on them by choosing top coats and even good primers.

      If a quality epoxy is out of range, you may want to go with a densifier or penetrating sealer. It leaves you with the bare concrete look but it does make cleanups easier and they do a fair job at resisting stains. Plus they are less expensive. You can read up more about them here.

      Another option is a coating called Rust Bullet. We talk about it here. Garage Flooring LLC has picked up the line and turned it into a fantastic product for a simple coating that doesn’t need a lot of prep. You can find their pricing here.

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