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 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.
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.
The 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.