Often referred to as color flakes, color chips, or epoxy paint chips, these little explosions of color can help to create some beautiful custom garage floor coatings with just a little creativity. They also tend to create a lot of questions for people when they realize decisions need to be made about color, floor coverage, the size of the flakes, and how to apply them. There are also some distinct advantages to having them in your floor coating as well. Our goal here is to take a look at what these color flakes really are and to answer some of the many questions about how to use them.
What are Vinyl Color Flakes
Known in the industry as decorative vinyl color flakes, they are actually polymer paint aggregates made up of a combination of acrylic and vinyl resins. This creates a thin flake that is 4 – 5 mils in thickness, U.V. stable, and is available in over 150 custom colors. They can even be custom color matched. The shape of the flake is random and is available in sizes from 1” in diameter all the way down to 1/32”. The ¼” flake is the most common size used in garage floor coatings.
Colors are blended together to create a particular look and then applied at a coverage that is determined by you. Typical coverage rates are light, medium, heavy, and full. As a tip, it’s always wise to err on the side of caution and get a little more than what you think you need when purchasing them.
One thing to keep in mind when determining your color choices is the base color of your floor. Grays and tans are the most common base floor colors, but you can do off whites and other colors as well. If you are doing a full coverage floor, also known as full refusal (this is when you apply the color flakes until the entire floor is covered and they will not stick anymore), then the base coat of your floor will not matter.
- Light coverage – requires .002 lbs per sf.
- Medium coverage – requires .01 lbs per sf.
- Heavy coverage – requires .04 lbs per sf.
- Full coverage – requires .15 lbs per sf.
Keep in mind these industry numbers are approximate and results can vary with application. We always recommend having extra on hand in case you run short.
Torginol is one of the leading manufacturers of color flakes and has a nifty color blend tool which you can use. Be sure to give it a minute to load. You can then mix and match colors to your content. The 3 color blend is the most common and in our opinion, the easiest to help determine a color palette. But don’t let that stop you from experimenting with more however. To begin, we recommend picking a dark color like black and then a light color such as white to start off with. Then pick a medium color for the third. You can work in from there.
Besides the obvious advantages of custom color combinations, color flakes also provide some sound deadening qualities and hide sub-surface imperfections in your concrete depending on how you apply the flakes. This means spider cracks and concrete patch work are less likely to show through the epoxy coating with a heavy application. They are also flexible and strong. When applied to a floor to full refusal, they will add a minimum of 5 mils of thickness to your floor improving both the durability and impact resistance of the surface.
How to Apply Vinyl Color Flakes
When applying a garage floor coating yourself, the color flakes are always applied right after the application of the base coat or color coat of your epoxy coating. You want to start applying them within 10 minutes of the final back roll while the coating is still tacky. It is then followed up with a top coat or two of clear epoxy, polyurethane or a clear polyaspartic. A thinner top coat will provide some texture to the floor which is created by the flakes. A thicker top coat will create a smoother surface without any texture.
One thing to keep in mind: though you may have some surface texture from a thinner top coat, it will not increase the anti-slip properties much more than a smooth surface. Another thing to be aware of is that DIY kits that come with color flakes only provide for a light coverage rate.
Color flakes being applied to full refusal – Photo courtesy of Supreme Crete
The most common question that people ask is; “What is the best method for applying color flakes”? The easiest method for applying them is to add them to an empty bucket and then grab a small hand full at a time and toss them into the air like you are feeding chickens. This allows for the color flakes to disperse much better as they arc up into the air and then back down to the ground.
The best way to practice your particular coverage rate is to toss them onto your clean concrete floor before you apply the epoxy. Do a small section to get the hang of it and then sweep them back up. Do not toss the flakes at the floor. This will create dense spots that spread out in a “V” shaped pattern and are hard to correct for.
If you are applying the flakes to full coverage, use the same method but with larger handfuls of chips. You can work rather fast this way making sure you cover the entire floor. When done you should have quite a bit of loose flakes on the floor that were not able to reach the coating to stick.
Once the floor is ready for the top coat you will need to remove any color flakes that did not adhere to the floor or are sticking up in the air. The easiest way to do this is to tape a 10” drywall taping knife to the end of an extension pole used for rolling. For a partially covered garage floor, lightly drag the taping knife across the floor to knock down any chips that are sticking up in the air. Sweep or vacuum up any remaining chips and then continue on with your top coat.
If the color flakes were applied to full coverage, start by sweeping up all the loose chips that are on the floor. There will be quite a bit. After the chips are swept, use your drywall taping knife tool and start scraping the floor at a very shallow angle to smooth out the surface and to remove any chips that are sticking up in the air. You don’t want these protruding through your top coat.
Sweep again and then use a shop vac over the surface. Because the surface is rough and irregular, the shop vac does a good job of pulling up any remaining loose color flakes. You can even use the wide vacuum adapter as a scraping tool as you vacuum the floor. Don’t fret about getting every last color flake. What you don’t get will become part of the top coat.
Now that you know how to use color flakes for an epoxy floor, have fun choosing your colors and the desired affect that you want. Whether you are applying your garage floor coating yourself or hiring a contractor to do it, you can feel confident in knowing that you chose the right color flakes and coverage rates for your taste.