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 concrete into a professional looking floor of beauty and function.
And since the garage has become more than just a place where you park the car, the benefits of garage floor epoxy have made it one of the most popular garage flooring options today.
In fact, it is commonly used for both residential and commercial applications. Not only does it provide protection from the elements, it will give your garage or workshop floor that showroom shine that says “look at me”!
Depending on which type of garage floor coating system you choose, you can select from a variety of understated colors and hues. Other options are custom colors, metallics, and blends of color flakes that match your style, home, or even your favorite sports team.
So, let’s briefly examine what an epoxy coating really is. We will discuss what the benefits are, learn how it’s applied, and some of the costs involved.
Additionally, we will provide excellent examples of where you can purchase quality coatings and DIY coating kits that we have reviewed and can recommend.
What is garage floor epoxy?
Epoxy flooring is a thermosetting resin that is applied as a coating to concrete. It is created when you mix one-part colored or clear epoxide resin with one part polyamine hardener. Hence, a 2-part coating.
When the two parts are mixed, the hardener acts as a catalyst. This creates a chemical reaction upon contact and begins the exothermic curing process. This curing process forms polymer structures that are closely cross-linked, giving epoxy its superior strength and durability.
The end result is a thick and highly durable coating that bonds tenaciously to a properly prepared concrete surface.
This combination of coatings is known as a garage floor coating system. Commercial quality systems can last for ten to twenty years on a garage floor.
In addition, if you don’t want the traditional epoxy look, there is the option of a metallic epoxy coating.
These finishes are extremely glossy and known for their wild looking flowing rivers of metallic color. You can even create 3-D looking moon-like craters if you like.
Though metallic epoxy can look absolutely stunning for a garage, it’s not for everyone. The darker colors and extreme gloss will show every spec of debris, dust, dusty foot prints, and dirty tire tracks. It’s worse when the sun shines on it.
This is why the lighter grays, tans, and color flakes are so popular. They do a good job of not showing dust and the color flakes can camouflage bits of debris and other dirt.
Are there other coatings besides epoxy?
Epoxy is not the only type of decorative coating for a garage. It just happens to be the most well-known due to the many years that it has been available.
Commercial quality, single-part DIY polyurea coating systems are fast becoming a favorite for the DIY installer. These coatings are very durable and easier to apply than epoxy.
What’s more, one day polyurea polyaspartic coating systems are now be offered by commercial installers. These are very durable coatings that cure extremely fast. The fast cure allows them to apply a complete system in just one day.
Is Epoxy and Paint for a garage floor the same thing?
This is where marketing to the consumer by national brands has caused confusion and angst. An epoxy floor coating is not paint. Big retail companies started mixing the terms when they discovered people were asking for paint when they meant epoxy.
Most paints for garage floors are latex acrylic and have a matte to satin finish. They are the least durable of decorative options.
Some may have a very small percentage of epoxy resin added to increase durability, but these are still a latex acrylic and not a coating. These are known as epoxy paints or 1-part epoxy paint.
In addition, garage floor paint and 1-part epoxy paint does not seal the garage floor like an epoxy coating does. They are designed as a single coat application. That means you apply just the paint and that’s it.
Lastly, paint is not intended for clear topcoats. Nor are they compatible with most clear coats. Many people have become frustrated to learn this AFTER they applied a garage floor paint.
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 hard and thick coating that you get from epoxy creates a decorative surface that is very durable and easy to keep clean.
It’s resistant to impacts, chipping, chemicals, stains, and surface abrasion. You don’t have to panic about damaging or staining the surface if you spill oil on it or a bicycle falls over.
The thicker coatings also do a great job of covering over minor imperfections such as small spider cracks and flaws in the concrete.
In addition, epoxy is a concrete sealer. This means that it will seal out moisture at the surface as well. This is a great benefit for people who live in snowy climates that deal with road salts and deicing fluids that can damage concrete.
Furthermore, epoxy floor coatings are easy to clean. A mild cleaning solution and water is all that is required. Dirt and debris can be collected with a dust mop or soft broom when the floor is dry.
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. And because epoxy is a topical sealer, it is also anti-dusting.
Lastly, the high gloss and lighter colors of epoxy reflect overhead and natural light. This results in a brighter work environment that makes more efficient use of the light available.
How well do garage floor coatings stand up to heavy rolling tool boxes, floor jacks, and jack stands? Quite well actually!
As long as any rolling steel wheels are not roughly scarred up or slid across the floor without care, they will not damage or scratch most coatings. This goes for jack stands as well.
Review the different epoxy coating options by Concrete Network
Because the thicker, multiple coat epoxy systems wear so well, warranties of up to 15 years or more for installation by professional installers is becoming common. Many manufacturers even warranty the materials against defects for the life of the floor.
Visit our garage flooring gallery to view more epoxy coated garage floors.
Are garage floor coatings slippery?
Most floor coatings are not slippery when they are dry. However, epoxy and other coatings can become slippery when wet. Typically, the more gloss a coating has, the more slippery it can be when wet.
A heavy application of color flakes can add texture to a coating and make it slightly less slippery, but it is not a substitute for an anti-slip surface. If wet grip or non-slip is a concern, then an anti-slip media should be mixed into the final coat.
Are there drawbacks to an epoxy coating?
As tough as this type of garage floor covering can be, it’s not resistant to everything.
Welding is hard on epoxy and other floor coatings. It can create burn marks from the hot slag that falls on it. In fact, metal fabricating in general can be tough on floor coatings. This is due to the tendency for heavy and sharp objects getting dragged across the surface.
If you are interested in a more utilitarian type of coating that makes cleanup easier, yet resists hot slag and grinding sparks better, then we suggest looking into this coating that we reviewed.
Epoxy and other coatings are not a good choice for garage floors that have moisture issues from below the slab. The rate of moisture vapor transmission from underneath the slab can cause coatings to delaminate if it is too high.
In addition, there is always the concern about hot tire pick up for epoxy. This is a problem that is more closely associated with the home improvement store DIY epoxy paint kits. These are usually water-based coatings that are approximately 50% solids and 3 mils or less thick.
Hot tires can cause these coatings to soften. As the tires begin to cool, they contract ever so slightly and the tire tread grabs and pulls at the surface of the thinner coating.
This process will actually cause the epoxy to delaminate as the tire pulls it up off the floor.
As a comparison, a 90% – 100% solids epoxy cures to a minimum of 9 mils dry film thickness. Many can be applied much thicker depending on the coverage rate used.
These thicker coating are considered commercial quality. They are installed professionally or can be purchased from concrete coating vendors online and be applied DIY instead.
Lastly, epoxy is not U.V. stable. It can develop a yellow tint over the years from exposure to direct sunlight. The coating industry refers to this as ambering. Low quality epoxy can amber within months, while high quality epoxy may take years.
One way to prevent this from happening is install an epoxy floor system with full color flakes and a high-performance clear coat. Both color flakes and clear topcoats such as polyurea or polyurethane are U.V. stable and will not amber.
How garage floor epoxy is applied
Epoxy floor coatings can be professionally installed or you can do it yourself. A DIY installation can save you quite a bit of money in labor costs. It’s not that difficult as long as you make yourself familiar with all the steps required and plan accordingly.
The first step is proper preparation of the concrete. This is critical and the most important step for a successful coating. The process will involve either floor grinding or acid etching of the surface in order to create the necessary concrete profile.
Repairing concrete cracks or other damage at this time is highly recommended if you want an unblemished look.
High quality epoxy floor systems involve multiple coats to insure a very tough and resistant coating that will last for years.
Depending on the system being applied, an epoxy primer may be applied first.
The primer penetrates and binds to the concrete to provide the best adhesion for the subsequent thick coating layers. Some primers will also act as a moisture vapor barrier. This is for concrete floors that are susceptible to moisture vapor that moves up from the soil through the concrete to the surface.
The next coat is the thick color epoxy base coat. Sometimes referred to as the build coat, This may be applied without a primer depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Next are the optional colored acrylic paint chips. The color coat is what will receive the colored flakes and are applied while the color coat is still freshly wet.
Full color flake coatings are a popular option. This is when the color flakes completely cover the base epoxy coat. This option allows for custom blends of flake colors to provide any color flooring you want. Furthermore, it provides additional thickness and durability to the coating.
The final coat/s is the clear topcoat. It is also referred to as the wear coat. It locks in the color flakes, provides the best wear and stain protection, and creates the glossy look and depth that these floors are known for.
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How much does garage floor epoxy cost?
The cost to epoxy your garage floor can vary greatly. It is determined by the type of concrete prep performed (etch or grind), possible repairs, quality of materials used, number of coats, and whether you hire a professional for installation or do it yourself.
The least expensive method for an epoxy floor is to apply it yourself.
Pricing can start as low as .27 cents per square foot. This would be for the single coat, low budget, water-based epoxy coatings. Kits like this one from Rust-Oleum are an example. They are the least durable epoxy and not very glossy, but they are cheap in cost.
However, you can purchase a high-performance, commercial quality garage floor epoxy coating system in kit form for just over $1 per square foot. This would include an epoxy primer, high solids base epoxy color coat, color flakes, and a high-performance polyurethane clear coat.
This type of coating system in a kit will last 10-15 years or more. We highly recommend kits like this one here. It’s an excellent value for the money.
The coatings that are easiest to apply are single-part polyurea. We did a full review of single-part polyurea here.
Don’t forget to factor in the cost for required supplies such as mixing buckets, paint rollers, cleaning supplies and etc. The advantage of the commercial quality kits is that many of these vendors include some of these supplies with their kits.
A professional installation typically starts around $4.00 per square foot. This cost does vary and can depend on the competition in the area where you live. It will usually include a minimum of one epoxy color coat, color flakes, and a clear coat.
Cost can go up from there depending on the amount of top coats required, how much color flake is applied in the base coat, and if more than one clear coat will be required. A typical 2-car garage is approximately 400ft² for reference.
Total time for a professional company to epoxy coat your garage floor is 2-3 days. You can usually park your car within 72 hours after it is finished.
The fast curing one day polyurea polyaspartic systems start close to $6 per square foot and go up in cost from there. These are applied and finished in one day and can be driven on the next. Because of their fast cure rate, they should only be applied by professionals or those with much DIY coating experience.
As we mentioned, an epoxy coating will completely transform the looks of your garage floor. It’s durable, easy to clean, highly stain resistant, and all while providing great looks at the same time.
There is one important point that we want to make. You genuinely get what you pay for when it comes to garage floor coatings. If want a budget product, you will get budget performance. If you spend a bit more, you will be rewarded with a much more durable coating.
It will actually save you both time and money in the long run to purchase higher quality coating products – by far.
So, whether you are turning your garage into a man cave, a working shop for car repairs and projects, or just a place to park your cars, it’s hard to beat the benefits an epoxy garage floor coating system will provide.