Learning how to grind a garage floor for an epoxy coating or paint hasn’t always been the easiest or most straight forward of projects for the average home owner. It frequently raises more questions than answers and can lead to frustration when trying to figure out the best way to do it. Many of these questions concern what type of equipment to use.
While it is not the most difficult thing to do, trying to figure out the right tools to rent or buy can be daunting. Plus, dust control can be an issue unless you spend more money for the proper vacuum equipment. With so many choices, it can get plain confusing and expensive.
Our objective here is to present to you an easy and more economical way to grind your garage floor that can be done in a day or less. It should help to eliminate the confusion and questions that arise as well as instruct you how to provide a nice profile for your coating of choice. Plus, it’s one less thing to worry about when learning how to epoxy coat your own garage floor.
Fortunately, a company called Diamabrush has introduced a concrete prep tool that attaches to the bottom of a floor maintainer and is available for use from a large assortment of rental companies.
It consists of a series of diamond coated blades that are attached to a buffing wheel. These blades abrade the surface of the concrete to provide the proper profile and clean surface for an epoxy coating. This process is both faster and easier than the traditional cup grinding method.
Diamabrush also offers a separate removal tool that works well on removing old paint, thinset, mastic, or even epoxy. The nice feature about both of these is that they can be used either on a wet surface to grind dust free or you can attach a dust shroud with a shop vacuum to grind dry without the dust or cleanup of a wet slurry.
A description of the Diamabrush and how it works from The Home Depot
Tools that you will need
These are the basic tools that you will need to acquire before you start grinding your garage floor. If you already have some of these or know of someone who can lend them to you, then obviously it will cost you even less. The dust shroud for the angle grinder is optional and will need to be attached to a shop vacuum in order to use it. Keep in mind that pricing may vary depending on your area.
- 4 ½” angle grinder, Harbor Freight Tools – $16.00
- 4″ diamond turbo cup wheel, Amazon– $15.00
- Optional dust shroud for the angle grinder, Amazon – $29.00
- Floor buffer rental, Home Depot – $38.00
- Diamabrush concrete prep tool rental, Home Depot – $65.00
Most of the floor maintainers that Home Depot rent do not have an optional dust shroud attachment. This will require that you grind the floor wet if you want to avoid the dust. If you find a rental with the dust shroud attachment, you will need to rent a shop vacuum to go with it or use your own.
Update 4/2015: Due to popular demand, more and more Home Depot’s are starting to carry the optional dust shroud attachment. Be sure to ask about it.
The small angle grinder and cup wheel works well for feathering any garage floor patchwork or crack repair as well as grinding the areas and edges near the wall that the Diamabrush cannot reach. It’s also good for smoothing out the raised edges of large contraction joints if opting for the seamless garage floor look or grinding down any unusual high spots.
If you will be grinding dry with your own shop vacuum, then one other tool you may want to purchase is a Dust Deputy. Concrete dust is very fine and will clog up the filtration system of a standard shop vacuum fairly quickly requiring frequent stops to clean them out. The Dust Deputy works by creating its own dust collection system that keeps the filters of the vacuum virtually dust free.
How the Dust Deputy works
Amazon has the best deals on the Dust Deputy products. Shipping is usually free and you may not have to pay sales tax.
Grinding the Garage Floor
The first thing that needs to be done is to sweep up the garage floor and clean any oil or grease spots from the surface. We recommend that you clean these areas of the concrete before you start your project.
Next, if you have elected not to use a dust shroud and vacuum, be prepared for the dust that will follow. While the Diamabrush does not create as much dust as a typical 7″ concrete grinder with a turbo cup wheel, you will still have a small cloud of dust that will coat everything in your garage.
When grinding wet, start by wetting the surface of the concrete that you are going to grind. It’s best to work in sections when you do this. Using the floor maintainer with the Diamabrush attachment, start by grinding the surface of the concrete, slowly working the machine in a circular motion. It will only take a few minutes to figure out how long to work an area before you need to move on.
To check your work, use the hose to spray the area clean with a high pressure nozzle and then run your fingers across the surface. It should feel like medium grit sandpaper and have a more granular look. Continue this way, grinding the garage floor one section at a time until you are done. Make sure to work the machine all the way up against the stem walls of the garage floor, getting as close as you can.
Because wet grinding can create quite the slurry, we recommend that before you blast a section clean, use a wet vac to suck up the majority of the slurry. This helps tremendously with keeping the amount of slurry that you hose out of your driveway down to a minimum.
Not counting the edge work or other hard to reach places, most people can grind a standard 2-car garage floor (approximately 400 ft²) in just over two hours when using this method.
Once done, this will leave a strip about 2″-3″ wide around the perimeter of the walls that the Diamabrush could not reach. There will be more in the corners. Use the small 4 ½” grinder with the diamond cup wheel to remove this remaining strip of concrete and the larger areas in the corners.
Be careful to keep the cup wheel flat on the garage floor when grinding. If you apply too much pressure or angle it too much on the surface, it will leave “kiss marks”. These are small half-moon divots that can potentially show through your coating.
The concrete needs to be fairly dry for the area that you are grinding when using the cup wheel. If it’s wet, you will need to use a ground fault circuit interrupter to prevent electrocuting yourself with the angle grinder. You can purchase these for about $25. Many times you can use the power cord extension that comes with the floor maintainers if you still have time on the rental. They usually have a GFCI built into the cord.
The other option which we prefer is to grind the edges first then follow up with the diamabrush. Just remember that if you are using a dust shroud on your grinder that a standard shop vacuum is not made to handle such fine dust.
You may need to clean out the filter quite a few times while grinding the edges. Though you are not grinding a lot of concrete, if you elect not to use the shroud be prepared for the amount of dust this small grinder will put out.
Another Concrete Grinding Option
Another option for grinding your garage floor that is being used quite successfully is the 7” Diamabrush hand tool. This one is made to fit a 7” angle grinder and works fairly quickly as well. You will need a dust shroud when using this tool and it works best with a variable speed grinder.
You can’t rent these however and will need to purchase them outright. Home Depot sells the 7″ version right now for $86. Prices seem to fluctuate on this product so you may want to check Amazon as well.
Diamabrush says that the slower the RPM’s the better. The faster speed grinders have a tendency of heating up and clogging the blades. If your only option is a single speed grinder, don’t use one that spins any faster than 6000 rpm’s. If you are worried about the speed, Diamabrush says grinding wet will keep the blades cool and prevent clogging or glazing.
The 7″ Diamabrush hand grinder with dust shroud in action
Another tip is to keep it flat and do not lean into it in an effort to make it work harder. The weight of the grinder is enough to do the work. Depending on how much suction your shop vacuum creates, you may need to shim the tool with a washer to raise the shroud off the floor to avoid suction lock. Some shrouds have a vent to adjust for this as well. Either way, these tools make quick work of the concrete.
Shop Vac Recommendation
If you are thinking of purchasing a new shop vac, we highly recommend that you look at this Dustless Wet/Dry shop vacuum by Dustless Technologies. These are excellent vacuums that work extremely well when vacuuming up concrete dust, drywall dust, and variety of other fine dust particulates.
Professional installers are using these more and more as a backup or even as a replacement to the much higher priced specialized concrete dust vacuums. You can read the great reviews on these and find the best prices with free shipping here from Amazon.
They also offer an optional 25′ vacuum hose that can reach twice as far as the original.
Once the grinding is done, it’s time to make sure the garage floor is clean of all the dust. If you ground the floor wet, then chances are the floor is clean.
To check, run your finger across the surface when it has dried. If your finger is clean and doesn’t have white residue on it then you are good to go. Another test is press a strip of duct tape to the concrete and then pull it up. It should stick fairly well and come up clean.
If you have a lot of white residue, then this is excess dust that did not get blasted out and will need to be cleaned. The best way is to mix up a solution of TSP (Trisodium phosphate) in a bucket, spread it out on the floor and lightly scrub it with a push broom or long handled scrub brush.
Using your high pressure nozzle, rinse the concrete real well making sure there is no more solution left behind. Work in sections if you need to so that the solution will not dry before you rinse it out. This will help lift any remaining slurry and dust that is in the pores of the concrete when you rinse.
If you did a dry grind, the easiest way to insure the concrete is clean and ready is to use the wide mouth attachment on your shop vacuum and just vacuum all the dust up. What’s nice about this method is the fact you can start right away with applying your floor coating since there is no water on the floor that needs to fully dry.
Once the floor is done, test different areas by sprinkling a little water on the surface paying particular attention to any areas that were coated in oil or grease or where you may have used a tire dressing that dripped onto your concrete. It should absorb the water fairly quickly. If it just sits on the surface, then you may need to regrind and/or re-clean that spot before you epoxy.
Grinding a garage floor has just become much easier with this tool from Diamabrush. It can be done in less than a day and it’s much safer to use than an acid etch. Best of all, it provides the best surface profile for your epoxy floor coating to adhere to.