Time Needed: One Week, Difficulty: Intermediate to Pro, Cost: Roughly $150 per 250-Square Feet (Epoxy Only)
You don’t lay down epoxy flooring in the garage because you need to. You do it because it’s awesome AND because it protects your garage floor. There’s something about the sound of your tires and boots squeaking on the surface that draws you in initially, but the overall protection satisfies all those who misalign their oil drain pain or work removing rust from a body panel too.
Epoxy floors aren’t magic, but they will improve your working experience by transforming your space and making you feel as though you’re in a high-end Garagemahal. It’s one of those things that directly impact your mindset as you work to help you achieve bigger and better things.
Unfortunately, epoxy flooring isn’t something that happens overnight and without getting dirty. You can save some money by taking matters into your own hands, but you can expect to spend a few days making it happen. Thankfully, the steps you need to take are relatively simple, and you have Car Autance to help you hammer it out.
Why Paint or Epoxy a Garage Floor?
There are a lot of reasons to lay a coating over the garage floor. Aesthetics and personal preferences aside, there are practical benefits.
Concrete is dull and absorbs light. Paint or epoxy, especially of lighter colors, are more reflective and can actually make better use of the lighting in your workshop. Both paint and epoxy can also work wonders for keeping the shop clean. They aren’t going to absorb oil as quickly as concrete, and both are much easier to sweep at the end of the day.
Now, the discussion changes a little when the conversation shifts to why epoxy over latex acrylic paint. The answer is simple: epoxy is far more durable and just does everything a touch better than paint will. Not only that, but latex paint is going to need touch-ups every two years or so, while epoxy, when done right, is pretty much hands-off and may last the lifetime of the garage floor if traffic is relatively light.
The Safety Brief
You’re about to use chemicals and power tools in a confined space. You need to protect yourself. The first thing to do is make sure you’re ventilating the area properly. You have large garage doors to help you with that, but be aware that the ideal air temperature range for applying epoxy floors is 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. There are ways to control the internal temperature of your workshop, but the best option may simply be to wait until spring or summer to start this project.
Of course, a respirator should always be worn, as should protective gloves and safety glasses. You’ll also want some form of hearing protection when you run the power tools you’ll need for some steps. You’ll also be kneeling quite a bit throughout this project, so set yourself up with a good set of knee pads before you begin.
The Tools & Parts You Need
We need to establish a few things before we dive into the list of tools you’ll need to take on epoxy flooring. One, the amount it’s going to cost to get the job done is highly dependent on the tools you already have to start with. That’s a given, but if you’re starting with literally nothing, you may end up spending a few thousand dollars to do this yourself, which may warrant paying a professional instead.
The next thing to consider is the amount of time it will take to tackle this project. Don’t try to keep up with the pros or your buddy who can knock it out in two days at the longest. Take your time with it, make sure you complete each step to the best of your ability.
We’re also assuming that there are no moisture issues with the concrete in your workspace. If moisture is able to pass through, or the pad is in rough shape altogether, the epoxy will never adhere correctly. It’s worth testing the floor to ensure that the concrete is in good condition before proceeding.
With that out of the way, you can move on to collecting the items below to get rolling:
- Push Broom
- Scrubbing Brush
- Floor squeegee
- Garage Floor Degreaser
- Grinder (7-inch is best by hand, but a floor grinder or shot blaster can be rented to speed up the process)
- Grinder Dust Shroud
- Diamond Cup Wheel
- Wet/Dry Shop Vac
- Pressure Washer/Garden Hose
- Concrete Repair Kit
- Rotary Sander
- Sanding Discs
- Painter’s Tape
- Paint Brushes
- Paint Roller
- 5-Gallon Bucket
- Paint Mixer Attachment
- Epoxy Floor Kit
- Epoxy Clear Coat
- Spiked Shoes (not necessary when working in small sections at a time)
One more thing to consider is that garage floor epoxy kits only cover a certain amount of floor space. How much you need does depend on the size of your workshop, so you will need to take some measurements but getting a little more than you think you’ll need is never a bad idea.
How To Prepare Your Garage for Epoxy
It doesn’t matter how well you lay the epoxy if it can’t stick to the surface. Just like painting a car, engine block, or anything else for that matter, preparation is the defining factor in the quality of the final product. If you want to lay epoxy during the weekend, you want to give yourself a head start by tackling some of the preparation work during the workweek — after you punch out, of course.
1. Clean out the garage.
You need access to the entire floor to lay down the epoxy. That means everything, including the loaded-up workbench, needs to be relocated.
If you don’t have a safe place to relocate your equipment to, at least organize things so that you can quickly reposition everything as you work.
2. Sweep the floor.
You want to get all of those old screws, wire nuts, dust, and dirt off the floor. Break out the trusty old push broom and get it done.
3. Degrease the floor.
Go over the entire floor with a concrete degreaser to ensure the floor is as clean as possible. You’ll use a good scrubbing brush to work over the entire surface and follow up with a garden hose or, ideally, a pressure washer to rinse it all away. Of course, a squeegee makes quick work of drying the pad off.
4. Prep the surface.
Now for the real elbow grease. The work you put in here is the most important to ensuring an epoxy coat that’s going to stand the test of time.
Many of the kits for laying epoxy floors come with an acid etch, which will work with concrete that’s already in decent shape to begin with. However, it won’t work as well as a surface grind or shot blast on older, hard-used pads. You need to make a judgment call on which is appropriate to ensure the epoxy can adhere to the concrete.
We suggest biting the bullet and going over the entire surface with the diamond wheel or shot blaster. It can be tempting to take the easy route with etching, but the pros typically prefer the latter for a reason. That said, you can rent special equipment to make quick work of large areas, but an angle grinder with the right diamond disc will do the trick.
No matter what option you take, be sure you are thorough and leave no spots or irregularities behind. Oil spots, rust marks, and other stains in the concrete can prevent the epoxy from doing its job.
A note on oil stains: Concrete is porous, and oil can seep way down into the surface. If you find stains that aren’t pulling away with degreaser or a few passes with the grinder, you’re going to want to take a different approach. Many prefer using a propane torch to vaporize the oil. Just be sure to take your time with this method as there may be moisture in the oil, and overheating it can create cracks.
5. Fix any cracks and imperfections.
We’re getting close to the fun stuff now, but the surface still isn’t quite ready. The next thing you want to do is break out the concrete repair kit to smooth cracks that can ruin the final product. You’ll want to tackle this at least a day before you apply the epoxy to ensure any compounds used to have enough time to dry.
If the surface is uneven and you want a truly professional finish, you can also take the time to level out all of the low spots. Epoxy finishes, even high-build ones, won’t do this. So, you’ll want to set up an extra day to apply and sand leveling compounds if your floor needs it.
The Task: How To Epoxy a Garage Floor
All right, time to get into the final stages of this process. The following steps are going to be pretty general because there are so many different systems available. The exact steps you need to follow are those supplied with the system you opt to use. Still, we can give you a general idea of what’s to come.
1. Prime the surface.
Depending on the system you’re using, you may need to apply a primer coat before your basecoat. Just like with most paints, the primer is necessary for the epoxy to properly bond. The good news is that a squeegee is usually acceptable for this process, so you won’t need to burn through rollers here. Just make sure to mix the primer thoroughly and go over the surface until even, and complete distribution of the primer is achieved.
Depending on the product you use, you may want to give the primer a day to dry before moving on.
2. Mix and apply the epoxy.
If you’ve opted for a DIY kit, this is where your application starts. These systems typically don’t require a primer. That said, mixing is also made simple as these kits usually come with pre-measured parts of the base coat and activator. Simply add them together and mix them up. If your system doesn’t come with pre-measured parts, you will need to mix parts exactly as the manufacturer says.
With the epoxy mixed, you’re ready to start moving.
Some systems want you to apply the mixture from a bucket or pan with a roller, covering only small sections at a time. Others should be poured directly onto the floor, spread out with a squeegee, then gone over with a roller. Of course, you should refer to the exact steps as listed in the kit you’re using to make sure you follow the correct procedure.
A note on edges and corners.
A roller and squeegee will only go so far into corners and against walls. Before driving yourself nuts, outline the edges with a regular paintbrush. You’ll also want to use painter’s tape to keep the epoxy off anything that you don’t want to be covered.
As for the section left outside of the garage doors, you have a few options to deal with covering it. Some folks prefer to leave this bare, covering it only with a clear coat as the base coat is not going to fare well in UV light. Others coat it but leave out the paint chips because they will fade and discolor. There are a lot of different techniques and methods used to protect this area, and you want to do a little bit of homework to decide what you like. However, there are plenty of people who don’t mind running the epoxy coating over it as they did the entire floor, and you can too if you’re comfortable with it.
3. Apply the paint chips and let dry.
Once the epoxy is laid out, you’re ready to start applying chips. Keep in mind that some systems want you to apply the chips as you lay epoxy over small sections, while others want the epoxy to cover the entire floor first, then spread out the paint chips in a complete layer. Either way, ensuring even distribution of the chips is all about your technique. Rather than throwing them directly at the surface, give them a slight upward flick as you release them for proper distribution.
If you’re skipping the chips, forget everything we just said and simply allow the epoxy to dry for at least 24 hours before moving on.
4. Apply clear coat (optional for DIY systems).
Some of the single-step epoxy kits don’t require a clear coat. However, applying one is going to lock in that gloss finish you want and act as yet another layer of protection that’ll promote a long and healthy life for the epoxy coating.
Of course, there are different processes for different kits, just the same as with the base coat. The directions on your particular system are your best friend.
The trick to applying a clear coat is ensuring you don’t miss any areas, which can be hard over a gloss finish. Some products have a slight hue to them to make this easier, but you’ll still want to use light manipulation to track your work.
5. Allow to dry.
Once the clear coat is laid down, you’re almost ready to get back to life as usual. Give it a few days before you start packing the garage with cars, tools, or anything heavy. The surface, regardless of the product used, should be walk-on ready within 12 to 24 hours. However, it’ll usually need two or three days to fully cure and support the weight of vehicles or machines.
FAQs About Applying Epoxy to Your Garage Floor
Car Autance answers all your burning questions.
Q. How long do epoxy garage floors last?
A. In commercial settings, epoxy floors have a relatively short lifespan—some needing reapplication in just under five years. Things are different in personal/residential settings. If you take your time and do the job right, epoxy floors can last as long as 10-20 years.
Q. What are the disadvantages of epoxy floors?
A. In truth, there aren’t a whole lot of drawbacks to epoxy floors other than the fact that they are slippery when wet, and they take a lot of effort to get right. No matter how easy any system makes the process, you need to spend a good amount of time preparing the concrete to ensure it’ll adhere properly. Otherwise, it’s going to start lifting and peeling away, leaving you with a huge mess on your hands and a lot of money down the drain.
Q. Will epoxy floors crack?
A. Epoxy flooring is rigid, and it will crack. One of the most common causes of cracks in epoxy floors is a shifting foundation. The reason concrete pads have reliefs in them is to accommodate for these issues, and as long as the concrete is laid properly and is in sound shape, you shouldn’t have issues with the epoxy cracking.
Learn More About Garage Epoxy With This Video
There are different systems and methods used to apply epoxy flooring, so it’s virtually impossible for us to not approach this from a general perspective. While there’s something in our guide for everyone, there’s a lot of information you may not need, which can confuse the matter if you’re not a strong text-based learner. There’s nothing wrong with that, which is why we wanted to include a video tutorial. In the video below, the host goes through the entire process of applying a DIY-friendly epoxy coat to his garage floor. It’s long, but it’s worth the watch because he unpacks a lot of useful information regarding the process for that particular kit. Furthermore, he follows up with updates on his Instagram so you can get a good idea of what that epoxy system looks like a year after applying it.
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