Garage Flooring Options: From Mats and Tiles to Paint and Epoxy
Attractive, Durable, Easy Garage Floor Options
Savvy homeowners have long known how versatile a garage space can be and what a great return on investment owners can get on a garage remodel done right. In this Hub from the experts at Home Flooring Pros we provide an overview of some of the more popular flooring options as well has some tips on preparation for installation.
There are many garage flooring options in the 21st Century.
• floor mats
• floor finishes including paint and epoxy coating
How to know which is the best for you?
There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to choosing the right floor covering for your garage floor—budget, durability and ease of installation/application are but a few. Be diligent in researching the options to make the best choice and your reward will be a garage floor you can be proud of for years to come.
Garage Floor Tiles
High-quality garage floor tiles are interlocking pieces of PVC matting available in several tile sizes and patterns. The interlocking tiles create a waterproof seam without the need for additional treatment. Garage floor tiles are thicker than roll-out mats and are consequently more durable. Some installers even offer lifetime guarantees on their product.
The best quality floor tiles will stand up to high traffic, vehicles, rolling carts, and tool chests. Flat surfaces are treated to be non-slip even when wet.
Installation on garage floor tiles typically takes between 4-5 hours, depending on size of garage and any physical features that must be adjusted for. The beauty of floor tiles is that if you sell your house, you can take the floor with you. The unfused pieces come up and off the substrate floor cleanly and can be easily transported to your new location and re-laid there.
High-quality garage flooring tiles of the type described above are the most costly option, priced well above paint and roll-out mat alternatives. Be aware that while there are cheaper floor tiles available, they are usually constructed of hollow plastics and must be joined by connectors. These low-end tiles are have a shorter lifespan and are not as suitable to high-traffic areas. There are also so-called “peel and stick” floor tiles which work best for a quick cosmetic fix but do not wear well over time.
If you are going to opt for garage flooring tiles, be sure to invest in the highest quality tiles available. You’ll save the higher initial cost several times over not having to repair and replace the cheaper tiling options.
Garage Floor Mats
Price-wise, roll-out garage floor mats fall between high-end garage floor tiles and paint/epoxy covering. There is little preparation required to lay down a roll-out mat, beyond clearing the floor space to be covered and giving it a good sweep. Trimming and adjustments can be made with scissors, shears, or a utility knife. If two or more large pieces must be used to cover the garage floor, there are seaming compounds that will create a watertight bond between adjacent mats.
Roll-out garage mats are very durable as well as easy and quick to install. They are unaffected by road salts, gasoline, brake fluid, and other mechanical fluids that may leak from your vehicle. The mats are easy to clean. Roll-out mats come in several different design pattern options as well as a more utilitarian flat surface. The texture of these mats provides secure, non-slip surface particularly well-suited to high traffic areas.
Roll-out mats have a useful life of about ten years on average. They are a quick way to hide stains or surface imperfections and improve the cosmetic appearance of your garage.
Paint and Epoxy Coatings Overview
As a general rule, concrete floor paint or epoxy coating kits are the most economical options when it comes to garage floor treatments.
Do-it-yourself kits are available which yield great finished surfaces. For best results, just be sure to pick a high quality treatment kit, not the cheapest on the market, and be sure to follow the preparatory steps precisely.
For those unable or unwilling to do the preparation required, or who don’t have the time and patience to devote to the project, professional installers can do all the work for you at a substantially higher cost. Inexperienced do-it-yourselfers may want to consider going with a professional as the final success of the floor make-over requires that each step of the process be done correctly and competently.
Prepping a Garage Floor Is Vital!
Whether choosing paint or epoxy floor treatments, preparation is absolutely essential. Professionals devote at least 80% of their time and effort to doing the prep work and the remainder to the actual application process. A painted concrete floor can look terrific and wear wonderfully for decades if done right.
Some DIYers may not see the value in this—how hard can it be after all to paint or coat a concrete floor? If you only need the job to wear well and look good for a year, then by all means do minimal prep work. Just don’t be surprised if you have to do it all over again because the surface is chipped, flaked or cratered.
• A thorough inspection of the garage floor is mandatory. Floor treatments, whether paint or epoxy, are less likely to fail if the concrete they are applied to is crack- and damage-free, clean, and dry. Small cracks and minor damage can be fixed with concrete patch products. Large cracks or major damage mean you’ll have to replace the concrete floor before attempting any finishes.
• Clean the floor thoroughly. Vacuum AND use a push broom to get the surface as free of debris as possible. For oil stains and spots, use a degreaser and a stiff brush, rinse, and repeat. If the stains are large, use a pressure washer.
The floor must be allowed to dry completely before proceeding. If you anticipate that the garage floor will be exposed to water, treat the clean and dry concrete surface with concrete waterproofing.
• Etch or acid-wash the floor surface. Most concrete floors have been finished to be smooth; for paint and epoxy treatments to adhere the surface must be as rough as a light grade of sandpaper. Use an etching medium or muriatic acid on the concrete surface for latex paint and one-part epoxy coatings. Be aware that more than one treatment may be needed to achieve the proper surface effect. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely.
• Two-part epoxy works best when the floor has been prepared with a diamond grinder or shotblaster (similar to sand blasting) . Both machines get the job done quickly and are usually available for rent from tool rental firms or home improvement centers.
Epoxy Installation in Action
Comparing Paint with Epoxy
There are a number of latex paints formulated specifically for use on concrete flooring. These paints are relatively inexpensive and, after the aforementioned surface preparation, easy to apply.
1. Once the floor has been prepared, the first coat of latex paint should be slightly thinned (this aids absorbency) and applied to the floor with a brush for the best base coat.
2. A second coat may then be applied with a roller.
3. The paint dries quickly to the touch, but should be allowed to cure for at least 24 hours before stepping on it and a full week before parking the car in the garage.
Latex concrete flooring paint should require no additives to provide a non-slip surface. Concrete flooring paint is available in a number of colors. In garages that are also used as workshops, it is recommended that lighter colors be used for greater reflectivity of available light. Go with darker colors (which absorb light) only if you have ample overhead lighting to counteract the effect.
One of the first things to know is that there is no such thing as “epoxy paint." Paint and epoxy operate on two different chemical processes. True epoxy flooring yields a harder and therefore more durable surface. The process of application for epoxy flooring is more exacting and unforgiving.
Epoxy floor treatments are available in one- or two-part formulas.
One-part epoxy coverings are so-called because the resin and hardener elements have been premixed at point of manufacture rather than during the application process. These coatings are available in water-based formulations with shorter curing times and no fumes. One-part epoxy treatments often include a non-slip finish as epoxy coatings can be slippery when wet.
Experts believe that one-part epoxy coverings (especially those that are solvent-based) are lower quality in terms of durability. Water-based one-part epoxy coatings are considered more favorably, but are still not as durable as two-part epoxy coatings.
Two-part epoxy treatments are more labor intensive, but yield the hardest and most durable floor surfaces. They are called two-part because the resin and hardener elements included are combined just prior to application.
Two-part epoxy garage floor coverings come in two basic forms:
• 100% solids-based (containing no solvents)
• solvent-based epoxy formulas.
Two-part, 100% solids-based garage floor treatments are considered the best epoxy coating available. They are also the most expensive and exacting to apply. That said, they are DIY-friendly and come in kits that cost under $300 US. The chemical process involved yields the hardest, thickest, most durable and attractive floor finish. A textured finish (to decrease slipperiness when wet) comes in the form of colored chips which are applied in the sealing step. Some popular brands of 100% solid two-part treatments include Epoxy-Coat, Performance and Epoxy Master formulas.
Two-part, solvent-based epoxy floor coverings are found for sale at hardware stores, home improvement centers and paint stores under the brand names Behr, Rust-oleum, Quikcrete, and others. These water-based, two-part formulas are closer to latex paint in terms of ease of application and clean up, but they are also thinner floor coatings and less durable as a result.
A Very Important Caveat for Epoxy Users
Two-part epoxy floor covering must only be applied to concrete floor with no or low moisture content. Most epoxy flooring failures occur because the garage floor was not moisture-tested before application. There are two methods for testing moisture levels:
• Plastic sheet moisture test: a low-tech, fairly reliable test conducted by duct-taping pieces of plastic sheeting or aluminum foil to various spots on the concrete floor. The sheets are inspected every few days; if there is moisture between the concrete and the plastic or foil, the concrete or the ground beneath may be too damp for epoxy to be used.
• More reliable is the calcium chloride test. Kits may be ordered online and are set up on a prepared garage floor in several spots according to enclosed instructions. These kits are usually left on the concrete floor for several days, then returned to the manufacturer who runs lab tests for moisture content. A result of more than three pounds of water vapor for 1000 square feet and epoxy should not be used. In those cases, go with floor mats, tiles, or paint.
The garage floor is one of the least respected surfaces in a home and often the last to be considered as part of any repair or remodeling effort. It is little wonder that eventually almost every garage floor needs repair or replacement when considering typical wear and tear:
• Extreme heat and cold (at least in unheated garage spaces)
• Vulnerability to rising damp from the ground beneath
• Constant exposure to oil, gasoline, antifreeze, and road salts in winter
Some newly constructed homes have the latest garage amenities, including heat and the latest in garage floor treatments. Most of us, however, inherit whatever garage floor comes with the home. If we’re very lucky, perhaps the prior owner maintained the garage area fastidiously. Most of the time this is not the case, and we end up with a floor that has seen better days, may need a little (or a lot of) repair, and could definitely use a makeover.
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