Epoxy Floor Coating Materials
Types of materials to use for the best cost/benefit results
There are many types of materials that can be used to coat your garage floor. They vary considerably in cost, durability and appearance.
Putting down a cheap $99 Home Depot / Lowe's / Menard's or Sears kit might seem economical at first but you will regret it sooner than later when the surface discolors, stains or starts to peel up. (Would you put down a $99 floor in your living room or kitchen? Probably not.)
This will help you in selecting the right products and/or vendor for your project.
Homeowner applied products
Home Depot, Lowe's, Sears, Menard's and other hardware or paint outlets have water-based epoxy paint that you can apply to your concrete garage floor for about $30 per gallon.
They usually also have a $69 - $99 epoxy kit for a two car garage floor which contains 2 pounds of tiny 1/16" decorative chips.
An inexpensive $30 / gallon concrete paint or one of these kits applied to your garage floor will fail fairly quickly from peeling, staining, yellowing or "Hot Tire Pickup." These materials contain only about 30% solids - the rest is water. Professional grade epoxy concrete coatings contain 95 - 100% resin based materials. They are more expensive but guess which one is going to look better and last FAR longer.
Using the inexpensive stuff is not worth the effort since you (or a contractor) will have to grind off the failing surface and then re-coat it yet again frequently. Over a few years this is going to be a costly and time-consuming project. You have better things to do with your time and money. (Do it right the first time. You will be much happier with the appearance and will save much grief over continuing repair problems.)
They are NOT all the same
There are three categories of epoxies: A one-part epoxy and a two-part epoxy, a low solids vs a high solids epoxy and thirdly a resin-based epoxy vs a water-based epoxy.
1.) One-part water-based epoxies are little more than house paint and just sit on the surface of the concrete. Not very durable and particularly not for a high traffic area like a garage.
2.) Resin based epoxies sink down deeply into the concrete pores and create a FAR more durable surface.
3.) Two-part epoxies contain a "part A" resin and a "part B" hardener. When mixed they create a chemical reaction that results in a hard plastic-like surface. This surface is very durable and is highly resistant to household chemicals, abrasion and automotive fluids (including battery acid).
4.) Two-part resin based epoxies are not like house paint or floor paint. Paints depend on the water in their makeup evaporating to leave behind remaining solids. They sit on top of the surface. Quality epoxies "cure" with a chemical reaction. They don't "dry" like a water-based paint does. You can turn a fan onto a water-based paint to make it dry faster. Turning a fan onto a quality epoxy floor won't help it cure faster and may cause bubbles in the surface. (A warm room cures two-part epoxies faster but it is probably not worth the effort to heat the room if the temperature is 50 degrees or over.)
5.) The cheap hardware store kit epoxies contain no more than 30% solids. Professional grade epoxies contain 95-100% solids. (Guess which one is going to last longer.)
(More coats are not necessarily better)
1.) Some older epoxy floor coating systems required a primer coat plus two coats of the epoxy before decorative chips and a sealer coat were applied. (A primer and two coats of epoxy are needed because the older epoxy only contains about 30% solids. The rest is water or solvents which evaporate during application and curing). This is older technology and leads to higher labor and materials costs for the job and a less durable surface.
2.) Professional grade epoxy coating systems are self-priming, contain 95%-100% solids, dive down deeply into the concrete pores and make for a strong, thick coating with one coat. This high-solids epoxy coating also provides 3 - 4 times better resistance to moisture vapor emissions (MVE) from your slab. Moisture coming up through your concrete floor can easily cause the cheaper epoxy to pop off.
Since these industrial-grade coating components are highly reactive, they require an experienced installer to apply properly. (The pot life, or usable working time, with these materials is usually less than 30 minutes compared with up to 24 hours for the cheaper water based materials.)
Provide a rich look and a skid-resitant texture
Decorative chips for epoxy floors are normally made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride plastic). They are usually a blend of 3 or more colors of chips. When applied at the proper rate, they create a rich granite-like look for your floor that helps hide floor imperfections and provide traction when the floor is wet.
Chips normally come in 1/32", 1/16", 1/4" and 1" sizes. The hardware store kits supply about 2 pounds of 1/32" chips for a 2 car garage. That small amount is difficult for anyone to spread evenly over 400 sq. ft. The chips are about 1/4" apart and it is all too easy to create splotchy or bald areas where too many or too few chips fell. There are also not enough of them to provide skid resistance when the surface is wet. You can usually buy more of these tiny chips from the hardware store but at $7 - $9 /lb it gets very expensive very quickly to provide an even, dense coating of chips.
Professional installers normally broadcast 35 - 50 pounds of 1/4" chips on a 2 car garage. The coverage is 100% and that amount provides an even, skid-resistance and rich appearance.
A 100% chip coverage is also MUCH easier to repair should something extra-ordinarily bad happen to your floor. One of our customers dropped an engine block on the floor which fractured the cement underneath. It was easy to repair seamlessly because matching a 100% chip coverage to a 100% chip coverage was easy compared to trying to match a 5 - 10% coverage.
Sealing Your Floor
Protects your floor, enhances cleanability and gives it an attractive high gloss
It is highly advisable that your epoxy floor be coated with a tough, clear UV-resistant sealer.
A high quality sealer is the main component in the coating system. It will lock down the chips, protect your floor against household chemicals, automotive fluids and abrasion, make it far easier to clean, provide an attractive high gloss and will drastically extend the life of your floor.
Sealers are not included in the hardware store kits. The store personnel usually cannot even recommend a compatible and appropriate sealer.
Professional installers use industrial-strength clear polyurea or urethane sealers which have high UV resistance to sun damage. These sealers are usually quite thick (75-80% solids) and provide a tough, glossy and easy-to-clean coating over the epoxy and chips. These high solids sealers only require one coat to protect your floor.
These professional sealers will protect your floor from fading, staining, turning a blush white or yellowing. They will also be compliant with your local Air Quality regulatory board's requirements for limitations on any smog-causing vapor emissions.
Can you find professional materials and Do It Yourself (DIY)?
We use professional-grade materials from Versatile Building Products of Anaheim, CA. Check out their web site at:
www.garagecoatings.com. Versatile has homeowner kits for 2-3 car garages which include many of the same professional materials we use.
Obviously we have more experience with the proper preparation of the slab, crack and hole repair and handling and applying the reactive materials properly.
In any case, you will be FAR better off using professional-grade materials than the $99 epoxy kit from a hardware or paint store. A two car garage kit of materials from Versatile will run you about $500 plus tax and shipping,
Be very wary of contractors offering a $500-$800 job
for a 2 car garage
Professional-grade materials cost a legitimate contractor up to $120/gallon plus 35-50 lbs of decorative chips, a high quality sealer and experienced installation personnel.
A $500-$800 job is going to get you the $99 Home Depot floor kit and a guy who slops it down and runs. He isn't interested in giving you a quality floor coating with a any sort of legitimate warranty. His job might look semi-OK when he collects the check from you but you won't be happy in a year or so when it peels or fades.
Do the job RIGHT the first time. It might cost you double but the floor will look much better and you won't have to worry about the floor failing for decades.
California Concrete Restoration, Inc.
Laguna Hills, CA
Note: If you are outside the Southern California area and need help locating an experienced installer who uses industrial-grade materials, email us your location, contact information and what you would like to accomplish for your floor. We can usually put you in contact with a local quality installer.
Check out our other web pages:
- Epoxy Garage Floors
Read this BEFORE you select a system for your floors.
- Epoxy floor preparation
The proper techniques for preparing a floor for an epoxy coating.
- Epoxy floor durability
How long will it last?
- Epoxy floor maintenance
Keeping your floor looking like new.
- How to repair a damaged epoxy floor
Tips and techniques for effective and durable repairs to your floor.
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