Updated on 1/18/2024
The beautiful appearance of a garage floor coating convinces most homeowners to improve their garage floor and use our Floor Coating Services. Garage floor coatings are manufactured in a number of great-looking solid colors, and you can add decorative flakes to give it more traction and a classier appearance. Not only that, garage floor coatings extend the life of your garage floor. High-grade epoxy repels water, oil, and other materials, resisting the contaminants that eat away at your garage floor and eventually cause it to fail. Not to mention, they make clean-up a lot easier. There’s a reason that auto shops are one of the prime commercial customers when it comes to this innovative garage flooring solution.
Considering getting beautiful and long-lasting epoxy flooring for your garage and turning your garage into a delightful and renovated space? Here is the COMPLETE GUIDE to Everything You Need to Know about Garage Floor Coating (2024 Revision) :
Chapter 1. Garage Floor Coating – Basics 101
Are Garage Floor Paint and Garage Floor Coating the Same?
An epoxy garage floor coating is NOT same as garage floor paint. Garage floor paint normally is a latex acrylic product. Some paints will have a small percentage of epoxy added to the mix to make it more durable than standard paint, but it is still paint.
Epoxy is an actual thermosetting resin that is applied as a coating. It is formed when you mix one part epoxide resin with one part polyamine hardener. The hardener acts as a catalyst and is what gives epoxy its strength.
Unlike paint that has to dry, epoxy cures. When the two parts are mixed, a chemical reaction is started which creates an exothermic curing process. This curing process produces polymer structures that are closely cross-linked giving epoxy its superior strength and durability. The end result is a coating that is much thicker than paint and bonds tenaciously to a properly prepared surface.
What is 100% Solid Epoxy Coating
When coatings are applied, two thickness measurements are taken. One is a wet film thickness (WFT) and the other is a dry film thickness (DFT). The coating is measured once before it has dried, and once again after. The percent solid refers to the percentage of coating thickness that remains after the coating has finished drying, or the difference between the WFT and DFT. Usually, a percentage of the solid is lost and thickness is reduced during the drying process. 100% solid epoxy coating will maintain the same level of thickness between the time they are applied and the time they have dried, hence the name 100% solids.
There are three main types of epoxy coating: 100% solid epoxy, water-based epoxy coating and solvent-based epoxy coating.
Water-based epoxy coating is considered to be an “Green” option. Unlike two-part 100% solid epoxy coatings, water-based epoxy coatings contain only about 40% – 60% epoxy. They are thinner and are thus easier, quicker and more convenient to apply.
Solvent-based epoxy coatings are slightly stronger, thicker and could be more durable. Like water-based epoxy, they are easier to apply. However, the use of respirators is required because of their high VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) content.
100% solid epoxy coating is the toughest and most durable of these three. These are two-part coatings that result in very hard and thick flooring. 100% solid epoxy coatings are commonly used in professional garages for their ability to resist hot tires, scratches, oil and chemical spillage. They are also prized for their longevity and can last up to twenty years.
Epoxy Coating vs. Polyurethane Coating
You could easily find many articles online telling you polyurethane coatings or polyurea coatings are 100% better than epoxy coatings. Well, it’s really not that simple. While epoxies and polyurethanes are both thermosetting polymers in the field of industrial floor coatings, their functions and performance are vastly different. The most robust, long-lasting coating system for concrete floor coating applications generally includes the use of both epoxy coatings and polyurethane coatings.
Whether it’s a general industrial/commercial application or a residential garage floor, almost in all cases, we would recommend at least a three-coat system consisting of an epoxy primer, an epoxy build-coat, and a polyurethane topcoat.
The Advantages of Epoxy Coating
Generally, epoxies are excellent at three things:
- Epoxies are good for mechanically bonding to concrete if the concrete substrate is appropriately prepared. This results in a well-bonded system foundation for other coating layers and topcoats. How well the primer adheres to the concrete substrate initially is a critical factor in determining the durability of the complete coating system.
- Epoxy intermediate coat can be applied at a thickness of 8 to 15 mils which is generally a lot thicker than a polyurethane coat. This thickness allows the coating to chemically adhere to the epoxy primer, as well as repair tiny concrete defects. More layers of coatings may be added depending on the performance requirements and the condition of the concrete.
- Cured epoxy provides a hard, durable, and impact-resistant surface which would be a great foundation for a polyurethane topcoat.
The Advantages of Polyurethane Coating
The biggest problem with epoxy coatings is the sensitivity to UV light. As a result, it will amber or change color if exposed to sunlight for a long time. Polyurethanes have a variety of advantages over epoxies, despite having a much thinner cured-film thickness.
- UV Resistance: Polyurethanes have excellent UV resistance. They keep the underlying epoxy from yellowing over time when applied as a top coat over epoxy.
- Chemical Resistance: Polyurethanes can withstand a wider spectrum of chemicals. Furthermore, they are highly resistant to discoloration from hot or cold tires.
- Better Impact and Abrasion Resistance: Polyurethanes exhibit superior abrasion and impact resistance which improves the durability and life span of the whole coating system.
As you can see, we can’t just simply say one product is better than the other and just pick one over another. The ideal solution is to utilize both to achieve the desired result. Epoxies are excellent for priming and building up coating thickness, polyurethanes are perfect for topcoats to improve the physical performance, and chemical resistance and protect the system from UV exposure.
Another Topcoat Option – Polyaspartic
Polyaspartic garage floor coatings are more expensive but gaining more recognition today. Polyaspartic coating offers improved flow and leveling characteristics, enabling its applicators to create a uniform, smooth finish. It offers good chemical resistance, mechanical strength, along with excellent UV stability and chemical resistance. The two biggest advantages of a polyaspartic garage floor coating are fast curing time and low-temperature cure. Polyaspartic coating cures very fast, with a pot life of 10 to 120 minutes depending on the formulation. Typical polyaspartic floor coatings are applied in just two to three coats. This means a complete flooring system could be installed in one day and returned to service the next. In addition, polyaspartic coating can be applied in temperatures as low as -30F to as high as 140F depending on the formulation, which means you can coat your garage floor all year long. Performance-wise, polyaspartic garage floor coatings are considered to be as durable as epoxy coatings. Although they are thinner than epoxy coatings, they are also more flexible and thus can better absorb impacts. In terms of maintenance, polyaspartic garage floor coatings will last as long as the epoxy coatings while requiring the very least of maintenance.
But there are a few limitations to consider also for garage polyaspartic coating:
- Curing Too Fast
The advantage of a fast cure can become a nightmare if the material sets before application is complete. If these coatings happen to cure before application is complete, trapped bubbles, blisters, and lap lines can be visible and ruin an otherwise perfect job. Therefore, well trained professional floor coating installer is highly recommended to install polyaspartic coatings.
- Hard to Remove
Polyaspartics are not foolproof, and should be installed by professionals who have extensive floor coating experience. Polyaspartics are tough materials, but that quality also makes them tough to remove or repair if problems occur during application.
The Confusion about Polyurea Coating
You may see ads on TV or internet saying some polyurea coating product is 20x stronger than epoxy. We also heard frequently that some flooring contractors are selling and claiming that “Polyurea Is Better Than Polyaspartic”.
The fact is that “polyurethanes and polyureas both are based on a two-component system, and the curing mechanisms is by co-reaction, where isocyanate is a common component, and the second component is a polyether polyamine for polyureas, while polyether polyol is for polyurethane.”  The polymerization reactions are very similar.
Polyaspartic is technically a subgroup of polyurea, an aliphatic polyurea to be exact. so claiming “polyurea is better than polyaspartic” is simply not true. In fact, aromatic polyurea coating is vulnerable to UV degradation (yellowing), therefore is not suitable for most garage floor coating applications.
Simply put, epoxy, polyurethane, polyurea, polyaspartic are all great coating technologies. Each of them has it’s own advantages, available in various forms and used for a wide range of application. It’s not a matter of picking one over the other, but a matter of utilizing the best product to build the proper coating system to meet the needs and achieve the desired results.
How to Clean and Maintain Garage Floor Coatings
Since dust and dirt do not stick to the coated floor, just use the dust mop once a week (or sooner if needed) to keep the floor clean. It only takes a few minutes. Dust mop even works well for floors that have a polymer anti-slip additive in the surface. For floor coatings with an aggressive anti-slip aggregate such as aluminum oxide, a soft bristle push broom is the better choice.
If you have contraction joints or saw cuts in the floor that are exposed, vacuum these out monthly or use a broom to sweep them clean of debris.
For more detail, we have a great blog article explaining “How to Clean Epoxy Floors and Maintain it“.
Chapter 2. Garage Floor Coating – Pros and Cons
Like any other flooring, garage floor coatings have both advantages and disadvantages. The positive characteristics of garage floor coatings are:
- Visual effect – One significant advantage of epoxy garage floor coating is it will enhance the look of your garage. Manufacturers offer large variety of epoxy flooring colors and styles. Whether you’re looking to brighten up your garage with a bold solid color, create a terrazzo or granite look with a flake floor, or wow everyone with a metallic epoxy, you’re sure to find a floor that fits you and your taste.
- High strength – Epoxy is virtually impervious, and highly resistant to oil, auto fluids, gasoline, acids, grease and other chemicals such as bleaches and daily cleaners. For the very same reason, the floors are considered good for industrial sectors as well as for home. when properly installed, epoxy floor can serve at least 15 years of age, without changing its color.
- High abrasion and scratch resistance – Rolling tool boxes, jacks, and jack stands will not damage the floor. It withstands heat, cold and wet or dry weather conditions. It makes for easy cleaning of icy brines and road salts that can collect on the floor during the winter. Slip resistant aggregate can also be added to the final coat that will create a non-skid surface.
- Easy maintenance – garage floor coatings has no seams, joints, cracks, pores and gaps make the flooring is absolutely immune to any kind of dirt, dust, water and chemicals.
- Safe and hygiene friendly – Epoxy floor coatings does not accumulate dust and do not create a favorable environment for a variety of pathogens / bacteria. Epoxy floor materials used have no odor and corrosive fumes, and are safe for human health, which is mandatory and confirmed by the manufacturer certificates. It is important also that epoxy materials are very resistant to high temperatures such as in the event of fire.
The Drawbacks of epoxy garage floor coatings:
- Hard to install and take time to cure – professional contractor and equipment are usually needed to properly install epoxy garage floor. It takes 1 to 3 days, sometimes even longer to be fully cured depends on the environment.
- Cost – sure, there are contractors offer to do the job at a very cheap price. DIY the garage floor paint is also possible if you are very handy. However, if you want to hire a trustworthy contractor to install a beautiful floor that lasts, the cost is not cheap comparing to other the garage floor options. Good coating materials themselves are not cheap either.
- Cold floor – floor coatings is as cold as tiles or concrete, so you should consider where best to use them.
Chapter 3. Garage Floor Coating – How to Install
Installation of garage floor coatings requires a lot of experience and does not tolerate even the slightest error, so the best option would be to hire a professional contractor.
Here is our best practices to properly install the garage floor coating:
- Test the slab for moisture and vapor emissions. Moisture can cause adhesive failures, promote mold, mildew growth and result in curling or bubbling.
- Fully prepare the substrate surface. Use diamond grinding equipment to prep the entire concrete floor which removes surface contaminants, opens the pores of the concrete, and creates a rough surface profile to promote adhesion and bonding. This is a critical step and cannot be skipped. The majority of coating failures are caused by poor surface preparation.
- Patch as needed so there were no cracks, no bevels and the entire surface must be perfectly smooth. Make sure to cover and tape the surrounding area.
- Auto scrub and vacuum the floor to completely clean the surface.
- Check the humidity. It is important that humidity throughout the area does not exceed 4%, otherwise in a week or two the beautiful newly installed floor will peel off.
- Apply the epoxy primer with the 1st broadcast of Decorative Flake (if selected).
- Scrape and vacuum loose flakes.
- Apply second coat with the 2nd broadcast of flakes.
- Scrape and vacuum loose flakes.
- Apply clear Epoxy, Polyurethane, or Polyaspartic top coat based on the floor functions desired such like UV stable and slip resistant etc.
- If necessary, apply a top coat protective sealer.
Chapter 4. Garage Floor Coating – How Much It Costs
The installation of epoxy / polyurethane garage flooring is a complicated and lengthy process and usually takes 2-4 days.
The epoxy garage flooring price depends on many factors such as substrate condition, total square footage and system complexity etc. The durability and lifespan are also two major factors to determine the price. High grade and more durable floor coating materials would be more expensive.
In average, garage epoxy coating flooring installation costs $4-$7 per square feet which includes the proper surface prep, patching and coating materials and labor. A complicated system such like multiple broadcasts decorative flakes system or a slip resistant system will require more work and a higher cost of installation. The smaller the area of the floor, the more expensive the cost will be.
Chapter 5. Garage Floor Coating – Frequently Asked Questions
Why choose a floor coating instead of carpet, tile or linoleum/sheet goods?
Garage floor coatings have distinct advantages over carpet, VCT, ceramic tile, hardwood or linoleum/sheet goods. These advantages include:
– Not stained by splash spills
– No grout to maintain, lower maintenance
– Greater strength
– Greater impact resistance
– Greater scratch resistance
– Ease of cleaning
How long will the floor coatings last?
Longevity of any floor coating system will depend upon a number of factors, such as:
– Type of system installed
– Type of normal wear and tear
– Chemical and UV exposure
– Type and frequency of cleaning
A correctly installed garage epoxy floor with proper maintenance should last more than 10 years.
Do I have to have a new concrete floor?
No, both new or old concrete floor can receive floor coatings. Old softer or porous concrete may require additional steps of prep, special treatment / repair and coatings process.
How long does the concrete have to cure before applying a floor coating?
While the exact amount of time varies based upon concrete mix construction, time of year and curing conditions, the general rule of thumb is 28 days from date of pour.
Can the coatings go over existing tile?
With the special prep and process, it’s possible to apply coatings over tiles if the tiles are not loose and in excellent condition. Our coating experts have extensive experience dealing with situations like this. They will need to look at the actual conditions and give you advice.
Can the coatings go over tile mastic or carpet glue?
Proper Prep is the key. All mastics and glue should be removed preferably by diamond grinding prior to installation of the first layer of coatings.
How long does installation take?
Installation times vary by job size, but for a typical residential garage, it will take two days for installation. Different contractors have different approach. Use our process as an example, on day one, we prepare the floor and apply the prime layer of coating and the first flake layer if selected. On the second day, we apply the rest decorative layers and other layers of topcoat, providing additional protection and a smooth, glass-like finish. If non-slip features are desired, they will also be incorporated into the flooring system on the second day.
How long before I can use my garage floor again?
Normally the floor will be ready for light foot traffic within 3-4 hours after installation. Please wait 24 hours before moving items back onto the floor. Some systems will allow for vehicular traffic within 24 hours, but others may require up to 72 hours.
If I have new concrete, does it still need to be prepped with a floor grinder or can we skip that step?
Floor diamond grinding gives epoxy a rough surface to bond with and decreases the chances of your floor coating delamination. At AIC, We grind every floor, new or old, to assure the best quality possible. Whether you work with us or not, we recommend choosing a contractor that does things this way.
What if I don’t want flake?
No problem! We have many solid color epoxy options. Flakes adds a decorative element, but more importantly, it helps mask imperfections in your floor.
What about hot tire pick up?
This is caused when hot tires from your car soften lesser quality coatings. The tires then cool down and contract, making the tread literally grab and pull at the surface coating, causing delamination. A professionally prepared and properly installed good coating system eliminates hot tire pick up completely.
Why Go With a Pro for Epoxy Garage Floor Coatings?
A vast majority of DIY products sold at home improvement stores are merely epoxy fortified. Industrial grade coatings products used by professional contractors are more durable and if installed correctly, will last for years. Epoxy fortified products, on the other hand, are susceptible to flaking and peeling meaning routine patchwork down the road, or worse, total replacement.
Also, Epoxy garage floors require good floor preparation which is critical for a successful coating. This usually involves some forms of either floor diamond grinding or light shot blasting to profile the concrete for the epoxy coatings. It’s very critical that it is done right or the epoxy coating will not adhere properly. Patching or repairing any cracks or other damage to the concrete with specialized material before the epoxy is applied is required as well. Preparing and repairing the garage floor requires the use of specific tools such as diamond grinders and professional experiences.
Advance Industrial Coatings prides itself on using only the highest quality, industrial grade coatings products. We diamond grind every garage to properly prep the floor. And we strictly follow our proven process which ensures that our epoxy coatings bond to the concrete to create perfect, permanent adhesion.
Contact our Floor Coating Services experts today! We’d like to help!