Spring is just around the corner. Spring happens to be our busiest time of the year for installing epoxy floor coatings, and rightfully so. It is the perfect time of year to get your garage in great shape. Folks are motivated to get started on their diy projects after being trapped indoors during the winter months. For those of us in the northern states, we see the toll that the salt, dirt, and melted snow have taken on our garage floors and we’re ready to get things cleaned up.
In this post, I’d like to walk you through the process of planning, preparing, and applying an epoxy floor coating that is lasting and looks great.
Choosing an Epoxy
There are so many floor epoxies on the market today that it can be very difficult to decide which one is right for you. The first thing you have to consider when looking at all the available epoxy coatings is, how much money do you have budgeted for the project. There are epoxies available for every budget. However, the other consideration is epoxy quality.
You will want to choose a high-quality floor epoxy that will look great and perform well. So, what is that? As a general rule-of-thumb, look for an epoxy floor coating that is at least 10 mil thick. A mil is one-thousandth of an inch or 0.0254 millimeters in thickness; it doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a big difference the thicker you get. Though I recommend an epoxy that is at least 10 mil thick, I personally work with epoxies that are 20+ mil in thickness. Generally speaking, the thicker the epoxy coating, the more durable and lasting (and expensive) it is going to be.
How Much Epoxy Do I Need?
The amount of coverage will vary by epoxy brand, be sure to check the coverage indicated by the epoxy manufacturer. Performing some simple measurements in your garage will give you a good start. You will want to multiply the length by the width of your garage to get the total floor area of your garage. Be sure to take into account any additional garage floor spaces connected to the main parking area that will also need an epoxy floor coating.
I always recommend adding 20% more square feet to your total square footage. Also, if your garage has a raised concrete edge that borders the garage, add 10% more square feet to your epoxy requirement. Your measurement estimates should look something like this:
- 20 (length) X 20 (width) = 400 (square feet garage surface area)
- 400 x 20% (extra/waste) = 480 (square feet epoxy coverage needed)
- 480 x 10% (only if has concrete garage edge) = 528 (square feet needed)
1. Cleaning the Garage Floor
The first step in the preparation process is to get everything off the garage floor and out of the way. You will want to do an initial sweep and vacuum of the floor surface to remove large dirt and debris. Once you have done this, borrow or rent a pressure washer to thoroughly clean the garage floor. Use a mild dishwashing detergent to help lift and remove surface oils, salt, dirt, and grime. You may need to follow up and re-clean some areas using a wire brush.
2. Etching Garage Floor
There are a few different options available to chemically etch your garage floor to ready it for an epoxy floor coating. Some etchers use citric acid, others use more caustic or abrasive acids. While many concrete etchers come in liquid form, I personally choose to use a gel-based concrete etcher. I have found these to be more effective and easier to work with. What you choose to use is up to you; research your options as some acids are more or less harmful to the environment. Always use extreme care and take all safety warnings seriously; chemical etchers can hurt you if used improperly.
A chemical concrete etcher will strip away residual oils and dirt while opening up the porous concrete surface, making it far easier for your epoxy floor coating to bond to the concrete. I will generally perform the etching process after surface grinding the concrete. Renting a concrete sander/grinder is not necessarily a required step; I generally do this on very old, uneven garage floors.
3. Epoxy and Moisture Considerations
Be sure to remove any residual moisture left over from cleaning and etching the garage floor. Also, remember that for many areas, spring can bring quite a bit of rain, and subsequently, moisture. Moisture is your enemy when applying a new epoxy floor coating in your garage. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the weather and be flexible about when you will proceed with the application. For example, if you know it’s going to be a wet, rainy weekend, perhaps you’ll want to hold off on your project until the following weekend.
How to Apply Epoxy Floor Coating
1. Read the Epoxy Instructions
Once you have a completely clean and dry garage floor surface, you are ready to get to the fun part of the project, applying the epoxy floor coating. First and foremost, be sure to read all of the documentation provided by the epoxy’s manufacturer. Some manufacturers even include an epoxy application video. Don’t skip this step! The manufacturer has spent a great deal of time and money testing the application of their epoxy; they know the best way to apply their particular epoxy, so follow their instructions. If any of my instructions go against what the manufacturer says, follow the manufacturer’s advice.
2. Be Sure You’re Ready To Apply Epoxy
For any epoxy floor coating to look great and have the durability you need, be sure you have spent the time necessary preparing the garage floor surface (concrete) to accept the epoxy. You want to be sure that a proper bond is made with the concrete surface and the epoxy coating. Do not rush the preparation step! Now is the time to go back and finish any prep work that you may have forgotten or skipped. You don’t get another chance to ready the surface after you start applying the epoxy. Remember that your final finish will only be as good as the prep work you’ve done underneath it.
3. Applying the Epoxy Coating
Generally speaking, you will want to use a rough-nap roller head attached to an extension pole to apply the epoxy to the large open areas of the garage floor. Some manufacturers will tell you exactly which type of roller head to use (or even include one if you purchased an epoxy kit). Before you get rolling, apply the epoxy to the edges of the garage using a decent paintbrush. I will usually cut in the epoxy to all the concrete joint lines prior to rolling as well. Once you have finished applying epoxy to the edges of the garage, it’s time to get to work with the roller.
Using a standard paint tray, apply the epoxy to the roller head and begin to roll a generous amount of the epoxy floor coating to the garage floor. Start in a corner area in the far end of the garage and work your way towards an exterior garage door. Be sure you don’t paint yourself into a corner. Repeat this process using overlapping strokes, sprinkling decorative paint chips as you go (if you are using them). Once you have applied the epoxy to the entire garage floor surface, close the garage door and let the epoxy cure for 2 to 5 days (depending on your manufacturer’s requirements). Avoid all contact with the surface for a minimum of 24 to 48 hours after application.
4. Applying Epoxy Clear Coat
If you decide to apply an epoxy clear coat on top of the epoxy finish, do so after the epoxy coating has dried and cured completely. You will apply the clear coat using the same methods described above for the epoxy coating application. I highly recommend the use of a clear coat finish over the epoxy. The clear coat adds another layer of protection to the epoxy finish. You can choose a clear coat that suits you; there are many types of clear coats available with varying gloss levels from matte to a super-high glossy finish.
At this point, you, and your neighbors should be admiring a perfectly applied, beautiful epoxy floor coating. A properly applied epoxy finish will look great and should last for many years. Be sure to keep the surface clean, don’t drag heavy objects across the garage floor, and keep as much water and salt off the floor as possible. Enjoy your new floor!