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How to Prep a Garage Floor for Epoxy



There can be a number of reasons to cover a garage floor – improved looks, eliminate dips, create a non-slip texture, etc. Out of all the various coatings available such as paint, tile, and rubber mats perhaps no option provides the advantages of an epoxy covering. Epoxy floors are strong, durable, and stylish.

Epoxy is created with a compound of resins and hardeners. The mixture chemically reacts to form a rigid, plastic material that bonds extremely well with its substrate. The compound can be used as a repair for a damaged substrate or as a way to upgrade the looks or functionality of the area. Epoxy is used in industrial settings as well as commercial/shopping centers, schools, restaurants, healthcare facilities, and more.

The reasons why epoxy makes such a perfect garage floor are aplenty. For starters, the various styles available create a very attractive alternative to a bland, concrete floor. Epoxy also creates a chemically resistant surface – especially handy in a garage where oil and fluid spills are the norm. Epoxy is much more durable than an alternative such as rubber mats. Epoxy also creates a smooth, seamless covering that makes the garage much easier to sweep, clean, and maintain. 

Image from Redrhinoflooring


Epoxy Floor Coating

Epoxy is applied much like a paint. Similarly to painting, the success of the project relies heavily on proper preparation of the substrate. Even the highest grade, feature-filled formula of epoxy will fail if the existing garage floor isn't properly prepped before application. Similarly though, even a proper substrate prep job cannot mask the errors of a poor application.

Garage Floor Preparation

The first part of inspecting the garage floor is spraying water onto the surface. Coating your garage isn't done to clean the area, it is an identifying method to see whether the floor contains a sealer. Painted or sealed garage floors do not accept epoxy well. Ideally the water will sort of soak into the concrete, indicating that no sealer is present. If the water beads up, the surface needs to be polished or ground free of the topical coating.

Once it's determined that the garage floor is capable of being coated with epoxy, the next step is a thorough cleansing. The floor should be degreased and buffed free of any stains, tire dressings, or adhesives such as stickers or glue. These items create a barrier that prevents the epoxy from bonding to the substrate.

Garage Floor Moisture Check

90% of epoxy installation is the prep work. The entire surface to be coated should be inspected with a fine-tooth comb to make sure no adhesives, loose paint, or stains still exist on the surface. It's also important to make sure the concrete is not still in the curing process or leaking moisture. A new garage needs to cure for 28 days before the epoxy can be installed. Sometimes even older garages leak moisture from the soil beneath the slab due to poor irrigation, drainage, or improper installation. Taping a 16”X16” sheet of plastic to the garage floor and letting it sit for 24 hours can determine if the concrete has moisture issues. If there is condensation or if the concrete is darker moisture needs addressing.

If the garage is emitting moisture, it may benefit to have a calcium chloride test performed. These kits are applied to the garage floor and then mailed away for testing of the moisture vapor emission rate (MVER). Depending on the results you can either proceed as normal, apply a moisture resistant coating below the epoxy, or find an alternative flooring application.

Opening Up the Pores of the Garage Floor

The test and prep work may seem like an extraneous waste of time, but it is actually done to save unnecessary work and poor performance over the long haul. Once the garage has gotten the go-ahead for epoxy application, it's time to open up the pores to accept the substance. Acid etching and grinding are two ways to profile a garage floor.
  • Acid Etching – hydrochloric acid added to water and lightly scrubbed across the entire garage floor to create an etching of the surface. The acid fizzes and is then sprayed away completely.
  • Grinding – diamond coated blades attached to a buffing wheel create an abrasive on the surface of the garage floor, opening it up for epoxy application. Dust from the grinding needs to be thoroughly cleaned from the application area.

Most professionals prefer the grinding method as it doesn't involve working with the noxious and dangerous hydrochloric acid. Grinding requires renting tools however so acid etching is the budget-conscious choice.

Making Garage Floor Repairs

Epoxy applications range in thickness from .02” up to 3/8”. Depending on the type of material that is selected and the amount of coats that are applied, the profile of the garage floor is still identifiable. Epoxy is self-leveling, but it doesn't fill in cracks. This means if you want a smooth finish, cracks and any contraction joints in the slab need to be filled in first. Garage repair compounds are made of either epoxy or polyurethane. The compounds can be applied to cracks or joints and sanded down flush with the existing floor. Water based or latex based compounds should be avoided as they cannot be sanded and thus can create an obtuse look when coated with epoxy.

Professional Garage Floor Prep

It can't be reiterated enough that garage floor prep is extremely important when it comes to the quality of the finished epoxy floor. Contracting a professional is recommended due to the multiple steps involved in the preparation of the floor alone. Some homeowners will opt to save money by doing at least the prep work themselves but the installers will likely make fixes to their liking anyway. Professionals have years of experience in identifying moisture issues and working with the chemicals and tools required to prep a garage floor to perfection. When installed correctly, epoxy garage floors can last 15-20 years or more. It's important not to skimp in the all-important prep work.



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