Protecting Garage Floors

Garages today are not just used for parking cars and stacking boxes. They have now become a multi-functional part of the house – a garage man cave, a workshop, a personal gym, family home theater, or a garage storage. A garage is also a place to stage if you want to improve the market appeal of your home. An upgraded garage is considered a luxury for potential home buyers. A good garage should also have floor marking tape in every area where it’s necessary. Some people may think that putting safety tape markings on the floor is just a waste of time but this actually saves lives!

One important upgrade is the garage flooring, which makes the garage comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. More importantly, it protects the concrete surface from:

  • Engine fluids – Oil, transmission fluid and anti-freeze from vehicle maintenance or leaking engines can penetrate the concrete, leaving ugly and dirty stains.
  • Water – When concrete becomes in contact with water, it pulls it in by wicking. Sometimes it would appear as dark spots on the floor or as white, powdery deposits leaching out of the concrete (efflorescence).
  • Cracks – Earthquakes can cause cracks in the concrete while the soil underneath it may settle and create a void. During cold weather, the water beneath the floor can freeze and expand upward, damaging the floor.
  • Sweating – No, we’re not talking about human sweat, but concrete sweat. Concrete is porous – it allows cold air from the ground to rise up and cool the surface. When the air inside the garage is hot and humid, condensation will form. It gradually damages the concrete and creates efflorescence.
  • Water vapor – Evaporation of water from the soil can ooze indoors through the pores of the concrete. Without flooring, it creates damp spots.
  • Deicing road salts – Usually dragged from the road to the garage, these salts harm concrete chemically. It creates an acidic reaction, which enlarges the concrete pores and weakens the strength of the concrete. It also forms a liquid brine that can produce damaging freeze/thaw cycles in the concrete, causing the surface to flake, chip and pop.

There are many options for flooring, but you must first do some garage planning before putting one. What will you use the garage for?

If you want to remodel your garage as a permanent living space, choose the same type of flooring you would for any home. Otherwise, if you won’t use it as a living space, don’t choose carpeting. A garage that would be transformed into a workshop or a utility space will require a more durable, safe and easy-to-clean flooring.

Here are the garage flooring options for any kind of garage:

Epoxy1. Garage Floor Epoxy

The epoxy floor covering is the most popular choice, probably because it suits whatever you want to do with your garage. Epoxy floors are typically seen in car showrooms, warehouses, professional garages and restaurant kitchens. It is usually applied in multiple coats with the option of different colors and designs, and is finished with a nice, glossy shine that will surely change the look of your garage.

Most epoxies are offered in two-part formulas that needs to be combined and mixed well before rolling them on, but there are one-part epoxies that come pre-mixed. With proper preparation and application, this is the most durable and glossiest floor you can get. For extra toughness, you can apply a second epoxy coat, or finish it with a urethane sealer. Given its durability, it can last up to several years without maintenance costs.

The epoxy is also waterproof. Cleaning the epoxy floor would be very simple; it only takes a little bit of scrubbing with soap and water. Likewise, it can resist stains and chemical spills, avoiding corrosion and deterioration of the floor.

Epoxy flooring can be difficult to install because you have to work fast to apply it before it hardens. It is recommended that you ask for help from a professional for your safety and convenience.

Tiles2. Garage Floor Tiles

The hot trend in garage flooring is tiles. These are available in a variety of materials such as vinyl composite tiles, hard plastic tiles, peel and stick vinyl, rubber tiles, interlocking tiles and even porcelain tiles. The most attractive feature of the tiled garage is you can create your own custom design for your garage because they are available in many different colors, textures and styles.

Aside from the aesthetic effect, tiles can make the floor easy to clean and protect it from elements such as chemicals, oils and stains, but with various levels of resistance. They are also designed to provide anti-slip surface.

Most tiles are available in 12 x 12 or 18 x 18-inch pieces. The easiest and quickest to install are the interlocking tiles made of plastic or rubber. They are chemical-resistant, tough and helps prevent leg fatigue. It gives a softer feel under foot, but often traps dirt and moisture underneath. However, it’s easy to replace than mats and other types of floor coverings.

One of the more unique tile option for the garage is the vinyl composite tiles, or VCT. It’s one of the least expensive but sharpest looking flooring material for your garage you can buy. The VCT is also durable, resilient and easy to keep clean.

Mats3. Garage Floor Mats

If you want to put some easy and convenient flooring for your garage, the rubberized vinyl garage flooring is for you. Rollout mat flooring comes in a variety of colors, textures and sizes, which can be perfect for hiding concrete cracks, stains and imperfections. It is also available in different thickness. You can buy several mats and put them together to occupy the whole garage floor, and then trim the excesses using a utility knife.

The advantage of using mats is that they can be rolled up again and taken if you ever wanted to remove it and place it somewhere else. Plus, it also gives you extra cushioning to lessen fatigue, which is great for a workshop inside garages. Another advantage is its resistance to water, which can help protect your concrete from freeze/thaw or road salt damages. It’s also a good insulator, acting as a barrier from the cold concrete, and can absorb sounds to lessen noise and echoes.

Garage flooring mats are mostly oil, chemical and stain-resistant, but it can still be permanently stained by harsh chemicals and hot tires. They are also prone to gouging by motorcycle kickstands, or being cut by metal shards and gravel.

Paint4. Garage Floor Paint

Floor paint is basically a tougher version of wall paints. This is the traditional and least expensive way of upgrading your concrete garage floor, and it is still a popular option. Overall, floor paint is not as tough as other coatings and coverings. It can wear off every few years. But while it can be vulnerable to chemicals and road salts, painting offers the most creative leeway for home owners so they can design their floor their own way.

Water-based latex paint is the easiest to apply, but if you want greater durability and chemical resistance, go for epoxy floor paint. You will need to patch some holes and cracks first before you can achieve the epoxy finish. You also need a concrete floor primer, and then mix the epoxy coating with a hardener before applying. However, some epoxy paint brands don’t need to be mixed with additives.

Sealers5. Garage Floor Sealers

Like paint, sealers are easy to apply. However, this is tougher than floor paint. The garage floor coating protects the floor from oil, water, mild chemicals and road salts. It’s great for floors without stains or cracks because it doesn’t hide blemishes. It dries to a semi-gloss or matte finish depending on the product used, and it could be tinted. Sealers are usually water- or solvent-based.

Latex or acrylic sealers are more vulnerable to chemicals, but it sticks better to a concrete floor than urethane sealer. However, urethane sealers are tougher than the former. It gives a clear, glossy finish and is mostly used as a coat over epoxy and concrete stain. It’s also less prone to yellowing caused by sunlight exposure.

6. Acid stain

Acid stain is not really considered as a coating but it can give your garage floor a whole new look. It doesn’t act as a surface protector, so it requires a urethane or acrylic sealer. Like a sealer, it looks better if the garage floor is in good texture and condition.

The acidic chemical creates a marbled stone appearance once sprayed on the floor. It can conceal minor stains, scratches and chips, and it can penetrate the concrete pores so it usually outlasts floor paints.

Water-based variants are easy to apply. There are available stains specially made for concrete floors with anti-skid additives.

7. Garage Floor Sheet Vinyl

Vinyl sheet flooring for garage floors are made extra tough and thick. Peel-and-sticky types are easy to install, making it popular for home owners who like DIY home projects. It can give a welcoming look for your garage, and you can create your own patterns. It’s resistant to oil, gasoline and other automotive fluids.

But before putting any flooring, you need to prepare your garage floor. The surface must be clean, dry and free of dirt. You might need an oil stain remover. For cleaning and maintenance, usually, you only need soap and water (plus hand gloves and brush or broom, of course). Avoid using solvent-based solutions as it may corrode your flooring.

While there are plenty of flooring options for your garage, you must take time to decide what suits your budget and needs best. Read, ask and research, then convince your spouse the advantages of having a nice garage flooring.