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Garage Floor Epoxy

I’m writing this blog for 2 reasons. First, there is a lack of good, experiential blogs about garage floor epoxy out there on the internet. Second, as the sales agent for new condos, this is a project that I see a lot of people do to their garage floors once they buy a new condo.

We recently purchased a house in Byron Center. The house is 13 years old, and was in realitivly good condition. Among a few other items on my ‘fix up’ list, was the garage. From top to bottom, the garage had seen better days. It’s a pretty standard 2 stall garage, with a full sidewalk/step, approximately 23’x23′, with a center drain. The walls have seen their share of 13 years worth of holding shovels, rakes, brooms, hoses, and all sorts of hanging systems, but are still in pretty good condition. The floor, on the other hand, has most of the colors of the rainbow splattered on it, mutliple oil and rust spots, and a few minor settling cracks. My solution to this? Expoxy the garage floor.

This isn’t my first time expoy coating a garage floor. I did our previous garage floor about 5 years ago, and I helped my dad do his 3+ stall garage about 10 years ago. The product we used previously was an industrial grade epoxy, designed for food preparation and warehouse spaces. It’s very expensive, to say the least. My 2 stall garage cost about $1,000. This included the base color, and a clear coat. I have always been impressed with this product; no hot tire pull at all, and anything that was spilled on it cleaned up easily. My struggle with this product is the cost. There are lower cost alternatives out there that claim to do the same thing for a fraction of the cost. Now, I’ve always been a beilver that, at least with some things, you get what you pay for. Garage floor epoxy may be one of those things, only time will tell at this point. I’ve decided to try a new product, Rustoleum Garage Floor Epoxy Sheild.

I did quite a bit of research on this, and other products before I started my project. The common thread that kept coming up is that ‘…Rustoleum is a great product for the price, so long as you prepare your surface well…’. So that is where I will begin, with the prep of the floor. Here area  few pictures of the floor before I began

 

My experience told me that Muriatic Acid was the best way to prep concrete surface. While not a plesant product to use, it’s very effective. Now the Rustoleum directions do say NOT to use muriatic acid, and they provide a ‘citric acid’ to prepare the surface with. So I thought I would give their citric acid a try. Ironically, it smells, and looks(when mixed with water) just like muriatic acid, just a very watered down version. My theory is that Rustoleum doesn’t want the average joe using such a strong chemical as muriatic acid. DISCLAIMER: Muriatic acid is a very strong chemical. Wear a respirator, rubber gloves and boots, and googles when using it. It will burn your skin, hurt your eyes and lungs. Not something to be used lightly. That being said, the areas I used muriatic acid were prepared nicely, the areas I used citric acid, hardly had any etch to them. The idea is to create a surface that the epoxy can adhere to, similar to sanding wood before painting it. The muriatic acid actually takes a very small layer of the concrete off, thus exposing a rougher surface for the epoxy to stick to.

So you have your muratic acid. Take the gallon jug and pour it into a plastic watering can, and create a 50/50 mix of water and muratic acid. Make sure the space you are in is well ventilated. Starting in a corner, sprinkle the concrete like you were watering the flowers. You’ll notice the muratic acid reacts with the concrete instantly. It’s best to do this on a dry floor. I tend to do a 5×5′ area at a time. With this area covered with acid, take a stiff bristle brush, and scrub like crazy. This step is especially important if your concrete is more than a few years old. If it’s new, you won’t have to scrub very hard. The idea is to clean off any contaminants, oil, or other stuff, and to ‘etch’ the concrete. The more stuff you have on your floor, the more you’ll have to scrub. I had 13+ years of stuff on my floor, and actually etched it twice in some areas. Push the acid around a little, move it onto the next area you’re going to etch. The acid has a ‘diminishing effect’, meaning that it’s most effective right as it hits the concrete, it’s effectivness diminishes as it’s used. Move onto the next section. I like to do most of the floor before I begin rinsing. Here are some pictures of areas that have been etched next to areas that have not been etched.

Rinsing is an important step. Use a hose (with a powerfull nozzel) to rinse the floor well. I use a push broom to move the water/acid around while I rinse the floor. This continues to activate any residual acid, and also moves the concrete dust off of the floor. It’s ideal to have 2 people when doing this. This is a good opportunity to see the concrete wet, and clean. look for any imperfections, or anything that you don’t want to epoxy over. Be sure to rinse out the expansion cracks/joints well, as concrete dust, and dirt will collect in these areas. After you’ve rinsed the floor, let it dry, and rinse it again, maybe a third time if necessary. When the concrete is dry, you should be able to run your finger over it, and not have any concrete dust on your finger. I’ve even taken my leaf blower into the garage for one final step to get all loose stuff off the floor.  A dehumidifyer and a couple of fans helped my garage floor dry quicker, but it still took about 36-48hrs to dry completely. Just like you wouldn’t paint over a wall that had moisture or water damage, you don’t want to apply epoxy over a concrete floor that has moisture in it. A quick test to see if the concrete is dry: take a plastic garbage bag, and tape it to the floor, sealed on all four sides. Let it sit for a few hours, then pull it back. If the plastic is damp or wet, there is still too much moisture in the concrete.

I did my floor late September in Michigan. It was 55-65 degrees and sunny just about every day. This slowed down drying time for the wet concrete, and slowed down the dry time for the epoxy, but it increased the pot life of the epoxy, thus giving me more time to work the product.

Once the floor was sufficiently dry, I applied the epoxy according to the instructional video. It took me about 5 hours to do. A few things to note, and a few recommendations:

  • Use a good roller cover; cheap roller covers will shed after a while, and if you’re going for a smooth glossy look, lint is a very bad thing. I used a 12″ roller, as opposed to the standard 9″, mine had a 3/8″ nap. I went with a short nap so that the roller would leave small marks, not a highly textured finish. They make an 18″ roller that would have been better. Also, use a good roller frame. I bought the cheapest one I could get, and it was too flexible. Epoxy is thicker than paint, and takes more muscle to apply, especially towards the end as it begins to set up.
  • Plan out your movements. Don’t paint yourself into a corner, or leave yourself with a difficult section to paint last. Work your way out of the garage. Plan out how you are going to close the doors, and shut off lights. Remember, you just painted the floor, you won’t be able to walk on it for a while.
  • If you are using flakes, go easy on them. the last thing you want to do is to run out towards the end. Also, the thicker the flakes, the less the epoxy will show through. I went with the high gloss product, but because of how thick I put the flakes on, very little of the gloss showed through. The flakes do, however provide traction. A well epoxied floor can be slippery when wet, or in snowy conditions. Some sort of aggregate is helpful. The flakes also hide any imperfections in the floor.
  • Have good lighting. Just like painting a wall, you want to be able to see what you are painting to ensure proper coverage.

My garage floor measures about 600sf total. This includes the steps, the 6-10″ of foundation wall that sticks above the garage floor, and about a 8-10% cushion. Rustoleum sells 2 kits, one for a single stall garage of 250sf, and one for a 2 stall garage for 500sf. Not wanting to run short, I purchased 3 kits that cover 500sf each, so 1,500sf. Here’s what I experienced; becuase I used muriatic acid to etch my floor, my floor was extremely pourus. This is good for adhesion, but bad for coverage. The three kits that were supposed to cover 1,500sf, barely covered my 600sf. Basically it was like painting a wall with no primer on it; the floor soaked up the epoxy. I kind of anticipated this to happen, and I’d rather have a well etched floor that soaks up the epoxy, and put it on thick, than a poorly etched surface that the epoxy doesn’t stick to.

A few days after applying the epoxy, I applied the clear coat. I purchased 2 kits of the Rustoleum Clear Coat Epoxy. According to the box, one kit covers 250sf of ‘unfinished surface’ or 500sf of ‘already epoxied surface’. So I purchased 2 kits just to be safe, and to cover my 600sf. I ended up using almost all of the 2 kits, I had about 1″ left in the can when I was done. I was very happy with the gloss this provided. Since my first coat wasn’t as glossy as I wanted (due to the thickness of my flakes), I was hoping this clear coat would give me the shine I was looking for. I spent extra time in the front of the garage building up a thicker coat of clear coat, as this is the area that will be most exposed to UV rays, environmental exposure, and hot tires. I would roll on a coat, wait about 5 minutes, then put another coat on. I also used an 18″ roller for this application. I should have used this roller for the epoxy base coat. It goes very quick when you use this size roller. Once it dried, you can tell where I put the clear coat on extra thick. If I had more time, I would have put it on evenly, and then applied a thicker 2nd coat a few days later. This would likely provide a more even/uniform coat.

A few pictures of the finished product:

A couple points/thoughts:

Muratic acid: Rustoluem specifically says not to use this to etch your concrete. I believe they do this to protect themselves, and possibly provide a more ‘user friendly product’. The result is that your concrete may not be as well prepared as it should be. For concrete that has a few years of ‘stuff’ on it, I would highly recommend using muratic acid. Be prepared, though, that it will make your concrete more pourus than Rustoleum is prepared for, and you will likely need to buy more product.

Why or why not use flakes: Having used the flakes in my garage, I would choose not to use them again. I personally like a smooth as glass, ‘I can see myself in it’ kind of finish. The flakes take away from this. They do however, hid most of the imperfections in the concrete, and imperfections in the epoxy(roller marks, light spots, ect), and provide an aggregate for easier walking. Just be sure to use them sparingly, as you don’t want to run out.

Application: roll out the product in an even fasion, and be prepared when you are about to run out of product. The Rustoleum product instructions say mix part A and part B, stir, then let sit for 30 min. If you wait until you need more expoxy to continue, you’ll end up waiting for 30 min. This creates ‘lap marks’, or differences in the sheen. Having 2 people working is a good way to help with this.

Over all, I’m happy with the asthetic look of my my floor. I do tend to be a little careful when sliding things on the floor, and I’ve noticed a few scratches. I haven’t brought my cars in yet, so I can’t report on hot tire peal. I will report back in a few months. That clean look an epoxied floor provides makes the garage more than just a place to park the cars. It becomes another room in the house, and a selling feature geared towards those looking to spend some time in the garage!

AFTER 6 MONTHS AND A MICHIGAN WINTER….

It has now been 6 months since I applied the epoxy coating to my garage floor. Those familiar with Michigan winters know how messy a garage can get. Because of the freezing temperatures, it is hard to wash out your garage floor, so I typically do it after the winter breaks. Well, for me, that was just a few days ago, and I was looking forward to cleaning it off to see how it survived through the winter. I am HAPPY to announce that my floor is still in VERY GOOD condition. First of all, it cleaned up very easily. There were a few stubborn spots, a few rust spots, and of course, a few oil spots, but all of them came up with minimal elbow grease and a stiff bristle brush. I also used a very mild soap to cut the grease a little. There are a few areas that have shown SOME wear. First, there are a few areas that appear to have yellowed, primarily where the car tires go. I don’t think this is fading caused by UV rays, as my garage door is almost always shut, rather, I’m pretty sure it’s from the tires. I also noticed quite a few scratches in a couple of high traffic areas. Again, I think this is to be expected.

Overall, I am very pleased with the performance of this product. I doubt that if I had used a more expensive product, I would be that much more satisfied. Or at least enough to justify an increase in cost. If the scratches persist, I may opt to add another layer of clear coat in a few years. This will likely restore the shine, and it will continue to build up the thickness.

 

4/8/14 update:  Just cleaned the floor up after a bad Michigan winter. The shine is starting to fade a bit, and the areas where the tires go is starting to yellow and fade more than other areas. Also, the edge where the expansion join was cut is starting to peel a little, but I believe this is too be expected, as this is a relatively thin area. Overall, still very happy with the product. I’ll probably re-do the clear coat in a year or two in an effort to bring back the shine.