Damp Garage Floor? Epoxy Is NOT the Best Option

There are times when epoxy is not the best garage flooring option.  This post will review some of the circumstances and environments where alternative flooring options, such as tiles or mats, should be used in place of epoxy.

Garages with Extreme Moisture Problems

Do you have a damp garage?  If your garage is in a low-lying area that is prone to regular flooding, epoxy is not your best option. This situation rarely occurs with attached garages.   It’s an issue that is mostly seen in detached garages, especially those that are set-back from the main residence, near lower elevations on the property.

garage floor epoxy moistureIn one case, I inspected a garage that was located directly adjacent to a wetland (prone to flooding).  A clear water line was evident approximately two-inches up from the garage floor. Storage boxes were off the floor and placed on old crates. Nothing of any value rested directly on the garage floor. I asked the owner about it.

The garage owner indicated that each time there was a period of sustained, heavy rain, the water would spill over from the wetland property located next door.  He informed me that in the ten years he had owned the property, the garage had flooded three times! He went on to explain that the water was never more than an inch or two deep, and would usually recede within a few days.  Epoxy should not be used in these situations.

Even in cases where there is excessive concrete moisture (concrete sweating), I would advise against the use of epoxy. Repeated exposure to moisture and standing water in a damp garage will not only damage epoxy finish, but the bond between the epoxy and the concrete will likely fail. The best option in these environments is flow-through or floating garage floor tiles.

Grated flow-through tiles will not be damaged by these extreme conditions. Standing water will eventually recede or dry out, leaving the tiles dirty but undamaged. Like tiles, garage mats are another option that will perform better than epoxy in high-moisture conditions. However, unlike tiles, surface cracks can appear on rubber (and some plastic) mats after continued exposure to prolonged standing water. Either way, it’s best to avoid using epoxy if you know standing water or flooding is a real problem.

Garages in Year-Round Freezing Environments

Don’t use epoxy in consistently cold northern climates that experience prolonged freezing and sub-zero temperatures. The vast majority of the continental United States does NOT fit this description. Areas of northern Canada and Grated garage tile for damp garage floorsAlaska do fall within an area where I would not use epoxy.

Constant, prolonged exposure to sub-zero temperatures can make epoxy brittle, leading to increased chances that either the clear coat or epoxy finish will experience chipping and cracking. On a microscopic-level, the epoxy becomes constricted. This weakens both the surface finish, as well as the bond to the underlying concrete.

Don’t use rubber floor mats either; mats will wear down faster in freezing environments.  Chipping and cracking will occur due to constriction and moisture. Your best flooring option in freezing and sub-zero environments is floor tiles, especially tiles that allow for the movement of air and melted snow.

Grated or flow-through garage tiles are the best option. Water from melted snow and ice will move through the tiles and out of the garage (provided the garage floor is properly pitched). Air is also allowed to circulate around and through the tiles drying any remaining surface moisture on the concrete beneath.

Where Garage Floor Epoxy Performs Best

Epoxy performs best in non-extreme environments. Exposure to prolonged moisture or freezing temperatures will shorten the life and durability of the epoxy; avoid using epoxy in these situations.

Epoxy is still the best option for low-moisture, mild temperature environments.

Epoxy provides a seamless durability and professional appearance that is not achievable when using either tiles or rubber mats. With proper preparation, application, and maintenance, epoxy will outlast all of the alternatives.

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Epoxy-Coat Epoxy Comparison Chart

I have to admit, the epoxy comparison chart on Epoxy-Coat’s website is very persuasive.  I have never used Epoxy-Coat brand floor epoxy on any previous garage floor applications, but am strongly considering giving it a try on my new, bare-concrete garage floor in my small outbuilding.

Epoxy-Coat brand markets a solids-based epoxy, unlike many of their competitor’s water-based epoxies shown on the chart.  Though their product sounds like it is a high-quality epoxy, I do wish they would have included more comparisons to other solids-based epoxy manufacturers.  It is generally accepted that just about any solids-based epoxy will outperform a water-based epoxy over time.
I do recommend that you review the Epoxy-Coat epoxy comparison chart on their website.  It is a great learning tool for do-it-yourself folks to learn what to look for in a quality garage floor epoxy.  The specifications are all outlined there in an easy to read and understand format; the comparison chart is very helpful.

Right now, I am looking very closely at the 3-gallon epoxy kit Epoxy-Coat sells.  The chart states that the kit provides coverage of 500 sq/ft, which is a sufficient amount for the small project awaiting me in my outbuilding.  With a price tag for the kit at under $300, and the specifications provided, Epoxy-Coat seems like a good value to me.  I let you know what I decide…epoxy-comparison-chart

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Common Types of Flooring for the Garage

In this article, we’ll discuss the available options of flooring for garage applications. The options are vast and varied, and that’s a good thing. Depending on your available budget and desired results, you could refinish your garage floor for as little as $50 or more than $5000. Some garage floor options are do-it-yourself projects, while others will certainly require professional installation. So, let’s take a look at what’s available.

In this article, we’ll discuss the available options of flooring for garage applications.  The options are vast and varied, and that’s a good thing.  Depending on your available budget and desired results, you could refinish your garage floor for as little as $50 or more than $5000.  Some garage floor options are do-it-yourself projects, while others will certainly require professional installation.  So, let’s take a look at what’s available…

Budget Flooring for Garage

Epoxy Paint

For the price, you will be hard-pressed to find a better garage floor finish.  Epoxy paint coatings are available at just about any local home improvement superstore.  They generally range in price from $20 for a gallon of premixed budget epoxy concrete paint, to $100 for a premium two-part epoxy floor paint kit.

Epoxy paint is a great finish option for concrete flooring.  For garage applications, you’ll want to be sure to apply the epoxy to a clean, dry concrete surface.  When properly applied, you can expect an epoxy garage paint to last for quite a few years.  You will usually start to notice some amount of deterioration (flaking, fading, chipping) after three or more years.

epoxy flooring for garagePROs

  •  Cheap, low-priced flooring for garage
  •   Do-it-yourself installation
  •   Looks nice, hides an ugly old concrete floor

CONs

  •   Will wear faster than other options
  •   Best results when applied to new, clean concrete
  •   Hot-tire lifting or peeling of finish can occur
  •   May have to repair concrete surface prior to installation

Concrete Stain

I have used concrete stain in a garage in the past and was not thrilled with the results.  However, that is just my personal taste, and I do believe that concrete stain is a decent flooring for a garage. One gallon of premium concrete stain is usually less than $40.  For a standard two-car garage, you will probably require at least two gallons of a water-based concrete stain to evenly finish the surface.  Remember that concrete is porous and will easily absorb 30-40% of the product.

garage concrete stain flooring for garagePROs

  •   Cheap, low-priced flooring for garage
  •   Do-it-yourself installation
  •   Looks decent
  •   Hot-tire lifting will not be a problem with stain

CONs

  •   Will wear faster than other options
  •   Best results when applied to new, clean concrete
  •   Does not hide grease or oil stains as well as epoxy
  •   Does not absorb evenly in areas where oil or grease has stained the concrete
  •   May have to repair concrete surface prior to installation

Premium Flooring for Garage

Garage Tiles (Floating or Snap Locking)

Garage tiles are all the rage these days, and rightfully so.  They are a great-looking, durable garage floor option that will usually last a lifetime.  There is a style of garage floor tile for just about any taste – alloy, rubber, color-thru plastic, etc.  Many of the tile materials can be mixed and matched allowing you to create a custom floor design.

The vast majority of garage floor tiles come in 12″x12″ squares, but some manufactures have tiles up to 24″x24″. The tiles range in price from $2 to $25 per square-foot depending on the style and material you choose, so the price for a 20’x20′ garage can get costly.

garage floor tiles flooringPROs

  •   Do-it-yourself installation
  •   Looks great, hides an ugly old concrete floor
  •   Probably will not have to repair minor concrete pitting and cracking prior to installation
  •   Extremely durable, will not rust, and less-likely to chip, crack, and stain
  •   Customizable tile layout and design options

CONs

  •   Very expensive flooring for garage use
  •   Depending on design, some garage tiles can trap water and keep it from draining

Professional-Grade Epoxy Paint

A professionally installed, pro-grade epoxy floor paint finish is a thing of beauty.  They look great, and are very durable, and long-lasting.  Think of a high-gloss, shiny airplane hanger, and you get the idea of what a professional epoxy floor finish can look like.  However, they are not cheap and you need an professional installer to do the work.  You can expect to spend $1000 or more on a professional epoxy floor installation.

pro epoxy garage floor finishPROs

  •  Looks great, hides an ugly old concrete floor
  •   Very durable and resistant to chipping and cracking even in high-traffic areas

CONs

  •  Expensive
  •   High-gloss finishes can sometimes result in a slippery surface when wet
  •   Will last a long time, but can still start to show some signs of wear after 5 years more

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Floor Epoxy vs Floor Paint

Garage floor epoxy is not the same as standard floor paint.  Like floor paint, garage floor epoxy is a finish used to beautify your floor, but unlike floor paint, epoxy adds surface protection, sealing, and far more durability than standard floor paint.

Epoxy or polyepoxide, is created via a chemical reaction between an epoxide resin and a polyamine hardener.  This is probably more detail than you would ever need to know, but this is exactly what sets epoxy apart from your standard garage floor paint.  Standard floor paint will not have the adhesion and durability required to keep your floor looking great for years to come.  Epoxy is a bonding agent, often included in glues and adhesives, that will hold tight to your garage’s concrete floor surface.

Epoxy vs Floor Paint

Standard floor paints do have some bonding agents, but they are not as strong and will not last. After repeated use (pulling your car in and out of the garage), standard floor paint will begin to lift and chip away exposing the concrete below.  Even some floor epoxies do not have the bonding strength necessary to last.  For this reason, it is very important that you use a high-quality, commercial-grade garage floor floor epoxy vs paintepoxy to finish your garage.  The store-bought kits are okay, and cheap, but they do not have the durability required to last for the long-term.

The toughest task your epoxy-finished garage floor will face is maintaining a firm bond to the concrete garage floor surface through repeated parking cycles.  Hot tire lift off is a big challenge for epoxy.  The friction of your car’s tires on the road creates heat, and after driving your car for some time, your tires will get hot.  Heat causes polymers to become more pliable, stretchy, and sticky, this loosens the bond the epoxy coating has with the concrete surface of your garage.  Like a rubber band that will break when stretched too far, the epoxy bond can break the next time you back out your car, leaving unsightly wear and surface marring.  

Do not mistake floor paint with garage floor epoxy!  You will not be happy with the results.

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Common Garage Floor Epoxy Problems

A finished garage floor is an investment. Not only does epoxy beautify your garage, but it also adds a layer of protection and durability to your existing garage floor. This is why it is so important to spend the time properly prepping the garage floor surface prior to applying epoxy; you can effectively minimize the potential for problems in the future. However, even a properly applied coating can experience problems.

The Most Common Garage Floor Epoxy Problems

Hot-Tire Lift-Off

One of the most common problems reported with epoxied garage floors is something called hot-tire lift-off. If you’ve ever walked barefoot across blacktop on hot, sunny summer day, you know how hot the surface can get. Now, imagine how hot your tires get driving on hot roadways (this is in addition to the tire heat already generated from friction)…

When your hot tires rest against the epoxied surface of your garage floor, the residual tire heat can weaken or break-down the bonding agents that cause the coating to adhere to the concrete garage floor. Essentially, the hot tires melt the epoxy coating, and as the tires cool, the epoxy re-bonds to the tires instead of the concrete. The next time you back your car out of the garage, the tires lift the epoxy from the concrete, leaving bare concrete behind.

This is a common complaint people make about the DIY kits; the chances of this problem occurring decrease substantially when a high-quality, thick coating is used. It’s frustrating because you may experience this even when you have properly prepped the surface and followed the application instructions to-the-letter.

How To Repair:

If you used a cheap DIY kit to epoxy coat your garage, consider replacing it with a high-quality coating. If you want to keep what you have, remove all of the remaining loose epoxy from the effected area. Clean and re-etch the concrete surface where the lift-off occurred (be sure to limit the cleaning and etching chemical exposure to the effected area only). Reapply the original, matching coating to the area (be sure to follow all of the manufacturer’s product recommendations).

If you used color flecks with your original coating, then you can easily blend the patched area to the existing floor using matching color flecks, otherwise, blend as best you can and apply a clear coat to the area for added protection. Consider using rubber mat tire runners as a final means of protecting the surface from hot-tire lift.

Chipping & Peeling

Chipped epoxy coatingWhen an epoxy finish starts to chip, peel, or flake off, it’s almost always a problem caused by poor or improper surface preparation. Even a small amount of oil, paint, or chemical residue left on the concrete prior to epoxy application, will weaken the epoxy’s bond to the concrete, though this is the case most of the time, it isn’t always true.

Verify that there is no standing water on the epoxy surface, especially in areas where freezing temperatures occur. If you have low points on your garage floor where snow-melt collects, this can be a problem. At night, as temperatures drop, the standing water could freeze, then thaw the next day. Repeated freeze-thaw cycles will, over time, destroy the epoxy coating’s concrete bond and lead to chipping and peeling.

Another point to consider:  If you live in an area that uses road salt during the winter months, puddles of salt water and epoxy are a bad mix.  A thick coating of high-quality epoxy and a clear finish coat will minimize the potential for chipping and peeling. Additionally, you should never clean your coated garage floor with any harsh or abrasive cleaners or chemicals.

How To Repair:

Scrape away and remove all loose epoxy, then follow the same repair instructions indicated in the hot-tire lift-off section above.

Scrapes, Scratches, & Cracking

Scrapes and scratches in the surface are usually a result of dragging something heavy (with a sharp edge) across the floor. Minimize the occurrence of this problem by using tool mats when working on your car. Be sure to use rubber wheels on tool cabinets, carts, or other movable items. Though more durable than wood, treat your epoxy-coated garage floor as if it were a hardwood floor. With a little TLC, you can keep your garage floor looking great for a long time.

If your epoxy is cracking, it is probably due to the concrete floor below. Remember, concrete can shift as seasons change, and when expanding, the concrete below the epoxy cracks and causes the epoxy to do the same. There is little you can do to repair the problem until the concrete stops shifting, settling, or moving. This is more a concrete problem than it is an epoxy problem.

How To Repair:

Scrapes and scratches in the coating are usually a simple repair. Using a wire brush, follow the scrape mark removing any lose material in the process. Do not scrub the surface, use the brush with care; you just want to remove lose material. Using a matching epoxy color, re-coat the scraped area with a paint brush or small roller. Blend with the existing coating and finish with matching color flecks. Use a clear coat to seal the repaired area.

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