Garage Floor Repair & Cleaning Ultimate Guide

The vast majority of garage floor repair situations are preventable, so it’s important to identify any potential sources of garage floor damage as early as possible. By addressing these common garage floor problems early on, you will be saving yourself time and money on future repairs.

The Common Garage Floor Repair

There are three primary types of floor damage that will lead to the need for repairs.  Repairs are usually required due to environmental, chemical, and physical damage. Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

It’s best to keep in mind that the best garage floor repair is the one you don’t have to make. Preventing damage and maintaining your garage floor will ensure that it holds-up to years of wear-and-tear.  These are the most common garage floor problems and and how to repair them.

Common Garage Floor Repairs

Garage Floor Stains

cleaning garage stainsStains are undoubtedly the most-common problem for homeowners.  It could be years of accumulating grease, grime, dirt, and road salt that causes surface discoloration, or it could be the result of an oil-change gone wrong.  What matters is how you make the repair.

Unfortunately, unsealed concrete is porous and soaks up oil and other liquids like a sponge, drawing the liquid in. The deeper the stain is drawn into the surface of the concrete, the more difficult it is to remove the stain.  Additionally, the longer the stain has to set and cure, the harder it is to get out.

Fresh stains and spills should be cleaned up immediately. Do not let the stain set into the concrete!  Contain the stain or spill as best as you can. Try to limit the amount of garage floor surface exposed to the stain (I always have an ample supply of shop towels and cardboard available to pick up the spill). Once you have the bulk of the spill cleaned, use a scrub-brush and dishwasher detergent to remove any left-over material.

When it comes to tough, set-in stains, you’re going to need tougher tools to remove the stain.   Some of the best tools to combat stubborn concrete stains include pressure washers, chemical degreasers, sanders/grinders, and muriatic or citric acids.  Always keep personal safety in mind when making any garage floor repair, especially when using any of these tools or chemicals to remove stains .

It is important to periodically clean you garage floor. Periodic cleanings keep potential stains from setting into the concrete. Cleaning will wash away residual grime, oil, sale, and residue that may be on the surface of your garage floor. At the very least, if you have no plans to apply an epoxy coating on your garage floor, you should apply a good concrete sealer. Sealing concrete fills in the microscopic pours within the concrete, and will keep stains and liquids from penetrating deep into the concrete.

Repairing Pooling & Low Points

puddle in garageYour garage floor may have areas or points where the concrete has settled lower than the rest of the floor. These low-lying areas make it difficult for water to drain and encourage water to pool into puddles. Unfixed, these pools of water will eventually lead to other problems (cracking, chipping, and pitting) and potentially more expensive and extensive garage floor repairs.  Obviously, you’re going to want to repair these low-points prior to applying epoxy or installing any other type of flooring.

There are products, such as Jasco Floor Leveler, that are made specifically to address this problem. Be sure to remove all loose concrete from the low-point prior repairing the low point in the floor. Apply a high-quality bonding agent and floor-leveling product to effectively fill the low-point. Next, use a smooth, straight board (such as a spare 2×4) as a screed to remove and excess fill material and to make the filled area level to the existing garage floor. Allow the repair to set and cure as directed by the manufacturer.

Concrete Cracks & Pitting Repairs

crack in garage floorThis common problem is usually seen in older garages. Years of wear-and-tear and tough environmental conditions can take a heavy toll on your garage floor. Cracks and pitting are caused by everything from seasonal changes (rapid freeze/thaw cycles) to moisture problems, and problems with the material consistency of the original concrete pour. Not only are cracks and pitting unsightly, they create a potential trip hazard and lead to more extensive garage floor problems.

Concrete damaged by cracking and pitting are both repaired by similar methods.  Begin by removing all of the loose material from the damaged concrete. A stiff wire brush works well to remove dirt, pebbles, and concrete material from cracks. A firm bristle-brush will be sufficient on pitted areas. Follow-up by using a dry paint brush to sweep away any remaining dust or other fine material. The area to be repaired must be clean and completely free of dust.  Use a shop vac with a dust filter to finish cleaning these areas.

pitting in garage concreteOnce thoroughly cleaned, apply a high-quality epoxy bonding agent to the pitted concrete. Next, use an appropriate floor-leveler or concrete patching material to fill the pitted area. Follow all manufacturer instructions and recommendations!

For cracks, once cleaned out, apply a flexible crack filler (usually sold in a tube similar to caulk). Be sure that the filler is properly rated for use on concrete specifically. There are many crack fillers on the market that are made for blacktop applications; these will not work for garage floor repairs!

Repairing Environmental Damage

garage floor repairThe vast majority of concrete surface damage in a garage is caused by repeated exposure to cycles of moisture and drying (usually concurrent with extreme variations in temperature). It is far more common to see cracking and pitting on a concrete floor located in the Midwest, than in the less extreme Southeast environments.

Due to concrete’s porous composition, an unsealed concrete surface will act much like a sponge, slowly soaking up water left on it’s surface. When there is a sudden drop in temperature (usually a drop below the freezing point, the moisture within the concrete expands. It is this expansion of moisture within the concrete, that leads to cracks and surface marring.

How to Prevent / Repair Damage

  • It is important to minimize the amount of moisture that puddles on your garage floor. Keep a squeegee readily available and take a minute to push out any excess water on the surface, especially during the cold winter months.
  • Though it’s not always an option, you can minimize concrete damage caused by extreme temperature fluctuations by heating your garage.
  • Seal your floor to keep water from penetrating into the porous concrete surface (you don’t want to do this if you will be applying an epoxy coat finish in the near future).

Repairing Chemical Damage

repair floor stainsMany garage floors are damaged by caustic chemicals, road salt residue, and motor oil spills. Minor damage to the concrete includes surface stains caused by spilled oil or grease. Salt, on the other hand, can cause big problems, etching away at the concrete and cause considerable chipping and pitting damage. The best way to avoid an expensive repair is to keep chemicals and salt off the concrete surface.

How to Prevent / Repair Damage

  • Clean up spills as soon as possible. The longer a spill sits on your floor, the harder it will be to get the stain out of the concrete.
  • Keep some clumping kitty litter stored in a tub in your garage; it will help to absorb oil and other spills for easier cleaning.
  • When working on your car, be sure to use drop clothes and keep shop towels on-hand in the event of a spill.
  • After wiping up as much of the spill as possible, Use a mild detergent and plenty of water to wash away any remaining stains on the floor.

Repairing Physical Damage

repair-scratched-concrete

Dragging heavy machinery and tools across your garage will obviously scratch it you do not take the necessary precautions. Even a small pebble stuck under under the wheel of an engine crane can cause considerable surface damage to your floor. Dropped tools will chip the concrete’s surface.

How to Prevent / Repair Damage

  • Protect your floor by using rubber mats in work areas.
  • Don’t blindly drag anything sharp or heavy across your floor.
  • Place jack-stands on solid rubber mats or wood blocks to protect the concrete from chipping or scratching.
  • Use only rubberized wheels on any heavy equipment that is regularly moved around the garage.

Who Should Perform the Garage Floor Repair

If you do need to make a repair, should you do it yourself?  That depends on your comfort level, access to the necessary tools, and your abilities.  Never take on a repair that you do not feel comfortable making.  You are better off contacting a professional who knows how to make the proper fix.

Cleaning – The Other Garage Floor Repair

Over time, an unfinished concrete garage floor will begin to show its age. Concrete is a porous surface that readily accepts dirt, grease, and oil, often locking it in place. In this post, I will present some garage floor cleaning options that are very effective in removing many of the standard concrete surface stains you will get on your garage floor.

How to Clean the Garage Floor – Prevent Oil Stains
Oil is one of the most stubborn of the garage floor stains to remove, especially used, old oil. The best way to prevent oil stains is to cover the concrete with a thick drop cloth or cardboard prior to doing oil changes or other substantial engine work in your garage. Prevention is the always the best option, but that’s all in hindsight now, right? 😉

Cleaning Clean Oil, Grease, and Grime Stains

For oil stains, first soak up as much of the surface oil as possible. Use an old towel or paper towels. Try not to spread the oil around by wiping the cleaning oil stains from garagesurface. You will want to blog up as much of the wet oil puddle as possible.

It’s a smart idea to keep a bag of clumping cat litter on hand for situations such as these. Pour a fair amount of the litter over what remains of the oil spill, being sure to completely cover the spill. The cat litter will do an excellent job of absorbing and holding the surface oil while containing the spill. Leave the cat litter in place for one to two hours. Use two pieces of cardboard to pick up the cat litter and the oil that it has absorbed from the garage floor surface.

Using a Grease Remover / Cleaner

You will most likely be left with a shiny, wet-looking area of concrete where the spilled oil was absorbed into the concrete. Knowing how to clean the garage floor of these left-over, residual stains, is what will keep your concrete looking good and prevent the need for a future garage floor repair. There are few products that work very well to remove these stains, they include: citric acid, all-purpose degreaser/cleaner, and chemical etcher. Start with your standard all-purpose degreaser (Formula 409, etc.).

Spray the stained area with a good amount of the cleaner. You want to completely cover the stain with the cleaner (be sure you are doing this with proper ventilation and always follow the directed safety precautions on the product). Now, cover the entire sprayed area with a layer of clear plastic sheeting. Try to cut off the air flow under the plastic by how to clean the garage floorsealing off the edges with pieces of 2×4 or the like. Allow everything to sit overnight.

Covering the stain like this allows for a couple of things to happen. The moisture in the concrete will be drawn to the garage floor’s surface (lifting the residual oil with it), and the degreaser will break-down the oil. At this point, you will want to remove the plastic covering and blot up all of the remaining moisture, oil, and cleaner. Allow the area to dry completely, then check the area to see if any stain remains. You may have to repeat the cleaning process just described more than once to pick up all of the residual oil in the concrete.

Removing Stubborn Grease

If the degreaser does not fully clean the garage floor after a couple of attempts, try scrubbing the area with a wire brush and citric acid or chemical etcher. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions when using these products; they can be caustic and irritating to the eyes and skin and misuse may require a garage floor repair. These products have excellent cleaning agents that will remove even the most stubborn of oil stains.

The quicker you can get to work cleaning the oil stain while it is still new, the better. Stains that have set in or are very old, will be increasingly more difficult to clean from the concrete. These stains, with age, have a tendency to cure with the concrete and permanently discolor it.

Garage Floor Repair – Paint Spills on the Garage Floor

Clean spilled paint in garageDepending on the type of paint spilled, these are without a doubt the most difficult garage floor stains to clean.

If the spilled paint is latex-based paint, do nothing. Let the paint set where it is in as contained a puddle as possible. Allow the latex paint to dry completely. Once the paint has dried on the concrete surface, use a standard putty knife or scraper to lift the paint off the concrete’s surface. The latex will most likely not set into the porous surface of the concrete – this is good news for you. You should be able to peal the paint away freely once it has dried.

For oil and water-based paint spills, contain the spill as much as possible. These types of paint will absorb into the porous concrete garage floor. Using garage rags, towels, or paper towels, blot up as much of the excess paint as possible. When done, immediately start blotting the surface with the recommended cleaning agent for that type of paint. Another option if you do not have turpentine or linseed oil on hand is to try nail polish remover. Always use these products as directed!

The key to cleaning the garage floor of paint stains, is by keeping the surface wet. Keep blotting away at the concrete’s surface until all of the paint stain is removed. If you cannot clean up the entire area immediately, at least get the bulk of the paint off the surface, then cover the spill/stain area with plastic (as previously described). Covering the area may keep the surface moist enough to allow for you to return to cleaning later – there is no guarantee this will work though.  Cleaning the stain fast is the best way to prevent a more comprehensive garage floor repair.

How to Clean the Garage Floor

I’ve saved the easiest garage floor repair for last:  surface cleaning. You should try to clean your garage floor on a somewhat regular basis. I try clean up stains in the garageto thoroughly clean it at least one time per season (even more in the winter if I can).

To clean surface dirt from your garage floor, drizzle dish soap about on the garage floor. If you have a power-washer, use it to scrub the floor’s surface (be sure you do not etch or cause concrete pitting by having the sprayer setting too high/direct). If you do not have a power-washer, use a standard garden hose sprayer to spray the soapy floor surface clean.

Once you have sprayed the bulk of the soap and dirt out of the garage, use a floor squeegee to remove an excess puddles of water that may have collected in lower areas of the garage. Keep you garage door open and allow the concrete to air dry as needed. If you want to speed up the drying process, place a box-fan near the open garage door to help circulate the air.

Congratulations! You are now a pro, fully-skilled with the knowledge of how to clean and make a proper garage floor repair.

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.

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