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Garage Floor Paint vs. Epoxy Coatings: A Look at the DifferencesShould you paint or coat your concrete garage floor? Here are the key factors to consider before making a decision.
If you’ve been thinking about sprucing up a bare concrete garage floor with a paint or coating, you’ll have no problem finding a huge selection of products that can do the job. But deciding which one is best for your budget and performance needs isn’t so simple. Should you choose a concrete floor paint or an epoxy garage floor coating? How do these products differ? And what are the pros and cons of each? To help clear up some of the confusion, here's what you need to know about choosing a paint or an epoxy coating for your concrete garage floor.
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GARAGE FLOOR PAINTS
Cost: $1 to $3 per square foot
Ease of application: Easy to apply with a simple paint roller. Usually self-priming, but at least two coats are required to get the best results.
Durability: Formulated to resist motor oil, grease, and gasoline stains, but don’t stand up well to vehicle traffic and may peel after time.
Drying time: Usually ready for foot traffic after 12 hours and vehicle traffic after 5 days.
Design options: Available in a wide variety of standard and custom colors, but usually limited to satin finishes.
Lifespan: Typically lasts only 2 to 5 years before the need for reapplication.
PT 702 Decorative Concrete Coatings LLC
Las Vegas, NV
EPOXY GARAGE FLOOR COATINGS
Cost: $4 to over $12 per square foot
Ease of application: Components must be mixed before application. Requires multiple layers, including primer, base coat, broadcast layer, and topcoat.
Durability: More durable and wear-resistant than paint, even when exposed to hot tires, making them a good choice for high-traffic garage floors.
Curing time: Ready for foot traffic after a day or two and vehicle traffic after 6 to 7 days.
Design options: Color choices are limited, but can be enhanced by quartz beads or vinyl color chips. Most products have a high-gloss finish.
Lifespan: Can last 15 years or longer if properly installed and maintained.
What is a concrete garage floor paint?
There are basically two types of paints suitable for concrete garage floors: a water-based latex acrylic paint and a one-part epoxy paint.
A latex acrylic garage floor paint is easy to work with and applied similarly to a latex-based house paint. Although latex paint is often the cheapest option (figure on spending about $40 per gallon), it also has the shortest lifespan, typically lasting only a year or two before the need for touch-up or reapplication. It will often peel up from hot car tires, and harsh chemicals like solvents and brake fluid may discolor and even soften latex floor paint. However, it still may a good option if your garage floor is exposed to minimal wear and tear.
A one-part epoxy paint is basically a latex acrylic paint with a small amount of epoxy resin added for greater durability, making it one of the toughest concrete garage floor paints available. Another advantage is that it adheres better to concrete than regular latex floor paint, making it more resistant to tire traffic, chemicals, and peeling. Epoxy paints are pricier than latex acrylics (costing up to 20% more), but they are a better option for garage floors that see a moderate amount of traffic. When applied to a properly prepared concrete surface, they will also last longer, typically performing well for at least 3 to 4 years before the need for reapplication.
What is an epoxy garage floor coating?
Unlike one-part epoxy paints, epoxy garage floor coatings are two-part systems composed of a polyamine hardener (also known as a catalyst) and an epoxy resin. When combined, they chemically react and cure to form a powerful bond with concrete, resulting in a shiny, durable surface that’s highly resistant to chemicals, abrasion, impact, and hot tire traffic. They also are nonporous and waterproof, making them easy to clean with mild detergent and water.
A downside of epoxy coatings is the cost, which can run as high as $12 per square foot installed. These systems are also harder to work with than a standard latex or epoxy floor paint. Once the components are mixed and the chemical reaction begins, the coating can begin to harden within about 2 hours, making it necessary to work quickly. While the epoxy surface can be walked on after about 24 hours, you should keep vehicles off the garage floor for about a week to allow proper curing.
Learn more about epoxy garage floor coatings.
Tip: Although you can find DIY epoxy garage floor kits at home improvement stores ranging in price from $100 to over $500, depending on the coverage area, you are often better off hiring a professional to do the job. This will minimize any mistakes and make sure that you get the desired results.
Can all concrete garage floors be painted or coated?
Badly cracked or spalled concrete floors are not great candidates for garage floor paints or epoxy coatings because they will require extensive surface preparation and patching to ensure good adhesion. If your garage floor is in terrible condition, resurfacing the floor with a cement-based overlay or replacing it altogether might be a better option. Also keep in mind that if you’re moving into a new home, or pouring a new concrete garage floor, you’ll need to allow it to cure for at least 28 days before applying a paint or epoxy coating.
How do I make the best choice?
Of all the floors in your home, your concrete garage floor receives the heaviest traffic and the greatest wear and tear. It’s also vulnerable to stains from oil, grease, brake fluid, gasoline, and other chemicals. To protect the floor from damage and discoloration, you’ll want to choose a paint or coating that’s as durable as possible while also being attractive and easy to clean.
If you want to save labor costs by doing the work yourself and your garage is primarily used for storage or occasional parking, a garage floor paint can be a good choice. Both latex acrylic and epoxy floor paints are easy to install without any prior experience, but you won’t achieve the same level of durability as with an epoxy coating. You also may end up repainting or touching up your floor frequently, which can make paint a more expensive option in the long run.
If you want the ultimate protection for your concrete garage floor, a two-part epoxy coating is often worth the higher initial expense. For a few dollars more per square foot, you’ll get a tough, high-gloss, seamless surface that resists wear, stains, chemicals, and heavy traffic, including hot tire pickup. For the best durability and wear resistance, look for an epoxy with a high solids content of 100%. This the most expensive option, but it will hide imperfections in the concrete better and have a much longer lifespan, lasting up to 20 years when properly installed.
Tip: Whichever product you choose, remember that proper surface prep is essential to achieving good results. If you are installing the garage floor paint or coating yourself, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for power washing and etching the floor prior to application. Also heed the recommended dry time between coats.