Garage Floor Coatings
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Find out what products are good to use as a decorative garage floor surface.

There's a good reason why concrete is used almost exclusively for floors in basements and garages, warehouse facilities and manufacturing and food processing plants -- it's one of the few materials durable enough to stand up to the heavy traffic, abrasion, chemicals, and moisture exposure these surfaces are often subject to.

On this page: Coating Types | Epoxies | Polyaspartics | Special-Effects

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However, that doesn't mean concrete slabs are indestructible. By nature, untreated concrete is a porous material, and even the best concrete can succumb to extreme abuse, such as tire traffic, exposure to harsh chemicals and deicing salts, and frequent moisture contact.

That's where a good coating comes into play, giving concrete that extra layer of protection it needs to endure constant wear and tear. In addition to its protective function, a coating can also dress up a drab surface, simplify maintenance and improve skid resistance.

Coating Information
Concrete Coating Reviews An inside look at the latest epoxies, metallics and more.
Resurfacing Products Permanently cover up surface imperfections, or turn a plain slab from drab to fab.
Metallic Coatings Tips for using and applying metallic epoxy coatings for concrete floors.

The selection of products today for coating concrete has never been greater, as manufacturers strive to meet market demands for newer formulations that are faster curing, more abrasion resistant, lower in harmful VOCs and adhere better to properly prepared surfaces. And many of today's coating products are available with a profusion of decorative options, including a broad selection of mix-in pigments and other add-ins for achieving special visual effects. With the myriad options available, however, shopping around for the right coating can be as daunting as navigating the cereal aisle in a well-stocked grocery store. The number of choices is overwhelming, and each product will differ -- at least to some extent -- in terms of performance, ease of application, economy and appearance. The challenge is to find the most economical and practical solution among the many products on the shelf.

It would be impossible to tell you about every concrete coating on the market, since there are literally hundreds of formulations to choose from. Instead, we will introduce you to some of the newest kids on the coating block -- advanced products that have been chemically tweaked to maximize their performance and make them more user-friendly to install. These newer offerings typically carry a higher price tag than their traditional counterparts, but they can actually be more cost-effective in the long run by saving installation time, allowing floors to be put back into service more quickly and providing greater endurance. Some products also allow you to achieve special decorative effects, such as metallic or luminescent finishes.

COMPARING COATING TYPES

100% solids epoxy coating with a urethane top coat. Innovative Concrete Surfaces, Inc in Bonita Springs, FL

The term "coating" is often used broadly to refer to just about any liquid or semi-solid material applied to cured concrete, including cement-based toppings and overlays, paints, and epoxy-aggregate systems. However, for the purposes of this guide, we're narrowing down the definition to refer only to noncementitious polymer products typically applied at thicknesses of less than 1/16 inch. (Click on these links for tips on buying and using cement-based toppings and overlays and epoxy-aggregate systems.)

Without getting too scientific, a polymer is basically a chemical compound or mixture of compounds. The most commonly used concrete coatings today fall under or are hybrids of four basic polymer categories: epoxies, urethanes, acrylics and polyureas. Because of the chemical nature of polymer coatings, manufacturers will often tinker with the properties and molecular makeup of their products to improve their performance and provide other benefits, such as faster curing times or lower VOCs.

When comparing the attributes of various products, the first step is to look at the coating manufacturers' data sheets and technical specifications. They are your best sources for performance and installation information. Many of these spec sheets are available from the manufacturers' websites. You will also need to evaluate the surface you're working with and make some important decisions regarding protection requirements, aesthetic goals, budget and the time frame for installation. For more guidance, read Robert Cain's article Selecting the Proper Coating for Concrete Floors.


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Epoxy Dura-Kote Metallics Systems 20 available colors
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Liquid Dazzle Metallic Epoxy Floor
Pro Stamp Mix High compressive strength for high wear applications.
Sparta-Flex® Pure™ Polyaspartic Coatings

STATE-OF-THE-ART EPOXIES

Drawbacks of Epoxy Flooring
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Epoxy coatings have been used for years on concrete floors in commercial settings, and more recently as a traffic-resistant decorative coating on residential garage floors (see Garage Floor Coatings). Many contractors like epoxies because they produce a long-lasting high-gloss finish with superior hardness and abrasion resistance. However, despite their protective benefits, traditional epoxies have some drawbacks that can limit their use on certain projects, such as long concrete curing times before application (typically a minimum of 30 days), loss of adhesion in the presence of moisture, and the tendency to yellow when exposed to ultraviolet light. Most traditional epoxies also are two-component systems that require mixing at the proper ratio right before use. To overcome some of these disadvantages, manufacturers have recently introduced advanced epoxies with greater permeability, better UV stability, faster curing times and more convenient single-component application. Some examples:

DRYLOK Concrete Protector. United Gilsonite Laboratories in Scranton, PA

One-part systems

Several manufacturers now offer one-part ready-to-use epoxies that require no mixing before application. These user-friendly epoxies are said to compare in performance to two-part systems and are suitable for both residential and commercial applications, including garage floors, driveways, basements, commercial showrooms, gas stations and restaurants. They resist hot-tire marks, chemicals, oil, grease and gasoline stains. They also are UV-stable and won't yellow or chalk when applied to exterior slabs.

Moisture vapor transmission through polyacrylate terrazzo joints. Key Resin Company in Batavia, OH

Breathable epoxies

Most epoxy floor coatings are impermeable to moisture and can fail if applied to damp substrates or to slabs with high moisture-vapor emission rates (see What Problems Does Moisture Create?). To help avert these moisture-related failures, breathable systems, that allow the passage of moisture vapor, have been developed. Some will even bond to damp substrates and to new concrete slabs after only four or five days of curing, making it ideal for fast-track projects.

Fast-setting epoxies

Many epoxies require a minimum drying time of 24 hours before they can be recoated (depending on application temperatures and humidity conditions) and must cure for several days before they can accept traffic. Epoxy Systems' new fast-setting epoxy coating is a two-component waterborne product that dries to the touch in just 20 minutes and reaches thorough drying within 12 hours.

Note: All of these new epoxies are water-based and low in VOCs and odor. They also are available in pigmented finishes or can be tinted.

FAST-SETTING POLYASPARTICS

Advantage Chemical Coatings.

InstaDrive coating, a self-priming system. Kamcrete in Mesa, AZ

Polyaspartics (a type of polyurea) are the newest coating products to hit the market, and they are gaining in popularity because of their super-fast setting times. In fact, some manufacturers claim that their polyaspartic floor coating systems can be installed in less than a day, from start to finish, including the addition of decorative effects.

Although polyureas have been available commercially since the 1980s, polyaspartics are a more recent innovation with enhanced performance characteristics and easier installation (see What Are Polyaspartics?). Beyond the obvious advantage of allowing projects to be completed in record time, these fast-track floor coatings offer many other benefits as well, including the ability to be applied to full thickness in one coat, greater abrasion and impact resistance than epoxy or urethane coatings, the ability to be applied at high or low temperatures, excellent bonding characteristics, and UV stability. They are suitable for both residential and commercial applications and are especially popular for garage floors, driveways, retail facilities, auto showrooms, warehouses and other slabs subject to heavy wear and tear.

One of the few drawbacks of these coatings is the cost, since they tend to be more expensive than other concrete coatings. However, when you factor in the reduced labor costs and downtime, the extra expense can often be justified. Below is a sampling of some of the products available. Most of these are sold as complete decorative floor systems that can be tinted onsite during mixing and embellished with decorative vinyl chips or quartz beads in a broad array of color combinations.

Roll on Rock, installs in only 3 to 4 hours. Versatile Building Products in Carson, CA

Moon Decorative Concrete One-Day Floors: A three-coat decorative floor system for garage slabs, patios, walkways, driveways and pool decks. It is said to have excellent penetration and bond strength to properly prepared surfaces and is resistant to hot-tire marks, commercial and household cleaners and swimming pool treatment chemicals.

Roll On Rock from Versatile Building Products: A decorative seamless flooring system that installs in three steps in as little as 3 to 4 hours, including primer coat, tinted body coat and high-gloss clear topcoat. The nonyellowing coating can be used on floors or outdoor slabs and resists chemicals, abrasion and hot-tire marks. The water-based system is nonflammable and low in odor and VOCs.

Limitations

All polyaspartics are two-component products and will require mixing before use. The potlife of some systems is as short as 20, which could limit their use when you need to coat large areas.

It's also important to be aware that polyaspartics are impermeable and don't transmit water vapor, so new floors should be allowed to cure for at least 28 days before application. Some manufacturers recommend testing both new and existing floors for moisture-vapor transmission. For the best coating adhesion and performance, the moisture emission rate shouldn't exceed 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet for most systems. However, Versatile Building Products says that its Roll On Rock can withstand emission rates exceeding 5 pounds without losing bond.

SPECIAL EFFECTS COATINGS

Key Luster Mettalic color chart. Key Resin Co.

Along with advancements in polymer coating technology, the creative possibilities with coatings have expanded as well, allowing you to achieve some stunning effects not previously possible. Here are a few of the newest options for creating floor surfaces that make a strong design statement.

Metallic-pigmented coating

A 100%-solids epoxy resin available in a variety of metallic pigments including bronze, copper, antique silver and bright silver. It is finished with a clear urethane or epoxy topcoat to enhance the metallic luster and to provide additional wear and abrasion resistance.

A coating that glows in the dark

LumiCrete light-emitting coatings for concrete store light energy throughout the day and then gradually release the energy as visible light throughout the night. In addition to the obvious safety benefits in areas where there is little or no lighting or during a power failure, you can also use the coating to achieve unique decorative effects, such as adding a glow to the risers on concrete steps, defining driveway edges or garden pathways, and adding nighttime ambience to pool decks. The nonhazardous, waterborne coating can be spray-applied to new or existing concrete.

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