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Garage Floor Coatings: Epoxy vs. Paint, Which is Better?

Epoxy is hard to get right, but is it worth it? Would it make sense to just settle for paint?

Epoxy lasts longer than paint, and you need only one coat. Paint is cheaper and easier than epoxy to apply, but you need several coats to get coverage. Paint will stick to imperfect garage preparation. Epoxy will not.

Epoxy floor coating systems are a popular solution for garage floors. They are durable and provide excellent protection against chemicals, oil, gasoline, and other automotive fluids. These systems are also resistant to peeling and chipping.

Garage Floor Paint or Epoxy, Which is Better?

One of our most popular articles is “I’ll never epoxy my garage floor (here’s what I’ll do instead)” (opens in new window).

Our readers are looking for ways to protect their garage floor. Not all can afford to hire out the epoxy. We decided to do a series of articles comparing floor coverings to help you choose which covering you will use for your garage.

It’s only fair to state that the incorrect application of paint or epoxy will cause them to fail. These comparisons apply to epoxy and paint that are correctly applied!

Epoxy flooring is one of the best ways to protect your garage floor. Epoxy protects concrete flooring from stains, spills, and the ground underneath. Here are some of the main reasons why you should use epoxy for your garage floor.

  • Apply epoxy to any garage floor surface, including concrete, cement, asphalt, brick, stucco or stone.
  • Epoxy resists gasoline and auto fluids
  • Clean epoxy with soap and water. It’s safe to use a pressure washer on an epoxy floor.

Epoxy stays where you put it, and does not fail if applied correctly.

Paint formulated for concrete often comes as a primer and paint in one can (if you get regular paint, then prime before applying the paint).

Paint is cheaper than epoxy, but much more forgiving. Paint will stick to dirty surfaces. It won’t last as long that way, but it will work. Epoxy will not stick to dirty surfaces for very long.

Acquire a paint type appropriate for the floor. If you have a concrete floor, get a paint formulated to stick to concrete. Paint resists gasoline and fluids, but might rub out when cleaned.

Paint peels in three to ten years, no matter how nice the floor is when you paint it.

Garage Floor Paint vs. Epoxy Durability

Yellow shiny epoxy garage floorEpoxy is more durable than the paint. Epoxy will not peel and chip.

Paint will deteriorate in three to ten years, depending on exposure to extreme temperatures and abrasives.

Reapplying epoxy is usually not necessary. It will last for decades.

To fix chipped paint, you need to scrape it off, wash the floor, and apply the paint anew.

Garage Floor Paint vs. Epoxy Cleanup

Epoxy and paint are both easy to clean, but you must be gentler with paint. Epoxy hardens like plastic, and paint hardens like chalk.

Paint and epoxy are equally easy to clean with a vacuum cleaner and wet mop.

If you use a pressure washer on paint you could damage the seal. It’s very hard to damage an epoxy seal.

Garage Floor Paint vs. Epoxy Environmental Friendliness

Article Continues Below

More Garage Floor Info to Help You Decide

Man applying gray concrete primer.The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that some paints emit dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are chemicals that can damage the ozone layer and pollute the environment when they are emitted by products like paint.

The EPA has identified three specific types of VOCs – formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and benzene – as the most toxic to both humans and animals.

The EPA recommends using low-VOC paints wherever possible to help make sure these dangerous chemicals don’t end up in our waterways or in our air supply.

Epoxy can be harmful to your health if inhaled or touched. Avoid breathing fumes when applying epoxy. Both epoxy and paint are dangerous if they get in the eye or are swallowed.

Garage Floor Paint vs. Epoxy Cost Comparison

Applying wet epoxy to concrete garage floor
Applying wet epoxy to concrete garage floor

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There are many factors that determine the cost of garage floor paint and epoxy. The most common factor is the price per gallon, that applies to both materials. But you should also consider other factors like color (in the case of paint) and coverage.

In fairness, paint color is a part of the coverage factor. The lighter the paint is, the more of it will take to get good coverage. Dark paints cover more with less paint.

Take two gallons of paint that appear to have the same price. One covers 200 square feet, the other covers 400 square feet. You get twice as much coverage for the 400 sf coverage. That gallon is actually half the cost of the 200 sf gallon.

A gallon of paint will cover between 400 and 1200 square feet. The range of paint coverage ability is pretty wide. A very dense paint with amazing coverage will be more expensive, but will cover much more area.

Because the paint coverage range is so wide, it’s best to calculate the total cost of the job. First, take get the square feet to paint. A 12 × 26 ft. area has 12 × 26 = 312 square feet.

Next, determine how many coats to apply.

You might need to paint a floor section to decide the number of coats. The test coat helps you see what kind of coverage you will get.

If you could get coverage in one coat, then you’d need enough paint for the garage square footage. We said for a garage that is 12 × 26 ft., you have 312 sf to cover. So you need enough paint to cover at least 312 sf one time for one coat.

For two coats, you need enough paint to cover  312 sf x 2 coats = 614 sf. For three coats, you need enough paint to cover 312 sf x 3 coats = 936 sf.

Epoxy covers in one coat, so there’s no math to do. You will not need to calculate the number of coats.

The price of epoxy varies depending on the brand, the color, and the size of the container.

Color does not affect coverage per coat. Epoxy is opaque and so does not need more than one coat. A 12 × 26 ft. area requires about 5 gallons of epoxy. A 12 × 30 ft. section requires about 6 gallons.

Garage Floor Paint vs. Epoxy Application Preparation

Scraping up peeling paint from failed paint job
Poor floor preparation ensures this mess will happen to your concrete floor.

Anything you do to make the floor accept epoxy is also good for getting it to accept paint. In my opinion, the preparation for paint and epoxy is the same.

To get the material to stick, the floor must be really clean. If there are any coatings on the floor, you need to de-bond and remove them.

You must repair cracks, spalling and pitting. We have guiders for that on this site.

Before painting ensure that your work is cured and dry.

Use a vacuum cleaner to remove any dirt or debris on the surface. I like to use the blower function to kick the dust out of the room. Sweep with a broom to ensure fine dust is gone.

Next, use a damp mop or a pressure cleaner to wash the surface until it’s squeaky-clean. The pressure washer will chip away at spalling, pitting and cracking. Repair these areas before proceeding.

To prepare spalled and pitted areas, get an angle grinder. Depending on the size you will need a 4 inch or a 4.5 inch grinding wheel. If there are holes, get a crack chaser wheel as well.

Clean out the areas and smooth the sides. Fill in the areas with concrete bond leveler. Do not use actual concrete here. Concrete does not bond to concrete. You need a concrete bonder to finish fixing garage floor issues.

If there are any oil or grease stains in your garage floor, mix up some dishwashing liquid with water and scrub them with a brush before washing away the mixtures with fresh water.  If that does not work, use an oil degreaser agent such as Purple Power.

If there is a coating on the floor, remove it with a non-acidic etcher, which is much safer and just as effective as an acidic etcher. Brush the etcher in and wash with a hose or pressure washer.

Epoxy will fail without the right floor prepration
Epoxy will fail without the right floor prepration

Garage Floor Paint vs. Epoxy Application Tools

Use a roller brush to paint the garage floor. You can use the same equipment for the primer as you use for the paint. You will need a paint pan, an extension arm for the brush, the roller brush, and roller foam material designed for concrete paint.

Garage floor epoxy roller applicatorEpoxy is a resin-based material that can be mixed with either an acid, water, or solvent to create a thick liquid. To mix apply the epoxy coating you will need:

  • epoxy resin
  • epoxy adhesive
  • screeding compound paint roller with handle and splash guard
  • measuring container (also known as a mud pan)
  • measuring stick
  • gloves
  • goggles

The measuring container is so that you mix up just enough for the section you’re applying. Epoxy resin and adhesive bond in the bucket if you take too long. Only mix up a portion at a time.

Watch out for temperature requirements from the paint or epoxy instructions.

 

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