To adhere and shine, epoxy needs a clean, dry, defect-free surface. Concrete is moist, cold, and tends to crack, spall and pit. Epoxy requires days of cleaning and repairing just so you can start the primer. Epoxy hardens in the bucket, so get it down as fast as you can. If you get any of the prep stages wrong, the epoxy will pit, bubble or peel. I would definitely let a professional put epoxy in my garage, but I would never attempt to epoxy the floor by myself.
I wouldn’t mind having an epoxy-coated concrete garage floor. It’s just that I know how hard it is to get it right. I’d rather cover the floor in PVC tile to protect the concrete from salt, water, ice, chemical and oils.
- Paint the floor, but it requires rigorous preparation and maintenance
- Tile the floor so it looks like a NASCAR garage
- Cover the floor with containment or parking mats
Epoxy is beautiful, but it’s hard to get right. I don’t mean “painting” hard; I mean “epoxy” hard. A professional has the right equipment and experience to do it right. If you get it wrong? Peeling, bubbles, and rough spots.
How to Prep the Garage Floor for Epoxy
Epoxy makes many demands. Is the concrete cured? Is it clean? Is it free of coatings and polish? Is it sealed? Is there any spalling, pitting, cracking or holes? The pre-pre-epoxy to-do list:
- cure the concrete
- clean the concrete
- unpolish the concrete
- unseal the concrete
- repair the concrete
There can be few to no chips, spalling, or pitting. This means you need to:
- repair spalling, pitting, cracks and holes
- remove existing coatings
- clean the floor of stains, paint, wax, dust, and dirt
- acid etch the surface to break down the top layer and expose a bondable surface
How to Lay Down Epoxy Primer
More Garage Floor Info to Help You Decide
The next step is the pre-epoxy primer. A base coat seals the concrete and thereby makes it easier for the epoxy to bond. Our pre-epoxy checklist:
- wet the concrete surface
- spread the primer in a smooth, even layer
- wait for the primer to dry
- spread another smooth, even layer of primer
- wait for the primer to dry again
How to Lay Down Epoxy
Now we’re at the epoxy stage. We need to wait for the right weather. Once that happens, we need to get the epoxy down within a time limit. Our epoxy checklist:
- wait for good weather
- add an anti-slip additive to the epoxy
- hurry up and get the epoxy down before it hardens in the bucket
- lay down a smooth, even layer, don’t get it on anything but the floor, and remember: hurry
- wait for the epoxy to cure
- add a finisher coat
- wait for the finisher to dry
- add a second finisher coat
Is the floor clean? Is the old sealant removed? Is the temperature too cold? Too warm? Can I get the epoxy down before it hardens in the bucket? Can I avoid getting it on the stairs and doors?
There are so many places for this to go wrong. I absolutely would hire a professional to do an epoxy job in the garage. I just would not do it myself. Epoxying is not a job for amateurs.
Garage Floor Protection Options (Besides Epoxy)
I want a garage floor covering that looks good. I don’t want to do a massive amount of preparation. I definitely don’t want to do heavy-duty maintenance. My floor covering has to look good and to protect my garage floor. My options are:
- PVC Tile
- Polypropylene Tile
- Containment Mats
- Parking Mats
I’m definitely not painting my garage floor. Paint is epoxy-light. It requires many of the same conditions and procedures. It has many of the same pitfalls. I don’t want to scrape the old paint off my garage floor when it peels.
Plastic tile is amazing to look at, easy to prep for and easy to install. It protects the floor and looks like a million bucks. This category includes both polypropylene and PVC tile. You can make amazing designs in awesome colors to make your garage look like a NASCAR pit stop.
Putting down some floor mats is the least I can do to protect my garage concrete. Containment mats hold the snow that drops from the car, along with the ice and salt that eat garage floors. Preparation and installation are at the easiest end of the spectrum.
The Pros and Cons of Garage Floor Tiles
There are two kinds of garage floor tile: PVC and polypropylene. Poly is slightly harder and so makes a bit more noise if you walk on it in hard shoes. PVC has more give, is quieter, and hangs on to dirt and chemicals a bit more than poly. Both PVC and poly tiles look amazing. They install the same way. Both are durable, long lasting, and look fantastic.
Poly and PVC Garage Tile Benefits
PVC and poly tiles protect the concrete floor from moisture, dirt, oil and grease. They come in many colors, so you can have the beauty without the hassle of epoxy or paint. You can make patterns with the tiles, and the tiles themselves have patterns on them. You typically find raised coin and diamond shapes, which are there to enhance traction.
Poly and PVC Garage Tile Prices
PVC interlocking tile costs $4.50 and $7.50 per square foot. Polypropylene garage tiles cost about $2 to $3 per square foot. Materials prices are fluctuating greatly these days. YMMV.
Poly and PVC Garage Tile Materials
PVC is “polyvinyl chloride,” a type of plastic. PVC tiles are mixed with fibers to create thin, resilient plastic with a small amount of give.
Polypropylene is a dense, tough plastic that sheds any oil or grease that lands on it. Poly tiles are usually hollow and so are sometimes called “floating floors.” Only part of the bottom part of the tile reaches the floor.
PVC tiles are quiet compared to poly tiles. PVC isn’t a padded carpet, but it’s quiet compared to polypropylene tiles. Poly tiles can be anywhere from medium to very loud.
Poly and PVC Garage Tile Durability
Put PVC and a poly tile next to each other for 5 years, they’ll both look very good, but the PVC will have a bit more dirt and chemical stuck to it. A hot spinning tire is more likely to melt on PVC than on poly. That’s an extreme situation, but it’s a concern to someone who spins hot tires on the garage floor.
PVC has enormous load capacity. I’ve seen weight ratings of 80,000 lbs. If you drop something heavy on PVC, the tile might respond with a dimple that eventually heals.
Polypropylene tiles can hold a ridiculous amount of weight. I’ve seen ratings such as 3,000 lb. per tile, and 80,000 lb. per installation. High quality poly doesn’t care if you drop a 200 lb. weight on it.
The exception is concentrated weight, such as you get with a loaded floor jack or a motorcycle kickstand. PVC tiles hold up better to floor jacks because they have give and can heal. Poly tiles either stand up to the weight or they dimple, and the dimple doesn’t heal on its own.
PVC and Poly Garage Tile Tools
Manufacturers often say you can install their tiles without tools. Then they show a consumer using a rubber mallet to tape the tiles into place. If you don’t have a mallet, you can jump on the seams.
You will need a sharp utility knife to cut the tiles at the walls. It’s easier to cut PVC than to cut poly.
You might want pressure sensitive tape if you have unexpected movement in your installation. High quality tiles tend not to move.
PVC and Poly Garage Tile Installation Steps
Please follow manufacturer’s instructions. This article is not about any specific tile installation method.
If your garage floor has moisture issues, apply a concrete sealer first. Water buildup under PVC tiles can encourage mold. Use a sealer on “weepy” garage floors. Consider using a sealer if the floor is flat. You want the floor under PVC tiles to drain.
It’s OK to install PVC and poly tiles on a slight grade, and over small cracks. PVC tiles are flat, so they will flatten anything underneath them. Remove crud before starting. Poly tiles are open-bottomed, but you really don’t want junk under your beautiful new floor, so clean before you start. Wait for the floor to dry before putting down the tile.
Start tile installation in the center of the room. Work backwards so that you have full tiles until you meet a wall. That’s where you’ll need your utility knife to create partial tiles. Leave a gap between the tile edge and the walls.
Cleaning Garage Floor Tile
Cleaning plastic tile is easy. Sweep or vacuum first. Use a mop and soapy water on dirt. Plastic responds well to warm water and mild detergents. Treat scuffs with a polish like Armstrong Shinekeeper. Street tar stains will probably come up with a cleaner-degreaser such as Purple Power or Oil Eater. Very hot tire can melt onto the PVC. You’ll find it easier to replace these tiles than to clean them.
Poly and PVC Garage Tile Warranties
PVC floor tile warranties are typically ten to 25 years long. Tiles made from polypropylene have 10 to 20 year warranties. Plastic tiles are very strong.
You might also like: Garage Floors