I Will Never Epoxy My Garage Floor (What I Will Do Instead)

A concrete floor is porous and moist. Epoxy will not adhere to concrete unless that floor is clean and defect-free. The amount of work that requires is way more than I want to put into my garage floor. With the right tools and experience, an expert would get a nice epoxy coating onto the floor. So I could hire a professional. Should I do that? What are my options?

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’ve put epoxy aside while I look at other floor covering options. Paint looks nice, but does require preparation and maintenance. Plastic and PVC tiles are cool (think NASCAR garage), so I’ll look at those. Containment and parking mats look like they might work. Let’s look at what we can do to protect the garage floor from salt, water, chemicals, and oils.

Epoxy is beautiful and crazy hard, but it’s really difficult to correctly apply. Paint is beautiful for a day or two. Then it picks up stains and and it peels. Tiles are good-looking and protect the floor. They require energy and time to install. They can be loud (plastic) and pick up tire marks (PVC). Containment mats capture snow melt, but be carefu when using a mat with studed snow tires on the car. Parking mats shield the floor, but don’t cover the entire surface area.

Epoxy garage floor looks nice, but get a professional for these results.
Epoxy garage floor looks nice, but get a professional for these results.

What Does an Epoxy Prep Look Like?

What You'll Learn

For a good epoxy covering, the concrete must be:

  • cured
  • clean
  • unpolished
  • unsealed
  • patched

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

Laying down the epoxy primer is a four-part job.

  • wet the surface
  • spread the primer in a smooth, even layer
  • wait for the primer to dry
  • spread another smooth, even layer of primer

Next, lay down the epoxy during the right weather, in the right way, in the right time.

  • epoxy is temperature-sensitive and will fail if put down when it’s too cold or too hot
  • epoxy is time-sensitive and will fail if it gets too hard in the bucket while you’re laying down the material
  • garage floors need an anti-slip additive because epoxy is slippery, especially when wet.

Wait for the epoxy to cure.Then add two finisher coats.

Each one of these steps is a disaster waiting to happen.

If the floor is not clean, dry or level, the primer and epoxy will not bond to it.

If the weather is too cold or warm, the epoxy won’t cure.

If the mix hardens in the bucket, you’ll throw the bucket and your investment in material into the trash.

I’m fine with a professional taking on the garage floor epoxy work.

But I will never epoxy the garage floor myself.

So here’s what I would do instead.

What I Will Do Instead

This snow containment mat holds gallons of water.
This snow containment mat holds gallons of water.

After researching this article, I’m leaning toward putting down snow containment mats, with an eye toward installing PVC interlocking tiles.

I’ll protect the concrete now with the mat.

Once the tiles are down, I’ll still use the containment mats on top of the tiles.

I have some other options to consider.

PVC Interocking Tiles

PVC tiles protect the floor, are relatively easy to install (compared to epoxy prep), and they look amazing.
PVC tiles protect the floor, are relatively easy to install (compared to epoxy prep), and they look amazing.

PVC tiles look amazing.

Floor preparation to install them involves a reasonable (not crazy) amount of cleanup.

While polypropelene foor tiles have noise issues, the PVC tiles do not.

PVC tiles are durable and long-lasting.

Garage Floor Mats

You can get garage floor mats in vinyl or rubber-backed carpet.

They both protect the floor, just not all of it.

Water and snow run off vinyl mats back to the floor. Moisture sinks into rubber-backed carpets, which are more protective of the concrete underneath.

You need to do almost no preparation to install garage floor mats.

The carpet mat feels great so long as it's dry. When it's not, the backing protects the floor from water and salt.
The carpet mat feels great so long as it’s dry. When it’s not, the backing protects the floor from water and salt.

Garage Floor Containment Mats

Snow, salt and ice melt can wear away at the integrity of a concrete garage floor.

A containment mat catches the offensive materials before they can soak into the floor.

My favorite containment mat has raised lips and can hold gallons of water.

These mats are not super-strong, so be careful when using them with studded snow tires.

The best garage floor mats for studded snow tires
If you have studded snow tired, ensure your garage floor mat can handle the stress.

Two Garage Floor Options I Will Not Use

There are two kinds of tile that some people have put in their garage, and most (I am guessing) have regretted it.

These are polypropylene and vinyl composition tiles (VCT).

FLir GEN 3

Polypropylene tiles are hard, so they make noise when you walk on them.

PVC is more protective and softer, knocking polypropylene tiles off the list.

Vinyl tiles: not for garage floors
Vinyl tiles: not for garage floors

VCT’s used to be a garage floor option, but are no longer sold for that purpose, and should not be used for that purpose.

I called Johnsonite, Armstrong, Tarkett … no one warrants VCTs on garage floors.

They look great, but require more prep than epoxy to install, and require a huge amount of work to maintain.

Yes, poly is pretty. I can do this with PVC without the noise.
Yes, poly is pretty. I can do this with PVC without the noise.

12 Things You Should Know About Garage Floor Containment Mats

#1. Why Get Containment Mats

Garage floor containment mats hold onto the snow melt, ice, sludge and salt your car brings into the garage.

They protect the garage floor from the materials that cause concrete spalling and pitting.

The containment works on concrete, or you can put it over other flooring. A containment mat can sit atop paint, epoxy, tiles or carpet..

#2. Why Avoid Containment Mats

A containment mat covers part of the floor, not the whole thing.

Outdoor gas fire tables

While they’re not ugly, they’re also not there for looks.

#3. Containment Mat Materials

Containment mats come in PVC and in carpet varieties.

The PVC mats often have raised edges to contain the melted snow and ice.

A plain carpet is not a containment mat because it does not have a rubber backing to protect the floor from moisture.

#4. Containment Mat Warranties

Most containment mat warranties I looked at lasted one year and protected against defects in workmanship, not tears from use.

#5. Containment Mat Noise

Garage floor containment mats are quiet.

You can hear a small rustling sound as you walk on the fabric.

You have to really listen for it.

#6. Containment Mat Installation Tool Requirements

You do not need any tools to lay out a containment mat.

#7. Containment Mat Installation

To install the mat, sweep the floor and clean up stains.

You don’t have to do this step, but the bottom of the containment mat will get dirty.

The concrete doesn’t care if you clean it before putting the containment mat down. Every drop the mat catches saves the concrete from damage.

If you don’t clean up before putting the mat down, expect to clean some dirt on the mat’s underside.

Put the containment mat on the floor where you park the car in the garage.

#8. Containment Mat Glue/Adhesive/Tape

Some containment mat owners find that their mats move a little.

One good solution is double-sided carpet tape around the outside mat edges.

If the floor is very dirty, the tape might not stick.

#9. Containment Mat Weight Capacity

Containment mats are designed for cars. They will hold at least a snow-covered SUV worth of weight.

#10. Containment Mat Anti-Fatigue Properties

PVC containment mats are relative soft, but reveal the hardness of the floor underneath. Carpet mats have a bit of soft bounce from the rubber backing. Neither are “anti-fatigue,” but the carpet is nicer than the hard floor or the PVC mat surface.

#11. Containment Mat Cleanup

Use a push broom to move the water, slush and ice over the mat and into the driveway.

For mats with raised lips, push the broom right over the lip. It will yield to the broom while you push the slush out.

You can also use a wet/dry vac to clean up the water and snow.  (Click here to view the Best Garage Vacuum of 2020.)

If the slush is not too heavy, you can pick up the mat and unload it outside.

#12. Containment Mat Prices

Containment mats cost between $130 and $140, which works out to around $1.15 to $1.40 per square foot.

12 Things You Should Know About Garage Floor Parking Mats

#1. Why Get Parking Mats

A parking mat protects the floor from grease and dirt. Parking mats absorb noise, and they’re pleasant to use.

Parking mats also protect the floor from tire rubber stains.

#2. Why Avoid Parking Mats

Parking mats do not have a waterproof backing to contain the water from ice, snow and rain.

Water and salt damage concrete.

Containment mats will hold more water than parking mats.

#3. Parking Mat Materials

Garage floor parking mats are made from carpet, plastic, or heavy duty vinyl.

Carpet absorbs liquids. Plastic and vinyl shed liquids onto the surrounding floor.

Either way, a parking mat does not protect the concrete from moisture.

#4. Parking Mat Warranties

Floor mat warranties run from about 60 days to three years long.

#5. Parking Mat Noise

Carpet fibers absorb ambient noise and soften the sound of shoes on the floor.

Vinyl is soft and quiet.

#6. Parking Mat Installation Tool Requirements

You do not need tools to install parking mats on the concrete garage floor.

#7. Parking Mat Installation

You should sweep and clean the floor before using double-sided tape.

If you are not using tape, you can put the mat onto a dusty floor.

Place the parking mat where you’ll park the car so that it catches the dirt, grease and rubber.

#8. Parking Mat Glue/Adhesive/Tape

In general, you do not need to glue a garage floor parking mat to the concrete.

Some people find a little bit of double-side tape around the mat perimeter keeps the mat in place.

#9. Parking Mat Weight Capacity

Most mats handle any vehicle’s weight. Some mats cannot stand up to a very hot tire making a quick turn. The rubber comes off onto the mat.

#10. Parking Mat Anti-Fatigue Properties

Some garage floor mats give a little bounce and give from the carpet backing.

#11. Parking Mat Cleanup

You can push-broom or wet-vac a wet parking mat.

Carpet mats will contain a lot of wet crud.

Hit them with a soapy pressure washer bath, then rinse with fresh water. Allow  the mat time to dry in the sun.

#12. Parking Mat Prices

Floor mats cost $75 and $200, which averages out to about $1.04 to $1.34 per square foot.

12 Things You Should Know About Garage Floor PVC Tiles

#1. Why Get PVC Tiles

PVC tiles protect the concrete floor from moisture, dirt, oil and grease.

They come in many colors, alowing you to design the garage floor without messing with epoxy or paint.

PVC ties come in many patterns, including diamond, coin, vented, smooth and slate.

They are softer than poly tiles, making them much quieter.

In my opinion, it’s much easier to install PVC tiles than it is to epoxy or paint the garage floor.

Some PVC tiles stand up under the weight of a car jack.

#2. Why Avoid PVC Tiles

PVC garage tiles are not as good as polypropylene tiles at repelling dirt, chemicals and tire stains.

A hot tire spinning out on a PVC tile might melt all over that tire. That’s an extreme situation and not likely to happen. But there’s more chance of it happening with PVC than with polypropylene garage tiles.

Heavy, concnetrated weight such as a car jack can damage some types of PVC tiles.

#3. PVC Tile Materials

PVC is polyvinyl chloride, a type of plastic. PVC tiles are mixed with fibers to create a thin, resiliant plastic with a small amount of give.

#4. PVC Tile Warranties

PVC tile warranties are on the long side at 10 to 25 years long.

#5. PVC Tile Noise

PVC tiles are much quieter than polypropylene tiles. This is the biggest difference between PVC and polypropylene tiles.

PVC is quiet when you walk on it. It’s not a padded carpet — it’s still plastic. But it’s a reasonable plastic noise, not an echo chamber.

#6. PVC Tile Installation Tool Requirements

Most manufacturers claim that you don’t need tools to install PVC tile.

In practice, you’ll want a rubber mallet and a utility knife.

PVC is the softer plastic.

You can cut it with a sharp knife.

Use the rubber mallet to encourage the pieces to lie flat.

Or walk on the joints to flatten them.

#7. PVC Tile Installation

Please follow manufacturer’s instructions. This article is not about any specific garage floor tile installation method.

Start PVC tile installation a couple of feet from a wall.

Install the edges at the end of the installation process.

PVC expands and contracts. Leave a gap between the tile edge and the walls.

If your garage floor has moisture issues, apply a concrete sealer before installing tiles.

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 on floors with a slight grade or small cracks. But be aware that the entire bottom of the PVC tile sits on the garage floor. Cleaning the floor is important. Crud won’t escape the tile’s flat bottom.

Allow the garage floor to dry before installing the PVC tile. You can install PVC tiles on less than perfect garage floors.

#8. PVC Tile Glue/Adhesive/Tape

If your PVC tile installation moves, apply some pressure-sensitive tape to the perimeter.

Not all installations have movement. Only those that do would require some extra help.

#9. PVC Tile Weight Capacity

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.

The material will give way and bounce back as it has some built-in flexibility.

#10. PVC Tile Anti-Fatigue Properties

If really hard surfaces bother your joints, PVC is a better choice than polypropylene, but not as good a choice as a vinyl floor mat.

PVC is not an anti-fatigue material, but it is more flexible than polypropylene tiles. PVC is more forgiving and bouncy.

#11. PVC Tile Cleanup

Cleaning PVC tile is easy.

You can sweep or vacuum the dirt from the tiles. Then wash the tiles with a mop and soapy water.

PVC responds well to warm water and mild detergents.

Treat scuffs with a high gloss vinyl floor 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 tile. You’ll find it easier to replace these tiles than to clean them.

#12. PVC Tile Prices

PVC interlocking tile costs $4.50 and $7.50 per square foot.

What Will I Do Instead of Epoxying My Garage Floor

I want a garage floor covering that looks good, doesn’t require a ton of preparation, and doesn’t require more than a mop and vacuum to clean.

I definitely would not use polypropylene tiles because I don’t like the noise they make.

VCT are completely out as they are not longer made for garage floors.

I can see getting snow containment mats at a minimum, or to just go for the PVC tiles, which I love.

PVC protects the entire floor, not just part of it.

You can make amazing designs with the available colors.

It’s easy to install and clean.

It’s definitely easier to install PVC tile than it is to paint or epoxy the garage floor.

In the winter, we usually wipe off the snow off of the cars before pulling into the garage. PVC tiles are moisture resistant, not waterproof. I’m putting the containment mats on top of the tiles. A containment mat on top of the PVC tile will keep the snow from melting all over the floor, and save us the hassle of wiping the cars while it’s snowing.

I’ll be digging into PVC tile brands, and adding to this article if I find more floor covering solutions.

What I Will Not Do Instead of Epoxying My Garage Floor

I won’t be getting polypropylene (plastic) or vinyl composite tiles.

You might have a different take on it, so here are some plastic vinyl facts.

I researched vinyl ties before figuring out they don’t go on the garage floor anymore.

If you’re considering vinyl for any other area of the house, see below for some fast facts about vinyl tiles.

Not buying #1: Polypropylene (Plastic) Garage Floor Interlocking Tiles

Polypropylene tiles are very hard. They are partially hollow underneath. Thus, these tiles can make a lot of noise when you walk on them. Plastic garage floor interlocking tiles can be spectacular looking. Plastic tiles have long warranties and good chemical, water and stain resistance.

12 Things You Should Know About Garage Floor Polypropylene Interlocking Tiles

#1. Why Get Polypropylene Tiles

Polypropylene garage floor tiles are one of the most popular garage floor covering options.

Polypropylene is a very hard, durable plastic. Many RaceDeck garage floors are “copolymers,” which are a form of polypropylene.

Polypropylene garage floors are easy to clean, extremely strong, and look like a NASCAR showroom.

#2. Why Avoid Polypropylene Tiles

Poly garage floor tiles are hollow and hard. The echo is loud.

The hard tiles don’t have any give, which can be hard on your knees and back.

#3. Polypropylene Tile Materials

Polypropylene is a dense, tough plastic that sheds any oil or greaset that lands on it.

Only part of the bottom part of the tile reaches the floor. The rest is hollow. They are sometimes called “floating” floors. Only the ribs touch the garage floor.

Polypropylene tiles tend to be resistant to stains, moisture and garage chemicals. Most resist fading in the sun. Polypropylene tiles withstand extreme temperatures. PVC, rubber and wood expand more than polypropylene.

#4. Polypropylene Tile Warranties

Tiles made from polypropylene have 10 to 20 year warranties.

The tiles are not unbreakable, but they’re very strong.

#5. Polypropylene Tile Noise

All polypropylene tiles are very hard. They are partially hollow underneath. Thus, these tiles can make a lot of noise when you walk on them. If you’re the kind of person who likes a really thick, quiet carpet, you won’t like poly tile noise.

A rubber underlayment will help soften some of the plastic tile’s noise.

#6. Polypropylene Tile Installation Tool Requirements

Most manufacturers say that their tiles require no tools to install. That’s mostly true, in that there are no trowels, brooms and brushes as you’d need with an epoxy floor. In practice, you need a cutting tool and a mallet to install poly tile. You can use a utility knife, a tile cutter (with water), a power saw or a table saw. Most people use a rubber mallet to flatten the tile joints. You can also just step on all of the cracks to flatten the tiles.

#7. Polypropylene Tile Installation

Please follow manufacturer’s installation instructions. This article is not about any specific garage floor tile installation method.

Clean the garage floor to your liking. A polypropylene floor will install well so long as the floor is relatively free of debris. It would bother me to install over a dirty floor. But technically, it’s not a problem for these tiles.

Polypropylene garage tiles usually snap together using a hook and loop scheme. Usually the female loops stick out from two sides, and the male pegs stick out from the bottom of two sides. The pegs insert into the loops. You can hit them with a rubber mallet, or step on them, to make them lie flat.

Start the poly tile installation at the front of the garage. Place the male (flat side with pegs underneath) side facing out of the garage door. Angle it so that the other male side is facing to your left. The two female sides would then land facing the back and right side of the garage.

Most polypropylene models include ramps. These are slightly angled plastic pieces. Place the ramps at the front of the garage to smooth out the entrance.

#8. Polypropylene Tile Glue/Adhesive/Tape

You do not need adhesive, glue or tape when installing polypropylene garage tiles.

#9. Polypropylene Tile Weight Capacity

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. That’s if the weight is spread out.

If the weight is concentrated in one spot, poly tiles will yield.

Motorcycle kickstands and car jacks can leave lasting impressions in the plastic ribs.

Manufacturers usually recommend putting plywood under kickstands and floor jacks.

#10. Polypropylene Tile Anti-Fatigue Properties

Being very hard, polypropylene tiles have no anti-fatigue properties. They don’t smush in a bit when you stand on them, so they don’t lessen the pressure on your joints.

#11. Polypropylene Tile Cleanup

Vacuum and mop poly garage tiles. You can use a mild detergent. Some manufacturers suggest using Purple Power or Oil Eater.

#12. Polypropylene Tile Prices

Polypropylene garage tiles cost about $2 to $3 per square foot.

Not buying #2: VCT Interlocking Garage Floor Tiles

I can’t find any manufacturers who will warranty VCT for garage installations. Not Johnsonite, not Tarkett, not Armstrong. If you install VCT in your garage, don’t expect the manufacturer to honor the tile warranty.

12 Things You Should Know About Vinyl Composite Tiles (VCT)

#1. Why Buy VCT?

VCT garage floor tiles are cheap.

Vinyl tiles: not for garage floors

#2. Why Not Buy VCT?

In exchange for the low price, you have a lot more work.

You have to clean the floor, repair cracks, ensure the floor is flat, and then install the tiles.

After installation, you must wax and buff the floor every 6 months to a year.

And don’t spill gasoline on VCT.

Unwaxed VCT is not resistant to much.

Once waxed and buffed, VCT is resistant to chemicals and water.

However gasoline and solvents will ruin the VCT fabric right through the wax.

VCT is resistant to salt.

#3. VCT Material

VCT is a form of plastic.

#4. VCT Warranties

Manufacturers do not warrant VCT for garage floor use.

#5. VCT Noise

VCT is quiet, similar to linoleum.

VCT is very quiet. It has a rubbery give to it. Some vinyl tiles can be a little squeaky.

#6. VCT Installation Tool Requirements

You might need to smooth garage floor rough areas with a concrete grinder. Use a trowel to apply concrete repair mix or concrete topping. Flatten the tile with a vinyl roller.

#7. VCT Installation

VCT will fail if the floor is not perfectly clean and free of oil. Use crack filling compound on cracks, concrete repair mix or crack filler on contraction joints, and concrete topping on pitting. Grind down rough spots with a masonry grinder.

VCT installation starts at the garage door and works backwards. Spread glue within a reachable area, wait for it to dry, and then lay the tile on the glue. Roll the vinyl with a vinyl roller.

#8. VCT Glue/Adhesive/Tape

You’ll need adhesive for non-self-stick VCT. The instructions will tell you what kind of glue to get.

#9. VCT Weight Capacity

Probably owing to the fact that manufacturers don’t warranty VCT in garages, I was unable to find VCT load capacities.

Plenty of people have used VCT in their garage and parked cars on it.

Just imagine parking a car on a vinyl kitchen floor. It’s like that.

#10. VCT Weight Anti-Fatigue Properties

VCT is somewhat softer than plastic tiles but less soft than rubber.

#11. VCT Cleanup

Clean VCT with a broom and then a mop with soapy water. VCT has to be re-waxed and buffed.

#12. VCT Prices

VCT interlocking floor tiles cost $0.66 and $1.05 per square foot.

Organize Bikes and Ladders

Improve the Garage

Reboot My Garage

More Garage Floor