I would need to do a lot of cleaning and fixing for my concrete garage floor to accept paint or epoxy Even then, the epoxy requires expert application to stick. I want to cover my garage floor, but I don’t want all of that work. I could hire a professional to epoxy the floor. Should I do that? What are my floor covering options?
Here’s what’s wrong with epoxy. 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. There’s nothing wrong with epoxy. It’s the process of applying that stops me in my tracks. I would consider hiring a professional to epoxy coat the floor. A professional should have the experience, tools, and materials to get it right. I don’t.
Floor Covering Options
I want to protect my concrete garage floor from salt, water, chemicals and oils. These are my options:
- plastic and PVC interlocking garage tiles
- roll-out flooring
- containment and parking mats
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 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). Roll out flooring can look amazing and defend the floor; it also takes energy and time to install. Containment mats capture snow melt, but don’t use them with studded snow tires. Parking mats shield the floor, but don’t cover the entire surface area.
This article was updated with new information about garage flooring on February 20, 2020
Preparing the Concrete and Applying the Epoxy
For a good epoxy covering, the concrete must be cured, clean, unpolished, unsealed, and patched. There can be few to no chips, spalling, or pitting.
This means you need to repair defects, remove existing coatings, clean the floor, and then acid etch the surface.
You will remove polish and sealant if they’re already applied. You will clean oil stains, paint, wax, dust, and dirt. Then the acid will break down the top layer to expose a more bondable surface.
The epoxy might require that you start with a primer. Applying epoxy primer is a three part job. Lay down water. Spread the primer. Wait for the coat to dry, and spread another layer.
The outdoor temperature must be in the range the epoxy needs to flow and cure. Once you mix the epoxy parts, you must get the epoxy from the bucket to the floor in a short period of time, before the mixture becomes too hard.
But add an anti-slip additive to the mixture before applying. Without it, the epoxy will be slippery, especially when water falls on it.
After it’s down and cured, the epoxy might need two coats of a finisher layer.
Each one of these steps is a point of failure for the epoxy application. The floor wasn’t clean enough. The acid didn’t penetrate to a bondable layer. The temperature was too cold or too warm. The mix hardened before you finished applying the mixture.
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.
How I’m Covering My Garage Floor
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 tiles look amazing. Floor preparation to install them involves a reasonable (not crazy) amount of cleanup.
The PVC tiles don’t have noise issues the way polypropylene tiles do, and they’re durable.
Floor mats are usually made of vinyl or a woven, carpet-like fabric. They cover only part of the garage floor.
Mats need almost no preparation work to install, but they do need cleaning after use.
Containment mats protect the concrete floor from snow and ice, but they’re not super strong.
The next two options are off the list: polypropylene tiles and polypropylene and vinyl composition (VCT) interlocking tiles. Polypropylene tiles make a lot of noise on contact. Manufacturers won’t warranty VCT’s for garage use. Besides, although vinyl tiles look great, they require a ton of preparation and cleaning to install. Then they require a ton more work to maintain.
Garage Floor Mats
Garage floor mats don’t cover the entire garage floor and they’re not there for looks. They hold onto the snow and rain on your car so that it doesn’t fall onto the concrete floor.
Garage floor mats cover only part of the garage floor. They make sense if you’re only concerned about the area under the cars.
During the winter, our cars can get covered in snow and de-icing agents. When we park in the garage, this stuff melts onto the garage floor. That opens possibilities of pitting and spalling.
Garage mats help to prevent concrete floor damage.
I could get a flat garage mat, or a containment mat, with raised sides to contain snow melt.
Garage Floor Containment Mats
We live in a snowy area. We also get rain. I don’t want de-icing salt and water on the concrete floor.
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. But if you don’t clean up before putting the mat down, expect to clean some dirt on the mat’s underside.
The containment mat will work on concrete or a primary floor covering of any kind. It sits on top of epoxy, paint, tile and carpet equally well.
A containment mat is like a kiddie pool for the snow and rain falling off of your car. It has raised sides to hold in the liquid and slush.
When you drive onto the containment mat, the car’s tires drive right over the mat’s front lip. The mat lip is similar to a pool noodle, and it acts like a miniature speed bump. The lip pops back up when once the tire rolls off.
Containment mats don’t cover the entire garage floor. You don’t use them for their good looks.
They hold onto the snow and rain on your car so that they doesn’t fall onto the concrete floor. The containment mat protects the floor from the moisture and salt which are deadly to concrete.
Garage containment mat warranties aren’t spectacular at around 1 year limited.
In general, PVC fabric garage containment mats are resistant to moisture, sun fade and garage chemicals.
Use a containment mat for water management, not for strength and durability.
But be careful. Containment mats are not strong like plastic tiles. In fact, some won’t hold up to studded snow tires.
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.
You do not need any tools to lay out a containment mat.
Containment mats are usually made of PVC fabric. This is the same material as the quiet version of the garage floor interlocking tiles. PVC is slightly softer than plastic, so it absorbs the sound of your shoes as you walk o it.
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.
Put the containment mat on the floor where you park the car in the garage.
Some containment mat owners might find that their mats move a little.
One good solution is double-sided carpet tape around the outside edges. If the floor is very dirty, the tape might not stick.
Containment mats are designed for cars. They will hold at least a snow-covered SUV worth of weight.
Clean the floor before laying out the containment mat if you don’t want the mat bottom to get dirty. You can get away with not cleaning the floor first, if it’s not too dirty.
Containment mats have no cushioning or springs. They don’t have anti-fatigue properties.
Push the snow over the front containment mat lip and into the driveway.
The lip will push downward and out of the way as you sweep over it. The mat edge recovers right away.
Or, if the slush is not too heavy, you can also pick up the mat and unload it outside.
Containment mats cost between $130 and $140, which works out to around $1.15 to $1.40 per square foot.
The Garage Floor Containment Mats We Like
Take a look at our containment mat choices. This link opens in a new window. Click to view Our Favorite Garage Floor Containment Mat.
Garage Floor Parking Mats
You can also get a garage floor parking mat without raised sides to contain the salt and snow.
Garage floor parking mats are made from carpet or plastic. You place the parking mat where you’ll park the car so that it catches slush and dirt.
Parking mats don’t have the lipped edges that containment mats have. The slush absorbs into the carpet or sits on the plastic surface.
Parking mats also protect the floor from tire rubber stains. Containment mats will hold more water than parking mats.
Floor mat warranties run from about 60 days to three years long.
Some garage floor mats are made of heavy duty vinyl. They have plastic sides. Some are polyester carpets. The carpets absorb rather than contain liquids. Look for a PVC waterproof backing. PVC will waterproof the bottom of the mat.
Vinyl mats have a slight fabric noise. Carpet mats are pretty quiet.
You do not need tools to use a garage floor mat. You might sweep or vacuum the floor before using the mat.
You do not need any extra materials to make garage floor mats work well.
Place the mat under where you park the cars in the garage.
In general, you do not need to glue a garage floor parking mat. Some people find a little bit of double-side tape around the mat perimeter keeps the mat in place. Floor mats protect the cement floor underneath them
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.
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.
Some garage floor mats give a little bounce and give.
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.
Floor mats run from between $75 and $200, which averages out to about $1.04 to $1.34 per square foot.
The Garage Floor Mat We Like
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. Two of the most popular plastic tile materials are polypropylene and PVC.
Polypropylene Garage Floor Interlocking 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.
Tiles made from polypropylene have 10 to 20 year warranties. The tiles are not unbreakable, but they’re very strong.
Only part of the bottom part of the tile reaches the floor. The rest is hollow. It’s a slight misnomer, but this is why they’re called “floating” floors. Only the ribs touch the garage floor.
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.
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.
A rubber underlayment will help soften some of the plastic tile’s noise.
Polypropylene Tile Installation
Please follow manufacturer’s installation instructions. This article is not about any specific garage floor tile installation method.
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.
You do not need adhesive, glue or tape when installing polypropylene garage tiles.
Resistance to Elements
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.
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.
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.
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.
Polypropylene Tile Costs
Polypropylene garage tiles cost about $2 to $3 per square foot.
PVC Interlocking Garage Floor Tiles
PVC garage tiles are slightly softer than polypropylene. They are more flexible. They’re quieter when you walk on them, a tiny bit harder to clean, but they’re just as strong as polypropylene tiles.
PVC tile warranties are on the long side at 10 to 25 years long.
PVC tiles sit directly on the garage floor. The entire bottom of the PVC tile sits on the garage floor. PVC garage tiles are thinner than polypropylene tiles. PVC tiles are solid and hollow.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Resistance to the Elements
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.
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.
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.
If really hard surfaces bother your joints, PVC is a better choice than polypropylene. PVC is not an anti-fatigue material, but it is more flexible than polypropylene tiles. PVC is more forgiving and bouncy.
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.
PVC interlocking tile costs between $4.50 and $7.50 per square foot.
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.
VCT garage floor tiles are cheap. In exchange for this low price, you have a lot more work. Before installing VCT (Vinyl Composition Tile), clean the garage floor. Repair any cracks. Don’t install VCT on cracks or floors that are not flat. After installation, wax and buff the floor. Repeat every 6 months to 1 year. And don’t spill gasoline on VCT.
Dealers will sell you VCT. It’s up to you to check on the garage installation warranty.
VCT are solid, thin and flexible. They don’t move around because you glue them to the garage floor.
VCT is very quiet. It has a rubbery give to it. Some vinyl tiles can be a little squeaky.
You’ll need adhesive for non-self-stick VCT. The instructions will tell you what kind of glue to get.
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.
The manufacturer will recommend the appropriate VCT glue.
Resistance to the Elements
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.
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.
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 is somewhat softer than plastic tiles but less soft than rubber.
Clean VCT with a broom and then a mop with soapy water. VCT has to be re-waxed and buffed.
VCT interlocking floor tiles cost between $0.66 and $1.05 per square foot.
Which Floor Covering for My Garage?
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 require way too much preparation and upkeep.
At this point in the research, I see myself getting a PVC interlocking tile floor with two containment mats on top. The PVC tile is the strongest option that doesn’t make a racket when you walk on it.
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.