Flooring: Finish a Garage Floor – On the House

Flooring: Finish a Garage Floor

By on June 22, 2015

It all began with Henry Ford and the Model T. Ford said, “We need a place to park these things.” Thus, the garage, as we know it, was born. Before that, all we had was a barn. What started as a simple shed to protect our horseless carriage has become the latest must-have extension for today’s with-it, up-to-the-minute home. And we do mean “extension.” While one-car garages now are somewhat rare, and two-car garages are the norm, three-car models are coming on strong. One out of every five new homes now has triple space. Will we stop there? Apparently not. Also on the increase are four-, five- and even six-car “Garage Mahals.” These new attached parking structures are also filled with toys (boats, jet skies and ATVs), equipment, including riding mowers and snow-blowers, many tools and a complete catalog-quality workshop.

And just as garage size is on the rise, so too is appearance. Keep in mind that more people look into your garage than any other room in your home. Thus, old-style wooden work benches, make-shift shelving and stud clad interiors have given way to fully finished walls and ceilings (including paint), clutter-concealing stylish floor-to-ceiling modular storage systems and sleek multi-task work surfaces used for everything from sweating copper to daily computing. And although wall to wall carpet has yet to make its way into most garages, a raw concrete floor is quickly becoming a thing of the past. In fact, among all garage improvements, a finished floor kills two birds with one stone by both improving appearance and preserving the integrity of the concrete. It also prevents one’s garage from looking like an Indy 500 pit stop by making drips and spills easy to clean up. And in snow country a floor finish prevents concrete deterioration from salt and other chemicals used to melt snow.

Paint is an affordable and useful means of finishing a garage floor. There are three basic types of paint for concrete: latex, oil and epoxy resin. Of the three, latex is by far the most widely used. It has excellent adhesion properties, allows water vapor to escape (prohibiting delamination), and is the most user-friendly to apply since it cleans up with water. Most latex concrete floor paints are designed to be applied directly to raw concrete. The first coat serves as a primer, while a second coat offers a full, uniform finish.

Oil-base paints offer a harder, shinier finish. Unlike latex, oil-base porch paint should be applied over a coat of oil-base concrete or masonry filler-primer. Application is similar to latex, but mineral spirits are used for cleanup. Thin the primer slightly using mineral spirits. This will enhance the penetration and improve the bond. Once dry, the finish coat can be applied.

Epoxy or epoxy/polyurethane paints are the most durable and longest lasting. They are pricier and substantially more difficult to apply. Epoxy paints generally consist of two separate products which, when combined, create a chemical reaction that results in an above-average bond and an abrasion-resistant finish. Epoxy floor finishes are available in a host of solid colors or randomly seeded decorative variegated color chips and can include an integral non skid finish.

Unfortunately, no matter the quality of the paint, how good the surface preparation or how well the paint was applied, latex and oil paints will usually peel when subjected to hot automobile tires. And although epoxy paint forms a bond with concrete, a moist slab and hot tires can be a lethal combination.
Vinyl mats and epoxy and plastic floor tiles have made their way onto the scene and are receiving huge kudos for their ability to provide all of the benefits of a painted floor with none of the drawbacks – save that they can be pricier and, depending upon your skill level, may require professional installation.

A vinyl floor mat is hard to beat when it comes to price and ease of installation. Grease stains and cracks on a garage floor can be made to disappear in about 30 seconds with a vinyl floor mat. The mat does onto require adhesive and is just rolled out into the space. Vinyl mats come is a host of sizes and colors and can be cut to fit or overlapped depending upon the size of the garage. Some mats are designed with an integral grooved surface that will easily shed water.

If you want to be the envy of your neighborhood and have the budget to back it up then you may want to consider modular plastic interlocking floor tile or a quartz-based floor tile. Both can be installed by the do-it-yourselfer, although the modular plastic system is less complex.

The modular plastic flooring system consists of individual tiles that snap together to cover all or part of a garage floor. Though moisture can weep between the individual tiles, the system “floats” atop the concrete floor and the underside of the tiles have a honeycomb construction so as not to inhibit the natural fall built into most garage floors. The plastic system is sturdy, impact and stain resistant and is available in a host of colors.

Want a bit of European influence in your garage? Have you considered tile? You can be a real trend setter by ending up with a garage floor that is better looking than the floor in most houses by installing a new quartz-based garage floor tile. These systems claim to offer the same chemical, impact and stain resistance as roll on or towel on polymer floorings, but are significantly less likely to experience blistering that results from hydrostatic pressure. As is the case with other types of tile, quartz-based garage tile are individually set in thinset mortar and the joints are finished with a trowel applied grout. However, like the floor tile, the grout consists of a porous, quartz-based material that allows moisture to escape — and keeps a secure bond. Each 12 by 12 tile has a cushion back (for impact-resistance) and a tough skid-resistant surface for low maintenance and durability. If you want to be a trend setter and have the budget to back it up this floor is for you.

More information on garage floor finishes can be found at the following websites:


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