Two types of garage flooring
Your concrete garage floor takes a lot of abuse from
moisture, oil drips, chemical spills and road salt as it
ages. Applying a garage floor coating or covering will
not only improve the way your floor looks but also
protect it against stains and deterioration, make it
easier to clean, and hide cracks and other surface
problems. A lot of different garage flooring options are out there, but
will they actually work and look as good in your garage? The answer
is—it depends. This article will outline the main flooring options and
their pros and cons to help you choose a floor that’s feasible, durable
There are two general types of
garage flooring: coatings and
coverings. If your garage floor is
in good condition, you can pick
either one. But if the floor has lots
of cracks or pockmarks, a covering
is better because it hides damage.
A coating, even a low-sheen version,
has a tendency to highlight
blemishes. Coverings are also
immune to moisture problems that
can make coatings peel.
Garage floor coatings
Coatings include floor paints, epoxy paint, stains
and sealers. Coatings generally cost less than coverings
if you apply them yourself. They protect
against stains, corrosive chemicals (like road salts) and
moisture penetration. But coatings can fail for two reasons:
damp concrete and incomplete floor prep.
Coatings can’t be used where ground moisture rises
through the concrete and keeps it consistently damp.
Moisture prevents the coating from sticking to the concrete,
and the coating soon delaminates, chips and flakes. That’s
why it’s critical to test your concrete slab for moisture before you apply a coating.
The main disadvantage of coatings is that they require
several hours of careful floor prep. Depending on how dirty
or greasy your floor is, this can include intensive cleaning
with a pressure washer using solvents or degreasers to
remove any sealers, grease or previous coatings. You need
to repair cracks, holes and other surface problems and then
finally etch the concrete with muriatic acid to leave it completely
clean and penetrable.
Coatings: Concrete floor paint
Concrete floor paint is just a tougher version of the
paint that goes on walls and is by far the least expensive
coating. You roll it on just like other types of
paint; there are no tricky, unfamiliar steps. It’s also
easy to touch up damaged areas or recoat the floor
completely. Latex floor paint is easier to apply and
clean up than oil-based paint. It dries to a low-sheen
flat finish while oil dries to a high gloss. Oil-based
paints must be used with a primer coat and are generally
more durable than latex. Overall, floor paint
isn’t as tough as other coatings and is especially vulnerable
to road salts and other chemicals. Under
typical conditions, you’ll have to touch up areas
every year or two.
Cost: 15¢ or less per sq. ft. for one coat. Available at
Coatings: Epoxy paint
Most epoxies are two-part formulas that you mix just before
rolling them on (one-part epoxies come premixed). With
proper site preparation and application, this is the toughest
floor you can get (and a glossy, beautiful one at that).
Epoxies can be tricky to work with because the floor prep
is so critical and you have to work fast to apply them before
they harden. Also, you can’t drive on them until they’ve
cured completely, which can take up to a week.
A typical DIY epoxy kit provides enough primer (or sealer)
and epoxy to apply one coat of each to an average one-car
garage. For extra durability, consider applying a second
epoxy coat or a finish coat of urethane sealer. Depending on
the wear your floor gets, you may need to recoat every three
to five years.
Cost: 30¢ to $1.50 per sq. ft. for a single coat of epoxy.
Available at home centers and online dealers.
Coatings: Concrete stain
A stain isn’t really a coating but a
translucent decorative coloring that
soaks into the concrete and creates a
pigmented, marbled appearance that
resembles natural stone. It typically
requires two coats and is applied with
a roller or sprayer and then immediately
worked into the concrete with a
nylon scrubbing brush. The stain itself
doesn’t protect the concrete, so after it
dries, you rinse the surface and then
apply one or two coats of urethane
sealer to protect against moisture,
chemicals and stains (see “urethane
sealer” below). Depending on the traffic
your floor gets, you may need to
wax the sealer annually and touch up
the stain and reseal the floor every two
Cost: 20¢ to 85¢ per sq. ft. for one coat
(not including the price of the urethane
topcoat). Available at home centers and
Coatings: Concrete sealers
Sealers are like floor paint, but
tougher. After paints, they’re the
least expensive coating and they’re
very easy to apply with a brush or
roller. They dry to a clear satin or
semigloss finish depending on the
product, and you can also get them
tinted. There are water-based and
Like floor paint, acrylic/latex sealer
is vulnerable to chemicals and isn’t
as tough as an epoxy, so it’ll benefit
from an annual protective waxing or
reapplication every few years.
Acrylic/latex sealer will stick better
to a concrete floor than urethane
sealer, which is why it’s sometimes
used as a primer for oil-based floor
paint or epoxy.
Cost: 20¢ or less per sq. ft. for one
coat. Available at home centers and online.
Urethane sealer is significantly
tougher than acrylic/latex sealer, but
it doesn’t bond well with bare concrete.
It provides a clear, high-gloss
finish that resists chemicals better
than epoxy alone and is less likely to
yellow in sunlight, which is why it’s
used as a seal coat over epoxy and
concrete stain. However, urethane
sealer is more expensive than acrylic
sealer, and solvent-based versions
require the use of a respirator during
Cost: 25¢ to 50¢ per sq. ft. for one
coat depending on the product.
Available at home centers and
Garage floor coverings
Coverings come in two forms:
interlocking tiles and rollout
mats. The big advantage of
coverings is how fast and easy they are
to use. You can cover the floor of a
three-car garage in a single morning.
And the only prep involved is a good
thorough sweeping or vacuuming. Best
of all, coverings hide cracks and
craters and go right over damp concrete,
so they can make a nasty floor
look better than new. The downside is
that coverings can easily be four or
more times as expensive as coatings.
Coverings: Rigid snap-together tiles
These are made of a stiffer plastic than the flexible tiles shown below.
Because of that, they can handle heavier loads, which is important if you
use floor jacks or kickstands. They also
expand and contract less than the flexible
tiles during extreme weather conditions.
They come in many different colors and
styles, including perforated versions that drain
spills and snowmelt, making mold beneath the
tiles and slippery spots on top less of an issue.
They’re easy to clean and are more chemical
resistant than softer plastic tiles or mats. They
do make a clacking noise when you walk on
them. Like the other coverings,
they’re easy to
install. All you do is
line up the tiles, step on
them and click the male
and female loops together.
Cost: They range from $2.50 to
$4.25 per sq. ft. depending on the
Coverings: Rollout mats
Rollout flooring is a thick, rubbery
mat that comes in a variety of
lengths, widths, colors and patterns.
You can use a single mat
under a car or put several mats
together to cover an entire garage.
The mats are easy to clean and
move. To install them all you do is
sweep the garage floor, unroll the
flooring and butt the edges together
or overlap them and then trim
the mats to fit with a utility knife.
The mats are durable, but like most
coverings, they can be permanently
stained by hot tires and chemicals.
These mats are also slippery
in snowy or icy weather and are
susceptible to being cut or gouged
by motorcycle kickstands, hot
metal shards and gravel. The mats
expand and contract in extreme
climates (up to 2 percent). To
ensure the mats can move during
temperature fluctuations, don’t
tape them to the floor at the edges.
Cost: $2.50 to $4 per sq. ft. depending on the type.
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Coverings: Interlocking flexible tiles
These are typically 12 x 12-in. or 18
x 18-in. flexible plastic tiles that
come in a bunch of cool patterns
and colors that allow you to create
custom designs in your garage. To
install them, you cut the tiles with a
utility knife and then tap or press
the interlocking edges together with
a rubber mallet or wallpaper roller.
They’re more slip resistant than rollout
flooring, and compared with
rigid snap-together tiles, they offer
better resistance to liquid seepage
through the seams and are more
comfortable underfoot. Like rollout
mats, flexible tiles are subject to
staining, but unlike mats, damaged
tiles can be easily replaced. The tiles
do contract and expand in extreme
temperature changes and with exposure
to direct sunlight, so leave
expansion room near walls and
Cost: They range from $2.50 to $5 per sq. ft. depending on the kind.
What about Ordinary Vinyl Tile?
Vinyl composition tile (VCT) is the
stuff commonly used in kitchens,
schools and stores. Although it’s not
recommended by the manufacturer
for use in garages, many people do
use it as a garage flooring material,
and under the right circumstances,
it’s worth considering. For one thing,
it’s cheap. It also comes in a large
variety of colors and patterns, so you
can really use your imagination
when designing your floor.
But when it comes to floor prep
and application, VCT is closer to a
coating than a covering. Once the
concrete is clean and degreased, you
trowel on adhesive and lay the tile
and then wait a week before applying
three or more coats of sealer,
depending on how glossy and
durable you want it to be.
VCT is best suited for temperate
climates or a heated garage because
damp subfloors and temps below
55 degrees F can cause bonding
problems. It’s also slippery when
wet and is susceptible to staining
from salt and other chemicals (but
tiles are inexpensive to
Cost: 29¢ to $4 per sq. ft. depending
on color and type. Widely available
at home centers.