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How to Apply Epoxy Floor Paint to Your Garage

Transform a dull garage floor into a brilliantly colored auto showroom in one long weekend with a durable, professional quality epoxy floor finish.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

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    This is a warm weather project. Air temperature should be between 60 and 90 degrees so the epoxy can cure properly.

Evaluate your garage floor

Epoxy is a tough, long-lasting coating that you paint onto the concrete. It resists grease, oil and many other substances that would ruin ordinary paint. It cleans easily and can be found in a variety of colors (if you look hard enough), so you can keep your garage floor sparkling clean and attractive for years.

However, the reality of this challenging project is, one, not all concrete floors will hold a coating, and two, preparing concrete can be labor intensive and tedious. That said, this story will help you assess your concrete’s condition, show you how to clean and etch it, and demonstrate how to apply an epoxy surface that will handle car traffic, chemicals, oils, salt and scraping better than any other paint or stain.

As with any other paint job, success lies in the prep work. Plan to spend the first day removing oil spots, cleaning/degreasing the floor, etching it with a mild acid, and scrubbing, vacuuming and rinsing (a lot!). Day two is for filling cracks and applying the first coat of epoxy, which is followed by a second coat on day three. This job doesn't require many special tools. But to do the best job (and save your back), we recommend that you rent a walk-behind power floor scrubber (Photo 2) with a stiff brush attachment. Brushes work better than scrubbing pads on concrete, but buy two pads if a brush isn't available. Also, rent a wet vacuum if you don't own or have access to one.

Check for trapped moisture

Check for trapped moisture

Test Your Concrete for Moisture

Lift the corner of a plastic bag that's been taped to the garage floor for 24 hours. If it's dry underneath, you can proceed with an epoxy coating. If you see moisture under the plastic, don't coat the floor with epoxy; water pressure will break the bond.

Analyze the floor and weather

Before you even consider epoxy paint for your floor, test to determine if dampness is coming up through the concrete from the ground. If moisture is evident, your floor isn't suitable for epoxy. Also, forgo the project if a concrete sealer was previously used (you'll know a sealer has been used if water beads up when applied to the surface). If you're dealing with a new slab, you must wait a minimum of 28 days, preferably two months, for the floor to cure and dry thoroughly before applying a garage floor coating. And if you're dealing with a previously painted floor, the best advice is to remove the paint, especially when you're applying a solvent-based epoxy that could soften any that remains.

If your concrete passed these tests, make sure the weekend weather passes too. The temperature of the concrete must be a minimum of 55 degrees F, with an air temperature between 60 and 90 degrees for optimum epoxy curing/drying.

Floor cleaning

To begin, use a flat-edged shovel or scraper to loosen hardened surface debris, then sweep it out with a stiff-bristle garage broom.

Next, mix up a 5-gallon batch of water and concrete cleaner/degreaser according to label directions (found at home centers and hardware stores).

Once spots are cleaned, power-scrub the entire floor (Photo 2). To clean a two-car garage floor, plan on scrubbing for 20 to 30 minutes (keep the floor wet at all times). Make sure you scrub with a stiff-bristle hand brush along the walls and in the corners where the machine cannot reach. Once you're satisfied with dirt removal, vacuum up the cleaner for proper disposal (Photo 3). Don't just wash the product down the drive into the storm sewer. The environmental effects of cleaning products can vary widely. Check the product label or call the manufacturer for the proper waste disposal method. We looked up the Material Safety Data Sheet for the product we used (made by Behr) on the Web site www.msdssearch.com and learned we could pour the waste into the “sanitary sewer” (toilet). Also check the label or call the manufacturer for instructions on safe disposal of all leftover product and containers. When in doubt, call your city or county environmental office.

Etch the concrete with muriatic acid

Before etching concrete with the acid solution (Photo 4), hose down your entire driveway and several feet beyond the sides of the drive. This aids in the final rinse out of the garage so the material will flow more easily down the driveway. Now sprinkle the 10:1 ratio of water to muriatic acid mixture and power-scrub the floor (with a rinsed brush attachment or new pad; Photos 4 and 5).

When you're finished, take your hose and nozzle end and flood the floor with water, spraying the material out of the garage for a good 10 minutes (diluted muriatic acid can be rinsed with large volumes of water into a storm sewer, according to the manufacturer). Rinse off the power scrubber brush/pad, then scrub the wet floor one last time for 5 to 10 minutes.

Finally, rinse out the entire floor and driveway two to three more times. The concrete surface should now feel like fine-grit sandpaper. If not, you need to repeat the acid washing. Finally, to speed the drying process, squeegee out any remaining pooled water, and take a rag and dry any remaining spots, cracks or chipped areas. Leave the garage door open overnight to speed drying.

Caution!

Always add acid to water, not water to acid and wear an organic vapor/acid respirator (Photo 7).

Choosing an epoxy

The final critical decision is what type of epoxy to use. Epoxy floor paints are tough resins that come in two separate parts that you mix together just before you apply them. You can divide them roughly into three types: 100 percent solids, solvent based and water based.

The 100 percent solid type is almost pure epoxy; it doesn't contain solvents that evaporate. These products are expensive and difficult to handle because they harden so rapidly. They're best left to the pros.

The solvent-based epoxies typically contain from 40 to 60 percent solids (epoxy). They penetrate and adhere well and are the choice of most pros. And they're often available in a wide range of colors, which is one reason we chose this type for our demonstration. But they do have some drawbacks. The solvents are powerful and potentially hazardous; you MUST use a respirator (a 3M 5000 series respirator with an organic vapor/acid gas filter, or the equivalent in another brand). The respirator must fit tightly to your face so you don't breathe the fumes. In addition, you must ventilate the garage well and keep other people away from the odors.

Solvent-based epoxies also may be harder to find. Some paint specialty stores may carry them (Sherwin- Williams and ICI Dulux, among others), but otherwise you'll have to go to an industrial supply–type store. Check the Yellow Pages under “Paint, Wholesale & Manufacturers” or “Industrial Equipment & Supplies, ” or look online.

The water-based epoxies also have two parts that you mix just before application. And they also typically contain 40 to 60 percent solids. The benefit of this type of epoxy is that there are no hazardous solvent fumes. And at least one brand, Rust-Oleum's EpoxyShield Garage Floor Coating, is widely available at home centers.

Whether you're working with solvent- or water-based epoxy, we recommend that you apply two coats to get enough build for long-term wear and durability. “Build” refers to the thickness of the dried epoxy film. Typically, an epoxy with a higher solid content will give a higher build. And, in general, prices tend to reflect the amount of epoxy in the mix—the more epoxy, the higher the build and the higher the price.

For a two-car garage (450 sq. ft.), you'll need 2 to 3 gallons per coat (depending on the percent of solids in the epoxy you buy—read the container). Check the cans for coverage to make sure you buy enough.

Caution!

Wear appropriate gloves, eye and lung protection, and rubber boots, according to the product labels. Turn off gas to the water heater or any other appliance located in the garage. And take precautions to keep children and pets away from the garage and driveway.

Patch the cracks

First thing in the morning, after the floor has dried overnight, fill 1/4-in. cracks and larger, plus holes or spalled areas, with an epoxy crack filler, available at home centers. Use a plastic putty knife to scrape the surface level and smooth. Let this dry for four hours (check label directions) before you begin painting your first coat of epoxy.

First coat of epoxy

Mix the correct amount of epoxy (Photo 6) to cover the square footage of your garage floor according to label directions. It's critical that you allow the mixed product to stand undisturbed for the specified time on the label before applying it. You also must apply the entire batch you mixed up before the specified time expires. We used a 40 percent solid, solvent-based epoxy from a local industrial supplier/manufacturer that had to sit for 30 minutes, and the batch had to be used up within 24 hours (and it was offered in almost 20 colors).

While waiting for the crack filler to cure, use a high-quality natural-bristle paint brush and cut in the floor edges (Photo 7). Also, tape the area directly underneath the garage door with masking or duct tape, allowing you to shut the door overnight. This is intended to keep out dust, dirt, pets and children until the floor is dry. And put a “Do Not Enter” sign along with tape across the doorway leading to the garage from the house.

Coating the floor

If you move at a steady pace (Photo 9), you should finish your two-car garage floor in less than one hour. (Remember not to paint yourself into a corner!) The solvent odors are powerful. Be sure to wear a respirator (Photo 7) and keep the garage door open at least an hour after coating.

Tips:

Keep a clean cotton rag handy and some Xylol epoxy thinner (for solvent-based epoxy) to clean up epoxy drips and spills.

Consider adding epoxy paint to the bottom 4 in. of drywall, wood or concrete wall along the floor to protect it when you hose the floor clean in the future.

Second coat

Let the first coat dry overnight, for a minimum of 16 hours (or according to label directions, since epoxy products vary). Add a non-skid product to the epoxy (Photo 10) for the second coat, especially if your vehicles drag snow and moisture into the garage, or you'd feel safer on a less slippery floor. Repeat the “cutting in” and floor painting like the day before (Photos 7 – 9).

Wait another 16 hours (check label directions) after finishing before allowing foot traffic. You can start parking your cars on the floor after approximately three to seven days (depending on the epoxy label directions). A full cure for the floor takes approximately one month.

Tip:

A coat of floor wax applied over the top of a cured epoxy floor will make it easier to clean.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Wheelbarrow
    • Paint roller
    • Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
    • Paintbrush

Power floor scrubber (rental), stiff bristle brush, organic vapor/acid respirator, rubber boots, rubber gloves, safety glasses.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Cleaner/degreaser fluid
    • Muriatic acid
    • Epoxy crack filler
    • Epoxy floor paint

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 16 of 16 comments
Show per page: 20   All

July 18, 1:23 PM [GMT -5]

I did my brand new garage some years ago with a big box purchased single based epoxy seal, got the manufacturer's instruction PDF from their web site and followed it TO THE LETTER. However they "left out" the instruction that the etched, dried concrete floor was supposed to be lightly dampened again before application. That comment was "elsewhere" on their website. I let it cure for 3 days before driving on it, and it immediately came up under my tires. I tried their duct tape test and it all came up on that, too.

I rented a floor sander and sanded it all off with 20 grit. Then I bought a mail order 2 part epoxy from a heavily promoted and advertised web site that is quite a bit pricier. Eight years later it is holding up fine and only worn under the tires from shear friction.

I just checked and the same PDF instructions are still on that website.

May 14, 11:07 AM [GMT -5]

I used the kit from the bigbox store but I must have had some moisture as a few spots flaked up. Any way to redo the areas or redo the entire 2 car garage with a different product?

Thanks

September 07, 10:42 PM [GMT -5]

From my experience, both epoxy paint polyurethane coating
are workable on it as well and easier for DIY.

April 26, 11:35 AM [GMT -5]

So if my Garage floor can not pass the moisture test, is there another way to treat the floor to get the same results??

April 07, 8:16 PM [GMT -5]

Just did my second garage floor, suggest using a primer, i used adpolymers ad polymers it it worked beutifuly. came out perfect.

January 18, 4:14 PM [GMT -5]

srmarksman, I believe the problem you might have had is moisture in the concrete. The concrete acts like a sponge and "absorbs" it. If the garage door doesnt make a really good seal, that would make it more prone to be wet underneath the surface I think you should wait until you have a string of dry days in a row before trying to reapply. You could also apply a moisture absorbing material for a few days before applying again.

January 18, 3:50 PM [GMT -5]

I have a peeling/chipping problem. I did my garage floor a few months after the house was built, using the stuff they sell at Sherwin Williams (to keep the concrete clean, I put a large sheet of plastic on the floor to keep car drippings from hitting the concrete). The following winter, a lot of the coating chipped off, all within a foot of the garage door. The following summer, I cleaned the damaged area and reapplied the remaining epoxy left over from the original job. It chipped off again the following winter. The rest of the floor is holding up fine and looks great. Any suggestions?

January 17, 10:07 PM [GMT -5]

I never would have thought red would look this good on a garage floor but it is perfect!

November 23, 2:22 PM [GMT -5]

I did my own garage floor using adpolymers epoxy garage floor coatings. It looked good just using their AD144 primer. I then opted for their AD707 100% solids. A friend usd their AD707LVP which is easier to use but only 93% solids. Nodifference really, my garage was only 400 sqft so spreading the 3 gals was very easy, had plenty of material. Still nice to have the 1/8" squeegee. with 5 lbs of chips it looked good but I wish I would have gotten 10 lbs. Still looks better than any floor I have seen. The urethane is some pretty serious stuff. Make sure yo go thin with it. I had a little left over in pail like they said I should and it was perfect. I didn't use the non-skid but then again its just me and I know how to walk safely on a little wet floor. Easy to clean and looks awesome! www.adpolymers.com sell everything but I gor the rollers from the hardware store. They cost more there but It was too late, I already planned to get them there and already had the materials. www.adpolymers.com has excellent support. Got Mike's phone and texted and e-mailed him at any time and he asnwered.

October 09, 9:03 AM [GMT -5]

No expert, but if trying and learning from mistakes counts for anything...try the clear coat, add the speckling to the pattern you like, reapply clear coat. Numerous 'experts' have told me you don't have to use clear coat on these floors. In my last job I clear coated and personally think the job looks great AND it has been 3 years and still looking great. I'm doing another garage floor next week and will most definitely be adding the clear coat. Good Luck!

September 26, 8:43 PM [GMT -5]

Any suggestions to above "help" question"...PLEASE

September 26, 5:40 PM [GMT -5]

HELP! I just had our garage floor done by a painter while were we gone for a week...Problem is...The Granuals that came with the kit, that you sprinkle on "were not spread evenly across the floor...I have patches "were she "didn't put any"...My question...Can I somehow "add more granuals....Could I put a "clear topcoat(Epoxy) coating over her finished job, and ADD MORE Granules over it? I know paint has to be WET to apply those additives, but "Job is done now!!"...I could have done a better job spreading them evenly...Someone help me!...

August 17, 2:46 AM [GMT -5]

Doing my basement now. Sanding old paint with belt sander first, then cleaning and etching before applying paint. All old peeling, chipped or loose paint must be removed first. Good luck!

May 23, 9:50 AM [GMT -5]

I'm assuming if my garage floor has a peeling painted finish, it will need to be completely removed. Will the acid etching remove the old paint or do I need tp pressure wash it off?

April 26, 10:17 PM [GMT -5]

Works well to epoxy basement floors!

April 24, 8:10 AM [GMT -5]

This looks really cool.

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