Is your garage or basement suitable for epoxy floor coating - paint?
Best Garage epoxy floor paint / coatings and epoxy basics
Your Host and Tour Guide:
Paul Oman, MS, MBA - Progressive Epoxy Polymers, Inc. (floor epoxies, marine epoxies, underwater epoxies, repair epoxies)
Member: NACE (National Assoc. of Corrosion Engineers), SSPC (Soc. of Protective Coatings)
"Professionals helping Professionals since 1994"
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a solvent free, odorless, commercial grade, 100% solids floor epoxy at contractor prices
1 - is your cement floor (garage) suitable for epoxy paint (water issues, oil issues, too smooth cement, ground in 'tire marks, crumbling cement, might be bad news)?
2 - water based floor epoxy (thin, more fool proof, cheaper, maintains most of the cements anti-slip texture) or thicker solvent free floor epoxy (hides many flaws, thick and glossy)? Both are functional but the solvent free Industrial Floor Epoxy will look 'slick' (and slippery) while the water based epoxy will look just like 'paint'.
3 - prime or not to prime??? Prime with either the water based floor epoxy paint or solvent thinned epoxy (can be the industrial floor epoxy or several other epoxies). Prime to get better adhesion if: moisture might be an issue, concrete is dusty and 'weak', concrete is really polished smooth (not much surface profile). LOTS MORE ABOUT PRIMERS.
IMPORTANT: Tire Pickup/Lift on garage floors is almost never a coating issue but a surface prep issue (if you don't get the surface correctly prepared the coatings will not stick well). Sometimes the surface is such that no amount of prep will overcome the problem. Unfortunately, you cannot tell if you've done enough prep until after the fact.
If you sometimes see tiny crystals or white powder on your floor, this is moisture migrating through the concrete, which will often ‘pop off' any kind of coating you apply.
If the floor is painted and the paint is peeling off, most likely any epoxy you apply will also peel off.
If the floor is damp, the air musty, etc. the epoxy floor paints will probably not bond very well.
If your concrete has been treated with some sort of cement sealer (typically a waxy or silicon based sealer) no paint will stick to it.
TEST: put a rubber mat on the floor or tape down a 3 by 3 ft (or so) sheet of plastic). If water collects between it and the floor there is a moisture problem and any floor paint will probably ‘pop off'.
TEST: pour water on the cement. It should soak into the cement in a reasonable time. If it beads up or just sits there for a long time, the concrete has been sealed or is grease or oil contaminated. Could be problems. Badly oil saturated concrete will probably never be successfully covered with any kind of paint or epoxy.
TEST: try painting a test area with ‘regular' oil based enamel. If it stays down for several months, then it is likely an epoxy floor will also bond with satisfactory results.
If the Water Test fails, there might still be a way.... (albeit at more risk of problems)
Alright - after the scare tactics above it's time to get down to business.
Step I - what are you trying to achieve?
reduce moisture or dampness - and maybe future staining?
a cleanable, stain free work surface (functional but not "showroom"?
a "showroom" floor?
If dampness is a possible issue, or concerns about future staining, begin with our Bio Vee Seal internal concrete sealer. Simply wet the floor down with our Bio Vee Seal concrete sealer. This product leaves nothing on the surface of the cement, it works internally inside of the cement. It does seal and waterproof it (but does not fill cracks etc.). Normally you will not even know you have applied the product, but you have 'protected' the surface, making stains, oils, water, etc. less likely to flow into or out of the cement. This is a quick, easy, inexpensive way to 'protect' the cement without closing down any future options (like the other surface coatings mentioned below).. Bio Vee seal is often used by homeowners on new foundations, new driveways and sidewalks, etc. (5 gallons covers about 1000 square feet). Apply with garden sprayer, mop, or roller.
For a functional working floor use our water based floor epoxy. Water based epoxies offer an alternative to 'regular' epoxies: Our Water Bond™ water based epoxy is both a primer and finish coat. (coverage - about 150 squ feet of coverage per 3 quart kit). It comes only in light gray, but this gray does not seem to yellow. Price is the same as the solvent free epoxies, but coverage is double. One coat coverage unless the floor is badly stained in spots or very uneven in color. Can be applied over the Bio Vee Seal. Yes, colored paint chips can be added to the epoxy. There are several ways to do this. Click Here for more info on 'chips'. Water based floor epoxies, being water based, soak into the floor a bit, providing a superior bond and less likelihood of coating failure, thus it can be a good primer coat or a finished topcoat. IF THE EPOXY BEADS UP DURING APPLICATION - YOU'RE IT TROUBLE, THERE IS WAX OR OIL OR SOMETHING ON THE FLOOR AND THE EPOXY WILL NOT STICK. This is a thin enough epoxy that any 'regular' roller can be used.
For a glossy, thick, glazed tile look, you will need to use our solvent free industrial floor epoxy. It can go over a Bio Vee seal and or water based floor epoxy (or over any well adhered floor paint). Decorative chips can be used as well. Click Here for more info on 'chips' Read EPOXY 101 below.
THE EPOXY BEADS UP DURING APPLICATION - YOU'RE IT TROUBLE, THERE IS WAX OR OIL OR SOMETHING ON THE FLOOR AND THE EPOXY WILL NOT STICK. This is a thick floor paint. Order from us, or purchase a lint free short nap epoxy/adhesive roller to apply.
Protect your garage epoxy floor. Epoxies will yellow in direct sunlight (the water based epoxies are not so bad) so to protect them from UV yellowing, keep them shiny, and more scratch resistant, topcoat the epoxy or epoxy chip floor with our two part acrylic polyurethane with UV blockers. One or two coats. This is a high solvent level coating so very smelly. This is an optional step.
We sell epoxy and other coating over the internet at very attractive prices. We are also known to being a leading internet supplier of coating information on the internet. Still, by way of a disclaimer, we do not make preparation specifications, etc.- we only sell products. Suitability of products, suitability of your surfaces, and how you prepare those surfaces are entirely the responsibility of the user/purchaser.
We have provided links to other floor epoxy suppliers and information sources so you can read other people's 'message.' In general, I find they all pretty much follow the same thread, but they only provide their little section of the thread.
We will also skip the issues of how to prep the floor. We and other folks make suggestions at other places. We'll begin with the epoxies.....
1) If moisture in the concrete is a problem (damp/dank smell, white dust/powder forms on the cement, wet cement, no vapor barrier under the cement, etc.) then there are products like our Bio Vee Seal that will help reduce moisture migration in the cement (essentially 'waterproofing' it) by clogging up the pores in the cement just below the surface. These products leave nothing on the surface of the cement, they work completely inside the cement. Moisture movement in the cement can prevent paints and epoxies from bonding or can 'pop off' paints and epoxies that are bonded to the cement. Probably less than 15% of floor coating professionals know about these products to recommend or not recommend their use.
2) an epoxy primer - typically a thin epoxy - usually water based epoxy or a thin solvent thinned epoxy. Garage floor epoxies generally stick well to 'good' cement, but primers tend to 'soak into' the cement a bit and provide even a better bond and thus a lower chance of problems. Most commercial epoxy applicators and commercial epoxy 'kits' use a primer, even though most commercial applicator also 'shot blast' the cement (something outside the options available to most home owners) to rough it up a bit which gives better adhesion. Many homeowner systems skip the primer and cannot do the degree of surface preparation used in commercial environments. That said, we have not had many problems with residential garages where no primer was used. Note that our water based floor epoxy can be used as a primer or as a stand alone floor coating. Other primer options are 1 coat of our low v clear epoxy thinned about 15 percent with solvent, or a solvent thinned first coat of our solvent free floor epoxy applied VERY thin.. Primer can also help reduce air bubbles that can come out of the cement and get trapped in the epoxy (more of an issue if the cement is in direct sunlight, temperatures are rising, and/or the cement is very porous. To prime or not to prime - your option.
3) epoxy main coat - typically one (sometimes two) coats of either a solvent free floor epoxy (industrial floor epoxy) or a coat of a water based floor epoxy (our Water Bond™ - used without/as a primer too).
4) main coat options - colored chips, anti slip grits, etc. may be added to the main epoxy coat or to a second main epoxy coat of a clear epoxy (usually a clear epoxy like our Low V Floor™ epoxy). If chips, sands etc. are used they are often covered with another coat of epoxy (thus 1, 2, or 3 coats of epoxy is applied)
5) most commercial systems use a polyurethane (clear or colored) on top of the floor systems because the epoxies will yellow in sunlight, lose their gloss quickly, and can scratch easily.. The better systems offer a poly topcoat, the more basic systems don't. There are lots of clear coats. Best is a 2 part polyurethane. Better still, a 2 part polyurethane with lots of UV blockers (like our acrylic poly UV plus™). Note that these solvent based clear coats are very thin, so you might want to apply 2 coats.
SO..... one coat of epoxy and be done with it, OR up to a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 coat system..... pre-primer, primer, base coat of epoxy, clear epoxy with chips etc.,. more clear epoxy on top of that, then two coats of 2 part poly (clear or pigmented). Lots of homeowners do a one coat system (few professionals do). I don't think anyone does the full 7 coat system. Most floor epoxy vendors simply pick some system they are comfortable with, select from the different products available for that particular system, and then slickly market it to you (often at a high price).
We (Progressive Epoxy Polymers - www.epoxyproducts.com) have tried to explain the entire range of options that you have and offer you all the products for whatever 'system' you decide upon at a very affordable price (about 75 cents per square foot for a 1 coat system and about $5 per square foot for a 7 coat system). Just note that the decisions are all in your hands.
We have lots of Intro to Floor Epoxy Paints and Options (expanded from the text above) - CLICK HERE to go to www.epoxyproducts.com/floorcoatings.html .
For anti-slip add a pint of our walnut shell anti-slip per gallon of epoxy. Keep the epoxy mixed so the walnut powder stays suspended in the epoxy. If using sand instead, don't mix the sand into the epoxy. Instead, sprinkle it on the just applied epoxy and then go back over it with the paint roller to even and coat the sand grains. Note you may find the walnut shell grits too fine to really add enough roughness if mixed into the epoxy.
Apply with a lint free epoxy/adhesive paint roller (available at most paint store departments). Some applicators will spread the epoxy with a squeegee first and then use the roller to ‘even things out'. Pour the mixed epoxy out on the floor - you can skip the roller pan this way.
Perhaps the next best approach is detergent, degreasers, high pressure water, and lots of scrubbing. Followed by lots of sweeping and/or air pressure when the concrete is dry to remove all the dust and dirt on the surface (visit our surface preparation page). Experts tell me that when degreasing oil spots you need to degrease with hot water not just once (even if it looks clean) but 3 or 4 times. When done, water should not bead up on the affected area. We think an application of our Bio Vee seal (mentioned above) will help keep the oil/grease from re-migrating from deep in the cement back to the surface, bet this is only speculation on our part. Some of our water based floor epoxy MIGHT work the same way over the former stain - and if it beads up you know you're not 'clean' yet.
Sometimes one gets bubbles that form and harden in the floor epoxy. This is due to air coming out of the cement as the floor epoxy begins to harden. There are several causes: 1) as the cement warms during the day the trapped air expands coming to the surface (so best to coat when the slab is cooling, not warming up); 2) air trapped under the just applied epoxy.
Outgassing happens a lot in commercial applications. Usually in residential situations the cement is 'smooth finished' which seems to result in a tighter surface and little or no outgassing in garage and basement cement surfaces. However not everyone gets a smooth finish. The rougher and more open cement is much more likely to outgas.
The Fix: generally the fix is a thin solvent based or water based epoxy primer (or the regular floor epoxy solvent thinned and used as a primer). We recommend our Water Bond™ water based epoxy (which can be used - and often is used as a stand alone floor coating) or a solvent thinned coat of our Low V epoxy or a solvent thinned coat of our regular industrial floor epoxy as primer type coating to reduce or prevent outgassing on 'open' cement. Apply the primer then topcoat with our solvent free floor epoxies within 24 hours if possible.
Note: new cement floors have a weak crust of dirt, sand grains and 'crude' that floated to the top of the surface during the cement pour. This weak crust must be removed by stiff sweeping or waterblasting to get down to the 'real' cement.
It is not likely the homeowner can hire a commercial shot blast (blast-trac (tm)) contractor to help prepare the surface. That means the homeowner needs to decide how much surface preparation is needed to get a good bond. Guess wrong and the coating could fail in a few months (or days). You probably will not know if you put in enough effort until after the fact. That said, most people don't have a problem, even with minimal surface preparation.
Some people like to acid treat (acid etch) the garage floor. Generally not officially approved by paint manufactures, it is still popular with many floor coating applicators and 'do it yourselfers. The acid etches the concrete opening up the surface pores. Problems include disposing of the spent acid and making sure the acid is completely neutralized and removed for the concrete.
IMPORTANT NOTE: CEMENT CONTAINS A LOT OF AIR. IF YOU APPLY A THICK SOLVENT FREE EPOXY PAINT OVER CEMENT IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT THE CEMENT - WARMED BY THE SUNLIGHT AND THE 'EXOTHERM' KICK OF THE EPOXY WILL OUTGAS (EXPEL THE WARM AIR) CREATING BUBBLES, AND CRATERS IN THE HARDENING EPOXY. BEST WAY AROUND THIS IS TO NOT APPLY IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT, SECONDLY WHEN TEMPERATURES ARE FALLING NOT HEATING UP (IF POSSIBLE).
Brent L in an email wrote:
> A few weeks ago I ordered epoxy, color chips and UV
> Poly top coat for my garage (1700sqft). You may or may
> not remember an order of 15gal of epoxy to Bismarck,
> North Dakota....
> Anyway, I have half the floor done (half because
> of moving everything in my garage from one side
> to the other) and the floor looks awesome. People
> that have seen it are astounded, they've never
> seen anything like it because no one around here
> supplies industrial epoxy.
> In high school (Calgary, Alberta) I used to work for
> a company that specialized in epoxy patching of
> concrete, so I am somewhat familiar with epoxies.
> I spent many months researching on the Internet what
> products are available and their cost. The product
> you have supplied is top notch and I have passed on
> your name to anyone that is interested.
> Also, today my garage furnace stopped working so
> I put in a service call and the fellow had to reset
> my draft interlock. Seems that having the garage door
> open and the furnace running to help cure and air-out
> my floor reversed the flow in the flu. Anyway, the
> service guy was so impressed with my floor he wants
> to try to convince his boss to do their shop floor.
> If you hear from Advanced Mechanical in Bismarck,
> it came from me.
> I can barely wait until we do our daughter's graduation
> party in our garage next month!
Thanks for the delightful email! It really made our day here. There are lots of places in the process
that a first time user can mess up and we hear about all of them!
Visit our massive FLOOR LINKS page - CLICK HERE (epoxy floor links) .
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DID YOU KNOW...
Epoxy coatings are used because of their
outstanding chemical resistance, durability, low porosity and strong bond
Epoxies consist of a ‘base' and a ‘curing' agent. The two components are mixed in a certain ratio. A chemical
reaction occurs between the two parts generating heat (exotherm) and hardening the mixture into an inert, hard
Epoxies yellow, chalk (or more commonly least lose their gloss), in direct sunlight (UV). The yellowing can be a real problem. For pigmented epoxies select colors that are dark or contain a lot of yellow (such as green). Even clear epoxies will yellow and cloud up. Often epoxies are top coated with latex or urethanes that will retain their color and attractive gloss. This is particularly true if color coding or matching company colors is important.
Epoxies will harden in minutes or hours, but complete cure (hardening) will generally take several days. Most epoxies will be suitably hard within a day or so, but may require more time to harden before the coating can be sanded.
By their nature, epoxies are hard and brittle. Additives can be added to epoxies that make them less brittle, but generally at the loss or reduction of other positive epoxy properties such as chemical resistance.
Other clues of cheap epoxies include ‘induction time' (after mixing the two components the mixture must sit for several minutes to ‘self cook' before being applied).
The best time to recoat epoxy is within about 48 hours after the initial coat. Because epoxies take days to reach full cure, a second coat applied shortly after the first coat will partially fuse to the first coat rather than forming a simple mechanical bond.
End users can thicken epoxy with many things, Tiny glass spheres, known as micro-spheres or micro-balloons are commonly used. Besides thickening, their crushable nature makes sanding the hardened epoxy easier. On the downside, they work like tiny ball bearings, resulting is sagging and slumping. Another thickener is fumed silica (a common brand name is Cabosil (tm)) which looks like fake snow. About 2 parts fumed silica with one part epoxy will produce a mixture similar in texture and thickness to petroleum jelly. Micro-spheres and fumed silica can be combined together.
Fisheyes are areas on a painted surface where the coating literally pulls away for the substrate leaving a coatingless void or fisheye. Often fisheyes are caused by surface contaminants such as a bit of silicon, wax, or oil. I have also seen them on clean plywood where epoxies paints have been used as sealers and the problem might be due to uneven saturation (soaking-in) of the epoxy into the wood. Surface tension plays a big part in fisheyeing. There are some additives that can be mixed into the epoxy that will reduce surface tension. Likewise, on wood, applying several coats of solvent thinned epoxy, instead of one coat of unthinned epoxy, seems to work well. Applying a thick coat of epoxy over a contaminated fisheye surface will bury the fisheye but expect the coating to peel away in the future. As a rule of thumb, always suspect some sort of surface contamination as the primary cause of fisheyeing.
Adding a bit of solvent to a solvent based or solvent-free epoxy is something that most manufacturers would not officially approve of and something that might not work with all epoxies. However, it can be done (unofficially) with the epoxies I deal with. Adding solvent to these epoxies will: 1) thin them out; 2) increase pot life; 3) allows them to flow off the brush/roller a bit more smoothly; and 4) perhaps allows them to ‘soak-in', penetrate, or may be soften, the substrate just a little bit. Not change is visible in the epoxy unless 12% or greater solvent is added. With that amount of solvent, the epoxies no longer cure with a glossy finish.
It is best to use epoxies with a mix ratio close to 1 to 1 as opposed to something 4-1, 5-1, etc. because errors in the mix ratios can be more pronounced with the latter. That said, no matter what the mix ratio is, some epoxies are more forgiving of mix ratio errors than others. One ‘trick' of epoxy vendors with odd or very sensitive mix ratios is to sell calibrated pumps that disperse the epoxy components in exact amounts.
How Thick? How thick should your coating be? Economics play a major role in determining how much coating to apply. One U.S. gallon contains 231 cubic inches. That's only 1.6 cubic square feet of surface at one inch thick and that's also assuming a solvent-free product. If the product is 25% VOC (i.e. 25% solvent) then dry thickness/coverage will be 25% less. Again, assuming a 1/4 inch thick coating (250 mils) maximum coverage will still be only 6.4 square feet per gallon. A solvent-free (100% solids) epoxy coating applied at 16 mils will cover 100 square feet per gallon (note: the wall paint in your office is probably 2-4 mils). While thick coatings sound like a good idea, they use so much product that they must be made very cheaply so that coating 1,000 or 10,000 square feet can still be done at a competitive price. A high quality, fairly expensive product with a coverage rate of 100 sq. feet or more per gallon, on the other hand, will have a low enough cost per sq. foot to provide both economy and top quality.