In our recent article on garage flooring options we took a look at the many different flooring choices available, ease of installation and an estimate of price/cost for each type of product. In this helpful guide we take a more in-depth look at one of those most popular options, comparing and reviewing the, often confusing, selection of garage floor paints.
There are many different types of paint found in home improvement stores, and you may have several types on the shelves in your storage room.
In this guide, we’ll help you learn which types of paints work best for garage floors, and which common household paints to avoid. It should be pointed out that, despite what you might think, treating concrete floors is not a straight forward business. Many of the options listed below are best left to a professional installer and you would do well to get some free estimates before embarking on your project.
Not All Paint is Created Equal
Forget about interior latex house paint when it comes to resurfacing a garage floor. Paint that will last for years on walls will not hold up to the abuse a garage floor is subject to; i.e. road salt, oil, gasoline, anti-freeze, high foot traffic and extremes in temperature, not to mention having a car parked on it.
Also give spray paint a pass–the kind that comes in aerosol cans at least—even when formulated for outdoor use and suitable for masonry. Spray paint is the least economical way to paint a large surface area. Spray paints are intended for small objects or limited square footage. Also with a large area to cover, cans are often physically painful to use—nozzle buttons are not designed for the long term comfort of fingers and hands. Spray paints must also be used in well ventilated areas, preferably with fans to dissipate toxic fumes. Eye protection and respirator masks are mandatory during the application process. Spray paints create a fine mist on application which takes time to settle and which will coat everything in the garage unless masked or covered. That includes you—if you insist on using a spray paint, be sure to leave no surface area of your body unprotected.
Masonry paint is a workable option for painting garage floors, but will generally require a primer coat, and a sealer with an additive to make the final surface non-slip. This option is really only viable for low traffic use, if you are using your garage as a laundry or storage space for example.
- The Behr Company offers a full line of Masonry, Stucco and Brick paints as well as water proofing products. For the most part, Behr recommends using these paints on basement or masonry garage walls, rather than floors. For floors Behr recommends its one and two part epoxy garage floor treatments for best results.
- Albany Designer Masonry Paints from Brewers are a popular and highly attractive option available in the U.K.; as is Sandtex with its waterproof masonry paint.
Latex Paint for Garage Floors
There are several brands of latex paints which are specifically designed for painting garage and basement floors. These paints are formulated to wear well in high traffic areas and also dry to a non-slip finish. They are the most inexpensive way to spruce up your garage and will last for at least a decade before needing to be redone, sometimes considerably longer.
Painting a garage floor isn’t as easy as haphazardly slapping down a coating of concrete paint, however. Garage floors must be vacuumed and swept, oil and other stains removed with vigorous scrubbing using a stiff brush and degreaser. Minor cracks must be repaired before the application, and if you’ll be hosing down the finished floor routinely to clean it, or live in a wet climate, the floor should be treated with concrete water proofing. For latex paint to adhere correctly, the surface must be slightly rough, an effect reached by chemical etching or acid washing prior to painting.
Each of these steps require varying amounts of time to dry/cure; for best results don’t try to rush through the process.
Once the floor is clean, dry and the surface etched, the first coat of slightly thinned paint should be applied with a brush. Thinning the paint helps with absorbency; hand painting provides a high quality base coat. Once the first coat is dry (allow 24 hours), a second coat can be applied with a roller. The second coat should be allowed to dry for another 24 hours before walking on it. The paint should be allowed to cure for a week before parking a car on the new surface. Brands to consider include,
- Sure Step Acrylic Anti-Slip Concrete paint, available at The Home Depot, is highly suitable for garage floors, as well as patios and walkways. Quick drying, mold resistant, self-priming (on clean and prepared surfaces), standing water resistant and durable in high traffic areas make this product an excellent choice.
- Drylok also manufactures a latex based garage floor paint which is odorless, moisture resistant, stands up to high traffic, weather and washing and can also be used for outdoor concrete surfaces.
Concrete Garage Floor Stains and Dyes
Concrete stains and concrete dyes are gaining popularity within the decorative garage floor industry. They are an attractive alternative to garage floor tiles, paints and epoxy finishes. They require the same preparation as detailed above for latex garage paint and are usually finished with a sealer. Some formulations include suspended particles to achieve a non-slip surface.
Acid based concrete stains react with the calcium hydroxide found in concrete and penetrate into the flooring surface. These stains have been used for many years to achieve translucent earth tone color effects with one-of-a-kind patterns, colors include brown, green, rose, amber and light blue. The patterning is a natural product of the unevenness of the chemical reaction across the concrete surface. Because they are chemical and solvent based, health precautions must be taken during the application due to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the formula. Examples of acid based stains available on the market include:
Water Based Penetrating concrete stains contain no chemicals and are not reactive with the concrete itself. The stains are a combination of acrylic polymers and pigments which penetrate into the porous surface of the garage floor. The addition of pigments means that these stains are available in a wide variety of colors and can be mixed for custom colors. The stains produce consistent translucent color across the floor surface due to the lack of chemical reactions. The acrylic and pigment stains do not pose health hazards due to the lack of VOCs and are somewhat easier to apply. Some popular brands of penetrating concrete stains are:
Concrete dyes are another choice for achieving colorful translucent effects on garage floors. Not only do they broaden the color palette beyond that of acid based stains, concrete dyes can be used with stains (both chemical and water based penetrating) to enhance color and create a variety of effects. They can be used alone, finished with wax or sealant to prolong the life of the dyed floor. Water based concrete dyes are also a “greener” choice as they contain no VOCs or polymers. Dyes can be mixed in with the concrete before installation or an existing concrete floor will need etching before application. The dyes penetrate the concrete and dry almost instantly resulting in a greatly reduced project completion time-frame. Concrete dyes are also available in water and solvent based formulas. Here are just a few of the many available concrete dye products.
- AmeriPolish – Dye-N-Seal Solvent Based Concrete Dye
- Scofield – Formula One
- H&C Concrete – Acetone Dye Stains
Microtoppings and Polymer Cement Overlays
Microtoppings may be considered an adjunct to concrete dyes and stains which creates a unique finished effect. They are a perfect way to transform concrete that is worn or distressed into near works of art. Microtoppings are polymer based, low odor, low VOC and have a quick application turnaround. They are perfect for high traffic areas and have many indoor and outdoor flooring applications beyond garage floors. Polymer cement overlays are generally used where traditional stains, paints and dyes are not suitable and provide an attractive and durable concrete floor make-over. They are best used where concrete is in distressed and worn condition.
The Best Garage Floor Coating: Epoxy
Most of the garage floor coverings we’ve discussed so far have multiple applications; driveways, poolside walkways, hotel lobbies, meeting rooms, porches and decorative masonry to name just a few.
There is one product available that was specifically developed as a durable and attractive coating for garage floors: Epoxy.
Most people refer to epoxy as “epoxy paint” but in truth, epoxy and paint operate on two different chemical principles. When it comes to the best garage floor treatment for durability, longevity and relative economy, Epoxy wins hands down over all other garage floor coatings.
Epoxy floor treatments are available in one or two part formulas.
One part epoxy coverings are so called because the resin and hardener elements central to the epoxy chemical process have been premixed at point of manufacture rather than during application. One part epoxy is e available in water based and chemical (solvent) based formulas. One part epoxies are noted for their one step application, shorter curing times and low to no fumes.
One part epoxy treatments often include a non-slip finish because epoxy coatings of either type can be slippery when wet. One part epoxy coating is thinner, and therefore not considered as durable or hard as two part epoxy. The preparation of the garage floor is identical to that for latex and masonry paint, stains, and dyes. Popular products include:
Two part epoxy treatments are more labor intensive, but yield the hardest and most durable floor surfaces. They are called two part formulas because the resin and hardener elements are combined just prior to application. The process of applying two part epoxy coat is also more rigorous.
In addition to preparation by cleaning and repairing the garage floor, two part coatings also require etching the surface with a diamond grinder or shotblaster (similar to a sand blaster) Both machines are usually available for rent from tool rental firms or home improvement centers.
Two part epoxy garage floor coverings come in two basic forms: solvent based epoxy formulas and 100% solids based (containing no solvents).
Two part solvent based epoxy floor covering kits can be found at hardware stores, home improvement centers, paint stores and online and are sold as a DIY option. They are thinner than the 100% solids (below), therefore less durable.
Well known brands include:
The two part 100% solid based epoxy garage floor treatments are considered the best epoxy coating available. They are also the most expensive and exacting to apply. Definitely a job for the professionals.
The chemical process involved yields the hardest, thickest and most durable floor finish, and arguably the most attractive. A textured finish (to decrease slipperiness when wet) comes in the form of colored chips included in epoxy kits, applied in the sealing step.
Some popular brands of 100% solid two part treatments include:
A Very Important Note:
Epoxy coating cannot be applied to high moisture surfaces. Most epoxy flooring failures occur because the garage floor was not moisture tested before application. There are two methods:
- Plastic sheet moisture test: a low tech, fairly reliable test performed by duct taping pieces of plastic sheeting or aluminum foil to various spots on the concrete floor. The sheets are inspected every few days; if there is moisture between the concrete and the plastic or foil, the concrete or the ground beneath may be too damp for epoxy to be used.
- More reliable is the calcium-chloride test. Kits may be ordered online and are set up on a prepared garage floor in several spots according to kit instructions. These kits are usually left on the concrete floor for several days, then returned to the manufacturer who runs lab tests for moisture content. A result of more than three pounds of water vapor for 1000 square feet and epoxy should not be used; go with floor mats, stains/dyes, tiles or paint.
There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to choosing the right covering for your garage floor renovation; budget, durability, ease of installation/application are but a few. While painting a garage floor might seem like a cheap option it should be clear from the information here that a really professional look doesn’t come cheap and it may be worth considering the best way to finance your new flooring as well as searching out some competitive quotes. Be diligent in researching the options to make the best choice and your reward will be a garage floor you can be proud of for years to come.
Learn More About Garage Floor Paints and Application
- Decorative Concrete Institute – Great educational site and great overview article concrete staining.
- Gaye Goodman – Gaye Goodman is a Master Concrete Stainer and she trains both professionals and DIY’ers. Just a fantastic site from an industry leader.
- Green Home Guide – An informative article that explains why many garage floor applications should be left to the professionals.