In decades past, the garage was usually an unfinished mess, with sheetrock seams and no paint or insulation. The modern garage is quite different, and more garages are finished with style now.

Other than finishing and painting the walls and ceiling, a new garage floor coating can make the biggest difference. Not only does a coated floor add style to a normally drab place, but it also protects your garage floor and seals it from spills.

Choosing the right coating can be difficult. There are many different kinds of epoxy coatings and paints that have different advantages. And while most look pretty much the same once applied, they can be far different in terms of performance and longevity. A cheap coating might look great for a few months, but a quality coating can last decades.

An oil garage floor must be cleaned
Spills and stains must be cleaned and the floor etched or grinded

Getting the Prep Right

The first step is the same regardless of which coating you eventually choose. You must properly prep the floors. Garage floors are dirty and frequently have areas with spills from chemicals, oil from cars, or paint from a project.

Garage floors are also sometimes sealed and nearly always have a smooth, polished surface. No matter what, you will need to either etch the concrete, grind it, or both.

If you decide to do no prep, the coating won’t adhere properly no matter which one you choose. This is a huge waste of time and money.

garage floor epoxy paint
Epoxy paint might look good on lightly used surfaces, but don’t hold up under the rigors of a garage floor.

Paint with Epoxy

The first type of epoxy isn’t a true epoxy at all. It’s acrylic paint that’s improved with a small amount of epoxy. There are self-priming and industrial acrylic epoxy paints.

Self-priming acrylic epoxy only requires one coat. It provides bold color and resistance to most stains and heat. Decorations shouldn’t be put in.

Industrial-grade acrylic epoxy can be self-priming but may need more than one coat. This product is also adequately stain- and heat-resistant. Disadvantages are that it takes about a week to fully dry and decorations shouldn’t be added.

While this is a great choice for many surfaces, acrylic epoxy performance is not at the same level as an actual epoxy floor coating. It’s not the right choice for those who use their garage often, and will show wear very quickly. It is also very prone to lifting from hot tires, and chips easily when items are dropped on it.

Expect to need a re-coating within a year or two if you choose epoxy paint for your garage floor.

water based epoxy paint
Water based epoxies are inexpensive and popular, but don’t hold up well to wear and tear

Water-Based Epoxy

This type of epoxy is also very much like paint, and is a popular top-selling “garage floor epoxy coating” at many large hardware and paint stores.

Real epoxies are usually two parts, a resin and a hardener that have to mixed. Water-based epoxy is pre-mixed, making it much easier to work with. This can be an inexpensive DIY job.

It’s easy to apply and you can take your time as it has a longer pot life of two hours. Many of these epoxies are 50% solids, making one cured coat about 3 mils thick.

The disadvantage is that it’s not the best kind of epoxy for heavy duty use. If you spend a lot of time in your garage, this isn’t a great option. The Dry Film Thickness (DFT) isn’t high, so the coat is more susceptible to staining and hot tire pickup than real 100% epoxies.

You’d have to add a new coat every few years. One option to increase the durability is to apply a clear top coat over a water-based epoxy. This doubles the thickness and increases durability. The price is a bit more, but it’s still easy to apply.

garage floor epoxy finishes
Real 2-part epoxies look fantastic and are extremely durable, though very difficult to work with

High Solids Epoxy

A high solids epoxy has a higher thickness than a water-based epoxy. A 100% solids epoxy can have a DFT of 10 mils or more. This makes it a popular choice for businesses such as a mechanic’s shop, or higher end homes.

This commercial-grade product is extremely stain-resistant, can stand hot tires and other abrasions, and is waterproof. All of (or most of) its thickness remains after curing because there is little to no water in the mixture to evaporate.

High solids epoxy can be used as a color primer for a multi-coat system or by itself, although some of them are more transparent. You can also add acrylic paint flakes, quartz, mica, or glitter for style. This epoxy can last up to 20 years even in a highly-used garage.

High solids epoxies are more expensive than water-based epoxies and are more difficult to apply. Clear epoxy is the least costly. It costs more for colors and tints.

Epoxy that’s 100% solids has no water in it, so it’s a thick consistency. The pot life is around 30 to 40 minutes at the most, so it must be applied quickly. And a higher temperature means a shorter pot life because heat speeds up the curing process.

DIY application is possible, but you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for a proper resin floor.

Polyurea garage floor
Polyurea coatings are beautiful, tough, and ready to use in a short period of time

Polyurea Coating

Polyurea is quickly becoming a popular choice for garage floors, and it’s easy to see why. It is easier to work with that 100% epoxy, and cures faster than any other coating. Polyurea also has low VOC’s, making it better for you and the environment.

It can be tinted and color flakes added just like epoxy floors, and cures to a hard yet flexible and beautiful finish. While polyurea is generally the most expensive option, the cost is offset by the reduced labor in working with Polyurea, making it similar in price to 100% solids epoxy or even a little cheaper.

Our favorite feature however is the quick turnaround time. A garage can usually be prepped and finish in two days, with the ability to walk on it within a few hours and park a car on it within a day.

Epoxy coatings and paints sometimes required as much as a week or more before they recommend parking a car, making polyurea a great choice. This is the preferred coating used by SurePro Painting for garage floors, and the only option which comes with our warranty.

Garage floor epoxy coating

Choosing the Best Garage Floor Epoxy

The best garage floor epoxy for you comes down to how much durability you want and your budget. If you need a lasting floor, a high solids epoxy or polyurea coating will do the trick. However, it can be a complicated and expensive DIY project.

Water-based epoxy is a simpler project that costs less. However, it also means more frequent recoats and may actually cost more in the long run (and not look as good.

Epoxy paints are for if you want some strength added to your acrylic paint. But they’re not up to par with high solids epoxy. They will look nice for a short period of time, but show wear very quickly.

If you’re ready to add some durability and style to your garage floor, feel free to contact us at (512) 861-7798 or by email. Or schedule a free estimate today.