Overview

overview of the step by step
Illustration: Gregory Nemec
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Floor Finish Overview

Applying an epoxy coating to a concrete floor is as easy as painting walls, but as with painting, the success is in the prep work. Once the calculations, color choices, and cleaning are taken care of, the actual application will seem like the easiest part.

To bond well, epoxy requires an even, slightly rough, and totally clean surface. That means patching any potholes and cracks and allowing them to cure fully. Concrete must be at least 60 days old and not sealed for the epoxy to adhere. You can tell if your floor already has a sealer if water beads on it or if you get to Step 2 in this process and the etching solution doesn't foam; if that's the case, you'll need to take off the sealer with a chemical stripper or a special machine. (Painted floors can be recoated if there's no peeling.)

Stripping the floor, however, does not clean it. Any grease or dirt will compromise the epoxy adhesion, so cleaning and etching is a step that should not be rushed. Different manufacturers offer different types of cleaners, so check out the ingredients before you choose what type is best for you. Chemical cleaners vary widely, from harsh degreasers and etchers to safer but less effective organics. You can cut down on the elbow grease by renting a machine called a floor maintainer for about $40 a day.

Epoxy coatings typically come in kits with everything you need. Once you choose one, determine if you'll need to order extra supplies. Manufacturers may suggest two coats of the epoxy paint and top coat, but most standard kits only supply enough for one coat. If you choose to add color flakes, which will help hide concrete's inherent imperfections, determine how heavily you'll broadcast them across the floor so you don't come up short. Also, if your garage's foundation rises above grade at the bottom of the walls, you may want to consider coating another few inches up the vertical surfaces to make cleaning the garage easier. Then decide if you want to include an antiskid additive, granules that give the finished floor a sandpaperlike surface. This may be a good option in rainy or ice-prone regions.

Once the floor is clean and ready for its coating, it all comes down to timing. Choose a day to do the work when the concrete won't be damp from rainy weather and when the temperature is between 50 and 80 degrees; otherwise the application can bubble and peel. Then, once you mix the epoxy paint and hardener, you only have about 2 hours to work with it, so you'll need to plan out in advance how best to paint yourself out of the garage, starting in a back corner. The hardest part is waiting: The typical drying time between each step is 12 to 24 hours. And once the whole floor is done, you still have to hold off parking the car on it for another 72 hours.
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    Tools List

    • push broom
      Bristlepush Broom
    • paint pan
      Paint Roller Tray
    • watering can
      Plastic Watering Can
    • floor maintainer
      Electric Floor Maintainer (optional—rents for about $40 a day)
    • roller frames
      Roller Frame with extension handle

    Shopping List

    1. GARAGE-FLOOR EPOXY KIT
    Includes etching solution, colored epoxy paint, and color-fleck additives (which you can order more of if necessary). Measure the square footage of your space, then check the manufacturer's coverage and coating recommendations to see how much you'll need. clear epoxy top coat Comes in a separate kit and includes the antiskid granules.

    2. ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER
    to prepare the floor, for previously painted floors only (in place of the cleaner that comes with the kit).

    3. PLASTIC SHEETING
    to protect the surrounding walls during the cleaning and epoxy application. 4. PAINTER'S TAPE
    to secure the plastic sheeting.

    5. 3/8-INCH-NAP ROLLER COVERS
    to apply both epoxy paint and clear top coat. You'll need three if you plan to do two coats of epoxy and one of clear coat.

    6. 3-INCH POLYESTER PAINTBRUSH
    to cut in at corners, seams, and edges.

    7. PAINT-TRAY LINERS