If you’re looking to add a little style and color to your garage, one of the best places to start is with the floor. Standard concrete slab garage floors are functional. But with a little extra effort, they can also be attractive and even comfortable.
There are many options for sprucing up a garage floor, and most homeowners have trouble deciding which way to go. An effective way to start thinking about a new garage floor is to divide the choices into two categories: coatings and coverings. There are four good options to consider.
Coating Options: Paint and Epoxy
One category of floor covering is those that are applied in a thin coat with a roller or brush and adhere directly to the concrete floor slab. Paint and epoxy are the chief options in this category.
Covering Options: Tile and Mats
The other main floor covering category is building materials set on top of the garage floor that can be moved or removed when necessary. There is nothing stopping you from throwing any kind of carpet or other covering on top of your garage floor. But if you want a surface that can stand up to the rigors of routine garage life, a product manufactured specifically for garage floors is necessary. Floor tiles and floor mats are products that fit this description.
Epoxy floor coatings are sometimes regarded as a form of paint, as both are applied with paint rollers and paint brushes. But in reality, the materials are quite different from a chemical and performance standpoint.
Paint hardens through the process of evaporation of its solvent, usually water or an oil-based liquid. True epoxy coatings, on the other hand, harden by means of a chemical reaction between a resin and hardener (catalyst). Before you start on a garage floor epoxy job, you need to decide which style of epoxy is right for you.
Genuine garage floor epoxy creates a durable, long-lasting, attractive coating for the floor. However, this product should not be confused with so-called “epoxy paint,” which is a one-part latex paint product with a small amount of epoxy added to it to improve the hardness of its finish. Epoxy paint is generally not as good as a true epoxy coating in overall performance.
If your garage floor is stained with oil, grease, and rust, you can easily give it new life by applying concrete floor paint. Concrete floor paints can be either latex or oil-based products. And they are formulated with a satin, nonslip finish designed to be durable under hard traffic and to resist damage from solvents, salts, and other caustic materials.
Within the latex floor paints, some include a small amount of epoxy resin, designed to make the finish hard and resistant to stains. Whatever paint you buy, make sure it is listed for use on concrete floors, as these products will outperform standard paint when applied to garage floors.
You can, of course, cover a garage floor with the same resilient vinyl floor tiles used in other living spaces. But for garage use, the more common choice is one of several forms of rigid or semi-rigid plastic, rubber, or wood composite tiles. These products have interlocking edges and form a slightly raised floor with plenty of strength to support vehicles.
Floor tiles are a good choice where a concrete slab is badly stained or cracked in a way that is hard to repair. The tiles will level out some amount of unevenness in the slab.
Here are some tile options:
- Plastic garage floor tiles in varying looks are available, usually made from PVC or polypropylene plastic. Most brands offer a variety of accessories to finish the edges and door thresholds.
- Rubber tiles are similar to the types of interlocking tiles often used in sports facilities, children’s playrooms, and other similar locations. They are resilient and comfortable underfoot, which makes them an excellent choice for homeowners who spend a lot of time in a garage workshop.
- Wood composite tiles, such as DRICore product often used as an underlayment for carpet and other floor coverings, can also serve as flooring for garages. These 2-foot-square panels can support heavy weights, making them suitably strong for garage floors. The tongue-and-groove edges snap together easily, and a transition strip is required at the edges where the flooring meets the garage door.
The easiest method for covering a garage floor is to roll out mats made from rubber or polyvinyl plastic. Like garage floor tiles, mats can be installed over concrete floors that are slightly stained or cracked with no prep work necessary.
Some mats are like rugs, others are textured, and still others resemble padded gym mats. Generally speaking, mats made of easy-to-clean materials with enough thickness to be resilient underfoot will be the best choice for a garage.
Repair and Preparation Concerns
Garage floor coatings and coverings shouldn’t be viewed as a means of putting damaged slabs “out of sight, out of mind.” Unless properly repaired and prepared, a cracked or broken slab will cause problems with most finishes you apply, especially paint and epoxy.
Oil and grease stains on existing concrete will almost always bleed through a floor coating. And no garage floor coating or covering will eliminate moisture problems. Damage, stains, and moisture issues should all be addressed before you install any kind of garage floor coating or covering.
If you are converting your garage into a living space, or even if you just want to make your garage more comfortable, you should consider insulating the concrete slab. The best method for garage floor insulation involves laying sleeper strips and rigid foam insulation over the floor and then covering it with plywood sheets and the flooring of your choice.