Paint and epoxy
Paint provides the fastest and easiest floor upgrade for a garage. Latex concrete paint often called "porch-and-floor paint" offers a quick, inexpensive, and colorful solution. As long as you don't plan to share your garage shop with a car (hot tires can damage the surface) or otherwise abuse it, concrete paint may be right for you. Depending on brand, a gallon sells for about $30.
Epoxy-based coatings, extremely hard when cured, are among the most durable options. A one-part epoxy can be applied straight from the can, while two-part epoxies (resin and hardener) must be mixed thoroughly before use. A two-car-garage kit (500 sq. ft.) that includes floor cleaner and two-part epoxy and sells for about $120.
Whether you apply paint or epoxy, the floor must be clean, dry, and free of grease and oils, or you may find the coating will peel up with the first change in weather or humidity. Proper adhesion of most epoxy products also requires a thorough process to provide "tooth" for the epoxy to bond to the concrete. A chemical etching is the most common DIY approach.
Professionally applied epoxy coatings may cost in the range of $3.50-$5.00/sq. ft. for a two-car garage. The price is higher because industrial-grade epoxy is 100 percent solids (no fillers and therefore no odor during application) compared with about 20 percent solids for the DIY product. The industrial-quality epoxy wears longer and isn't subject to hot spots (DIY epoxy can bubble up) from hot auto tires.
After a thorough cleaning, professionals will roll on two or three coats, compared with one coat for the DIY products.
Rolled coverings require no adhesives
Rolled coverings for the garage, as shown in the photo, install the same way as indoor vinyl flooring. But because its own weight anchors it in place, you aren't required to adhere the garage vinyl with an adhesive or tape. Rolled material offers some welcome cushioning atop unforgiving concrete floors
In a perfectly rectangular garage with no obstructions, installation doesn't take much longer than the time it takes to roll it out and join seams (an optional step). For a garage with permanent obstacles, like a water heater, floor drain, or preexisting built-in cabinetry, you'll need to trim it to fit. Most homeowners will have the skills to install.
Priced according to thickness, pattern, and size, roll coverings average $1.50-$3.50/sq. ft. Standard widths include 7 1/2', 8', and 9'. Some manufacturers recommend overlapping seams.
Snap together flooring
Offering good cushioning, a variety of styles and surfaces, and a large selection of colors and patterns, these tiles, right, provide the most pattern options.
The tiles come in different types, including solid, perforated, and even drain tiles, and have embossed surface patterns for good traction and durability. The most common tiles measure 12x12" and 24x24", with intermediate sizes also available. So you may need to trim tiles around obstacles. Most systems include beveled attachable outside pieces to improve the transition between tiled and non-tiled areas.
One benefit of tiles that paints and roll materials don't have is breathability. The seam around each tile allows a bit of air circulation, and perforated tiles offer even more air movement--a boon to garage floors prone to dampness.
Because they simply snap together, homeowners can design a three-color pattern and install the tiles with no experience. (Race Deck shows several options at racedeck.com.) When there are a lot of cracks in a concrete floor--too many for epoxy or paint to hide--tiles make great alternatives.
Tiles offer one additional benefit: Should you move to a new home, or simply want to try a new color pattern or tile arrangement, they can be unsnapped and rearranged, or easily removed altogether for installation elsewhere. Expect to pay $2.25-$5.50/sq. ft. for tile materials.
Wood floors are good insulators
Although not pretty, air-gap wooden tiles, right, offer extreme breathability for concrete floors prone to dampness. The oriented strand board (OSB) tiles, measuring 24x24", have patterned plastic undersides that actually lift the tiles off the floor. Not only does the created space allow the most air movement of any flooring option, but minimal amounts of running water can freely flow underneath. This solution is best for a basement shop or garage that doesn't share space with an auto.
You may have to cut tiles to clear obstacles, but the tongue-and-groove edges make for fast installation. If you'll be rolling heavy equipment around, you may want to add some of the edge tiles to the floor to prevent shifting. Shims are available that fit the patterned plastic on the under-side to level the tiles on uneven floors. The tiles are nearly 1" thick so transition and reducing strips (available at home centers) are required on exposed edges.
The tiles come only one way--bare wood--but can be painted if desired. Or, you may choose to use the tiles as a subfloor for another flooring material to be laid on top. You can find the tiles at many national home centers (one brand name is DRIcore; information at dricore.com), where they sell for about $6 each, or about $1.50/sq. ft. Only paint is less expensive.