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Selecting concrete coverings

Garage renovations often begin with the goal of improving the appearance of a blah concrete floor. Lucky for you, good products abound at price points to fit most budgets.

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  • Coat it with paint or epoxy

    Latex concrete paint (often sold as porch-and-floor paint) offers an inexpensive, quick, and colorful covering. As long as you don't share your garage shop with a car (hot tires can damage the surface) or otherwise abuse it, concrete paint may fit your budget. A gallon sells for about $21.

    A two-part epoxy (Part A resin and Part B hardener) requires mixing before use. When the two liquids cure, they form an extremely hard and durable coating.

    An inexpensive two-car garage kit sells for about $100 at home centers. These products contain about 35 percent solids; the remaining volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and water evaporate as the epoxy cures. Professionally applied 100 percent solid epoxy (no solvents and therefore no odor during application) runs about $3.50-$5.00/sq. ft. for a two-car garage.

    Whether you apply paint or epoxy, thorough concrete preparation is key. Proper adhesion of most epoxy products requires a process to provide "teeth" for the epoxy to grip the concrete. Chemical etching is the most common DIY approach; many pros prefer to grind the surface.

  • Cover it with flooring

    Interlocking tiles provide numerous pattern options, a wide range of colors, and good cushioning. Tile squares come in different types--solid, perforated, and drain tiles--and their embossed surface patterns provide good traction and durability. Tiles commonly measure 12x12" or 24x24" and most systems include beveled pieces to transition to nontiled areas. This system installs in a matter of hours.

    Sturdy vinyl composition tile (VCT) has more color and pattern options than any other flooring covered here. VCT must be installed with an adhesive, but its extreme durability and low cost make it a contender.

    A new entry in the garage flooring market, self-adhesive vinyl tile, eliminates the messy step of applying an adhesive to the floor.

    Roll material for the garage installs much like indoor vinyl flooring. But because its own weight anchors it in place, you don't need to adhere garage vinyl with adhesives or tape. Roll coverings also offers welcome cushioning atop unforgiving concrete floors.

  • Latex concrete paint:

    $21 for 400 sq. ft.

    Pros:

    - Least expensive solution

    - No seams

    - Easy to clean

    Cons:

    - Least durable

    - Dry and clean concrete a must for good adhesion

    - Requires cleaning of concrete, removal of old paint

    - Won't hide blemishes, divots, or small cracks

  • Water or solvent-based epoxy coating

    $120-$200 for 400 sq. ft. (1 coat)

    Pros:

    - Resistance to thawing salts and chemicals

    - No seams

    - Easy to clean

    Cons:

    - Requires extensive cleaning and etching of concrete before application

    - When applied too thick, product may yellow

    - Two-part versions can be tricky to mix and apply

    - Few color choices

    - Won't hide blemishes, divots, or small cracks

    - Evaporation can cause microporous surface (cavities trap grime)

  • 100 percent solid epoxy coating

    $450-$2,200 for 400 sq. ft. (3 coats)

    Pros:

    - High durability

    - Resistance to thawing salts and chemicals

    - Wide variety of colors

    - No seams

    - Easy to clean

    Cons:

    - Requires extensive cleaning and etching of concrete before application

    - Two-part versions can be tricky to mix and apply

    - Doesn't hide large cracks (unless treated before primer coat)

    - Short "open" (application) time

  • Interlocking tile

    $900-$2,200 for 400 sq. ft.

    Pros:

    - Good cushioning

    - Colors provide design options

    - Good traction

    - Breathable

    - Hides cracks, blemishes

    Cons:

    - Cutting may be necessary for a perfect fit

    - Desired materials/colors may require a special order

    - Seams easy to spot

    - Dust, dirt get trapped in open-pattern tiles

    - Potential to trap water beneath tiles (promotes mildew and mold)

  • Vinyl composition tile (VCT)

    $350 for 400 sq. ft.

    Pros:

    - Extremely durable

    - Some cushioning

    - Wide range of colors and textures

    - Hides cracks, blemishes

    Cons:

    - Required adhesive can be messy

    - Cutting may be necessary for perfect fit

    - Alignment can be difficult for those not familiar with laying tile

    - Lots of joints

  • Self-adhesive vinyl tile

    $1,200 for 400 sq. ft.

    Pros:

    - Some cushioning

    - Good traction

    - Colors provide design options

    - Hides cracks, blemishes

    - Easy to install or remove

    Cons:

    - Cutting may be necessary for perfect fit

    - Lots of joints (reduced when applying 24 x24" tile)

    - Requires transition to floor from exposed edges

  • Roll material

    $600-$1,200 for 400 sq. ft.

    Pros:

    - Good cushioning

    - Good traction

    - Hides cracks, blemishes

    - Widths: 7 1/2-10'

    - Easy to install or remove

    Cons:

    - Large rolls can be unwieldy

    - Cutting necessary for perfect fit

    - Some colors may require special order

  • Epoxy: cutting through the marketing hype

    The words "two-part epoxy" encompass a lot of products for garage floors. And some terminology or marketing mumbo jumbo confuses homeowners. Our best advice: Read product online material safety data sheets (MSDS) and ask questions.

    Aliphatic refers to how the resin and hardener molecules combine to become durable. There are 50 or more chemistries of aliphatic epoxies. Good quality.
    Cycloaliphatic epoxies (often found in the Part B hardener) generally outperform aliphatic in UV stabilization and chemical resistance. Better quality.

    Advanced Hybrid Cycloaliphatic (AHC) combines the best of specialty aliphatics and specialty cycloaliphatics; flexibility increases without compromising the durability of the cured epoxy. Best quality.

    Inexpensive fillers like nonyl phenol can leach out over time. Result: The final cured layer on the floor (thickness expressed in mils) is thinner and more likely to lose flexibility over time, which leads to cracking.

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