The Best Epoxy Floor Coating Guide Made Simple
A high-quality epoxy floor coating is an excellent way to upgrade any concrete garage or commercial floor surface. Whether you are a homeowner inspired by a neighbor’s garage, manage commercial properties, or if you merely wish to understand the best garage floor epoxy and how to coat epoxy like a pro – you may want to earnestly compare performances and costs beforehand.
When done correctly, professional epoxy flooring can last a long time. But there is a considerable amount of misleading information and inaccurate recommendations, making it hard to distinguish the best epoxy application methods and quantify differences between store-bought and industrial grade epoxies.
As a long-time professional house painter in Raleigh, NC, we have applied several floor coatings. As a result, we have seen firsthand epoxy floor applications that are durable and others that were not. Continue reading, and we will immerse you into the thought process of a professional painter, enabling you to understand proper epoxy applications and preparations better.
Within this article, we intend to help you avoid premature epoxy failures and wasted money.
Understanding Epoxy Floor Coatings
There are several epoxy resins and products available. To simplify, we divide all epoxy coating into three predominant categories: water-based, solvent-based, and 100% epoxy resins.
The key benefit of a 100% epoxy resin (also known as a high-build epoxy) is once it dries, the thickness of the coating will not reduce as a water-based or inexpensive solvent-based product will.
Notably, a water-based epoxy applies at roughly 6 mils thick and will potentially reduce to a 3 to 4 mil film once dry. Widely, solvent-based epoxies will typically apply heavier and shrink less, potentially drying at an estimated 5 to 8 mil thickness depending on the solids percentage by weight or volume.
Water-based epoxy offers a more straightforward process, primarily due to a slow dry time and higher malleability due to lower viscosity. In addition, homeowners are more likely to purchase water-based epoxy over other options because of ease of use and lower costs.
Chances are, if you are searching for floor coating solutions within a big-box store, expect to find a plethora of water-based epoxy options. However, we highly recommend against residential water-based epoxy floor coating for nearly any application if you seek professional results.
While water-based epoxy offers ease of use, it typically is not fortified for the high abrasion and heat resistance required, particularly for garage floors. However, there are a few select water-based industrial epoxies ideal for durable indoor applications that would be considered an exception.
For the sake of simplicity, we will not go into the specifics of every non-water-based solvent. However, largely non-water-based epoxies utilize xylene as a primary solvent. Therefore, tools and rollers may have to be discarded and cannot be cleaned or reused in most cases.
Considering high-quality solvent-based epoxies is where things may get convoluted and inconsistent in your quest. Not all solvent-based epoxy is alike. Some offer excellent durability, and others do not. Elaborately covering all product details in a way that enables you to discern for yourself would be a long and tedious article, not to mention the necessary applications of what you read.
To confidently weed out the lower performers is where the value of a professional service comes in. To differentiate yourself, you would have to gain a strong sense of application and product knowledge to understand the best epoxy floor coating system for your specific floor and needs. Therefore, getting professional recommendations from a dedicated dealer or experienced epoxy surfacing company with non-conflicting interests is highly recommended.
Sherwin-Williams Pro Industrial Epoxy and Concrete Floor Solutions are two notable mentions that are worth considering for just about any indoor epoxy application.
100% Solids Epoxy resins
A three-step epoxy floor system containing one-hundred-percent solids for its intermediate coat delivers the best floor coating to date, but be advised; this system is not for ambitious beginners. Instead, this style system requires a professional that understands what is needed, precisely knows what has to be done, and can do it very efficiently.
Aside from the difficulty of use mainly due to its rapid dry-time, the three-step 100% solids system is durable and will last a long time if all surfaces are correctly prepared. If you are interested to know the meticulous preparations and steps, details are provided further below.
One-Part Floor Paints vs. Two-Part Epoxy Coatings
Epoxy coatings contain two components consisting of one part epoxy resin and one part polyamine hardener. The two ingredients must be mixed before application.
Polyamine causes a cross-linking reaction resulting in heat. When activated, it accelerates the epoxy resin cure time, resulting in a solid and resistant surface to stains and abrasions. Without it, the epoxy would never cure without a heater or something to increase surface temperature.
Epoxy coatings are very different from concrete floor paint. However, some manufacturers will emulsify small amounts of epoxy with acrylic-based floor paints to improve adhesion and misleadingly brand the paint as one-part epoxy.
In manufacturers’ defense, most consumers use the terminology “paint” interchangeably with “coating” without understanding the difference. Thus, in most instances, the misleading label essentially consists of marketing directly to appease a specific audience (the buyer.)
If you are looking for an epoxy, don’t be suckered into an inferior product because it says it is easy to use or guarantees results.
Application & Preparation Instructions
Now that you understand variations of epoxy better, let’s extrapolate by exploring proper surface preparations that guarantee professional results!
It is pertinent to understand that preparation is the most critical part of any floor coating.
Step 1: Grinding
- Using an angle grinder first, you will need to hand-grind all edges before grinding the center (acid-etching is not recommended.)
- Remove all plastic zip strips from expansion joints. Grind inside each joint along with the nose of the concrete.
- Fill joints with a polyurethane joint filler. Shave them smooth once dry before grinding the floor center.
Crack Filling Tip
Fill large or deep cracks with sand to prevent the filler from seeping through.
- The goal is to get down to clean white concrete that has been etched.
- Using the wrong diamond blades will stall the grinder out and could gouge the concrete.
- Use 40 grit diamond blades for hard concrete (typically newer concrete.)
- You may have to apply water to the floor directly in front of the grinder, keeping the diamond blades cool.
- Hot blades will not grind as well and may just glaze over the floor.
- Low spots on the floor will have to be done by hand using the angle grinder.
- Vacuum the floor clean, leaving no dust behind.
- Use denatured alcohol to clean grease stains that persist.
You do not want unmixed epoxy, so thoroughly mix part A with part B using a mixing paddle attached to a drill.
To reduce air bubbles while mixing, keep the paddle deep into the bucket below the surface of the epoxy.
Step 2: Applying The Primer Coat
- Pour the primer coat out on the floor in 5-inch beads approximately ft apart.
- Spread the primer out evenly using a squeegee.
- Brush edges using a small 2-inch paintbrush.
- Back-roll the primer to provide consistent coverage.
Primer Application Tips
- Wait for 24 hrs before the intermediate coat.
- Spiked shoes are required for application.
- The use of a low viscosity primer will allow the resin to fuse inside the concrete. If the primer is adequately linked to the concrete, the intermediate coat is 90% less likely to peel.
- The primer could seep or run, be careful when painting around the slab nose/ apron.
- Initially, roll perpendicular to the direction squeegeed.
- Consistency is critical, so you may have to roll in multiple directions.
- Air bubbles are normal and are coming from vapor transmission.
Step 3: Applying The Intermediate Coat
- After mixing, pour the intermediate coat out on the floor in 5-inch beads approximately ft apart.
- Spread the epoxy out evenly using a squeegee.
- Brush edges using a small 2-inch paintbrush.
- Back-roll to provide consistent coverage.
- Toss the desired flakes in the air (letting them shower down.)
- Wait for 24 hrs before applying the clear coat.
Flake Application Tips
- The flakes must be applied to the intermediate coat.
- Small tossed amounts should equate to what you can pinch with all fingers.
- Start light and then go heavier if desired to gauge how much you have before running out.
Step 4: Applying The Clear Coat
- After mixing, pour the clear coat out on the floor in 5-inch beads approximately ft apart.
- Spread the sealer out evenly using a squeegee.
- Brush edges using a small 2-inch paintbrush.
- Evenly toss a pinched of aluminum oxide (grit) onto the floor.
- Back-roll to spread the clear coat and texture.
- Wait for 96 hrs before using the surface for vehicle or heavy foot traffic.
- Texture is recommended to resist slippage.
- Apply added texture to areas that are prone to heavy traffic or water.
- One 18″ squeegee.
- One 18-inch Roller.
- One 6-inch Thin Roller.
- One, 2 – 3-inch Paintbrush.
- Up Cutting Saw With a Vacuum.
- The Rack Attack Cart
- 7″-inch Angle Grinder with Dust Port
- Spiked Shoes
- Floor grinder
Not all epoxy coating will apply the same. Therefore, it’s essential to read the complete manufactures instructions before application.