One of the easiest ways to make your favourite set of wheels look better, is to park it on a bright, shiny, clean garage floor. But before you rush off to your the paint store for a gallon of latex and a roller, there are a few things to consider. Can your floor be painted? What preparation is necessary? What product should you use? Get any of these wrong, and you’ll be disappointed with the results – quickly.
IS YOUR FLOOR UP TO IT?
- Crystals or white powder on the surface are indicators that moisture is migrating up through the concrete. Paint applied to this surface will not adhere. If you are trying to coat a brand new floor or have reason to believe the old one is moist, tape a piece of plastic like a garbage bag to the floor, securing the edges with duct tape. Wait a day – at least 24 hours – and remove the tape and plastic. If there is moisture on the underside of the bag or a dark area on the floor where it was taped – there is moisture in the concrete and you should not paint over it.
- Has it been painted or sealed previously. Test to see if the new paint will adhere by scratching an X into the floor through the paint to the concrete with a utility knife. Apply a piece of duct tape, stand on it to make sure it has fully engaged the floor and then pull it off with one quick motion. If 25% or more of the paint comes off, you’ll have to remove the old paint more completely as described under preparation below.
Just as the pros take a long time and great effort to prepare a car for painting, you should spend a major effort on getting the surface ready. The time and effort spent getting your garage floor ready for coating or covering will determine how well it looks and how long it lasts.
If you plan to beautify an old garage floor, one that has been in use for some time, it is imperative to remove any grease or other droppings from the surface and as much of any previous coating as possible. If you are trying to apply a new coat over a previous paint job, merely sanding or scuffing the surface will not suffice.
- Test for existing paint or sealer – sprinkle a few drops of water on the floor. If they bead, a sealer or paint is likely present and your new paint may not adhere. See tape testing, above
- Remove as much of the old paint as possible. Use a pressure washer to loosen any particles or peeling paint. Next use a scraper and heavy grit sandpaper. Select a couple of points to do the adherence test – especially in the area where the four tires will most often come to rest when the vehicle is parked.
- Look closely for any grease or oil spots. Fresh paint will not adhere to these areas unless they are cleaned diligently. Use a commercial cleaner and degreaser intended for concrete and a scrub brush with stiff bristles and hot water. Scrub and repeat several times, rinsing thoroughly. For especially tough stains, leave the cleaning solution on for several minutes. Wash and rinse thoroughly.
- Repair any damaged areas and cracks the paint will not fill.
- Some older systems suggest acid etching the surface, but this is generally not recommended for safety and environmental reasons, and because of the difficulty ensuring every last bit is removed and/or neutralized.
- Use a squeegee to remove standing water and a fan to help dry the area. Check the instructions on the product being used to see if it can be applied to a damp area or if it must be completely dry.
- If available, use compressed air, a leaf blower or a vacuum reversed to get any dust etc. off when it has dried.
- As a final test wipe your fingers over the prepared surface. If any dust or powder comes off – clean again and repeat until it passes the test
WHAT PRODUCT TO USE
You can apply a coating to your floor or cover it with various materials such as interlocking colored tiles. Before you make a decision on which to go, stop and think about what you’ll be using the area for. Will you be driving on it regularly or using it to store a prized vehicle? Does it have a drain? Do you wash vehicles there? Do you live in a climate where during winter you might be tracking in snow, ice, road salt and other debris?
How you answer the above will determine if you use tiles or paint. Tiles are not moisture tight and any liquid falling on them will get into the cracks and crevices, accumulating over time to create a problem. If, on the other hand, you use the garage for storing a special vehicle or never drive a wet one unto it – tiles can be a pretty impressive finishing touch.
CHOOSING A PAINT
Choosing the right paint for the floor requires research and some thought. Popular concrete coatings often boast they are suitable for garage floor – but rarely are. The most common problem is getting the paint to adhere to the floor and stay there when a vehicle with warm tires is driven over it. Warm tires will commonly stick to the paint and lift it off when the vehicle is moved. Epoxy-based paints are the answer and while considerably more expensive than latex, acrylic, alkyd or polyurethane they are designed to penetrate into properly prepared concrete and resist hot tire pickup. The tougher surface they leave is also more resistant to caustic and other spills.
Some products require a sealer to be applied before the paint, in a two-part process. Make sure to test that the sealer has adhered – using the scrape and tape method – before applying the paint. Sealers cannot be applied over paint or other coatings and some paints cannot be applied over sealers, so be sure to closely read and follow the instructions provided with the product you chose.
Epoxy coatings are two-part and should not be left standing for any period of time after mixing – and should be applied within the recommended time. Color choice can also be critical. If you are a tidy freak, go for a light color – it will reflect more light and provide a brighter space. But if you do a lot of greasy or dirty repair work in the space to be painted, or have a vehicle that leaks, go darker.
A smooth, painted concrete floor will be very slippery when wet, so you might want to consider the use of silica or other traction compound.
Pick a warm and dry day, preferable one when a breeze is blowing. Concrete floors take a long time to warm up so wait until later in the day. Mix paint according to instructions making sure to have the area properly vented. Many of these tougher paints contain some pretty nasty chemicals and vapors so protect your hands and lungs – read warning labels not only for how to apply – but how to dispose of any left over. Wear protective clothing – no shorts or short sleeves – and neoprene rubber gloves and goggles. Depending on the product and available ventilation you might even have to use a respirator! If you are keeping some for touchups make sure the container is sealed tightly.
Test an inconspicuous are first. Use a brush to cut-in the perimeter or around objects. Select a roller with one-half inch or medium nap and a long-handled extension pole. Work in small sections, no more than four feet wide or long at a time, keeping a moist edge to prevent overlapping marks. Start at a corner and work your way out of the garage. If you are using decorative chips or a traction additive sprinkle these on as you go or you’ll have to walk in the wet floor to do so later. It might also be wise to go over the area again once these items have been applied to seal them in.
Obviously you’ll be in a hurry to use the new floor – but invest in a little patience to make sure the paint is dry – double the recommended drying time to be sure – and leave a fan running in the room the entire time to circulate the air and aid in the drying process. For full cure you should wait a week – seven full days – before driving a vehicle on the new surface.