Garage floors aren’t intended to win any design awards or beauty contests. They’re designed to do one thing and one thing only: support the weight of your car or cars. Because of their utilitarian nature homeowners tend to look the other way when the garage floor is the recipient of spilled motor oil and gasoline, spilled house paint or gunk transported in on your tires. While the fact that you’ve spilled some motor oil on your garage floor doesn’t call for tears you do need to be mindful that oil and other corrosives can undermine the viability of the concrete itself leading to cracks, groundwater intrusions or worse. In this post we’ll look at how to seal your garage floor to prevent long term damage.
The Importance of Sealing the Garage Floor
When sealing your garage floor it’s crucial that you choose the right type of epoxy sealant and prepare the floor the right way. Some floor preparation mistakes include:
- Leaving motor oil or other grease on the floor to be coated.
- Removing oil and grease with a degreaser but failing to remove all the degreaser.
- Failing to remove previous sealants, curing agents or other treatments.
- Applying the sealant too soon after pouring the floor.
- Applying the sealant to a floor that’s too smooth.
- Applying cheap sealant to the floor.
That last item is important because many home improvement centers these days are selling DIY garage floor sealing kits that include second-rate epoxies that will either not take properly or will wear through in short order. Typically such DIY kits will yield a final coating that’s about 1.5 mils thick when ideally you want the garage floor coating to be a minimum of 3 mils thick and preferably thicker. This heftier quality of finish is only available using professional grade products.
Sealing the Garage Floor: Step by Step
Now that we know what type of epoxy sealant we’re going to use we’ll go through the steps necessary to achieve a lasting result.
- Make sure the surface is ready to take the sealant: Most garage floor sealing jobs fail due to lax surface prep. If it’s a new floor make sure the concrete is thoroughly cured and etched before applying the epoxy. If it’s an older floor make sure all previous sealants are removed, any oil and dirt is thoroughly cleaned and, if the surface is shiny, use a commercially available acid cleaner to give it some texture. This will help the epoxy get a grip.
- Allow the surface to dry completely: Some masonry cleaners will require that you let the surface dry for several days before you apply the epoxy. Others will be good to go the same day. Make sure you read the instructions on whichever product you choose carefully before proceeding.
- Apply 2 Coats of Sealant: Once the surface is properly prepared seal the floor by applying 2 coats of epoxy sealant. Most sealers can be applied using either a roller or brush and some can be sprayed on. Make sure you avoid creating puddles of the sealant on the floor as this can create problems later. Also, make sure you allow the first coat to dry before applying the second coat. At the same time read instructions carefully and don’t allow too much time to pass between coats as this too will have an adverse effect on the finished product.
- Don’t rush the car back into the garage: While different sealers cure at different speeds some will take as much as 5 days before they’re ready to accept traffic. Again read the instructions carefully before rushing the car back into the garage. Driving on the surface prematurely can cause “hot tire pickup”. What’s “hot tire pickup”? When you drive for an extended period or at high speeds your tires can get very warm from the friction involved. When you park these hot tires on a garage floor that has not completely cured the tire will contract as it cools and actually pull up a piece of the new floor seal.
- Practice proper maintenance: Just as with your garage door opener it’s important to practice sound maintenance habits with your garage floor. As such when the sealer begins to look dull or generally worn out you’ll want to apply a maintenance coat to set things right. Before you do make sure you clean the surface thoroughly using a mild soap and water. Also, remember that newly sealed garage floors can be very slippery, especially when wet.
There you have it. The right way to make sure your garage floor stays sealed. The important things to remember are thorough preparation of the surface, keeping an eye on the time between coats and maintaining the seal once it’s in place. Oh yeah, and don’t cheap out on the type of epoxy you use ;)