How To Prep, Seal, and Epoxy Your Garage

When we lived in our old house, I never worried too much about sealing or painting the garage floor. We had a large crack in the concrete floor from the house settling, and I never saw a good reason to try to repair it. When it came to the new house though, I wanted to have the garage floor sealed and painted with epoxy. So, before we moved into the new house, I started researching how this is done. This is what I found. 

Before you seal or epoxy your floor, make sure the garage floor is properly cleaned of debris. Clean rust, mastic, oil, and grease from the floor and allow the floor to completely dry. Determine if the floor needs to be etched for better adhering. Once dry, apply concrete sealer to the floor to reduce concrete dust, potential stains and the sealer will act as a primer for the garage floor epoxy. Once the sealer is dry, roll on floor epoxy with a paint roller. Apply paint chips, if preferred, and allow time to dry. 

Properly Clean and Prep 

While you may be inclined to skip your deep clean, I want to remind you – This first step is extremely important! If you want your epoxy to correctly adhere to the floor, it must be as clean as possible. (For properly cleaning a floor, and suggestions on how to remove stains, check out our article on How to Clean A Garage Floor). You also want to make sure to take the time to remove everything out of the garage, so you have an open floor to work with. If this is not possible, you may want to split the project into two parts and move everything to one side of the garage, as it will take a few days for the epoxy to dry. Once the first section is complete and has had ample time to dry, move everything to the completed side so you can finish the second section.  

How Do I fill Garage Floor Cracks? 

Sometimes after you have moved things, you may notice cracks in your concrete from the house settling. Don’t worry – this isn’t a deal-breaker for applying your epoxy! You will, however, have some extra steps to complete before you get there. First, you need to determine if the sides of the crack are level. If you have an uneven crack, you need to call in a professional to inspect your slab. There may be other larger issues caused by the settling that need to be addressed before the floor is repaired. If the sides of the crack are even, you can continue with the filling process.  

Clean the area by sweeping or vacuuming out the crack in the floor to remove dirt and debris. You will need the crack as clean as possible when using a crack filler. If there is grease, oil or something else that remains in the crack once vacuumed, make sure that it is thoroughly cleaned with soapy water or a power sprayer so that the crack filler can adhere.  

Based on the size of the crack in your garage floor, you will need to choose the filler that will best work for you. If you have hair-line cracks (1/8th inch or narrower), you will need either an epoxy or latex product. For any larger crack in the garage floor, use a mortar mix. Follow the directions on the package for mixing and use a trowel or a putty knife to work the filler into the crack. Allow the filler to dry and grind off any excess.  

If you would like further instructions on how to fill a crack in your garage floor, check out our blog on filling garage floor cracks

Prep Your Floor: Moisture Test 

Next, you should conduct a moisture test. There are several articles explaining this test, but here is a user-friendly way to get it done. Get a piece of plastic sheeting and cut two 2ft x 2ft squares. Put one of the squares in the middle of the garage, and the other in a problem area that you might be having. Tape the square down onto the concrete sealing it from any airflow. Give it 24 hours and see if you have any moisture under the plastic. If there is moisture buildup under the plastic, you will need to add a good vapor barrier to fix the issue before putting down a primer coat onto the garage floor. 

If you do have a problem area, that second piece of plastic sheeting is to see if your garage is sweating and if so, how is it sweating? Click here for our blog on “Why does my garage floor sweat?” 

Do I Need to Etch the Floor Before I Seal My Floor? 

Etching is a step that is needed only if your floors have been previously sealed, to remove any old residue and help the new epoxy adhere to the floor. To determine this, there is a very simple test to perform. Take a glass of water and pour it onto the concrete. If the concrete soaks up the water rather quickly, the garage floor has not been previously sealed. If the water pills up and stays on the surface, the floor has been sealed and you might consider etching the floor to remove the sealant. When you are etching the garage follow the instructions and allow the floor to dry for 24 hours. This is the project that we would suggest you use for this step.

Seal the floor 

Next, you will need to seal your floor. (Be sure to purchase a quality garage floor sealer for this portion. I would suggest ToughCrete Concrete Sealer.) Follow the instructions, but you should be generous with applying the sealant. Just make sure that the sealer is spread evenly and that you give ample time to dry. 

If you are wanting to keep the concrete finish on your floor, you can just seal your garage floor. The sealer will stop stains and debris from penetrating into the concrete and will allow for much easier cleanup. If you are wanting to use epoxy paint, the sealer will act as a good primer and will allow the epoxy to bond to the material. 

Paint the Floor 

When I was researching the project, I noted that there is a big difference between epoxy paint and epoxy coating. For one, paint dries and epoxy cures. Epoxy coating is a two-part solution and epoxy paint is a one-part product. We chose an epoxy paint, as it was more friendly for those of us wanting to DIY our own project. I used EpoxyShield Garage Floor Coating in my garage. 

When painting the floor, check again that the area is clean. Make sure dust is not blowing around and settled onto the floor. Edge the walls first and then use a roller to apply a thin coat to the middle of the garage. Work your way from the back wall towards the garage door. If you are planning to use paint chips on the floor, I would suggest that you paint in 4 ft sections and spread the paint chips evenly. 

Word of advice, if you want to make sure this DIY project looks like an amateur did this, just chuck the paint chips and let them fall where they may. For a professional look take your time and spread the paint chips evenly on the wet paint. Make sure not to spread too close to where you have not painted yet, otherwise, you will get some weird looking edges where you can tell you painted over some of the paint chips that are on the floor. 

Paint chips 

So, some of you may ask, why are there paint chips in garage floor paint? 

Paint chips or flakes are used in floor epoxy for three reasons. The first is that is it decorative and you can customize the look of the garage floor. The second is that it allows for a little more slip resistance because of the texture that the paint flakes provide. Third, with the paint flakes, it makes the epoxy paint on the garage floor thicker, allowing for more wear resistance. 

To best customize your garage floor color, the paint chips/flakes are where you get the most options. The actual garage paint does have some options in coloring, but most of them are blue, grey, or tan colors. Once you know the look you are going for, and have determined your base color, you have more options than you at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and you are wearing your stretchy pants.  

Here is where you can get creative with your garage floor. From what I was able to find there are several different sizes of chips and flakes. The standard sizes are either ½ inch or 1/4 inch. I ended up going with the ½ chips for our garage. The smaller ones were nice too, but it looks like someone peppered the floor. The second thing to determine is if you want a mono- or tri-toned. There are several options for colors and color textures. Third, determine how heavy you want the paint flakes to be on the garage floor. Depending on how light or heavy you spread just make sure you have enough paint chips to complete the project. There are charts available when purchasing the product to help best determine the quantity that you need. 

Depending on the state of your floor, we know that a lot of prep goes into this project. However, the payout is worth it! Your floor can be cleaned more easily when it’s sealed, and it will look fantastic!

Thanks for reading, and as always, be sure to keep it tuned to The Garage Junkie for all of your garage’s FYI and DIY needs!

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