When people think of renovating a garage space, it can seem like a very daunting process to take on; If you’ve chosen a DIY solution to save money, it can be even more intimidating. At Garage Flooring LLC, we know the best way to begin the process is just taking it one step at a time. Once you’ve started the process by doing your research and looking up all your different flooring choices, budgeted and priced out how much it will all be, planned the layout of your garage’s design and gathered your materials – getting your installation started is next. What you need to do to get started depends, of course, on which kind of flooring you’ll be installing.
We’re focusing on the beginning phases of applying garage floor coatings specifically. The beginning of this process deserves its own entire article because if you make a mistake in the prep process for garage floor coatings, it could mean needing to do the process all over again and paying for expensive repairs. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to begin the process of installing your new garage coating.
Test the Floors
Garage floor coatings only work if they can bind to the concrete. If the concrete is contaminated with oil, grease, wax, silicone, concrete additives like curing compounds, bond-breaking agents, chemical hardeners, previously applied sealers, old paint, or if the concrete has a moisture problem, the coating you plan on adding won’t stick. This is why you need to first test the floors to find out what state they’re in if coatings will even be able to stick to the floors as they are and if not, what type of prep you will need to do.
Test for previously existing sealers, curing compounds, grease, oil and other materials. If these are present, they would make the floor too dense for a primer to penetrate. Using water is effective at testing for these. If water beads up on the surface, that means it is sealed. If this occurs, you know you will need to take steps to remove previously existing materials.
You’ll also need to test for any moisture that might be present. If a surface is coated while there is moisture locked into the concrete, it has nowhere to go and will result in bubbling and warping which will compromise the bonding and cause the entire project to fail. Locking in that moisture also ensures the growth of mold underfoot. There are a number of ways to test for moisture – you can use a calcium chloride kit, a relative humidity meter, or, you can do a DIY test with supplies at home involving duct tape and clear plastic sheeting. You would cut the clear plastic sheeting, tape the plastic to the concrete using duct tape firmly, wait 48 hours and then check the plastic to see if there is any moisture beading up on the inside.
Prepare the Garage Floor Surface
The next step after testing is removing any contaminants thoroughly from the garage floor surface. This is key to ensuring that your coating application doesn’t fail. Making sure this step is done correctly will allow the coating to penetrate the concrete and bind to the surface properly.
Now the question is how to prepare the surface? The majority of surfaces will need either mechanical grinding or acid etching. Mechanical grinding blasts through contaminants in the concrete’s surface like concrete additives, any traces of previous sealers, etc.
With acid etch, a.k.a. Muriatic acid/hydrochloric acid that is meant to abrade the surface, you mix the acid in a 3 or 4:1 ratio with water in a plastic bucket (not metal, as it will corrode) – be sure to add acid to water and not the other way around, as splashing can cause serious injuries. You’ll need to wear protective gear like gloves, long sleeves, goggles, a face mask, etc. Be sure that if there is any oil/grease present in the floor prior to etching, you use a degreaser to remove it; remove obstructions and clean the floor thoroughly. When applying the acid, be sure to use a watering can or sprayer to evenly distribute it onto the floor. You must allow the acid to react with the floor for 2-15 minutes. You’ll know its working if it opens porous holes in the concrete, evenly across the whole space. The next step is neutralization to stop the reaction, and then rinsing the floor.
There is an easier option for people who will be applying polyurea or high solids epoxy kits. Eco-etch is a safer, simpler acid solution that doesn’t corrode metal and is less dangerous to work with. It is an alternative to the regular muriatic acid. The added perk is less work – this product also lightly cleans the floors as it etches. For 100% solids, grinding is recommended.
After this step, the rest of the process, whether it’s applying your sealant or epoxy, is ready to be carried out.