Fixing Our Uneven Garage Floor

After we had converted the garage back into a two car garage we started noticing the floor issues. In the winter when snow was coming into the garage from our vehicles it would melt and create large puddles on the floor. This is why garage floors are pitched toward the door in our climate (you just have to be careful of freezing your door shut). The side that I park on had a huge 1” deep dip right where I step out of the car and the side that Flannel Man parks on the water runs toward the exterior wall. The wood paneling on that wall was all curled up and the wood sill was rotting. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if it was only a garage wall but this wall supports our dining room above.

First we scraped the linoleum off the floor that the previous owner had glued down when he converted it to shop. It was an ugly yellow color and the edges were curled up. Can someone say tripping hazard? We bought a razor edged floor scrapper and went to town. For owners who were known to do everything half ass they sure did put down a lot of glue! It took days to scrap all of the linoleum off and even then there were still white spots of it and the glue everywhere.

Before:

During:

We also had a bench that ran along the whole wall and some shelving from the previous owner to demo.

After:


Upon further inspection the entire floor was wavy with the largest dip being in the storage area which luckily was away from our wet vehicles. The original owners/contractor must have hired a cheap concrete company because it is one of the poorest concrete jobs I’ve ever seen! We knew we needed to do something to fix the floor but what? There were only two options (1) grind the floor down or (2) add a product to level the floor. Self leveling concrete would have been great but it’s not recommended to drive on and with all the thin edges it would be bound to crack and chip. Next we looked at pour down epoxy but from what we read they would be very difficult to put on ourselves and it’s hard to come by the materials. I called around and couldn’t find a company that would do our garage because it was too small of a job. Ugh. The last product we looked at was Nature Stone which is basically pebbles covered in a clear resign. They would be able to level the floor we walk on but it isn’t waterproof so the water running towards the wall would still be an issue. Plus, the product is significantly tall so they taper the product near doorways and raise the door slightly so it can swing open. Well with our short ceiling height the exterior door can’t be moved and right now it actually hits the bottom of the garage door track. Then when we saw the price tag of $6K we ruled that one out. Plus the problem with all of these leveling products is that they do just that they level the floor. What we really needed was the floor to be pitched toward the garage doors.

So we figured our only other option was to hire someone to grind the cement floor down. We called dozens of people and it seemed like no one would touch this project with a 10 foot pole. Every place we called said they would be able to pour us a new slab if we/they busted out the floor. Um it’s not bad enough for that much work! Just when it was looking like we’d be sucking up water for the rest of our lives with a shop vac we had one contractor agree to come give us a quote. He agreed that we needed to do something about the uneven floor. Then he noticed all of the tools we had stored in the side of the garage and suggested that we rent the equipment ourselves since that is what he was planning to do. *cue light bulb* He gave us the name of a company that rents the heavy duty equipment and went on his way.

DIY what a great idea! Now we had already called some local rental places (you know the ones that rent power washers and lawn aerators) to see if they had a concrete floor grinder with no luck so we figured that was that. But you can’t just call any old rental place when you need to grind concrete. Let that be a lesson. After multiple phone calls and a visit to the rental company Flannel Man had a good understanding of what we needed to do and which machines we needed to rent. When he first called the person at the rental company asked how we found out about them because they rarely rent pieces of equipment to the general public. It wasn’t against their policy but they don’t advertise to that demographic.

We ended up renting a scarifier and a floor grinder with both diamond and carbon steel blades. We rented the scarifier because we had a lot of concrete to remove and we had to pay a pretty penny for the wear on the diamond blades. Then at the last minute Flannel Man decided to also get the carbon steel blades because the glue and linoleum left on the floor was going to gunk up the diamond blades. At least those were a flat fee. Originally, we were thinking of renting one at a time over the weekend so we had the maximum amount of time with each machine but then decided that only spending one weekend full of dust and listening to loud machines was better than two.

Flannel Man went and picked up the machines on a Friday at noon and got a head start on the floor. He started with the scarifier which basically cuts multiple grooves into the floor. To remove material you pull it back and forth and side to side until you have lots of dust and a scratched up floor. Within a minute the whole garage is filled with a cloud of dust so thick you can barely see where you’re going. I got an emergency call after work to go buy the nicest respirator I could find because the one we had wasn’t keeping the dust out. I did just that but we still ended up still adding a piece of paper towel as a filter in the air inlet on the front of the masks. Crude but it worked. He spent a total of five hours using the scarifier on the floor that night! I’m sure the neighbors loved that.

0.3 seconds later:

The bottom of the scarifier wasn’t what I expected.

Somehow those rounded edges cut groves like this in concrete:

The next day we spent another 4 hours with the scarifier. Periodically we’d stop to do a “bucket test” where we dump a bucket of water on the floor and see where it flows to. Very scientific stuff.

The water is on the move people! That’s progress.

Eventually we had to stop because we started to hit the large aggregate. The scarifier wasn’t doing much to the rocks but kept removing concrete around the rocks only making the floor more uneven.

 

Next we took the floor grinder with carbon blades to the left over linoleum on the floor. It did get some nice curls of linoleum off the floor but still left a lot of spots untouched. Most of those spots though were in the low areas of the floor so the floor grinder couldn’t reach them. Dang uneven floors!

Finally, it was on the diamond blades on the floor grinder. Switching out all 6 blades actually ended up being kind of tricky because some of the blades wouldn’t fit in correctly so we had to keep trying different blades until one fit. After a lot of rubber mallet whacking and some cursing we got them in. With the diamond blades the floor grinder put out a lot less dust and was much easier to handle. It reminded me of one of those commercial floor buffers only it was scuffing up the floor.


Taking the floor grinder over the scarified areas it did a great job smoothing out the rough areas. Here’s a picture after only one pass with the floor grinder:

We tried to smooth out the scarified areas as much as we could but there were some low spots and deep gouges we couldn’t reach with the floor grinder because it was wider than the scarifier. Imperfection was OK to us because it would only give us traction when we painted the slippery epoxy on. We also made sure to take a quick pass over the rest of the floor so that the epoxy would adhere better.

 

In the end we had 4 garbage bags half full of concrete dust (because we couldn’t pick up the bags if we’d filled them fuller) and concrete dust in every nook and cranny of the garage/us. The garage had a bit of a spider issue to say the least and the dust really highlighted those webs:

And as we left to go run the hardware store we were both briefly scared something had happened to our beautiful dark brown garage doors when we saw this:

Luckily, it was just a lot of concrete dust! We weren’t able to get all of the floor pitched toward the garage door like we had wanted but we got very close. In the center dip we went from a 1” dip:

To a 1/8” dip:

And the dip near the wall appears to be completely gone. So hopefully we won’t have any more issues with the water rotting out our wall! It was a lot of work but we’re glad we took the time to do it.

Next up we prep the floor and put down epoxy…

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This is the story of two twenty something newlyweds who are learning to adjust to life in their first house, a 1973 fixer-upper.
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