Now that we had converted the garage back to a two car garage and ground down the floors we wanted to add an epoxy coating to make the floor easier to clean. Even though we’ll still have a small puddle 1/8” deep puddle it’s still much better than the 1” deep one we had before. The plan is to use a floor squeegee as need be on the much more manageable puddle. We also wanted to add a floor coating to help protect the floor from the winter salt and water that would get in the open pores and divots we made by grinding down the floor. We didn’t want the salt getting down in those little crevices and eating away at the concrete faster.
Originally, we planned to hire someone to both grind down the floor and put down the epoxy but we decided to do it all ourselves. Epoxy seemed easy enough to put down but it was the prep work that took a lot of time. During my research I found that using a 2-part epoxy was the way to go because they are much more durable and last longer than 1-part epoxies.
So I went out to get some prices from our two local big box hardware stores; Home Depot and Menard’s. Home Depot had two options; Garage Floor Rustoleum in the standard gray and tan colors and their own Behr product that can be mixed any custom color. Hmm…custom color that sounds awesome. I immediately liked the warm tan/gray color because it wouldn’t be something obvious you’d notice when you walked in the room but it was more interesting than the basic cool gray color. Of course the Behr product was significantly more than the Rustoleum epoxy. Next I went to Menard’s where they had five options; Garage Floor Rustoleum, Basement Floor Rustoleum, Garage Custom Color Rustoleum, Premium Clear Coat Rustoleum, and Professional Grade Rustoleum. This is why I love Menard’s! Not only did they have more selections but the exact same product was $30 cheaper and we needed six of them so that’s a $180 difference! And of course Home Depot doesn’t carry the more affordable Garage Custom Color Rustoleum because it would compete with their Behr product. Another thing I liked about the Rustoleum products over the Behr products was that the Rustoleum products come as a kit with the acid etch and color chips included. With the Behr products you have to buy everything individually which makes them even more expensive than the Rustoleum epoxy. As I started to get excited about the custom color Rustoleum and all the possible colors I could make it I started to wonder what the difference was between the professional grade epoxy and the rest of them. It turns out the Rustoleum Epoxy Shield Professional Coating stands up better to chemicals and oils and it recommended for garages by nearly everyone who has tried both. I even called Rustoleum directly and the rep said this is the product she put down in her garage. It’s just a better all around product but the major downsides are that it can’t be cleaned up with water and it costs more. Seeing that we wanted this to be a one time project and that we’d always have this epoxy on the floor (to remove it we’d have to grind it off) we went with the top of the line Professional Grade Rustoleum in the simple light gray color.
Before we could get to the floor though, we had to tear down the curled wood paneling along the exterior wall so that we could reach the floor underneath. Unfortunately, when we did that we found three holes mice had chewed into the wall that were hidden by the siding from the outside. In those cavities the insulation was chewed up (when this happens the insulation settles to only cover 2/3 of the wall), there were acorns, droppings, and we even found one dead mouse. Lovely! Oh the joys of living in the country and having your basement/garage infested with mice.
We were in a bit of a hurry to get the epoxy down so we just removed the bottom foot or two of insulation and sealed the walls off with plastic. The plastic helped keep debris from falling on the wet epoxy and kept the walls dry while we’re washing the floor. From my research not many people put up plastic on the walls but I think it was an important step because then we knew we could get right up to the walls and corners with the acid wash and rinses. We also taped off the bottom of the steel posts, the drain pipe, and doorways.
As a last ditch effort we tried scraping the last bits of linoleum off the floor with a hand chisel (we had already scraped it with a razor blade and ground it with a floor grinder). It was tedious work and we had to keep flipping the chisel from one side to the other because the concrete was dulling the blade. We spend 4 hours crawling around on the floor working on it. This is how we spend our Saturday nights people! Finally, we just quite because we had hardly made a dent in the amount of the linoleum on the floor.
Then we cleaned the floor off with water to remove any lingering concrete dust or debris. We used a floor squeegee to remove any excess water.
Now it was time to bust out the epoxy materials. What seemed like a straightforward process snowballed into a shopping spree that had me driving all over southern Wisconsin to get all the supplies we needed. Here is the result:
Sophie’s like, “Why are you motioning me away? I’m just standing here like a good dog.” OK back to the pile…
My list of supplies was as follows:
• 6 Rustoleum Epoxy Shield Professional Floor Coating kits in Silver Gray
• 8 bags of Rustoleum Anti-Skid Additive
• 4 boxes of Rustoleum Concrete Patch & Repair
• 3 boxes of extra Rustoleum Acid Etch
• 1 bottle of Rustoleum Heavy-Duty Degreaser
• 4 lint free paint rollers
• 2 angled 1.5” brushes
• 2 rolls of 2” wide painters tape
• Plastic tarps to cover the walls
• Floor squeegee
• Stiff bristle broom top that uses a paint roller extender for a handle
• A second pair of goggles
• A second respirator
• 2 pairs of tall rubber boots
• 2 pairs of acid resistant gloves
• 2 five gallon buckets for mixing
• A mixing wand attachment for our drill
That’s a lot of stuff! I advise getting everything in advance so that you can read the directions ahead of time and make sure you have all of the supplies you need.
The first step was to put on the acid etch which helps the epoxy adhere better to the concrete. Because we had already went over the whole floor with a grinder we weren’t sure if we needed to still do this step but we figured it couldn’t hurt. The better you prepare the floor the better the epoxy will stick. We geared up in our goggles, respirators, acid resistant gloves, and rubber boots and got to work.
The instructions suggest you use a watering can to evenly distribute the acid. Unfortunately, our watering can was broken so we used a weed sprayer (which was brand new) instead. It gave us great control over where the acid went and in general worked out well but the watering can probably would have been faster since it wouldn’t have required any pumping. It took us two hours to do 750 sf. Per the instructions we applied the acid to a 10’x10’ section at a time, scrubbed the area, and rinsed it off using a squeegee to remove access water. Note to self buy goggles with better vents next time because the cheap ones I bought were fogging up as soon as I put them on.
When we were done with the whole 750 sf space we gave it one more final rinse and squeegee off. Then we let the space dry completely for a week. If the floor isn’t completely dry the epoxy won’t adhere properly so this is an important step to not skip.
Next we decided to replace the metal support post that was rusty and deeply pitted from the water issues in the garage. We figured now was the best time to do it so we could epoxy right up to the new one. So we bought a new pole and came up with a rig to lift the beam it was supporting. We borrowed a scrap 4×4 and a jack from Papa Flannel and attempted to lift the beam. We raised the jack until the 4×4 was tight to the beam and twice the 4×4 fell! Luckily, no one got hurt. After some further investigation we found that the jack was leaking hydraulic fluid. So we improvised with Flannel Man’s truck jack.
When we finally had the old post out we found a rusted metal plate underneath. Half of it came off with the post and the other half was stuck to the concrete. Now we couldn’t put the new post in because it would be uneven so the plate had to come off. Flannel Man took an angle grinder to it until the spot was level.
What was supposed to be a simple swap turned into a big mess. After we finally had the new post in we had to vacuum up the dust, re-wash the floor, and re-acid the area around the post. And because the jack leaked hydraulic fluid we had to bust into the degreaser…the one thing I thought we’d be able to return! Plus, that meant our one week of waiting for the floor to dry had to start over.
The new post did look really nice though:
Next we had to patch all of the channels in the concrete the scarifier made. Before we ground the floor we had some hairline cracks in the concrete. They weren’t structural just a crack in the finish. The scarifier managed to take these small cracks and chip out large pieces of concrete on either side turning them into large channels running through our garage. We weren’t sure how we were going to fill these because we didn’t know how the epoxy would stick to the filler so we played it safe and went with the product Rustoleum specifically makes for patching concrete before you put down epoxy. It’s called Concrete Patch & Repair and it’s a 100% solids epoxy product that is a thick sticky paste you apply with a putty knife. It dries within 24 hours which is also nice but we found that additional layers are needed since it shrinks as it dries. We ended up needing 3 layers in some spots.
Finally after all of that we were ready to put down the first layer of epoxy!! It was late in the year so we wanted to be able to close the garage doors before the floor was completely dry to keep the space warmer and to keep fall leaves or other debris from blowing on the floor. Plus I was advised to not paint the concrete outside of the door since epoxy turns white and chalky with sunlight. So we put down some tape just inside the doors to make a nice straight edge.
Next up it was time to mix the epoxy. Even though our garage is only a two car garage it is actually the size of a three car garage with a big storage area. Each kit is supposed to cover 300-400 sf. To start we only mixed two kits but I had an extra kit on hand just in case. To make the color even between kits we mixed the bases (Part B) together in a 5 gallon bucket first. Next we followed the directions and mixed the activator Part A and the bases Part B with an electric drill. Then we had to let the mixture cure for an hour before we could use it.
To make mixing easier mix each can of the activator individually first until it turns white. Mixed and unmixed activator:
I started painting on the epoxy by cutting in the edges with a 2” wide angled brush while Flannel Man used the roller. As I was painting I came across some spiders (I mentioned our little spider problem in the last post) and other bugs who would just get stuck in the epoxy so I had to squished them and stuck them in the pocket of my jeans since I had nowhere else to put them. We made sure to constantly keep a wet edge and put it on plenty thick. When we were a quarter of the way through we started worrying that we would run out so we broke down and mixed up the third kit. The tricky thing is it needed an hour to cure before we could use it but you don’t want the rest of the floor to dry before you put down the last bit.
We didn’t tape the cement walls of the garage because we wanted to fill in the crack between the floor and foundation walls with epoxy. Unfortunately, those areas were one of the last places we painted on the epoxy so my brush was thick with epoxy and the lines weren’t very straight. It did the job though and most of those walls will be covered with shelving so we won’t be able to see most of it.
After an hour and a half we were done with all 750 sf. Here’s Flannel Man pretending I locked him out:
Unfortunately we forgot to turn off the florescent light we have that uses a pull chain. Which lead to problems because we needed to leave the garage doors open that night for the fumes. There were a number of bugs attracted to the light and there weren’t many places for them to land besides the floor. We were able to keep the fall leaves out by leaning some long pieces of plywood across the doorways. The fumes were something else though! The whole house reeked of epoxy and we both got headaches from it. We aired out the house the best we could and eventually that helped. I guess that’s the other downside to the Professional Grade epoxy.
In the end we barely used any of the third kit and we could have easily made the two kits work if we put it on a little thinner. But there were a lot of crevices and pits to fill from our floor grinding so the third kit was just insured that we would have enough to finish even though it cost us $95. For the second coat we knew we only needed two kits and took the third kit back. We also took back all of the extra acid etch and two of the concrete patch and repair kits.
As the epoxy dried it started to looks splotchy with different areas having a different sheen and/or slightly different color. We were very careful to put on a thick even coat so it wasn’t because some areas were too thin. From my research I’ve found this is very common and the Rustoleum representative I talked to even mentioned it. She said there are two ways to combat the uneven look by either putting on a second coat or putting on the clear coat they sell. We chose to put on a second coat because we didn’t want the sheen or the slipperiness of the clear coat.
We were able to step on the floor after 16 hours but it was still a bit tacky. Three days after we put the first coat on we applied the second coat. We started by going around and pulling all of the bugs and other debris that had gotten stuck in the epoxy. As we were crawling around we noticed there were some bare crevices that we know we had covered with the first coat. The thick epoxy must have trapped an air bubble and not filled it completely. It needed a second coat. After we had mixed and let the second coat cure for an hour we mixed in the Rusoleum Anti-Skid additive to help keep the floor from being too slippery when it’s wet. The additive looked so fine (almost like flour) that we put in more than the suggested amount (8 bags for 2 kits of epoxy or 4 gallons).
Make sure to always put the anti-skid additive in the second coat only for it to be effective. For example if you were putting down a clear coat on top of an epoxy coat you would want the additive in the clear coat. Just like before I cut in the edges and Flannel Man filled in the center. The second time around I also filled in some shallow holes with epoxy to help even out the floor and it seemed to work fine. To keep the anti-skid additive suspended in the epoxy we kept the cordless drill nearby so we could re-mix every so often. We put on a nice thick coat and let it dry for a day and an half before we walked on it.
The second coat made all the difference! The splotchy appearance was gone and everything was a nice consistent color. I highly recommend putting on the second coat. Our only disappointment was the anti-skid additive. It is so fine it just looks like little pinhole air bubbles and I really don’t think it would stop me from slipping. Here’s the best picture I could get of the anti-skid additive it’s the tiny little bumps everywhere:
Luckily, the fact that we roughed up the floor keeps it from being too slippery. For people looking for some better anti-skid additive I’ve read that Shark Bite and Tread Tex both work great.
Two weeks later we were able to park inside again. The floor looks amazing! Much better than the curled up yellow linoleum don’t you think? Before:
Next we drywall, paint, and organizing the garage…