How Long Do Epoxy Floors Last?
Epoxy floors can be quite an investment, from a few hundred dollars with DIY kits, to professionally installed floors that go into the thousands. These are the two main catagories of epoxy floors, the DIY kits vs professioal installation. A DIY kit, typically used in residential garages with color flakes last about 1-3 years. There is very little to these DIY kits, so you get what you pay for. On the other hand, a professionally installed expoy flooring system can last between 20-30 years in a residence, 10-15 years in a commercial store, and 5-10 years in an industrial environment.
The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Epoxy Kits
Your typical homeowner loves to spruce up their homes, and what better way to start then with a fresh garage floor. A clean garage floor, is sharp, fresh, and orderly. But your typical homeowner is also on a budget. For this reason, they opt for a seemingly simple DIY garage epoxy kit you can buy at your local hardwarestore.
These kits fit in the budget range of about $200, and can be completed in an afternoon.
Some of the more popular kits are:
DaiHard 100, at $90
Rust-Oleum EpoxyShield, at $117
Rust-Oleum RockSolid, at $214
What you get
What you get in these kits is a waterbased epoxy product. They usually have 50% solids, which means after you aplly it, the other 50 % will evaporate. This evaporation is due to the waterbase. This ultimately means the thickness of these kits is somewhere under 1-3 mils vs professional epoxy floors of around 20+ mils. Thickness of the flooring matters obviously. The thinner the flooring the faster it’s going to wear through and peel up.
Poor prep leading to early failure
Epoxy does not stick to smooth surfaces. To give the epoxy something to stick to, you have to expose the pores of the concrete. To do this you have to remove a layer of concrete by mechanically scratching / grinding it, or you can use an acid to etch the surface. These kits typically include a low grade citrus acid, that is resonably safe for a homeowner to use. But this acid etching usually isn’t enough or isn’t done properly by the homeowner. This poor etching leads to the epoxy not sticking in spots, causing the floor to peel up and fail.
Professionally Installed Epoxy Flooring
There is a huge difference between a DIY epoxy garage kit, and a professional epoxy installtion company. First being the price. For a typical 2 car garage floor that lasts upwards of 30 years, is around $4,000. Why? Because it’s an investment that lasts between 20-30 years.
The following stages go through the details of installation for just about any concrete floor, residential, commercial, or industrial. This example is from a previous 3 car garage article we wrote.
For the Preparation stage, you’ll need the following:
Diamond Grinding Wheels
100 Grit Sandpaper
Shop Vac with HEPA filter
Mop and Bucket
In the preparation stage, you’ll need to be aware of where dust may come from during the application stage. In our project, there were no garage doors so we had to build a dust barrier. We used sheets of plastic and extension poles to keep the dust out.
You also need to plan your exit for the application stage. We had a plastic wall barrier we couldn’t easily exit, and we had 2 other doors in the garage. One of the doors lead to the back yard where there was a lot of construction debris and dust, so we locked that door. The other door lead into the house, so we chose that as our exit. This is important because, in the end, you don’t want to end up panting yourself into a corner.
Diamond Wheel Grinding
The first thing we did was diamond wheel grind the floor. We used a floor and hand grinder to accomplish this. How deep do you have to grind the concrete? The objective is to remove the “Cream” layer of concrete.
The floor grinder with diamond blades did about 95% of the main floor. You really can’t get the machine too close to the walls, or in corners. For these hard to reach places we used a hand grinder attached to concrete vacuum. With the hand grinder, we can grind the leading edge of where the epoxy will stop.
Grinding creates a lot of concrete dust which needs to be vacummed up. Vacuuming not only removes the concrete dust, but it also reveals where we missed any spots. We use a special concrete vacuum, a shop vac with HEPA filter and a regular wet/dry shop vac through out the project.
We used a dust blower to blow any concrete dust that was just outside the garage doorway. All of that dust has the potential to blow back into the garage while we are in the application stage. So, the dust blower is a good option to get rid of that dust.
Most concrete floors have one or more minor cracks. This is normal. The cracks have to be widened with a grinding wheel, so that the crack filler can adhere to the concrete, expand and seal the crack.
The reason why we fill the cracks is because epoxy is so liquidy, that it will go into the crack and keep going. This reduces the amount of epoxy on the surface. So, the crack filler stops the epoxy from “gravity feeding” into the crack.
Grinding The Cracks
After filling the cracks, the filler expands filling the crack, but it also makes a high spot in the floor. Now we have to go back and grind these high spots down.
After grinding the crack filler, we have to vacuum again. It is super important that all concrete dust is removed.
Mopping Up Remaining Dust
The final preparation step is to mop up any remaining dust. We use a mop, bucket and plain water to mop up the dust. As you mop the concrete now, you’ll notice how fast water absorbs into the concrete. This is because the top layer protects the concrete. Now we are going to protect the concrete with epoxy.
Cleaning The Leading Edge
We pay close attention to the leading edge of where the epoxy is going to stop, at the edge of the garage doorway. The area is cleaned by hand because we don’t want to accidentally grind over the line. As we chip off the top layer with a putty knife, we use a vacuum to grab all the particles and dust left in the leading edge of the cement.
If the leading edge isn’t cleared of the top layer of concrete, then the epoxy can chip up and fail. This happens a lot with cheap brand epoxies.
Taping The Perimeter
We laid down masking tape all around the perimeter. Basically, we put tape everywhere we don’t want the epoxy to get onto. We put it along the leading edge, and all long the bottom of the garage walls. This ensures epoxy won’t get on the garage walls.
Quickcrete Crack Filling
We used Quickcrete to fill in any remaining holes, cracks and chips in the concrete. If this isn’t done, you’ll see those blemishes through the epoxy.
Since our project didn’t have garage doors just yet, we put up a plastic wall. When it was time for the application stage, we used sheets of plastic, and extension poles to keep it in place. It worked out pretty good for keeping out dust.
If you have a garage door, now is the time to close it to keep all dust outside.
Taping The Perimeter For “Verticals”
“Verticals” are any surfaces that go up and down, like a step or the concrete footing that goes around the perimeter of the garage. These areas need masking tape to protect the walls from getting epoxy on them.
So, you can easily see that professional preparation is on a whole other level.
For the Application stage, you’ll need the following:
6x PE-100 Solid Grey Kits
9 and 18 inch Rollers
Roller Frames and Poles
5qt. And 5 gal. Buckets
Orbital Sander, 220 grit sandpaper
Now that everything is prepared, it’s time to mix epoxy. We started in the garage closet. Since the closet doesn’t require one whole kit, we mixed small batches in the 5 qt. mixing bucket. We used 2 parts A to 1 part B, of PE-100 Solid Grey. Then we placed the mixing bucket on a stable surface, the floor. After that, we started mixing the first batch.
You have to mix the PE-100 Solid Grey part A and B for at least 1 minute and 30 seconds. Using a mixing paddle and a drill we mixed the epoxy thoroughly. While mixing, be sure to scrape the sides and bottom. You can’t mix it enough.
Pouring Epoxy and Cutting In
When laying out epoxy, we just take the bucket and pour it along the wall, directly onto the floor. We don’t use a painting tray. Just pour it right on the floor. Then we use a chip brush to coat the floor, starting closest to the walls. The masking tape we laid earlier really helps with keeping the epoxy off the walls.
Hitting The “Verticals”
What we mean by “Hitting the Verticals” is, coating the epoxy on the vertical surfaces. In our project the step into the closet is a “vertical”, which must be coated with epoxy. The foundation footing all along the perimeter of the garage are “verticals”, and need to be coated as well.
Epoxy is very liquidy, and wants to flow down hill. We call this “Gravity Feeding”. On our step ‘vertical’ we roll out the epoxy to the edge and try to let it roll over the edge a bit. This ensures a solid flow of epoxy on the vertical. The expoy is then rolled over the edge with a chip brush or weenie roller.
Pay close attention to the verticals , as you may need to go back and touch them up during the process.
Rolling Out The Epoxy
We use a 18 inch roller to cover the main floor. The 9 inch roller has a bit more control to it so we use it for the perimeter. Any where the rollers can’t handle, we use a chip brush. We use a chip brush to carefully coat the epoxy near the leading edge. This ensures we don’t accidentally roll epoxy where we don’t want it.
Also, while you are coating the floor in epoxy, debris may fall into the epoxy. The time to get it out is now, while it’s still wet. Although, this is just the first coat. We are going to come back and sand the first layer, to give it a scratch coat and to hit any high spots.
Again, we mix enough buckets of epoxy to cover the floor, and just pour it out onto the floor in a line across the floor. Give yourself enough room to move around and roll out the epoxy. Now is a good time to put on those spike shoes. Spike shoes alllow you to walk around directly on the wet epoxy without creating a mess, and footprints in the epoxy.
Start rolling out the epoxy opposite the door you are going to exit from. You want to work your way towards the exit, being carfeul not to paint yourself into a corner if you don’t have spike shoes on.
The First Layer Of Epoxy Is Dry
When the first layer of epoxy is dry, it looks like glass. A few blemishes popped up in our project. This is where either we didn’t get enough epoxy in the area (too thin) or the floor needed more grinding. We also had a crack filler blemish. Either way these blemishes are sanded down, refilled and resanded with 220 grit sand paper. This is how the blemishes get fixed.
Sanding The First Epoxy Layer
Each layer of epoxy needs to be sanded in order to give it a “scratch coating”. This ensures the next layer has something to grab onto, and creates a solid bond. The entire floor must be sanded using 220 grit sand paper.
Cleaning Up Dust
After sanding the entire floor, sweep and vacuum up the dust. Then it’s time to do a wet mopping of the floor to get up the remaining dust.
Mixing Epoxy for Layer #2
We start by pouring Part A of PE-100 Solid Grey into a 5 gallon mixing bucket. Then we add the second Part A. With 2 Part A in the bucket, we use a drill and mixing paddle to premix before adding 1 Part B. So, just to be clear, it’s a 2:1 ratio, or 2 Parts A to 1 Part B.
We premix each part separately for about 1 minute 30 seconds. Then we add Part B into Part A, which is already in the mixing bucket. We mix both Part A and B together for more than 1 minute and 30 seconds. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom with the mixing paddle. Also, be careful not to bust through the bucket with the mixing paddle by scrapping too hard.
Pouring Out Epoxy Layer #2
Pouring and rolling out layer #2 is very similar to layer #1. We started farthest away from the exit door, which is the garage closet in this case. Pouring the epoxy right on the floor we get to work rolling it out. Using a chip brush to cut in near the tape line and wall. We also used a weenie roller to hit the verticals on this second layer. Then using a 9 inch roller for the perimeters. And finally we use the 18 inch roller for the main floor and for evening everything out. Spike shoes are also worn. All of the epoxy is rolled out and over lapped, working towards the exit door.
#2 Layer Of Epoxy Is Dry
The second layer of epoxy dried looked like a mirror, just like the first layer.
Sanding The Second Layer
Just like the first coat, the second coat gets sanded. We use orbital sanders and 220 grit sand paper. This creates a scratch coat for the urethane to stick to in the Finishing Stage.
Sweeping, Vacuuming, and Mopping
Same as before, we’ve go to sweep up the dust. Then vacumm the dust up. And finally give the floors a good mopping to get up any remaining dust.
Mopping With Denatured Alcohol
After mopping and letting the floor dry, we use dust mops and rags with denatured alcohol to mop up any last bits of dust.
This brings us to the final stage.
For the Finishing Stage of this project you are going to need the following:
1x Urethane Top Coat Kits
9 and 18 inch rollers
Roller Frames and Poles
Finishing With A Urethane Top Coat
We use a urethane top coat to finish the floor. For this project we used 1 kit. The kit comes with 2 Part A and 1 Part B. In a mixing bucket we pour in 1 part A and ½ Part B, since it’s a
2:1 ratio. When we run out, we mix the other half and keep going.
We mix the urethane just like we mix the epoxy, for 1 Minute and 30 seconds.
Rolling Out Urethane Layer “Finish Coat”
Now it’s time to roll out the urethane top coat, or Finish Coat. Instead of dumping the urethane mix on the floor, we use a 18 inch painting tray.
Just like the previous layers, we have to hit the verticals first with the urethane. We use chip brushes and weeenie rollers to do this. Then we use the 9 inch roller for along the perimeter.
And a 18 inch roller for the main floor. Spike shoes again, must be worn.
It’s the same as before, start working oppoiste the door you want to exit from. Then just work your way to the exit. Pay close attention to the leading edge of the garge, where the epoxy stops. Careful not to go over the masking tape.
Watch the entire garage installation here.
It is so easy to see why a professional installation will last upto 30 years in a residential home, vs a DIY kit for $200.
3 factors that determine how long epoxy floors last
Installation matters, as we saw from the example above. Nothing beats a professionally installed epoxy floor system. Enough said.
As we mentioned in the beginning of this article, locations like residential, commercial, or industrial really make a difference in how long the epoxy flooring will last. The higher the traffic, the faster the floor will wear out, just like any other flooring system.
Other environmental considerations are sunlight (UV rays), spills, and dropping things on the surface. Epoxy does not like sunlight, and so any longterm exposure to sunlight may yellow the epoxy and/or cause it to become chalky. Areas that often spill chemicals or drop heavy objects on the floor are also a huge factor in durability.
Just like anything else, if you want to keep it looking new, you’ve got to put in the work. Even though epoxy floors are a breeze to clean up, they aren’t going to sweep and mop themselves. Keep up with maintenance by sweeping up everyday, and wiping up spills as soon as they happen. Mop once a week with an ammonia and water mixture. Use a scrub brush for any hard to clean spots.
It’s easy to see how long epoxy floors will last when you have the right context. Typically, epoxy floors will last longest in a residence, and shortest in a heavy trafficed industrial floor. DIY kits are a “you get what you pay for” product that will only last a few years vs a professionally installed expoy floor that lasts upwards of 30 years.