My friends and family all know that I’m the sales manager at a company that specializes in formulating and manufacturing high-performance epoxy products. My CLOSEST friends have actually taken a few minutes to learn what that means, and because of that, I’m occasionally recruited to help with their weekend projects. A few weeks ago I put together a garage floor coating kit for a friend of mine, and we spent the weekend prepping, priming, and painting his 3-car garage. Here are a few things I learned when I stepped out from behind the sales desk:
1. Preparation is the most important part.
Even with brand new concrete, you need to get the surface prepared, but in most cases, preparation for the project starts well before that. Prepare to have the garage completely cleaned out for at least 3 days. This includes moving everything that you’ve accumulated in that space to a basement, shed, attic, etc…
Physical preparation is a good idea too. Painting a floor includes quite a bit of time actually “down on the floor”, cutting in edges and brushing areas that are hard to reach with a roller. Having some knee pads or a soft carpet pad to move around with you will reduce the physical toll on your body tremendously.
Once you’re both physically and mentally prepared, you can focus on the actual surface preparation. You need to have a clean, dry, etched surface for proper adhesion of epoxy coatings. We were lucky to be working on new concrete, so we didn’t have to clean up any oil stains or excessive dirt. We did, however have to scrape up quite a bit of drywall mud left behind by the home builder and then do a proper etching of the concrete. (Note: freshly poured concrete should cure for at least 30 days before coating.)
2. You’re going to step in some paint.
The fun part begins the first time you dip your brush or roller into the first coating, but don’t rush into this step without a proper plan. We were smart enough to plan out our painting route so that we wouldn’t paint ourselves into a corner, but we found ourselves going in and out of the garage far too often for various supplies, which meant lots of wasted time changing shoes. Remember- the floor is clean and in order to keep it that way, you don’t want to be tracking in dust and dirt.
Once you’re rolling on the primer, don’t be surprised when you start to hear the crackling sounds of your shoes sticking to the floor. Epoxy is naturally sticky, and there’s only so much you can do to avoid drips, especially when you’re constantly moving your bucket or a paint tray. Also- plastic gloves are well worth the investment. I accidentally dipped my thumb into the paint at least twice while picking it up to move it.
3. The weather can be your best friend AND your worst enemy.
We cleaned, etched, and primed the floor on Saturday and then applied two coats of epoxy paint on Sunday. We were extremely fortunate that the weather was in the mid-sixties and sunny both days. The floor dried very quickly after etching and rinsing, allowing us to move on to priming within just a few hours (heaters and fans helped too). We also only needed about two hours of dry-time in between the two coats of epoxy paint on Sunday. Cooler temperatures or high humidity could have slowed us down quite a bit.
As nice as the temperature was, the weather played a nasty trick on us late in the day on Sunday. As we began broadcasting our decorative vinyl chips into the second coat of epoxy, the wind picked up drastically, blowing the chips everywhere. The idea is to gently sprinkle a light coating of the chips all over the wet epoxy, allowing them to set into the wet paint, but with wind gusts of up to 30 mph, we wound up with chips in every corner of the garage. We were able to close the garage doors most of the way while we worked on the interior half of the garage, but the exterior half was an adventure, to say the least.
4. It’s all worth it in the end.
The final clear coat of polyurethane was applied later in the week, and unfortunately I wasn’t there to help roll it on, but the end results were certainly something to be admired. The coatings add beauty and brightness to the space, giving it a dressed-up, finished appearance that is also easier to clean than bare concrete.
Two different neighbors stopped by to admire the project while we were applying the coatings, and I have a feeling once they have time to clear out their garages, I’ll be hearing from them in the spring.