As someone active in the garage flooring industry for over two decades, I see a lot of well-intentioned but misinformed information regarding protecting garage floors from stains. Typically the conversation goes something like this “I want to protect my garage floor from stains but I do not want to spend a lot of money or do a lot of prep work.”
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The boiler plate answer is simple. Pressure wash your floor, use a concrete densifier and a product like Ghostshield 8510. That combination will create a garage floor that is resistant to oil stains and protect the concrete from freeze-thaw and other damage. While that answer is technically correct, there are other things you should consider before finalizing your decision:
What is Punch Through?
Punch through, or more accurately punch through time is how long oil will sit on top of a treated garage floor before it soaks it.
How Does Punch Through Impact Me and My Garage Floor?
Before you purchase a garage floor sealer you need to give serious consideration to how your garage is used and if punch-through is a factor for you.
If you park a car that leaks oil or other fluids in the garage and you are expecting a a garage floor sealer to keep it free from oil stains, you might be surprised to know that you may actually make the situation worse.
If the oil sits there for to long, it will soak through and cause a stain that is actually harder to get out.
A better use for a sealer is the customer who does an oil change in the garage. She spills some on the floor and cleans it up when she is done. The sealer will do a great job of keeping the oil on top of the concrete.
What should I use if Oil and Other Fluids Are Likely to Sit on My Garage Floor?
Nothing is 100% stain proof, but a good garage floor coating will prevent punch through for substantially longer than a sealer. Depending on what the fluid is, coatings can prevent stains indefinitely. For some items like gasoline, brake fluid and solvents you would still want to clean your garage floor as soon as possible.
What are the Trade-Offs Between a Garage Floor Coating & a Garage Floor Sealer?
Garage floor sealers are relatively inexpensive, leave no film (they don’t add a gloss or a layer on the surface), they can’t be scratched and are relatively easy to apply. They are not considered permanent and eventually fluids will soak through.
Garage floor coatings are more permanent, do a better job of protecting the floor and are generally more attractive. Even if you do not like the look of a coated floor, you can always use a clear polyurea. On the downside, they require considerably more surface preparation and are more expensive. They also can scratch and become stained themselves.
I don’t want to coat my garage floor, so now what?
If you have an old stained floor already and you are not worried about it going forward, you can cover the floor with garage floor tiles. If you have a brand-new concrete, we would suggest that you use a combination of a garage floor mat over a garage floor sealer. The garage mats will keep oils and fluids from sitting on the garage floor.