Purpose – An Educational Guide to Garage Flooring
As much as I am a business owner, I am a consumer. We are constantly bombarded with high-pressure sales techniques designed to sell us a product. From ads on social media to inflated prices offered at massive discounts, every website we go to is focused on selling us stuff. My philosophy is a bit different. I believe that if I put my time into providing information and educational content, you will get the best garage flooring products for your needs. Over a span of 20 years, I have come to appreciate the intelligent customers who value our education-based philosophy and reward us with their business. So this page is designed to guide you through the garage flooring options available from us and others. Every single customer who buys from us receives a level of personal service designed to make sure your project goes well. Education does not stop at the sale. You receive my personal cell and email the same one my kids and wife use. I am ridiculously passionate about making sure your garage floor is exactly what you want.
As someone who has been in the industry for nearly two decades, two things are very obvious to me. First, there is absolutely a garage flooring product on the market designed and sold to fit your needs. Second, for many of us, figuring out what that product is can be extremely confusing. The purpose of this article is to give you a good picture of the possibilities that are out there. It is not a substitute for your judgment you have seen your floor, and we have not. It is also not a substitute for samples and for talking to one of our garage flooring experts. Every situation is different. This is an overview. It is based on products available as of February 2020 and is certainly subject to change. Looking to purchase garage flooring? Visit our home page or one of the main categories on the left. I also want to be clear. There are many people wondering what is the best garage flooring? The real question is What is the best flooring for your garage? This article is going to give you that information to make your own decision and perhaps give you some of the best garage flooring ideas around. Not familiar with garage flooring? Start with this article discussing what garage flooring is.
Overview of Garage Flooring Options
In 2015, we wrote a post entitled a Bird’s Eye View of garage flooring. Our goal is for brevity at the outset. Further down in the article, we will provide a significant amount of details. We will also provide links to the main category pages where the products can be purchased. However, we are not going to overwhelm you or the article with tons of senseless links.
One thing to be clear on is: if you think you have a structural issue or feel that your concrete is deteriorating, you need to check with a local concrete expert.
Garage Floor Coatings
Product Category Page: Garage Floor Coatings
General Information: Garage floor coatings, typically epoxy or Polyurea, are decorative film-forming coatings applied to the concrete. The coating is designed to improve its performance, appearance, and ease of cleaning. For the purpose of this article, we consider concrete sealers as a completely different category.
These are generally some of the most popular products on the market. There are huge variations in costs, application methods, and quality. Coatings require an extraordinary amount of floor preparation and testing for the ideal performance. The success or failure of a good floor coating ultimately sits with the person installing it. It is a labor-intensive process, yet, it yields a floor that is as beautiful as it is functional. Coated floors are seamless, easy to clean, and stain-resistant.
The downsides include the potential for failure due to improper installation or concrete conditions. The odor is also a potential drawback. Installation is generally considered the most difficult of all the garage flooring products we sell. Coatings also require your garage to be empty and unused for an extended period of time. Often, this can be up to or even exceed a week.
Coated floors must be protected from welding. If you are welding and will not protect the floor, the only product you should consider is a penetrating garage floor sealer.
Penetrating Concrete Sealers for Garage Floors
Product Page: Ghostshield
General Information: Like coatings, concrete sealers are fluid-applied systems that go over the concrete surface. Unlike coatings, penetrating sealers have little to no aesthetic value and generally only require a clean, dry surface. They are frequently used by those who want a cost-effective option to keep the garage floor clean, or in heavy abuse and welding situations. Properly used, penetrating concrete sealers can reduce dusting, protect the concrete from fluids and salts, and even reduce stains from oil. The main drawback is they don’t do anything to make the floor look better and have to be redone after a period of years.
Garage Floor Mats
Product Category Page: Garage Floor Mats
General Information: In general, there are two types of mats that are used in the garage. Decorative mats like the G-Floor Garage Floor Mat come in a variety of patterns and colors and are used in either wall-to-wall applications or as ‘parking pads.’ They are relatively easy to install and require little to no floor preparation. They are also easy to clean. The downside is you need to account for expansion and contraction, or you will have bubbles or ripples on your floor. You also need to be aware that if you do not use black, car tires may stain the floor quickly. Those stains won’t come out.
The second type of mat has emerged, as well. It is a ‘containment mat.’ Containment mats are not designed for wall-to-wall applications and are not intended to be used as garage flooring. They are simply designed to keep the mud, water, snow, ice, and grime that falls off your car or truck from spreading all over the garage.
Garage Floor Tiles
Product Category Page: Garage Floor Tiles
General Information: Garage floor tiles are an incredibly versatile and attractive garage flooring product. They are quick and easy to install, and little floor preparation is required. Most of the installation goes very quickly. Like any project, the cuts take some time. The most common types of garage floor tiles are Polypropelene (hard) and PVC (soft/flexible). Tiles require no adhesive and the floor can be used the same day.
In general, Polypropelene (hard) tiles make for better garage floors where PVC is better in industrial, commercial, and basement applications. Downsides like issues from expansion and contraction, staining, and noise can all be dealt with by selecting the correct product and installation method. Heavy point loads need to be considered. If you are wrenching on your car day in and day out, this may not be the perfect product for you — that said, we have hundreds of customers who use it for that exact purpose. You may find this garage floor tile review of interest too!
Examples of Good Uses of Different Products
Yes, that’s right. My garage. I do zero mechanical work. Half the garage serves as my gym with heavy equipment. The rest of that side of the garage is used for storage. The other side of the garage is used for mountain bikes, and we have two kennels in there for the animals. We also have an extra refrigerator and chest freezer. Coatings would have been a good option. We were moving, and time was a major factor. I had mats in the past. They would have worked well, but I was concerned about expansion and contraction and tire marks. The floor was ugly, so a sealer was not going to cut it. Besides, I am in the business and wanted a nice garage.
Basically, my garage is the average homeowner’s garage. Park cars, store our ‘valuables’ and squeeze in a workout area that there was no room for elsewhere. We went with TrueLock HDXT tiles. We purchased a bike mat for the spin bike, a large exercise mat (4×8), and a smaller mat like what you see in the gym. It was quick and easy to install. We have had zero issues, and it is very possibly my favorite garage floor ever.
Jack is a retired mechanic. He keeps his garage cleaner than many keep their bedroom. During a comfortable day, you’ll catch him hanging out with the garage door open, drinking his favorite beverage. On one side, he has an old Muscle Car that he is building up for his Granddaughter. On the other side, he has his daily driver. Looking around, you see plenty of tools, an engine hoist, jack stands, and a beer fridge. The storage racks look like they could hold an elephant. They are well organized but loaded to the hill. It’s pretty rare that he will weld, and if he does, he has a welding blanket for that.
His floor was in good shape to start
Jack went with a garage floor coating. Specifically, he used a Polyurea. He has been a hands-on guy his whole life, and a little hard work did not scare him. He wanted something that looked good, but was tough as nails and mainly something easy to clean given the likelihood of oil leaks, etc. It was a lot of work and planning to get everything out — and in the future, he would do the floor before moving in, but in the end, he had exactly what he wanted.
Mandy’s garage was a garage. “It’s a garage, d*** it. I don’t really care what the floor looks like; I just want it to be functional and easy to clean. The last thing I want to think about is protecting it, or I would be working in my kitchen.” She also expressed concerns about road salts and freeze-thaw.
Contrary to her statement, her garage would make any man (or woman for that matter) jealous. High-end welding equipment. Older cars that she had or was fully restoring and more tools and equipment than I could name — or use. There was oil-drenched cardboard on the floor, but the concrete was power troweled (smooth) and in good shape. For Mandy’ the key was protection. She used a Ghostshield 4500 densifier to strengthen the floor and followed that up with Ghostshield 8510 to keep oil from soaking in and keep road salts from destroying the concrete.
When she was done, she had not spent much of the floor but had done enough to keep it from staining and reduce the impact of winter weather and chemicals. She also had a floor that would give her time to clean up oil stains — and one that she could weld on without a second thought.
Steven is a self-professed city slicker that wants to give some protection to the concrete and give himself and his wife someplace nice to park. If you look around his garage, you would think he is a minimalist, but in reality, a garage is for parking. He needs something that is quick and easy. Steve went with G-Floor Mats. He did go black, though, because he was concerned about tire stains.
Marcie is perfectly happy with her garage. She painted it with a product she does not know the name of. It’s coming up in spots, and she could really care less. Her problem is mother nature. She lives in Minnesota. The garage is not heated, but it’s not freezing either. She keeps her Christmas decorations in the garage. In January, she pulled in during what I would call a snowstorm, but she calls it ‘Just January.’ She came out the next morning and backed out and noticed a large puddle. The nasty dirty water had soaked through a box of Christmas decorations that were neatly away on the bottom of a storage system — I presume like my shelving system, the concrete is the first shelf.
Marcie purchased a containment mat. It does not make her floor look better, but she’s not walking through a puddle or worried about it ruining items she has in the garage
* We have changed the names and, in some cases, compiled multiple stories into one character.
In-Depth Product Information
In this section, we will go into considerably more detail. BUT product information is constantly updated. For product-specific details, please check out the specific product pages which are linked to above.
Garage Floor Coatings
There are a couple of terms you need to keep in mind when discussing coatings. “Solids”, typically proceeded by a number or phrase, tell you how much of the material in the coating will remain after the cure. So, for example, on a 100% solids system, the entire can is epoxy. No solvents or water. On our high solids system, roughly 10% of a 1.5-gallon kit is solvent.
The type of broadcast is also something to consider. Most systems are ‘random broadcast.’ That means that the flake is decorative in nature, and the coating is still visible. Full broadcast, also known as broadcast to rejection, means that the base coat is completely covered with flakes.
Floor coatings require prep work. Typically this is done via acid etching or diamond grinding. Cracks should be repaired prior to coating. Joints can be filled, or they can be left out. But, if you are going to fill a joint, it is important to use the proper material (joint filler not crack filler). It is also important to understand that an imperfectly-filled joint will profile through to the surface. For an epoxy system, a primer MUST be used. a UV Resistant aliphatic urethane topcoat is also advisable where permissible — some states and or localities have VOC rules that may make this more difficult.
For the purpose of this article, there are five types of garage floor coatings.
Garage Floor Paint / Cheap Garage Floor Epoxy — This is the stuff we won’t sell 2-4 mil, often water-based product in a pretty box. When something goes wrong, they are happy to send you more or give you a refund because they have it built into the price. In most cases, it’s just not worth the effort or even the little bit of money.
Lower-Odor Water-Based Epoxy — We offer a relatively inexpensive, lower odor water-based product for the quick, down, and dirty install. It will protect the concrete from the weather and give you a nice color. It will also serve as a primer if you want to upgrade later. It’s the least expensive product we will put our name on, and even then, it’s only for people with a very limited need.
High-Solids systems, the products included in our DIY epoxy kits are often preferred by homeowners. They are substantially higher quality than the low-solids systems available at big-box stores but easier to install than a 100% solids system. They will have some odor and gallon for gallon they will end up thinner than a 100% solids system. BUT, in the case of our systems, there is no difference in the epoxy resins themselves. The solvents are added to the hardener. Our high-solids system has a slightly longer pot life (how long you have to apply the product) and can be applied with a roller as opposed to a squeegee.
100%-Solids systems have been considered the gold standard in garage floor epoxy for years. The epoxy itself has little-to-no VOCs and will not shrink. Fillers and repair materials should almost always be 100% solids. Applications where a high build (thickness) is important also benefits from using 100%-solids. While floor prep and the use of a primer is ALWAYS important with epoxy, there is 0 forgiveness when using a 100% solids system. 100%-solids systems also provide considerable benefit where large-scale repairs have been done.
Single-Component Polyurea products are quickly becoming the preferred product for many applications. The well-documented downside to a polyurea coating is the high odor that can linger for days and, in some cases, weeks after the install. Proper ventilation is key. It’s also advisable to make sure that there is no unpainted drywall or exposed insulation as both can absorb odors. Unlike epoxy, single-component polyurea products have a virtually-unlimited pot life. That means you do not have to rush the installation. They provide outstanding chemical resistance and durability. Polyurea can also be used as a stand-alone clear coating to bring out the natural colors of the concrete and give it a glossed look.
TruAlloy We recently launched the TruAlloy line to replace the Rust Bullet Garage Floor Coatings we had to discontinue. TruAlloy gets all its color from aluminum. It is a high-quality, non-yellowing moisture-cured urethane. It offers similar benefits to Polyurea at a lower price.
Epoxy vs. Polyurea
It is really important to understand that there is no absolute rule. Much of product selection comes down to your needs and preferences. If I had an attached garage with people living in the home who are sensitive to odors, I would probably lean towards an epoxy. Some industrial applications also will require high-build epoxy systems. In these cases, it is important to understand that epoxy is a science. You need to be exact, and you need to be quick. In many cases, for the average DIY consumer or even installer, Polyurea is a better choice. If the concrete is in reasonable condition, Polyurea is easier to install, more forgiving, tends to exhibit better chemical resistance properties, and is more durable in the long run. Why?
Really there is one key thing to understand. When you build an epoxy system, the final coat is or at least should be a urethane. That is because urethanes are better equipped to handle the wear and tear and UV requirements. With a Polyurea system, you are using materials with those properties throughout the entire install instead of just a topcoat. When you combine this with the simple, proven fact that it is much harder to mess up a Polyurea install, Polyurea just makes sense.
As previously stated, it is foolish to expose a high-end coated floor to weld slag.
Penetrating Concrete Sealers for The Garage Floor
It is really important to understand a couple of things about penetrating sealers. They all look similar in the bottle or can, and they will often list similar properties and even ingredients. There are massive differences in penetrating sealers. As it pertains to garage applications, we can really only recommend one of two systems. More on that in a minute.
Upside to Penetrating Sealers:
Limited if Any Prep Work
Not impacted by weld slag
Protects the concrete
The downside to Penetrating Sealers:
Not all sealers protect equally, and most don’t protect against oil
Sealers protect for a period of time. Eventually, oil, etc., will ‘punch through’.
Penetrating Sealers do not improve the look of the floor.
What sealer system do we suggest?
Ghostshield makes an outstanding garage floor sealer system that protects from oil, salts, moisture, and reduces dusting. A single coat of LS4500 is used as a primer. This is followed a week later with two coats of either 8505 or 8510. 8510 is roughly twice as effective as 8505. If you have a smooth, power-troweled floor, you can use a single coat of LS4500 and a single flood coat of Ghostshield 8510.
The only downside to 8510 (compared to 8505) is that it is solvent-based. That means odor and more precautions at the time of install. On the flip side, the 8510 provides outstanding protection because the solvent carries more active ingredients into the concrete. It is important to understand that both products protect against oil stains for a period of time. If liquids are left on the floor for extended periods, they will punch through and stain the floor.
We do offer a host of different sealers. For the garage floor itself, we highly suggest using 8510, or 8505 at minimum as Silane and Siloxane based sealers without the additional fluorocarbons have been proven ineffective against automotive fluids.
Densifier Warning: It is incredibly important that the densifier is properly diluted and that no densifier is allowed to sit on the surface. Failure to follow this important rule will result in an unsightly white residue that takes considerable effort to remove.
Garage Floor Mats
Generally speaking, when we refer to garage floor mats, we are referring to the American-Made G-Floor decorative PVC garage mat. We prefer it over foreign competitors because of its larger size offering, high-quality raw materials, no layers (all good material), and easier to get it to lay flat. We do offer Diamond Deck, which is made overseas. It is certainly better than other overseas products because it is not pre-wrapped in small sizes but cut in CA off of larger rolls. That said, we still prefer the G-Floor. We now offer carpet mats.
Having had G-Floor in my own garage, I can state without equivocation that I prefer it as a parking pad install over a wall-to-wall installation. Why? It expands and contracts, and if the install is not perfect (and sometimes if it is), you can get ripples, movement, or bubbles because the product is expanding and has no place to go. Parking pads protect the epoxy or concrete underneath but are less complicated to install.
Tire stains are a major risk if not the inevitable conclusion of PVC flooring. We highly suggest black mats under vehicles.
Garage floor mats should always be installed with the ‘short side’ to the garage door. In a wall to wall application, the seams should run perpendicular to the garage door, and you should never be driving across the seams. Seams should either be left alone, or a center strip should be used. For a single seam, the seam tape can be used, AFTER the product has fully relaxed and acclimated. Seam tape should never be used for two or more seams.
Advantages of Garage Floor Mats
Easy to install
Limited to no Prep — just relatively clean and dry
No mess or odor.
Protects the concrete better than a tile
Disadvantages of Garage Floor Mat Installation
No place for moisture trapped under the mat to go
Expansion and Contraction Issues.
Limited sizes and colors.
Containment Mats are a different type of garage mat.
We offer two types of containment mats. Each of the two comes in two grades. Containment mats have edging all the way around such that water, snow, ice, mud, and dirt from the car are trapped inside and do not spread all over the garage.
TruContain containment mats are available in the original product and an HD product, which is about 1/3 heavier. Generally speaking, the original product is adequate. For those living off gravel roads or driveways, we suggest the HD. We always suggest the HD in the Canadian market and some of the Great Lakes region. The TruContain mat requires no assembly. It is a quick, inexpensive, and effective solution but is lacking in aesthetic qualities. It tends to look wrinkled on receipt. While it does relax, it is never wrinkle-free. All that said, generally, we find one of the TruContain mats to be the best containment mat option for our customers.
The Park Smart Clean Park product comes in two grades. 20 Mil, and 50 Mil. We do not recommend the 20 Mil and will not discuss it here. The Park Smart Clean Park requires significant assembly and trimming, but it (50 Mil Only) tends to lay flatter faster than the TruContain product. It is also thicker and more aesthetically pleasing — but still not decorative.
Garage Floor Tiles
We highly suggest Polypropelene (rigid) garage floor tiles for residential, automotive applications. They are more resistant to tire stains, easier to install, and allow moisture to wick out. We like to make that clear at the outset and will discuss some exceptions. If you do decide to go with Flexible PVC garage tiles, we suggest black tiles under the tires or, like PVC mats, you will end up with stains. I also like to state at the beginning, from a personal perspective, I have used rigid garage tiles in my last two garages and absolutely love them.
As we have alluded to above, the first choice is Polypropene vs. PVC. Polypropelene is easier to install, will not stain, and is engineered to allow moisture that gets under the system or comes up through the concrete to wick out. It is an air-permeable and water-permeable system. PVC tiles are less adept to allowing moisture to dry, but they do a better job if keeping oil and water on top of the floor. If the area is a workout area or man cave, many prefer the NORSK PVC tile as it is softer and forgiving.
That said, I used rigid tiles and put mats in the workout area. TrueLock PVC is forklift tough and often used in commercial areas. Tuffseal PVC is very expensive, and we only suggest it in conditions where minimizing water infiltration is a must — such as when there is a basement under the garage. Again, in most cases, we suggest rigid tiles, and we discuss them at length below.
It is really really important that one simple fact is understood. All garage floor tiles, even ones that look identical, are not created equally. For example, one of our competitors has outsourced what used to be an American made tile to Asia. It looks identical in photos. It is thinner and has less substantial engineering. Also important if the product goes bad and the company fails, there is no American manufacturer to stand behind it.
We only sell higher quality American Made rigid tiles. We do have one imported PVC tile to fit a specific niche.
TrueLock Diamond: This is our entry-level, but American Made garage tile. The plant was recently acquired by another company, and they have continued to improve quality. This is a price point product, and many customers have been incredibly happy with it. We would have no hesitation using it in a garage for parking cars. We have many customers use it in higher-abuse situations, but we feel for minimum additional investment, for a ‘working garage,’ better options are available.
TruLock HD Diamond or Coin: For years, this was our goto product. It is a high-quality American Made product that has withstood the test of time. It serves as an excellent baseline by which we can compare other products. For example, it is considerably higher quality than TrueLock Diamond. It is well-engineered, color consistent with limited if any revisions to the main product line — which means you can get more 5 years down the road.
TrueLock HD Ribbed flow-through tiles (along with the XT tiles below) are some of our favorite tiles. They are an open tile that allows moisture and dirt to fall through. That means you are always walking on a clean, dry surface. They look AMAZING and are incredibly easy to clean. Depending on what you have for walls, you can pressure wash through the tile or shop vac the tile — if you have drywall to the floor, you would not want to introduce additional water. This tile is incredibly popular in high-moisture and high snow climates.
TrueLock HDXT tiles: We believe that the ribbed tile above or the HDXT tile will meet the needs of 90% of our consumers. The TrueLock HDXT product includes significant aesthetic and design improvements over the HD product. We took the better of the two substructures and completely redesigned the top plate. The hDXT coin surface has smaller coins with a traction grip surface. This gives the product great traction and makes it ideal for rolling large, heavy items over it. The HDXT diamond tile has a realistic diamond plate look, and the top plate was created based on the look of an actual piece of diamond-plate. The HDXT product also offers a 12 Year Warranty.
RaceDeck: IF you are considering the RaceDeck Free Flow product, we highly suggest the TrueLock ribbed product above. You will save a little money and receive a virtually identical tile. We suggest the RaceDeck Diamond or Coin for applications where the garage will be used as a shop every day. Racedeck diamond and coin have significant engineering advantages over the HD or HDXT diamond and coin. They are just a heavier duty product. That said, the vast majority of our customers will never need the additional material and do not benefit from the extra money spent. Sp to summarize, if you are wrenching on cars daily, you may benefit from the RaceDeck brand. If not, chances are you will be better off with HDXT, BUT no one makes a tile anywhere near as beefy as RaceDeck solid tiles.
Tiles Vs. Coatings
Tiles are easier to install than garage floor coatings. You have great options for design and a wide variety of patterns. They hold up well to general use. Epoxy or Polyurea coatings are often preferred where concrete protection is key or where oils and chemicals are often introduced, and a seamless floor is preferred. Rigid Tiles are easier to repair, have no odor, and require little if any prep.
Tiles Vs. Mats
It took me a little longer to install garage floor tiles than garage mats. However, when mistakes were made, I only lost a 12″ piece as opposed to a whole section. Cuts required power tools, but I was working with smaller pieces. Tiles do not protect the concrete as well as mats, but they allow moisture to evaporate and don’t stain from tires. For my garage, tiles were the clear victor.
There is nothing appealing about a concrete garage floor. Hopefully this article has given you some ideas on how to cover your concrete floor with some of the best garage floor options on the market — and not just use a cheap garage floor paint!
This article was written by Justin Krauss. He has been in the home improvement industry for most of his life and the garage flooring industry for the better part of the last two decades. He is the President and Co-Founder of Garage Flooring. Another interesting topic that is of interest to many of our customers is “What is the difference between a garage floor coating and a grage floor sealer“ Customers have also been interest in “What is Garage Flooring” and “Is garage flooring DIY?“