A key part of our garage makeover is a painted garage floor…just maybe not in the way you might be thinking!
Sometimes less is more.
Oh sure, there are the obvious ones: makeup, perfume, jewelry, hair gel (these apply to women and men).
There are the more philosophical ones: less stress = more happiness, less spending = greater wealth and so on.
And one of my favorites: homeopathic medicine – the very essence of less is more! Dilute something to the point where it’s no longer actually there with the belief that the “memory” of the substance will remain in the water and heal the body.
Apparently less can also be more when it comes to painting, specifically painting a garage floor. Oh, sure, when Handan informed me that I’d only be painting part of the garage floor, all the obvious less-is-more scenarios flittered across my mind: less time painting = more time loafing = more time drinking martinis = more happiness. I could carry that line of reasoning much further, but I think you catch my drift.
What wasn’t immediately obvious when Handan made her Proclamation of Partial Painting were the aesthetic consequences of less paint in a space that traditionally had either no paint or full paint, but nothing in between.
Types of Garage Floor Paint
There are three main types of garage floor paints: latex, acrylic and epoxy resin.
Latex garage floor paint
Latex garage floor paints are most similar to the stuff you’re used to slapping on your walls. They are water-based, they go on easy, they clean up easy, and they generally have low VOCs (volatile organic compounds – the stuff that stinks and makes you lightheaded). Latex paints have a small amount of acrylic resin in them, though much less than paint that’s billed as “acrylic.”
Latex garage floor paint is the cheapest of the three.
Acrylic garage floor paint
Acrylic garage floor paint has a much higher concentration of acrylic resins than latex paint, and this makes it a far more durable choice, but not for the reasons you may think. Instead of making the floor coating harder, the acrylic resins actually make the floor coating more supple and allow it to expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity instead of cracking and peeling as might happen with a latex coating.
Acrylic coatings are more expensive than latex, but cheaper than epoxy.
Epoxy garage floor paint
Epoxy resin garage floor paints are the gold standard for garage floor coverings, but the crown goes to the two-part epoxy paints. These two-part paints work in much the same way other epoxies work: there’s an epoxy resin and a hardener, and once the two are mixed, a chemical reaction takes place that hardens the resin. With two-part epoxies, depending on the type of resin and hardener, you may have anywhere from a minute to several hours before the chemical reaction fully hardens the resin. With two-part epoxy garage floor paints, you generally get a couple of hours of work time, so this paint must be applied quickly, with no breaks or dawdling.
There are also garage floor paints billed as “one-part epoxy.” These paints are actually more similar to latex or acrylic than two-part epoxies. A small amount of epoxy resin is mixed into the paint giving it a slight edge in durability over latex and acrylic, but far less than two-part epoxy paint.
Since our plan was to paint only a portion of the garage floor (and that portion would never see any vehicle traffic), we decided to try a one-part epoxy garage floor paint from Behr.
Garage Floor Preparation
A garage floor is a filthy place, and it requires more prep than, say, a dining room wall or even a French door. Oil and dirt are routinely ground deep into the concrete by stinking hot rubber tires. Without a good cleaning, no paint on earth would have a chance at sticking beyond a month, even the specially-formulated epoxy-based paints engineered specifically for the harsh and demanding conditions found on even the most ordinary garage floors.
Now, I haven’t looked at the prep required for latex and acrylic garage floor paints, but I’m pretty sure they’re about the same as the prep required for both kinds of epoxy paints. Accepted wisdom states that the floor must be thoroughly cleaned and degreased (this is best done with a power washer and degreasers), and then the floor must be etched with an acid solution (I’ve read some opposition to this point, but we’ll continue to accept it). The etching roughs up the concrete surface and allows the paint to adhere better. Some coatings will further benefit from a concrete primer before application.
We were up to tackle all the prep (it really is the hardest part of the job), but in the end, we skipped the acid etching.
Garage floor power washing
Our power washer by itself is too powerful and too imprecise to clean the garage floor. Fortunately, there’s an attachment made for cleaning garage floors, decks, driveways, sidewalks and patios.
We bought the attachment in the old house so I could clean and paint the garage floor – a task I mercifully never had to tackle. That would have been awful. Not only was that garage floor saturated with oil, but it also was covered in flaking paint! This floor was clean enough to eat off comparted to the old one!
The dogs seemed pretty interested. I weighed my chances at getting them to power wash the floor.
Before starting in with the power washer, we first wet the area to be cleaned and poured some concrete cleaning solution onto the floor.
I started out working the power washer, while Handan cleared the water from the garage.
After a very short time, my babes wanted to take the helm and drive the pressure washer. This was fine by me, because I was nervous about water getting under the baseboards and soaking into the drywall, so I preferred being the waterboy!
My babes also figured out the correct way to move the pressure washer around. I was moving it too fast, and it wasn’t cleaning properly. This only became apparent after rinsing an area I’d cleaned. The rotating nozzles under the surface cleaner need time to complete their rotations, otherwise you’ll end up with rings as shown below. By slowly moving the cleaning head across the floor, the floor gets fully exposed to the cleaning jets, and the rings won’t form.
Since video is now part of our repertoire, here’s a fun little one of the cleaning.
After we had cleaned the area we intended to paint, and after I’d squeegeed out the excess water, we left the concrete to dry. The next day, I noticed the driveway was covered in gray silt. I had a closer look.
I hadn’t expected the power washer to lift off the top layer of concrete, but clearly it had. This was actually a great development. By blasting off some concrete, the power washer had accomplished the same thing as an acid wash would have done – it etched the surface and made it ready for paint. We killed two birds with one stone!
We let the floor dry for a few days – you don’t want a trace of water to be left in the concrete before painting or it will get trapped in there, and that can lead to paint bubbles and paint flaking off later on. Once dry, I used my self-leveling laser level to mark a straight line across the floor, and then I taped along the laser line.
You can see the power washing didn’t get rid of the stains on the floor. That particular big stain was created after our freezer lost power last summer and a lot of nasty stuff spilled out. It may be discolored, but it sure as heck is clean now! And since it’s about to be painted, we weren’t too concerned that the stain didn’t come out.
Okay, by now you’ve deduced that we’re not painting the entire garage but rather the area outlined by blue tape in the picture below
This idea was 100% Handan’s, and as usual, I doubted it at first and wondered if I should give my buddies with the long white coats and butterfly nets a call. I have them on speed-dial, you know.
But, also as usual, Handan’s idea turned out to be amazing, and I’ve never seen it done in any other garage.
She had a few reasons for wanting a two-tone garage floor. The first is just to add a little visual interest – basically the garage floor equivalent of an accent wall. Remember, less is more! What better example than an accent wall!
But she had a deeper purpose, and this was the one I was having trouble visualizing. She wants to create a space-within-a-space out here in the garage – a mudroom that feels like it’s part of the inside of the house, all without additional walls or partitions to delineated the space. You’re going to have to wait to see if she can deliver on that idea, but that’s the plan.
Priming the floor
To further improve adhesion, I applied a primer/bonding agent to the concrete before painting. This stuff is watery and milky-white but dries clear. After two hours, the floor was ready to paint.
Painting the Garage Floor
Picking a color is usually a collaborative task that my babes and I undertake together. But this time, we picked a color while I wandered the aisles of Home Depot and she was working at home. She had a book of color chips, and she’d tell me to find this color or that on the Great Wall of Chips in the paint department. I couldn’t find many of the chips she had, and the whole process was getting a little frustrating. Finally, I found one of the colors she was considering.
It was blue.
I like blue.
“It looks great, my babes! I said. “Let’s get this one!”
“You think so?” she said.
“Ab-so-lutely!” I said.
I walked up to the paint counter and requested the concrete paint in the agreed upon color. As they mixed up my paint, I wandered down to drool over some power tools.
My phone rang.
I glanced at the screen. It was my babes.
“Hello?” I said.
“Hello, my babes,” she said. “Do you think we should get a different blue? Something with more green and gray?”
The nerve of the woman! They were already mixing my paint! “No, my babes. This color is perfect!”
“Oh, okay, my babes. I’ll see you soon,” she said, and we hung up.
The paint was perfect. It was blue.
I like blue.
I applied three coats of fabulous blue. I let the final coat dry overnight, and then I peeled off the tape while admiring the wonderful blueness of the blue paint.
I gotta say, it was one hell of a dazzling blue floor. And my babes seemed to love it at first. Really, she did. We moved the refrigerator and new freezer into their places, and we carried on with the garage makeover.
But then the glances started. Those worried, furtive glances out the door each time she passed.
Then she started in with the paint chips again.
I knew what was coming, though I dared not speak it.
I didn’t have to. She spoke it for me.
“Hey babes?” she said, “Do you think it would look better in a darker blue with more green and gray? Like this one?” Her hand shot out, and in it was a paint chip. Not a Behr paint chip but one from Fusion Mineral Paint.
I cursed inwardly. Why didn’t I listen to her in Home Depot? I looked at the proffered paint chip and then up at my babes.
If she wanted a different color floor, who was I to say no?
“It would,” I said. “I’ll repaint it, my babes.”
Her eyes lit up. “Really? Oh, thank you, my babes! I love you so much!”
It’s a small price to pay for that smile and that happiness.
So. We removed everything from the painted area, Handan vacuumed it and wiped it down with a wet cloth, and then I painted it.
With the right color this time.
You can see the difference between the two paints. I had to admit she was right in wanting to change the color. The old color was just a little too blue.
I like blue. But this new color was better for the garage floor.
And my babes was gaga for it. From the first roll to the last, she couldn’t get enough.
I gave the floor three coats of the new paint. It now had six coats in total.
There’s a beautiful contrast between concrete and paint.
We’ve got some other elements of the makeover already in place, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so I’m just gonna cliffhang it here. We can’t wait to show you the rest of the garage!
Garage Makeover Checklist
Paint the walls Paint the garage floor Install smart garage door openers Buy a garage ready freezer
- Create a garage mudroom area
- Buy or DIY a small side table for the entry
- DIY locker makeover
- DIY shelves for the lockers
- DIY folding work table
- Garage organization
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