During the past 6 years garage restoration has emerged as the largest growth market in home remodeling. Franchises have been built selling garage cabinets, organizing systems and epoxy coated decorative flooring.
The one area that has stifled growth of this market is the concrete flooring. Most garage floor concrete slabs are built on grade. The problem is that earth has a lot of moisture. When the earth gets saturated with moisture it pushes upward from pressure. The pressure can be so strong that moisture vapor will push upwards through concrete. This is called hydrostatic pressure.
If you ever put a rubber mat on a concrete floor and found moisture underneath, hydrostatic pressure is the cause. Moisture pressure underneath a garage floor concrete slab will push upwards through air holes, capillaries and cracks. Moisture will push to the surface and pushes salts in the concrete upwards as well. When the moisture and salts reach an epoxy coating it starts breaking down the chemical cross linking of the coating. This causes chipping and delaminates coatings. In some cases a coating will peel off the floor in sheets.
The theory to solve the problem is to etch the floor providing more surface area for the coating to stick to. Some products promote etching the floor with an acid solution. The problem is two-fold. First, acid particles can get into small pinholes in the concrete. Even when washing the surface it does not remove all the small acid particles. Secondly washing the acid off saturates the concrete with water. It can take weeks for the floor to fully dry even though it looks and feels dry. Later when you add the coating, the coating will reactivate the acid eventually causing chipping. Dirt, sand and tires will abrade the surface and you have an unsightly floor.
Some professionals will shotblast the floor to provide more surface area for an epoxy. This is a process of using a push behind machine that shoots small ball bearings at the floor. This is a great solution but few contractors will use this system on a small floor like a garage. Even still, shotblasting does not eliminate moisture pressure. The problem again is that most epoxy coatings can’t handle moisture and salts.
Finally polyaspartic coatings came along. They are applied like an epoxy but with extraordinary results. Before I explain how they work and the benefits, I would like to point out that not all polyaspartic coatings are the same. Many manufacturers have diluted their polyaspartics to cheapen the cost. Unfortunately a high percentage of contractors like to purchase cheap materials to provide a cheap cost to the client. The day the floor is complete, the floor looks great, but that’s the last time it looks good. It goes downhill from there. I can’t entirely blame the contractors. Most clients buy based on price and when something is cheap there is a quality sacrifice.
There is a small but growing network of professionals who have found that high quality polyaspartics perform and can be applied quickly. There is an application system that enables them to apply a coating to a garage floor in a day with virtually no call backs.
The process is to grind the concrete (sometimes removing failed coatings) removing a thin top layer of the concrete. They use a dustless system with diamond blades that grinds the floor to a smooth, flat surface. With the right equipment the surface prep takes about an hour per 100 square feet, sometimes quicker. That means a skilled contractor can grind a 3 car, 700 square foot garage floor in 5 to 7 hours. So assume they start at 8:00 am they should be done with surface prep by 1:00 pm, about 6 hours. Then they fill in all the cracks and holes in the floor. The best contractors use polyurea crack filler and fill the crack all the way to the bottom, usually about 4 inches. Then using a hand grinder they will grind smooth. The right polyurea is thin enough to flow to the bottom, is activated by moisture, absorbs into the walls of the crack and dries below grade. If the wrong crack filler is used or labor is compromised the crack filler will never dry. Moisture will push it out of the way causing your coating to fail.
The prep is the hard part requiring skill, experience and the right equipment. Perfect prep will prevent blemishes from bleeding through the decorative coat. The most important factor is that when concrete is ground smooth, it opens the pores and allows polyaspartics to wet or absorb into the floor like water into a sponge. When the first polyaspartic coat drys, usually within 30-60 minutes, it is not just stuck to the floor, it is part of the floor. It will not delaminate with chemical properties that withstand salts, extreme moisture pressure and become a moisture barrier. Done properly, concrete will break before the polyaspartic does.
If your contractor knows the right system they will add a non-slip aggregate to each layer. First it is critical to add the right size non-slip aggregate to each coating. Aggregate size is critical. Too big and it will float to the bottom of the bucket when mixing and will never make it to the floor. Too small and it becomes ineffective. The purpose of building a non-slip aggregate to each layer is to avoid what is called, Coefficient of Friction, from wearing down. Most contractors, if they even apply a non-slip material, will broadcast into the top layer. This system doesn’t last,. The aggregate gets dislodged from wear and the floor will become slippery fast. Properly imbedded in the coatings will allow for a slip resistance (Coefficient of Friction) that exceeds OSHA and ADA levels for years, protecting you from slip and fall lawsuits.
It takes about 3 hours to apply 3 coats enabling the project to be complete in 9-11 hours from start to finish. The rapid cure capability allows the floor to be used the following day. With the proper Search Engine Optimization strategy, a professional contractor can count on a steady flow of business in a local market and comfortably complete 3 garage floors per week. Conversely an epoxy coating will take 3-4 days or 1 job per week. With pricing in the $4.00-$6.00 per square foot that can be $10,000.00 per week in gross sales for a professional with a 2 man crew.
This system has opened up a business opportunity that didn’t exist until the past year or so. For contractors with a business acumen this is a lucrative business that leads to higher ticket commercial jobs. For customers that find one of these professionals, they get a high performance floor that will last years backed by a long term warranty.