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Long-lasting options for sealing your concrete garage floor

Your garage sees a lot of use, from foot traffic and vehicles to tools and materials of all kinds. As a result, many homeowners prefer the durability of a concrete floor, but to keep concrete at its peak, you need to seal and maintain the surface.

This means using the right products and the right process. Here's what you need to know about sealing your garage floor properly.

Pick the right product

Floor sealers are divided into two broad categories: topical and penetrating.

Topical sealers adhere to the surface of concrete to create a protective layer. In many cases, it's all you need for a garage that sees light to moderate traffic.

The least expensive type of topical sealant is acrylic, which can be applied using a pump sprayer or roller. Two coats are recommended for best protection, and you can drive on the floor one day after application. You'll get a wet, almost glossy look from this sealant but will need to reapply every 18 to 24 months for best results. In addition, you may want to consider acrylic sealant with added UV protection as lower-end products can yellow over time.

Granite chips (shown here) are less expensive than metallic chips for adding a decorative element to an epoxy floor. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Shane B. of Valparaiso, Ind.)

Epoxy is a more durable, and more expensive, topical sealer. It's thicker than acrylic and forms a strong bond with your concrete garage floor but is time-sensitive to apply. You must set aside enough time to complete the entire application, rather than trying to do it piecemeal. Epoxy resists abrasion and won't be damaged by water, oil or other vehicle fluids. You may need slip-resistant coating, however, because epoxy is quite slick when applied.

Both clear-coat and colored epoxy sealants are available, and if applied properly can last several years. Polyurethane is the least common topical sealant. It's more expensive than epoxy and requires the application of a primer for best bonding results. Expect higher durability and longer life span than acrylic or epoxy, along with built-in UV protection.

Penetrating floor sealers, meanwhile, bond with free lime in the upper layer of your concrete to form calcium silicate and prevent any liquid from passing through. The most common type used for garage floors are siliconate-based, require only one coat and can be applied using a pump sprayer. This kind of sealer is often used on concrete driveways, since it provides a matte finish and doesn't change the overall look of your concrete. Expect up to 20 years of use from one coat.

Prepation is key

To ensure a solid bond between your concrete and sealant, you need to prep the floor properly before spraying or rolling on a drop.

Before you do anything, make sure it's the right temperature outside. Anything below 50 degrees Fahrenheit is a no-go, so pay attention to the forecast. If the weather cooperates, start cleaning out and then sweeping out your garage, getting up as much dirt and debris as possible. Next, take a hose (a pressure washer is better) and thoroughly clean the floor. The goal here is to get any dirt you missed on the initial sweep.

Now you need what's called an "etchant," which is a form of acid. You can buy this at a retail hardware store and dispense it from a plastic watering can or similar container. Make sure to wear a mask, gloves and boots when you use this product, and keep the garage open for ventilation. When poured, the etchant will start bubbling and you need a stiff brush to scrub the floor, which helps the acid eat away at any oil or grease stains. Finally, rinse the garage and let it dry for 24 hours.

Application and maintenance

When you apply the sealer of your choice, think "paint." In other words, start in the farthest corner of the garage and work your way toward the entrance. Use painters tape on the walls to make sure you don't accidentally seal them as well.

Put the sealant on thick and let it dry for longer than recommended. This helps it form a solid bond with the concrete and prevent stripping when you run hot tires over it after a long drive.

To maintain your seal, make sure to clean up any spills as soon as they happen, especially if you're using topical sealers. Reapply sealant as necessary to problem areas, and don't be afraid to reseal the entire garage as warranted.

Ideally, a garage floor sealant should provide durability and improved appearance. If applied properly and consistently maintained, sealers can substantially increase the life of your concrete.

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