Here’s an extensive list of garage flooring options to help make your garage as nice as any other room. Plain concrete can easily become stained & dirty looking. Putting a floor coating or covering is a very worthwhile investment to protect the floor and enhance the appearance of the room. The best garage flooring options depend on a few factors:
• How high is the moisture level in the concrete ?
Moisture is the main enemy of any flooring application. Concrete slabs absorb moisture from the ground. Some slabs have a moisture level too high to allow adequate bonding of coatings like epoxy, garage paint & sealers. Moisture can deteriorate flooring material & form mold & mildew. If moisture isn’t too high then sealers & primers can be used to lock out moisture. The concrete can be then be further enhanced with epoxy or concrete paints. For floor coverings like vinyl, laminate & engineered wood a moisture barrier underlayment material is required. Some folks will go as far as using both a concrete sealer and a moisture barrier underlayment for maximum moisture protection.
Best options for high moisture concrete: avoid floor coatings, use floor coverings: rubber or plastic locking floor tiles, rollout rubber mats, garage carpet tiles,/ (with a moisture barrier underlayment & temperature controlled garage) vinyl, laminate, engineered wood
• Will the floor be subjected to oil & chemicals or a parked vehicle ?
If you will be parking a vehicle or using your garage as a workshop, then you have to consider exposure to oil & chemicals. Floor coatings are all suitable for such conditions but some floor coverings are not. While some coverings can stand up to oil & chemicals they may not do well under the pressure of a vehicle.
Best options if parking vehicle or exposing to chemicals: Epoxy, concrete paint, sealers, rubber or plastic locking floor tiles, rollout rubber mats, porcelain tile with epoxy based ‘stainless grout’, indoor/outdoor carpet
• Is the garage temperature controlled ?
If your garage is a temperature controlled living space then you have the most garage flooring options. Most garage areas are not insulated & temperature controlled. Such areas are usually exposed to extreme heat, cold & humidity which can weaken floor covering adhesives or damage flooring materials with cracks, gaps & warping. Vinyl, laminate & engineered wood are more resistant to moisture then solid hardwood and may be used over concrete with a moisture barrier underlayment. However, they are still recommended only for temperature controlled areas.
Best options if temperature controlled: Epoxy, concrete paint, sealers, rubber or plastic locking floor tiles, rollout rubber mats, garage carpet tiles, indoor/outdoor carpet, ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tile / (with a moisture barrier underlayment) vinyl, laminate, engineered wood
Concrete Coatings for Garage Floors
The least expensive garage flooring option is applying your own concrete coating. This could be epoxy, concrete floor paint, concrete stain or sealer. Coatings can protect & beautify your floor for a relatively low cost. There is however a good amount of preparation work that is necessary. Coatings can fail to adhere if preparation is improper. They can also fail if there’s excess moisture coming through the concrete from the ground.
Concrete should be first moisture tested before anything else. This can be done with a concrete moisture meter or calcium chloride test. If the moisture level isn’t too high then prep work can begin and includes thorough cleaning & etching with muriatic acid at minimum. It may also require crack repair & priming with concrete primer or sealer. This could involve a few hours of prep work before applying the coating.
Two Part Epoxy
Epoxy applies like floor paint, with a roller & brushes but is much more durable & long lasting than paint. Epoxy comes in 2 parts, a resin & hardener which are combined together right before application. While most floor coatings are suitable for do-it-yourself application, 2 part epoxy coatings are best left to the professionals. This is because once the parts are mixed the epoxy hardens quickly & must be properly applied before it dries. Though 2 part epoxy coatings give the hardest & longest lasting result. The floor will be protected from oil & chemicals & will be highly durable to traffic & impacts.
One Part Epoxy Concrete Floor Paint
One part epoxy paint comes with the epoxy premixed and is more suitable for do-it-yourself application. It’s basically water based latex paint with a much smaller amount of epoxy. It’s not quite as durable as two part epoxy but with proper preparation it can last for years. We’ve seen garage floors with epoxy floor paint applied over 10 years ago and still looking fine (in an area not exposed to oil & chemicals though). The critical keys are very throrough preparation of cleaning & degreasing, etching with muriatic acid & drying before coating, priming with concrete primer & giving plenty of dry time. Many folks will not follow all the steps and will then leave negative reviews when the paint is peeling. One part epoxy paints also protect against oil & chemicals but will be less durable than true epoxy. An example of one part epoxy paint is Behr Concrete & Garage Floor Paint.
There are other formulations of concrete paint also suited for do-it-yourself application that are formulated without epoxy. Rust-Oleum makes a concrete floor paint of modified acrylic polymer. Other formulations include latex & oil based paints. All of these concrete paints will be more durable than wall paints. Concrete paint itself will offer some protection against oil & chemicals. Plus any of these concrete coatings, either with or without epoxy can also be topcoated with a clear coat polyurethane for further protection. Decorative chips can also be applied on the floor paint and clear coated with urethane.
Concrete floor paints, whether they be latex, acrylic or one part epoxy, should be applied over a concrete primer or sealer such as Drylok.
Concrete polishing & concrete stain are another relatively affordable option. The floor can be professionally ground & polished to a mirror like finish. Polishing is a several stage process of grinding the concrete with progressively finer grinding pads. The floor is ground until the level of aggregate exposure and desired look is achieved. Concrete sealers are added throughout the process to harden the concrete. Color stains may also be added at stages to give a look similar to marble. Polished concrete offers very good resistance to oil & chemicals and protection can be enhanced with Stain Guard for surfaces that are often exposed.
A less costly & less labor intensive form of polished concrete is called grind & seal. The concrete is ground only 2 or three times. It’s then colored with dye & sealed with a topical urethane sealer. The polished appearance is achieved by the topical sealer alone rather than by multiple passes with finer grinding pads until achieving a glass like finish. This type of finish will not be quite as durable & long lasting as the polished concrete which never requires resealing. Sealer may require reapplication after several years depending on how much wear the floor endures.
Concrete Stain & Sealers
Another even less costly option is to stain & seal the concrete. If stained it needs to be sealed because stain itself only colors the concrete but doesn’t protect the surface. Though you could simply seal the concrete without staining it. Either way the concrete needs to be cleaned & acid washed for the sealer to adhere. Once the floor is prepared it can be color stained, then sealed with a clear sealer. Obviously the very least costly is just sealing it. Though it will remain the color of concrete, this will give some sheen to the surface and you can choose different sheen levels from high gloss to matte.
Acrylic/latex sealer is recommended for bare concrete surfaces, like if you’re only going to use sealer. It adheres better directly on concrete than urethane sealer. It is however not as durable against chemicals as urethane. If exposed to chemicals it may require annual waxing or reapplication.
Urethane sealer can be used over epoxy, for grind & seal concrete, stained concrete, latex and oil based paints. It is thicker & more durable than acrylic sealer. Urethane sealers provide resistance to oil & chemicals, though they may require a recoat after several years depending on the amount of traffic & exposure to chemicals. Urethane comes in water based & oil based formulas. Water base is more expensive, fast drying, low odor & never changes color. Oil based urethane is less costly but is slow drying, has high toxic odor requiring a respirator to apply, and changes to a yellowish color over time.
Whatever type of sealer is used, in all cases the concrete must be not too high in moisture. It is recommended to test concrete with a concrete moisture meter or calcium chloride test before deciding to apply any type of concrete coating
Floor Coverings for Garage Floors
The floor coverings recommended for garage flooring depending on the situation include rubber or plastic locking floor tiles, rollout rubber mats, garage carpet tiles, outdoor carpet, porcelain, ceramic & natural stone tile and those that require an underlayment – vinyl, laminate & engineered wood. Let’s first discuss the ones that don’t require an underlayment.
Rubber or Plastic Interlocking Floor Tiles
Hopefully your garage isn’t too jam packed with stuff since you’ll need to move everything. Floor tiles are very quick & easy to install & you won’t have to take everything out from the garage. Just sweep the area, lay the tiles down & press the interlocking edges together.
Garage floor tiles are available in rigid plastic or soft rubber. They cover cracks & stains, instantly beautifying the floor. No underlayment is required & damp concrete is no problem. They resist oil, chemicals & stains. Tiles are available in varieties of colors & designs that can be mixed & matched to make your own custom look.
Hard plastic tiles are more durable to withstand heavy loads like car jacks, and they may last longer than soft rubber tiles. The soft tiles will be quieter and softer to walk on. Soft tiles may also expand and contract with temperature changes so a little space around the outer edge is needed. Tiles are also very easy to replace, should one get damaged. They are however more costly then other garage flooring options.
Large Rollout Rubber Garage Mats
Rubber mats function similar to rubber floor tiles. Main difference is it’s one large piece. Sweep the floor and roll it out. Mats are available in different sizes, colors and designs. You can use one large mat or combine several smaller ones.
Carpet Floor Tiles & Indoor/Outdoor Carpet
Indoor/outdoor carpet is made of moisture, mold & mildew resistant material such as polyester or polypropylene fiber. Most regular carpet is not made for outdoor use, so be sure to look for “indoor/outdoor carpet”. It comes in rolls, tiles & also rubber backed mats. There’s no need for an underlayment. Carpet rolls need to be glued down. Carpet tiles are available with peel & stick backing that’s supposed to be suited for covered outdoor areas. Rubber backed carpet mats are a great choice if you expect snow & water to be tracked in with a vehicle. If you have a concrete slab with high moisture will the adhesive last ? You may want to consider other options or go with something like Dricore as an underlayment. But otherwise, we’ve seen outdoor carpet glued to a screened room concrete slab over 10 years old in humid South Florida with no problem. Indoor/Outdoor carpet is supposed to resist oil & chemicals, though you might not want to park a car with an oil leak on it.
Porcelain, Ceramic, Natural Stone & Marble Tile
These types of tile can beautify a garage. The main disadvantage is tile can be cold if it’s air conditioned or if it’s not heated in winter. Porcelain tile is extremely durable, even if parking a car or exposing it to chemicals. In this case you’d want to be sure to use epoxy based ‘stainless grout’. Ceramic tile is less expensive but also less durable than porcelain yet very suitable for a garage living space. Natural stone & marble tile are also very durable, but quite expensive & you’d probably want to use them only for a living space. Whatever the case, tile needs to adhere to the concrete so concrete cannot be be damp. As mentioned, if damp concrete is an issue you could always use Dricore as a subfloor and then put any type of flooring you like. This though will certainly not be the least expensive option.
As mentioned, floor coverings like vinyl, laminate & engineered wood require a moisture barrier underlayment when placed over concrete and should be installed only in temperature controlled areas. There are various types of underlayment materials which offer moisture protection. Some of them also provide cushioning & sound reduction to make the floor softer & quieter to walk on. Underlayment comes in rolls & sheets of materials such as plastic, silicone, polyethylene, foam, cork & felt. QuietWalk is a popular felt fiber underlayment which can be used over concrete with laminate, engineered wood, bamboo & luxury vinyl (at least 5mm thick). Dricore is another popular material which creates a solid wood subfloor with rubber backing allowing any type of material to be placed over it regardless of the how damp the concrete is.
Vinyl flooring comes in many types & styles. Some styles are made to resemble wood, stone & tile. There is the original solid vinyl, there’s the newer & thicker type known as luxury vinyl (LVT & LVP – luxury vinyl tile & plank), and and there’s an industrial type called VCT – vinyl composition tile. Vinyl comes in tiles, planks & rolls. Some are peel & stick, which you could use over sealed concrete. Others are click lock tiles & planks which can be laid over an underlayment (floating floor). These are all pretty easy to install yourself (except for roll vinyl). Vinyl in general is relatively inexpensive.
Laminate flooring is also durable & comes in many varieties, some resembling wood & stone. It can also be easily installed with click together planks that float (meaning loose laid without adhesive, nails or staples) over an underlayment. It’s relatively moisture resistant, but still, recommended only for temperature controlled areas.
Engineered wood is a type of real hardwood flooring. Unlike solid hardwood it can be installed over concrete & even in basements below grade where there can be high moisture. This is possible due to the engineered backing which lies beneath the hardwood surface. It can be installed over an underlayment in a temperature controlled garage.