For as long as people have had houses, there have been home improvement projects. For just as long there have been those who wanted to do it themselves. The meteoric rise in popularity of the HGTV and DIY networks have only fueled the fire with shows offering the basics of how to do just about anything around the house. By now, most people understand that reality TV is anything but real. Along the same lines, home improvement shows are more about good TV than home improvement. They don’t care if they skip a few steps or gloss over the boring parts. As long as they can show a quick easy transformation.

The sad consequence of this, is the boom in products geared toward the DIY’er. These reduce a project that used to require a professional, down to a few simple and easy steps. I know, you’re thinking I’m the professional and I just want your business. The reality is, I’ve had hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of projects over the years fixing problems caused by DIY’ers that didn’t know what they were doing. Or problems caused by poor products marketed to unsuspecting buyers. I’ve often felt horrible for those that tried to save money and ended up spending more in the long run. And even worse for a few that spent what they had. Those that were left with a mess, and couldn’t afford to hire someone to fix it correctly.

Today anyone can pick up a kit at the box store, follow the instructions, and coat their garage floor. The preparation steps in these kits usually involve acid etching, de-greasing, and pressure washing. Even when done perfectly, these very steps can lead to a coating failure. Porous concrete can trap and hold moisture. Moisture is one of the leading causes of coating failures. You can read more about that here.

Acid etching, de-greasing, and certainly pressure washing all add moisture to the surface. Acid will profile the surface for better adhesion. Just as de-greasing and pressure washing will remove dirt, oil, and other contaminants. But unfortunately, for the sake of selling a quick easy transformation, the potential problems with these methods are left out, just like the tedious boring parts in the TV shows. Isn’t it interesting that floor professionals will grind or shot blast the surface without the use of water?

Hot Tire Peel in an Epoxy Floor
Hot Tire Peel in a Failing Garage Floor Coating

A quick transformation can be obtained with a DIY garage floor coating kit. That isn’t up for debate. However, these products and installation methods often result in coating failure. The most common failure type with these products is hot tire peel. The moisture added to the surface in the preparation process, or acid that wasn’t neutralized correctly, causes poor adhesion.

The industry standard surface profile for epoxy to adhere is a Concrete Surface Profile 3 or CSP 3. This can only be obtained through grinding or shot-blasting. This makes failures where acid was used to etch the surface even more understandable. Acid doesn’t profile hard troweled concrete enough for epoxy to achieve a mechanical bond to the surface. When combined with heat transfer from hot tires, the result can be a peeling coating. Low quality products are more affected by the heat from tires, and when not bonded, they will peel. Often a floor can look decent everywhere, with four peeling spots where the vehicle tires sit.

Most professional installers use higher quality products than the ones sold at the box store. The manufacturers of these products, often times require a training course to certify installers, knowing that unlike a DIY’er, the installer isn’t going to naturally assume they did something wrong if a product were to fail.

A professional garage floor coating typically consists of a few layers of products that perform different functions. As opposed to a kit that has one layer trying to do it all. A good flooring system will usually have, at the minimum, a base coat that adheres well to the substrate and a top coat that can withstand the abuses a garage floor is subject to. The additional product as well as additional labor costs to install, often result in a price higher than the kits sold at the home center. The advantage is in the finished product. All kinds of colors, textures and looks can be created with these products. The DIY kits offered by the box stores offer a few basic color choices. A professional coating can achieve a more personalized look for your garage floor, and it will be done with better products that will last longer.

I’m not saying you can’t do it yourself. I am saying that a professional coating install is different than a half hour TV show where the goal is a quick easy transformation. You can’t turn it off and walk away when it’s done and the problems start. Fixing a failed floor coating almost always means removing the failed product and starting over. You are left with the same cost of installing a good floor coating system along with the additional cost of removing the failed system. What started out as a way to save a few bucks, ends with a peeling floor, or spending more than you originally bargained for.

We like to hear about your experiences. If you did it yourself, we’d love to know what products you and how well it has held up over time.