For as long as people have had houses, there have been home improvement projects, and 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, although maybe not as widely recognized, 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.

One of the sad consequences of this, has been the boom in products geared toward the DIY’er that 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, but 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 caused by poor products marketed to unsuspecting buyers. I’ve often felt horrible for those that tried to save some money and ended up spending more in the long run and even worse for a few that spent what they had, 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. 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 most garage floor professionals will opt to grind or shot blast the surface to remove contaminants and profile the surface without the use of water?

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

Just like the TV shows, a quick transformation can be obtained with a DIY garage floor coating kit. However, these products and installation methods often result in coating failure. The most common failure type is hot tire peel. The moisture added to the surface in the preparation process, or acid that wasn’t neutralized correctly, causes poor adhesion. When you consider that the industry standard surface profile for epoxy to adhere is a Concrete Surface Profile 3 or CSP 3, which can only be obtained through grinding and shot-blasting, then failures of coatings where acid was used to etch the surface, become even more understandable. Hard troweled concrete simply isn’t profiled enough with acid 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. Poor mixing of products, or low quality products themselves can also be affected by the heat from tires. 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.

Typically a professional garage floor coating is going to consist 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 that adheres well to the substrate and is able to hide surface flaws, and a top coat that can withstand the abuses a garage floor is subject to over time. The additional product these systems utilize, as well as additional labor costs, 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 as opposed to a few basic color choices offered by the box stores. Not only can you achieve a more personalized look for your garage floor, you will be doing it with better products that will last longer.

I’m not saying you can’t do it yourself. I am saying that this 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.