The trend to upgrade your garage floor is gaining popularity. This additional space accommodates entertainment areas, second kitchens, and workshops, and homeowners understand that this existing square footage can be the least expensive expansion to their home. Decorative finishes, such as vinyl color flake, quartz aggregates, and embedded images, are being sealed with epoxy coatings, acrylic sealers, and now polyaspartic polyurea floor coatings.
These clear coat products are being used with colored, stained, and stamped concrete. Contractors are discovering that polyaspartic polyurea systems increase profits because of their quick installation time and lack of client callbacks.
New coating choices
Manufacturers offer garage floor coatings in a range of products with different degrees of moisture resistance, breathability, user friendliness, and mil thicknesses. Products are formulated for the high-end professional and do-it-yourself homeowner. Some manufacturers produce hybrid polyureas with similar performance characteristics as their pure counterparts. "The polyaspartic polyurea benefit for a floor coating application is that it is light stable; optically clear; does not yellow, chalk, or fade; will cure and harden in all weather and temperature applications (even below-zero temperatures); has a fast cure speed, one-day application, and walk-on capabilities with property performance that has excellent abrasion, chemical, and hot-tire resistance," says Jack Bracco, president, Flexmar Coatings, New Kensington, Penn.
Until recently, the well-established two-part epoxies were the only option for concrete coatings--sometimes with urethane toppings. Epoxies have a longer cure time and are more labor intensive to install. Urethanes evolved to produce coatings with a longer life, toughness, and UV stability, but they required solvents and volatile organic compound (VOC) restrictions limit their use in many areas. "This spurred the need for polyureas," says Mark Glendrange, technical director, Versatile Building Products, Carson, Calif. "They are a type of polymer akin to the urethane family, tougher than epoxies in strength, and scratch- and abrasion-resistance, and they reduce VOCs considerably." Originally, polyureas required expensive spray equipment that could mix parts A and B at the nozzle tip, with curing happening a few seconds after spraying. The introduction of the polyaspartic polyureas gives contractors approximately 30 minutes of working time after mixing before curing takes place. They also offer quality penetration into the concrete substrate, which is difficult to achieve with epoxies.
"In almost all instances, we can be in and out of a garage in one day," says Sean Shiers, co-owner with David Schneider, Slide-Lok of Denver by Global Garage, Denver, referring to the quick installation time found when using polyaspartic polyureas. Polyaspartic polyureas do not require a deep profile preparation. "They penetrate the concrete with 'wetting' capabilities that provide an excellent bond ability after low-profile preparation," says Joe Sheehan, Garage Floors 1, St. Paul, Minn.
Shiers can prepare a garage floor quickly by diamond grinding the surface with 60-grit pads. When preparation is complete, his two-man crew can coat up to 2000 square feet in one day. Homeowners can walk and drive on the surface, and move their belongings in by the next morning. He uses polyaspartic polyureas for monolithic three-part applications consisting of the primer sealer, the clear bedcoat for vinyl chip applications, and the clear final top sealer. These three layers all use the same basic material--parts A and B mixed at a 1:1 ratio. "Since all the material is drawn from the same source, you can measure exactly within a cup of what is needed, avoiding waste," says Sheehan.
Steve Conklin, owner, Garage Dekor, Eagle, Colo., prefers the hybrid polyurea because it has a slightly thicker mil to each layer--three coats achieve a 25-mil floor. This thickness works better for him especially if a shot blast preparation is required to open the surface of the concrete. He also likes polyureas because of the slightly slower set time when compared to polyaspartic polyureas. Nevertheless, both systems include longer pot life and faster set time when compared to traditional epoxy coatings.