Every so often, we have people telling us their newly installed epoxy garage floor is peeling after only a year. Most of the time they will blame the product applied, but the truth is more often, the reason why is something else.
Let's first start by saying that the biggest number of complaints comes from DIY applications. The reason why is DIY epoxy kits give instructions only on how to apply the epoxy to your floor, but not how to prepare the floor for the epoxy.
Floor prep is the key part of successful epoxy floor installation. Without it, the floor is destined to fail soon after the new epoxy has been laid out.
Let's look at the most common reasons why your epoxy floor peels and how to prevent them.
Floor prep is the key ingredient to a successful and long-lasting epoxy floor. Epoxy needs clean and porous concrete to sink into and bond to it. If the concrete pores are not opened enough or they are overly exposed, the epoxy will not bond. It's the same if your floor has any residue left from acid etching or any oil stains, dirt, or grime.
The best concrete surface profile is achieved by concrete grinding, which in many DIY attempts is not available. At the very least, the concrete should be acid etched, which again for inexperienced installers can cause more damage than good.
No matter how high-performance epoxy you apply to the floor, if the concrete is not prepared right, the epoxy will not bond and peel off soon after the application.
Soft concrete can be caused by bad concrete mixing, pouring of the concrete, or both. Soft concrete is distinguished with a lot of dusting, crumbling, or easily chipped and scratched concrete.
The best way to prepare soft concrete for epoxy is to grind it and apply a densifier to it. The concrete densifier fills in the concrete pores and increases the concrete surface density. However, sometimes depending on the quality of the concrete slab, even this might not help.
If you suspect you might have soft concrete in your garage, we recommend contacting a flooring professional to inspect the floor and if feasible complete the job for you.
Moisture trapped in the concrete is one of the most common problems associated with epoxy peeling.
As epoxy creates a thick plastic-like film over the concrete, any water trapped inside the concrete cannot pass through the epoxy. This results in water vapor creating pressure that is strong enough to lift the epoxy coating on its way out.
If there are any dark spots in your concrete, chances are your concrete slab has not fully dried. This happens with newly poured concretes or in houses where there is underground moisture that soaks into the concrete.
If you are considering epoxy flooring, but you have doubts about moisture, it's best to first do a moisture test on your concrete.
Acid etching is one way of floor prep, done mainly by DIY projects. The way it works is by using acid to open the concrete pores. It reacts with the free lime in the concrete to break down the calcium at the concrete surface. The calcium turns into very fine dust, which sits on top of the concrete. If it's not properly removed, it can prevent the epoxy from bonding with the concrete and instead of sticking to this fine dust, resulting in the epoxy peeling off.
If you decide to use acid etching for the floor prep, you should not let the floor fully dry during the process. Instead, use plenty of water and a deck brush to wash off the residue. Depending on how much free lime there is, you might have to repeat the process a couple of times. Using a pressure washer works best for cleaning the fine dust from your concrete.
A lot of people attempt to apply epoxy or floor paint over sealed concrete. The reality is this will not work, as previously mentioned epoxy needs to penetrate into the concrete in order to bond with it.
If you are not sure if your concrete is sealed or not, you can do a simple test. Drip water over various areas of your concrete. If the water just sits on top of the concrete without being absorbed, this means that your concrete has been previously sealed.
If you would like to apply epoxy, you'll need to diamond grind the concrete in order to remove the sealer and open the concrete pores at the same time.
Do not attempt to use acid etching, as the acid will just sit on top of the sealer, without actually removing it.
If you are like us and love repairing your car in the garage, then you know how annoying oil stains, silicones, and polymer tire residue are.
As these contaminants soak into unsealed concrete, they can prevent the epoxy from bonding with the concrete.
Areas with oil stains are usually darker than other areas, the darker the area, the high amount of oil-soaked in the concrete. In cases like this, is first better to absorb the oil, before grinding off the concrete. The easiest way for small stubborn stains is to use a poultice.
Soak an absorbent material such as cat litter or sawdust, with acetone or lacquer thinner. Spread it over the stain and cover it with plastic. Leave it overnight. The solvent will break down the oil and the absorbent material will suck it out of the concrete.
After grinding the concrete, you should test the areas where there were any oil stains or tire marking. Drip water over them. If the water is absorbed, it means the epoxy will be able to bond with the concrete.
Note that acid etching is not suitable for removing oil stains or any other contaminants from the concrete slab.
Applying epoxy flooring that lasts years is really not difficult. All it requires is attention to detail and knowledge of how the concrete floor should be prepared and tested.
With the exception of moisture issues, all other problems can be ground away. With the right technique, we can guarantee you can have an epoxy floor that lasts years to come.