It's the special touches that make a homeowner smile when he or she steps inside their haven of comfort. But why save these moments of joy for a home's interior? With today's new garage flooring materials, opening the garage door can elicit just as much aesthetic pleasure as entering a grand living room, albeit a joy of a slightly more industrial bent.
Two main options rise to the top of the list for non-concrete flooring. Rubber tiles, long popular in automotive garages, are finding a home in residential garages, says Doug McBee, manager of Fashion Floors in Medford.
Cleanliness is both a means and an end to a rubber tile or fluid-based garage floor. In each case, a surface is installed or applied on a sparkling, preferably new, concrete base. To maximize the lifespan of the fresh surface, homeowners should pay close attention to maintenance.
"They are very nice and clean and easy to keep sanitary," says Dan Brewington, estimator at F.D. Thomas, Inc. in Central Point.
Immediately wiping up spills of solvents, oil, brake fluids and other liquids will increase the performance of the new flooring. Sweeping up solid debris and dirt is the number one way to save work in the long run and will help protect the floor from abrasions. Keep a push broom handy for daily once-overs.
"Routine maintenance and cleaning are necessary" to protect the floors, Brewington says. Occasionally use a mild detergent, water and scrubber, followed by a good rinse.
Flooring retailers say fluid-based flooring and rubber tiles present a newfound ease of cleanability and, if properly maintained, a durability that will last as long as any concrete surface. Plus, homeowners can customize their garages with accent colors.
"The typical name is 'oil-resistant rubber flooring or tile,'" says McBee. "It comes in a variety of colors and is normally in tile form — tiles that are about 18 by 18 feet."
Rubber tiles, or larger pieces that can be ordered in many sizes, resist gasoline, grease, oil and other chemicals, making them a convenient surface in any garage. Although the color range offered by manufacturers is limited to six or eight choices, most homeowners go for a main color of gray or black while some customers like to augment the more austere look with accent tiles in gold or orange. "People don't want something that shows anything," McBee says.
Although rubber flooring can be purchased through home stores and is relatively easy to install, do-it-yourselfers have one significant hurdle to overcome, says McBee.
"The problem is that the existing concrete needs to be very clean and not oil-impregnated because the adhesive will not bond to it if there's any film," he says. "Everybody thinks concrete is a non-porous floor, but actually it's porous and water, grease, or whatever will penetrate somewhat."
McBee estimates the cost for just the tiles at eight to nine dollars per square foot. Diamond, square or coin-shaped raised features on the tiles add visual interest and grip.
"This is not going to be inexpensive, but it depends on what they're after," he says. "If you're not going to be parking cars on it, you can use vinyl composition tile like you'd see in a grocery store and that will cost less, but the drawback is any spilled oil will damage it."
To reduce the chance of damaging a vinyl composition tile floor, place drip pans under any engines or other tools that use chemicals.
Fluid-applied, usually epoxy coating is similar to rubber flooring in that it's largely oil and gasoline-resistant and it requires a spot-free, sparkling clean concrete base surface.
"You'll need to pick out a good epoxy depending on what the exposures will be; driving on it or exposing it to detergents," says Dan Brewington, estimator at F.D. Thomas, Inc. in Central Point.
Again, homeowners can easily apply this floor covering as long as they closely follow professional guidelines and start with a like-new surface. But for the best results, Brewington suggests purchasing high quality epoxy from a paint store or even hiring a contractor. Count on 50 cents to three dollars a square foot for do-it-yourself and $2.25 to $12 a square foot for contracted work.
If do-it-yourself is the decision, start with a specialty solvent or cleanser made for the express purpose of removing stains from concrete.
Three layers of fluid will be needed: a good primer coat, followed by clear epoxy. Let the epoxy cure overnight, sweep the loose stuff off, then top it with a clear coat of urethane-based sealant, which will increase the epoxy's longevity by adding an extra dose of resistance to chemicals and UV rays.
"These floors can last 15, 20, 30 years if they are maintained," Brewington says. "But you must understand that they're very hard and brittle, like concrete, and dropping a heavy wrench will chip them."
Cleaning rubber, vinyl composition tile and epoxy flooring is easy and will keep the garage looking good as new. Some homeowners even run a strip of tiles or vinyl-based fluid coating a foot or two up the walls, which acts as a splashguard. Collectible cars and workbenches never looked so good!