Navigating the Differences in Epoxy Floor Products

Home Improvement

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Though not as daunting to novices as having to sort through options for paint when it comes time to spruce up the home, navigating epoxy floor products can be confusing once that project shows up on the to-do list. It’s a task that most people take on infrequently and therefore needs some schooling.

There is an abundance of online “how-to” help available for treating the garage or retail space, but you’ll quickly note the warnings that home interiors are tricky. That means there are a few things to learn before visiting the home improvement store or researching professional epoxy floor products installers.

It Takes Two When it Comes to True Epoxy

True epoxy surfaces result from mixing two products, a resin and an activator that triggers the curing process that hardens the floor in a day. Two-part epoxy coatings offer the best protection of concrete floors in the garage or basement, the two surfaces that a homeowner might be able to tackle. The resulting hard surface can be complemented with decorative specks sprinkled into the mix.

The drawbacks with these so-called 100 percent solids are two-fold: They are more expensive — a two-car garage might exceed $300 — and they require proper ventilation because the chemical reaction generates intense fumes. On the plus side, the surface provides interior floors that will shine for years to come and long-lasting protection that garage floor paint can’t match.

Water-Based Epoxy Offers an Alternative

Many home improvement stores stock two-part, water-based epoxy floor products that are cheaper. They rely upon the same resin/activator dynamic, but the presence of water as a solvent adds some wrinkles to an otherwise straight-forward process.

Though the fumes are less intense and your tools will clean up with soap and water, the floor can take three days to cure while the water evaporates. The finished surface is thinner, so it won’t last as long as the 100 percent solids, and certain brands don’t allow the use of decorative color flecks.

One-Part Epoxy on the Label Means You’re Buying Paint

One-part epoxy is an oxymoron because it’s a paint product bolstered with premixed epoxy. As such, it doesn’t offer the protection found in true epoxy floor products. It’s cheap and easy, but homeowners in cold-weather states could find themselves needing to re-apply one-part epoxy every other year to keep the garage looking great.

The best advice: Don’t let money dictate the decision. Having the job done right once on household floors will bring years of satisfaction worth the expense. On the other hand, cheaper alternatives work fine in the garage or basement if the gradual effect of wear and tear doesn’t bother you.