Taking the ‘Cave’ out of Man Cave

We all want to spend more time in our garage right? I do, but no matter how much you try to keep bare concrete clean it never really seems to work and frankly it just doesn’t look good. There are a couple of common ways to spruce up your garage floor: epoxy coating or a floating floor tile. In the hunt to find something to dress up our ~4300 sq. ft. of a warehouse space, I took some time to research these 2 choices. I know 4300 sq. ft. is bigger than a typical garage, but the tips for deciding on what works best is the same for a 1 car garage all the way up to a warehouse with the amount of space we have.

The first thing you really have to do is get an idea how much square footage that you want to cover. After that you need to look at the current state of the floor and ask yourself does it have a lot of cracking? Has the floor settled, creating uneven spots? Does it have oil spots or other spills? The reason these questions need to be answered is each product is going to have its pros and cons based on those answers. The worse the condition, the more prep work that’s needed, and in projects like this, it’s all about the prep work.

Epoxy floors look great and are super durable, if done correctly, and you have many choices when it comes to finish. There are some DIY and professional choices when it comes to the application of epoxy. Shopping for epoxy requires that you to look at where you will be installing the product and how long you plan you be in the space.  Spending big bucks on a garage floor in a house you aren’t going to be in for a long time doesn’t seem like a good investment. Most of the basic and industrial grade epoxy coatings that you can install yourself are good and will last several years, but usually require using chemicals to clean and etch the surface for the covering. The best way to get a durable long lasting finish is to have the pros do it for you, as they often have guarantees on the coating, in some cases for a lifetime. They will do all the prep work on the floor, including diamond grinding the surface, filling of all the cracks and leveling the floor. Of course, this is the priciest way to go. No matter which route you might choose, the prep work and install require a lot of time and each step needs to be completed in one shot, as once it is down there is no undoing what you have done. The Epoxy option had 2 down falls for us, the price was high for our space as our surface needed a lot of prep work for epoxy and the other reason being our space is leased so we wanted the flexibility to move everything out and re use it at another location.

Floating tile floors are very easy to install for the average consumer and require less work to prepare the surface. You can install them over a surface that may not be perfect, small cracks and stains won’t affect the end result as much as the epoxy. You have several colors and styles of tiles to choose from that you can mix and match to give your space a personal touch. The tile itself is made of a very strong, quality material that can withstand the weight of lifts, large tool boxes and larger vehicles with no issue. It is also very resistant to chemicals and can be cleaned easily with a broom or a mop and your favorite degreaser/cleaner.

After getting a quote for both products and thinking about our long term plans for the space, I decided to go with Race Deck’s Free Flow 12”x12” tiles in Alloy with an Orange accent. The price came in just about half of what epoxy would be. The surface is not very level and was once an office space that had glue and carpet pad that would need to be ground off before we could put epoxy down. If our surface had been in better condition, it would have been less expensive to use epoxy. The nice thing is that most companies will give you a free estimate so you have a very good idea what it will cost before pulling the trigger on either choice. The epoxy coatings prices vary depending on the warranty term, the longer they warrant it, the more is will cost. Tiles have different prices based on the style and are typically priced by the tile.

When it came time to install the tile, we prepped the surface by sweeping the whole area and making sure it was free of dirt and debris or anything sticking out of the concrete floor like nails or screws. The 3 pallets of tile were delivered and I started by laying out a large cross shaped section going from front to back and side to side with the intent of getting my spacing on the edges figured out. In the end, that didn’t work out quite as I planned, so I followed the included instructions. They recommend starting from the side of garage with the longest straightest wall. While we really didn’t have a doorway to start in, we did have a straight(ish) wall to work off of, and once we got everything squared up the tiling part went pretty quickly as the tile comes in 4’x4’ sections with 12 of those sections in a box.

As you lay the tiles out, you need to make sure you have all the edges of each tile going the same direction. There are 2 sides with “male peg” and 2 with “female loops”. You want both sides with the female loops pointing away from the direction you start in. As you put the tile down, click it in to the other tile(s) in a couple of spots by hand. After a couple of tiles are done, you will want to stand up and use your foot to click them in the rest of the way. I used a stomping method and also rolled the edge of my foot along the seams. That worked well but after 2 days and 4000 of the 4300 sq. ft., I was pretty sore. They don’t recommend using tools like hammers, and I would have to agree with them, even though the tile is designed to handle high impact situations.

As you start to come to obstacles and walls you will have to break down the 4’x4’ sections in the smaller 12” squares. The technique I found to work best was to “break” them over my leg from the bottom side of the tile. I would recommend installing all the tiles you can that don’t require cutting and save that part for last. They recommend doing all the trimming at the hottest part of the day as the floor expands and contracts a fair amount with temperature changes. You also need to leave about a half inch of space all around the edge of the flooring to allow for expansion.

I found cutting to be a little bit tedious as I really didn’t have the tools I should have. I would highly recommend a table saw with a high tooth count blade for a smooth cut. I used a cordless circular saw with a blade for cutting lumber and it took a couple of cuts to figure the best way to get a good cut. I also had a handful of posts to cut around and I ended up using a pair of tin snips which worked well, but using a jigsaw with a fine tooth blade would have made the curved cuts much easier.

It was great to see as I progressed how much the room went from a dingy looking ex-office space to a more livable, brighter area. Having the tile down cuts down on the amount of dust that gets kicked around and even improved the acoustics which was an added bonus.

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