Polyaspartic vs. Epoxy Garage Floor Coating
| Fact Checked By: Ashley De Zeeuw
Published: December 31, 2019 | Updated: June 12, 2020
During your search for the right garage floor coating, you’ve probably come across options for epoxy and a newer product called polyaspartic. These concrete coatings seem similar, so naturally, you want to know the difference. This head-to-head comparison of polyaspartic vs. epoxy will get you all the answers you need.
Both options offer durable, attractive coatings that can transform your garage from “blah” to “ta-da!” – but there are still key differences that can inform your purchase. In order to make the right choice between epoxy and polyaspartic, you’ll need to know what they are, how to apply them, and of course, the pros and cons of each.
What is Epoxy Coating?
Epoxy paint is a resin polymer that has been used to protect concrete garage flooring for decades. As a general rule of thumb, epoxy works best indoors, so this chemical-resistant and slip-free surface is perfect for the garage environment, where spills and puddles can create a challenge.
Typical garage floor epoxy application consists of a primer, a color base coat, and two surface coatings of polyurethane. The style is highly customizable, which is a plus for those looking for a specific style.
In addition to the color base, you can choose the finish, so you can go with a high gloss or a more matte look if that’s your thing. On top of all that, you get to decide if you want to introduce color chips to the mixture. It’s like the cherry on top of a perfect floor.
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How to Apply Epoxy Floor Coating
Before applying any garage coating, you need to make sure your concrete floor is compatible. Too much moisture coming up from the concrete will break the bond between the floor and the coating. To test the moisture levels, tape down a plastic bag and check on it after a day. If there’s any moisture when you peel up the plastic, you’ll need to address the issue by installing a moisture barrier before application.
Applying epoxy coating in your garage is a manual process that requires an extended paint roller. First, you paint around the edges of the space with a bristle brush, and then you fill in the rest with the roller. Epoxy vapors can be powerful, so always wear protective breathing gear such as a respirator with an acid filter.
While this manual application can take some time, you don’t have to worry about the coating drying in the bucket before you even get to apply it. That’s because epoxy is designed to have a long “pot life,” otherwise known as the amount of time it can spend open in a bucket before it dries up and starts to cure. That’s good news for you because it can take about an hour to properly coat a standard two-car garage.
Then you need to factor in some wait time when it comes to drying. The first coating will take around 16 hours before it’s ready for the second layer, but the most accurate information will always come from the manufacturer.
Once that second layer is ready, you need to decide if you want to add non-skid granules right after painting. The granules reduce the risk of a slippery surface, so it’s generally a good idea to include them.
Give it another 16 hours (or whatever the manufacturer says) for the second layer to dry. At this point, you can add a top coat of polyurethane if desired. After that dries completely, your floor is ready to handle foot traffic.
It can take up to a week before the epoxy is ready for cars to park and drive across the surface. The epoxy won’t fully cure until around a month passes. As always, the most accurate drying time estimates will come from the manufacturer.
Pros and Cons of Epoxy Garage Flooring
Pros of Epoxy Garage Flooring
- Affordable: When you’re working on a budget, epoxy will offer a quality coating without putting too much pressure on your pocketbook.
- Durable: Epoxy dries hard, so it can withstand the high traffic and other demands of your garage.
- Chemical-resistant: Regular battery acid and oil spills in your garage? That won’t be a problem!
- Style options: Spruce up your garage floor with your choice of color, finish, and mix-ins. You truly get the opportunity to customize your floor.
- Long pot life: This coating won’t dry up in the middle of the project, so you can complete manual application without a huge rush.
- Adheres easily: The longer drying time ensures that epoxy forms a solid bond with the concrete floor. It’s not going to lift up and peel away.
Cons of Epoxy Garage Flooring
- Temperature-sensitive: Epoxy is difficult to apply in extreme hot or cold temperatures. There needs to be a temperature sweet-spot, kind of like Goldilocks.
- Drying time: If you’re in a hurry, the long drying time will be a drag. It can take a couple of days to complete the installation, plus a month to cure completely.
- Air quality: There’s the potential to reduce air quality with off-gassing. However, newer formulas have been made to address this issue.
- Not colorfast: It may fade and yellow as a result of UV exposure. While that can cause problems, there are many formulas that include UV protection.
- Rigid: Epoxy doesn’t just harden when it dries – it gets rigid, too. That makes it a bit less durable and more vulnerable to scrapes.
What is Polyaspartic Floor Coating?
Polyaspartic is a hybrid material that resembles polyurethane. It was first developed in the ‘90s as a coating for steel in bridges and used for its corrosion-resistant properties. This alternative to epoxy is also known as an aliphatic polyurea sealer, which is a mix of ester and other materials.
Manufacturers can change the amount of ester to customize polyaspartic to have different traits, such as quick drying times and limited gas emissions after application. These innovations make it more versatile than traditional epoxy.
Usually, this coating has a clear, glossy finish. On its own, it creates the look of a wet concrete floor. You can add color to the mixture for a bolder look if desired. Often, people will distribute decorative chips across the surface of a still-wet coating to introduce a bit more color and non-slip texture.
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How to Apply Polyaspartic Coating
Just like with epoxy, polyaspartic won’t properly bond to concrete that gives off a lot of moisture. Be sure to test the moisture levels with a plastic bag, and install a moisture barrier if necessary.
Actually applying polyaspartic is a speedy process, because it dries so quickly. The consistency and appearance of the material is much like water – it’s clear (when not using color additives), almost odorless, and very fluid.
You’ll pour ribbons of polyaspartic across the floor and evenly spread it with a squeegee or roller. The recommended thickness of the layer will depend on the manufacturer. In an hour or less, the first coat will be dry enough to walk on, so you can begin the second coating.
This second layer will include any non-skid traction materials you might want to use. Polyaspartic is more slippery than epoxy, so this is always a good idea. Disperse them by sprinkling them over the top after the second coat is completely spread but not yet dry.
While the application isn’t a complicated process, this stuff dries fast, and I mean really fast. There’s a very short “pot life” for polyaspartic since it was developed to have a quick drying time. For this reason, you need to make sure you’re completely prepared before you start the project. Any unexpected hiccups in the process could lead to a dried-up bucket before you’re even finished applying.
Obviously, you don’t want to sink all that time and money for nothing, so keep this in mind as you make your choice. Though you can apply it yourself, many people choose to hire a professional to avoid the risks.
Pros and Cons of Polyaspartic Garage Flooring
Pros of Polyaspartic Garage Flooring
- Versatile application: You can apply it in a variety of weather and temperature conditions, so you won’t need to wait around for the right time.
- Durable: Polyaspartic dries hard, but it maintains some flexibility. This helps maintain a stain- and scratch-resistant finish.
- Style: Just like with epoxy, this coating offers plenty of options to customize the visuals. Color and chip additives create a unique look.
- Quick drying time: No more annoying wait times! Polyaspartic cures within 30 minutes to an hour, so you can apply your new flooring and get back to your life.
- Air quality: With low VOCs and virtually no odor from off-gassing, you’ll be able to breathe easier.
- Colorfast: The color won’t fade or yellow even after extended exposure to UV rays. That means your garage will keep looking great for longer.
Cons of Polyaspartic Garage Flooring
- Expensive: The benefits of polyaspartic coating come at a higher cost. If you’ve got a budget, you need to keep this cost in mind as you begin your planning.
- Weakness to battery acid: Mechanics beware. While polyaspartic is more durable than epoxy overall, it doesn’t hold up as well against battery acid. If you expect a lot of that, this might not be the best floor coating for you.
- Tricky application: DIY application is difficult since you have to evenly spread the coating with a squeegee or roller. Professional installation is recommended.
- Short pot life: There’s the potential for the coating to dry on the floor or in the bucket before the application is complete. This can trap bubbles and other imperfections on the surface and waste a lot of material.
- Possible delamination: If the concrete in your garage gives off moisture, there’s a pretty good chance that the polyaspartic can lose its bond and peel up from the floor.
Polyaspartic vs. Epoxy: The Showdown
Now that we know a little more about both of these garage flooring options, let’s compare them head-to-head!
Epoxy is very durable, but it is still vulnerable to abrasion. Polyaspartic, meanwhile, is more flexible, and won’t chip, scratch or scuff. It’s definitely more durable.
Polyaspartic costs more than Epoxy. The material on its own is pricier, and when you factor in the cost of hiring a professional installer, the difference gets even more dramatic.
It takes an hour or less for one layer of Polyaspartic to dry. Compare that to epoxy, which can take approximately 16 hours for a single coating. If you’re the impatient type, polyaspartic is for you.
You can apply epoxy on your own using a roller brush. The longer drying time allows for a more relaxed pace. Polyaspartic requires application with a squeegee or roller, and it dries so quickly that there isn’t a lot of room for mistakes.
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Epoxy can potentially decrease the air quality in your garage, and you need protective gear during application. Meanwhile, polyaspartic has low VOCs and hardly any off-gassing odor.
Polyaspartic gets very slippery when wet, so it’s a good idea to use chips in the surface to add texture and traction. Epoxy can also benefit from added traction, but it’s still not as slippery.
Some epoxy products can fade or yellow over time when exposed to UV radiation, so be sure to check your product before purchase. Polyaspartic is always formulated to be colorfast, and it won’t fade or yellow.
Which is Better: Epoxy or Polyaspartic?
When you get right down to it, there’s no definitive way to say that one floor coating system is better. Polyaspartic and epoxy each come with their own benefits and drawbacks, and it’s up to you to decide which is a better solution for you. After comparing installation methods and the pros and cons, you should hopefully know exactly what you need for your garage.