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Preserve Your Concrete Floor with the Proper Sealant

Hot tires fresh from the road and garage floors. The two just don't mix well.

"It's like a heat gun used to remove paint. The heat on automobile tires acts in the same way, and it will do everything it can to loosen the paint from the concrete," says James Carey.

Carey and his brother, Morris, are the Carey Bros., producing the On The House home improvement radio program and a syndicated newspaper column from their base in California.

Even a floor built on a solid base, with a proper concrete mix and expansion joints to limit cracking, can get damaged.

Porous concrete can absorb water, promoting cracking in freezing temperatures. Briny water from salt mixes used to melt snow can strip floor finishes. And, there's always hot tires.

Proper sealing, though, can limit wear. Several product categories offer solutions, varying in price, complexity of application, and durability.

A typical two-car, 400-square-foot garage requires about two gallons of sealer, ranging from $25 per gallon for the least expensive latex to $100 per gallon for pricier epoxy, Carey says.

Most do-it-your-selfers choose latex. "It's usually a water-based product with soap-and-water cleanup," he says. "Unfortunately, it's probably the least effective, and I've yet to see a latex- based product hold up to hot tires."

Latex does offer some projection, making cleanup of oil drips and other spills easier, Carey says. It's washable and can keep water from reaching the concrete slab.

"Other sealers are more effective, take the same amount of time to apply and are only moderately more expensive," he says.

Acrylic sealers and stains, often used to add luster to garden paths and patios, are another choice. Because the acrylic penetrates into the concrete, the solution is more durable than latex, but requires more frequent reapplication than other options, Carey says.

Acid staining, commonly used to provide artistic finishes to interior concrete floors, countertops, or patios, can provide a garage a unique touch, Carey says.

Whether desiring a mottled, variegated, or bronze finish, the mix of a pigment with an acid can etch concrete for a stylish design. This finish, however, may require an additional sealer on top for protection.

Carey prefers epoxy, and says he learned the benefits first-hand after putting a latex finish in his own garage. The finish didn't last, although "where it did stick, it stuck well," he says.

Epoxy is the best choice for adhesion to the concrete, durability of the finish, and density of the finish, Carey says.

A chemical reaction bonds the epoxy to the concrete and creates a layer that can weather the toughest challenges, Carey says. Application requires the mixing of two chemicals, which must then be applied within a specific window of time, Carey says.

Improper application can end with poor results, but properly used, it's a winning choice.

"For my money," he says, "epoxy is the best finish for concrete slabs."

By Noble Sprayberry

photography by Matthew Starling