RPM'S continuing do-it-yourself shop series shows how you can put together your own modern workplace, too!
By Toby Brooks
PART 3: Our floor goes from shame to shine with an EpoxyMaster floor coating
Last month we showed you how we finished up initial construction on our all-new Nucor Building Systems 30x50-foot utility building. With 11.5-foot sidewalls and a sturdy 2x6-inch steel stud construction, our multi-purpose shop space was ready for some amenities, including a durable high-tech floor coating, a full complement of wiring, outlets, switches, and lighting, and a new 4-post lift. Needless to say it has been an ambitious month around the Hardcore Horsepower Garage, but we’re thrilled to say we got it all done and have already started enjoying the new functionality.
We started out by addressing our raw concrete floor. We actually started this project in July by having the slab poured by a shady local contractor. That said, it had had plenty of time to cure and coating would not be a problem. At the same time, the heavy equipment that had been used during construction had left heavy tire marks all over the concrete.
We called up the experts at EpoxyMaster to ask about one of their available high gloss showroom shine kits. We had seen the cheapie kits at the home improvement store, but have read page after page of bad reviews about hot tire pick up, peeling, and other durability issues. After speaking with Tony and checking out the EpoxyMaster website, we decided to splurge and go for their 100% solids two part epoxy system. On Tony’s suggestion, we went with four of their three-gallon kits in tan with autumn brown, white, and black chips. We ordered two kits with tools and two without.
Prior to applying the floor coating, we had to get the surface prepped and ready. Although chemical etching is one option, by most accounts it is much preferred to use a grinder to prep the surface mechanically. We rented a two head floor grinder from a local tool rental store and purchased a set of six grinding stones. Most such stores have both electrical and gas-powered units available. Although electrical units are quieter and don’t produce fumes, our store had rented out their only electrical unit indefinitely. We threw up both garage doors and got ready to work with our gas unit.
Prior to grinding, we gave the whole shop a thorough sweeping and hit it with a leaf blower. We also took a shop vac to the perimeter and attempted to remove as much dust as possible. You can never get the surface too clean.
Grinding the floor was an arduous task that we really only got the hang of when we had nearly completed the whole surface. Our first mistake was in over-wetting the surface. The unit had an attachment for a garden hose, so we hooked it up and let it spray. Unfortunately, while the water helps keep the dust down, it also dramatically reduces the effectiveness of the grinding stones. The mistake cost us at least an hour of our lives in extra work.
Once we got the hang of the grinder, floor prep went along pretty easily. The water eventually dried, but left behind a powdery residue. We ended up mopping the entire surface, followed by another sweeping. Although that probably would have been good enough, we didn’t want to take any chances, so we repeated the process again, this time mopping with a hand towel on our hands and knees. Although we plan to install wall panels that would cover the edges, we opted to go ahead and mask off the perimeter of the floor with masking tape prior to painting. This step was probably not necessary for our application, but it did ensure the end result would be clean and free of messy splatters. One final blow out with our cordless leaf blower and we were ready to coat.
Before mixing, we donned appropriate protective gear and our spiked shoes. The shoes allow you to walk on the wet floor surface while working. Without them, you’ll be unable to step anywhere you have coated while wet. Trust us, if you are willing to invest this much in coating your floor, the spiked shoes would be worth ten times their $30 additional cost. They make things that much easier. Provided you stride carefully, your steps will be undetectable.
Mixing couldn’t be easier. The EpoxyMaster kit comes shipped in a five-gallon bucket with the epoxy Part-B hardener neatly packaged in a removable nesting tray in a one-gallon can with the Part-A resin beneath. To prepare the solution, you need only to open the bucket, remove the gallon can and packaging, pour the hardener into the resin, and mix with the provided mixing tool for two minutes. We used a kitchen timer to be sure our time was perfect and used a corded drill. The mixture is thick and would have probably been too much for our tired old cordless drill. Take our advice—don’t risk it.
Once the two parts are poured together, the clock is ticking. After mixing thoroughly for two minutes, the coating is ready to apply. We poured the contents of the bucket onto the floor as directed in the EpoxyMaster instructions then spread it evenly using the included squeegee. After the coating was evenly distributed, we went back over the surface with the high quality roller included in the kit, back rolling the entire application for a smooth, glossy sheen.
We were able to cover approximately 450 square feet with each three-gallon kit. We applied the coating along the borders cut in our slab by the initial contractor which helped minimize any roller marks as we worked over the entire surface. Using the spiked shoes, the process was straightforward and simple, but the constant fear of the product hardening kept us continually in motion. Once one section was complete, we distributed the allotted paint chips for a decorative finish.
With two bags of chips and a whole surface to cover, we really didn’t know how best to pace our chip distribution, so assistant Christi Brooks came up with a simple solution. She simply divided the chips evenly into foam cups, allowing us to distribute the mixture with relatively even consistency throughout. Without this step, we probably would have over-applied the chips early and ran out as we worked. Good thinking, Christi.
We continued the process until the entire floor was done and the six-inch entry apron just in front of the rollup doors. No keep in mind that our location in West Texas is in the midst of a near-historic drought. We hadn’t seen rain once in nearly seven months. As luck would have it, all that changed while our floor was still drying. Although the building is leak-free, the coating just outside the doors got wet. Darn the luck.
We addressed the rain-wetted surface the next day and finished the job. Remarkably, the floor was ready for light foot traffic in just 24 hours and ready to be driven on in just two days. The glossy sheen is remarkable and adds an incredible finished look to the entire space. We’ve already accidentally dropped tools and spilled oil on the surface and it has survived without a scratch.
Just like any automotive paintjob, the finished product on any floor coating is only as good as the prep work that goes in first. In our case, we are confident that we did everything we could to get our floor scuffed, clean, and dust-free. After that, the application of the EpoxyMaster kit was a straightforward process that produced an incredible result. Be prepared to sweat and work hard for as long as it takes to complete the job, but trust us—in the end you’ll thank yourself!
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Toby Brooks is an author and contributor for RPM Magazine.