Polyurea Vs Epoxy: Which Is Better for a Garage Floor?

Garage floors typically take a beating. Salt from your car’s tires on winter roadways, oil leaks, and plenty of muddy boots from the kids can make these floors dirty and stained. If your garage floor serves as a workspace, falling objects like tools and heavy rolling carts can also cause damage.

To protect your floor, you can choose between polyurea and epoxy. Both can coat your floor in a layer of protection that can seal it away from most damage.

These products differ and have their own unique benefits. To help you decide, take a look at our breakdown of polyurea Vs epoxy to make your own decision based on how you use your garage.

What is Polyurea?

Polyurea is an inert elastomeric substance. It’s created by mixing an isocyanate compound with a synthetic resinous compound. It is an elastomer, which comes from the step-growth polymerization process. There are numerous formulas out there, and depending on the actual combination, the outcome may be different between products.

Polyurea is a type of highly adaptable, durable substance that can mold to the shape of the surface it’s placed on. It’s also notable for its high level of overall durability and strength, even under pressure.

The substance isn’t new, though you may not hear much about it being used on garage floors. In fact, when it was first used more than four decades ago, it was the perfect solution for the heavy wear and tear on industrial and warehouse floors. The combination of these two noxious chemical compounds interact with each other to create a durable and environmentally friendly product.

Without a doubt, polyurea has numerous benefits as a protective coating, including on garage floors. 

What Is Epoxy?

Epoxy garage flooring is commonly used in busy garages with a lot of traffic due to its non-slick and durable properties. 

Epoxy is a type of adhesive and as a polymer, it creates the overall durability it has become so well known for – and it is certainly strong enough to handle most garage floors as a result.

You’ll find polymers, including epoxy, in a wide range of the things you use every day, including rubber and styrofoam. Epoxy is a slightly different version of these polymers.

There are two types of epoxy adhesives: one called heat-cured epoxies, which are often used in industrial applications, and two-part epoxies, which are exceptional for garage floors. 

Two-part epoxies have two components: resin, which is often referred to as steel for its durability, and a hardener, which works to cause the epoxy to become less fluid.

Polyurea Vs Epoxy: Durability

Because garage floors deal with a variety of substances, heavy weights, dropping items from heights, and rough conditions, they need the most durable product out there. Both products are durable and will create a surface that can handle most types of garage activities with excellent outcomes.

Technically, polyurea is more durable than some epoxies. There are three specific types of epoxy garage flooring. The 100% solid epoxy is a very durable product and can handle just about any type of damage, making it quite capable of standing up to polyurea in durability. By contrast, the other two forms, a solvent-based product, and a water-based product, are significantly less durable than polyurea. 

Polyurea Vs Epoxy: Installation Process

It’s wise to turn to a professional to install coatings on your garage floor because they both have different installation processes.

Installing polyurea

To install polyurea flooring, the liquid is poured onto a fully prepped, clean, and flat floor which should be smooth and without clumps… Once you pour it, it spreads to every area of the surface it can reach, filling in grout lines and any cracks present. You then have several hours before you can walk on it (about 8 for the best outcome). Most of the time, it only takes about 24 hours of application to be able to move everything back into the garage, even your car.

This product doesn’t have an odor like others do and requires no mixing because the air sets the material.

Installing epoxy

To install epoxy, you’ll need to follow the same prep work for the surface. Most garage floors require two coatings, though some higher-quality, 100% solid products do not. After pouring onto the surface, it will take 12 to 48 hours to dry fully before you can apply the second coat making the installation process a bit longer. The application process is easy, and most products can be “painted on” easily. It will fill in groves and cracks well.

You will need to keep the space properly vented to install epoxy. Depending on the type, it could be high in VOCs, requiring proper ventilation. 

Most epoxy garage floor coatings can be applied once the surface is cleaned and sanded or acid-etched to create a surface for the substance to hold onto.

To ensure polyurea is level and consistent, it requires more work to fill in any imperfections with concrete and, in some situations, add a densifier to the surface to harden it. 

Finally, when considering the application of these products and hoping to do the work yourself, epoxy is the better choice with its easy application and available DIY kits. Polyurea requires professional applications in most situations (or should only be tackled by a seasoned DIYer). If it is not placed properly, it may not adhere well, which creates long-term complications for use.

Polyurea Vs Epoxy: Appearance

The next consideration is the way they look. There are many products on the market with notable differences in color and material consistency.

Polyurea allows you to apply different textures and colorings, especially if you decide to place more than one layer of the product. For those who are looking for a highly creative option, that can work well, Though it does certainly add to the cost and overall look of the product.

Epoxy garage floors are just as versatile when it comes to the way they look and the texture you can add to them if you desire to do so. Typical colors include tans, blue, and grey, though you can also choose options like white, black, and even bright yellow. Remember that it’s also possible to add chips and quartz to epoxy garage floors to enhance the flooring’s shine and overall character and interest. Some choose to add metallic components to create a bit of sheen to the space. There’s really no limit on color or overall look.

Polyurea Vs Epoxy: Price

What is the polyurea Vs epoxy price consideration, then? Costs matter when choosing a floor coating, but both of these methods are more affordable than removing a damaged garage floor to install new concrete.

Costs also range widely by location, size, and overall type (and quality) of coating product purchased. Typically, polyurea will cost between $7 and $12 per square foot, with some products pushing higher than this considerably. A typical single-car garage is likely to cost around $2,000 for polyurea garage floors.

Epoxy is more readily available and far more versatile. It can easily be found locally, which saves you money if you want to do the work yourself. Epoxy garage floors typically cost between $3 and $7 per square foot. However, some products cost up to $12 per square foot if they are professional/industrial-grade.

Polyurea Vs Epoxy: Maintenance/Longevity

Another important polyurea Vs epoxy comparison is in the maintenance of this product. In both situations, it’s best to keep these surfaces clean by removing oil, dirt, and chemicals as soon as possible. Both can handle exposure for a short period of time, with polyurea cleaning up somewhat better.

Polyurea flooring is more resistant to damage from drops from heights (such as all those tools off the workbench) and it does better with abrasions. You still need to keep the surface clean to minimize damage to it over time. You’ll likely only need to use soap and water to keep this surface clean.

Keep in mind, though, that polyurea is slippery when wet (and that can be problematic in many garages.) If you are applying it to an area that’s often wet, you’ll want to use a higher-quality product that’s more slip-resistant.

As for longevity, most people don’t want to have to replace these floors any time soon. The removal and replacement is time-consuming, hard physical work, and costly. Choosing the right product can help minimize this risk.

Most epoxy coatings will give you about 5 years of protection before they begin to deteriorate. In busier garages with more heavy use, it could happen sooner than that. You will get much longer out of polyurea, even up to 15 years, with most products lasting at least 10. 

UV exposure can be problematic for some types of epoxy floors. It can turn yellow and become less durable when there is constant sunlight. That is not the same with polyurethane, which isn’t impacted in performance from sunlight exposure, though you will need a topcoat if you are placing this in a fully sun-exposed area.

Polyurea Vs Epoxy: Which One Is Best Then?

The ultimate decision on which product is best comes down to a few factors. For many homeowners and business owners, epoxy offers a highly durable and cost-effective solution. It’s a popular choice for residential garages and workshops due to its affordability and widespread availability at most home improvement stores. While it’s still beneficial to use a professional for proper installation and longer-lasting results, epoxy requires less prep work compared to other options, which significantly reduces the overall cost.

Epoxy floors are known for their durability, handling most residential garage floors with ease, and offering easy cleanup. Although reapplication may be necessary every 5 years or so, the process is straightforward and provides an opportunity to refresh and upgrade your flooring. Epoxy’s balance of cost-effectiveness, ease of maintenance, and solid durability makes it an excellent choice for those looking to enhance their garage or workshop spaces without breaking the bank.

Polyurea, on the other hand, tends to be best for extreme durability in high-impact areas, such as busy workshops or professional garage spaces. It lasts longer, with some products providing an attractive-looking, protected floor for up to 15 years. However, the biggest drawback of polyurea is the significantly higher cost, both for the material itself and for professional installation. Additionally, any necessary repairs or restorations before application can drive the cost up even further.

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