HAVING recently moved into a new-build property, I was keen to get the freshly-concreted garage floor sealed and dust-free at the earliest opportunity. Concrete-dust is not only bad for your health but can dull the paint on your car, over time.
Sure, a newly-laid concrete floor should be fine, but with vehicles coming in and out, jacks and ramps being used, the concrete surface will give off a fine dust no matter how careful you think you’re being. There’s also the question of spillage. Oil and other liquids tend to soak into concrete quite quickly and while you can mop them up, they are bound to leave stains behind that you just have to live with.
Which leaves you with 2 choices: Paint the concrete or tile it. I looked into both options and while painting is the cheapest option, I decided it wasn’t the best.
Why? Well, the hardiest paint option appears to be a 2-part epoxy solution which, on the surface (excuse the pun) gives a tough, shiny, wipe-free finish that looks impressive in the promo brochures.
It’s the solution that many independent garage/tyre-fitters use and having visited many garage/tyre-fitters over the years I don’t remember once walking in and thinking “Ooh, that’s a nice garage floor”. Which would be weird anyway, but my point is that paint – no matter how hardy and despite several coats – always ends up wearing off. It just does.
Paint doesn’t play well with friction. Imagine driving your car into your garage; you brake in approximately the same place each time, right? And when you set off, the initial torque is transferred to the same area each time. Over time this will leave 4 unsightly marks on the garage floor (or 3, if you’re lucky enough to own a Morgan Super 3) which will need over-painting. A painted garage floor becomes a maintenance job you don’t need.
There’s also the question of ease of application. Paint is messy; it needs mixing, it needs an undercoat to seal the concrete and then it needs more than one coat – maybe even several. If your garage floor has seen better days it may also need skimming. It will at least need thoroughly cleaning or the paint may not adhere correctly.
Which brings me onto the benefits of the PVC tiling solution, which is flexible enough to cover imperfections, won’t peel and is an absolute doddle to lay. Other than a quick sweep of the floor, there was no other prep needed. Bliss.
Other benefits, over paint, are extra sound and heat insulation as well as a more robust slip-proof surface. You also don’t need to wait days for it to dry between coats; the garage is usable as soon as you’ve finished laying the tiles. And if a tile should get damaged beyond repair (if that’s possible) then just lift it out and replace with a fresh one. No need to take the whole floor up.
It really is a no-brainer for the tile option when you weigh up the pros and cons – with the only negative being the cost difference. However, I prefer a simpler task that provides years of robust service, against a messy, more difficult one that will need constant maintenance. The tiles also look much smarter. Do it once, do it right.
After researching the numerous suppliers online, I opted to go with Floors4Garage (www.floors4garage.co.uk) due to their competitive prices and the efficiency of their contact, Christine, who proved very helpful when it came to choosing just which tiles I needed. They’re also a part of the British company Fortemix Ltd, who have been producing PVC products for over 30 years; so they must be doing something right.
I also liked the fact that I could choose a tile made from recycled materials. In fact, Floors4garage will buy back their old products from you so they can be recycled and it’s worth noting that fitting PVC tiles requires 80% less emissions compared to laying a whole new concrete floor.
Floors4Garage have many tiles to choose from depending on colour and how heavy the load you want it to take. There is a decent configurator on the Floors4Garage website that will calculate just how many tiles you need to order, as well as showing how the layout will look if you choose more than 1 colour.
I eventually opted for the toughest tile, the “Fortelock Industry”, in its recycled format, ECO Grey. There was a choice of 3 surface finishes – Diamond, Coin or Skin. I chose Skin as it was the least in-your-face pattern that looks almost smooth until you get close up. I also chose a ramped Rosso Red tile for the entrance to the garage to give it a small splash of colour.
The Industry tile is designed for the heaviest industrial loads, including forklift and pallet trucks so I figured it should handle my Mazda MX-5, no problem.
So just how easy is it to lay your garage floor with PVC tiles? Well, I’m no expert DIY’er but, taking my time, I managed my single garage (21 square metres) in less than 8 hours.
Tools needed are simple: A rubber mallet, sharp knife, a straight edge to cut along (a long steel ruler would be ideal), a tape measure and a pencil. Having a guillotine-type tile cutter would make the job a little easier but I managed to cut the tiles with my sharp knife and bit of sweat.
As recommended, I left the tiles stacked in small piles inside the garage for 24 hours, which helps them to acclimatize to the environment and helps with the fitting.
I looked online for “how-to” guidance but soon realized that for a single garage it’s simply a matter of making sure you have a centralized row running from one end of the garage to the other and the easiest way to do this was to lay the entrance ramp tiles across the opening, leaving equal-sized gaps at each end.
With the ramp tiles now centralized horizontally, I started laying tiles vertically from the front to the back of the garage and was left with a T-shaped structure that was perfectly central on the floor.
The tiles are 51cm x 51cm and 7mm thick so I knew their weight would anchor this structure in place and now it was just a matter of building out from the middle of the “T” until the whole floor was covered, leaving gaps around the perimeter.
This part was very quick as all you need to do is line up the locking tabs and tap them flush with the mallet. You don’t even need to take time lining up the tiles perfectly – anywhere near and the mallet just knocks them into place.
The tiles lock very tight, so I can imagine that even with a large amount of water getting onto them, only a minimal amount might seep under the floor. Anyway, the underside of the tiles has air-flow ducts to provide ventilation, which also prevents odour or rot under the floor.
The lengthiest part of the job was cutting the remaining tiles to fit the gaps. As you would expect the gaps either side were about even, so often just cutting a tile in half meant a gap was filled on each side. As recommended, I left a “breathing” gap of around 5mm up to the wall.
Cutting around obstacles, like door frames and steps proved a bit more challenging but overall, the operation was quite simple. I used a Stanley-type knife to cut the tiles at first and then decided to try my electric jigsaw – which left a melted mess on the saw-blade, even at the saw’s slowest setting. In the end I stuck with the blade, which was more laborious but provided a better finish.
With all gaps filled it was just a matter of giving everything a quick wipe over with a mop and then sitting back to admire the transformation.
And what a transformation; the dull, pitted and many-shades-of-grey concrete floor was now looking uniform and smart. Whatmore, it felt much better underfoot and I would no longer be carrying dusty footprints into the house – or my car.
Within a couple of days of finishing the job and moving my gear back into the garage (my WorkMate no longer wobbles when I set it up!) I managed to drop a tin of emulsion paint all over the tiles. In my panic I failed to take any photos but I can assure you that it cleaned up perfectly well. You would never have known anything was spilt.
Likewise, I haven’t noticed any marks where the cars have been parked. There is no indication at all as to where the wheels rest. In fact, after several weeks of use the floor looks exactly the same as when it was first fitted. The tiles are flexible but very firm and I cannot see that they will ever get marked.
Only time will tell just how robust these tiles are and come winter I may be using a trolley-jack and axle-stands on them which will test them in a work-environment. However, the early signs are that they do exactly what I want them to – provide a smart, robust floor that is easy to keep clean and totally eliminates concrete dust. Highly recommended.
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