We all hear the jingle "You can do it, we can help." on TV and many get the urge to play with power tools. I'm no exception. But, before attempting a Do It Yourself project, I apply 5 criteria to determine if Im setting myself up for trouble.
Since I'm not a plumber, carpenter or painter, I'll stick to completing an epoxy garage floor coating for my examples.
Personal Safety - Am I Taking the Right Precautions?
Are you prepared with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?
Chatting with an electrician friend, we marveled at how people will attempt a Do It Yourself project with no consideration of their personal safety. He commented on homeowners getting zapped by working in a live electrical panel, or wiring up something wrong and creating a bigger, potentially disasterous issue.
Now, I've been reckless too. Not going to deny it. We gave up selling acid stained concrete after a pump sprayer started leaking the acids down my back on a commercial job. Floor turned out great. My chemical burns, while not terrible, were certainly not a pleasurable experience.
For the DIY enthusiast getting ready to apply an epoxy paint kit, I would ask:
a) Is it worth playing with muriatic (hydrochloric) acid to prepare the concrete floor? Please be sure to use acid resistant gloves and eye protection (sunglasses dont count). Dont have any bare skin that can get splashed. Acid burns sometimes leave scars.
b) Do you have a respirator that can trap out the acid vapors? The vapors released by the acids are not stopped by an organic vapors cartridge. So, that respirator sold at the big box store is probably not going to do it. Dont even think about acid etching the basements concrete floor, because those same vapors may not only seriously harm you, but other occupants in the home and exposed metals in the basement and other rooms.
c) If you decide to rent a grinder from the local rental outfit, are you protecting yourself for the dust generated during operation? Concrete dust is the silica dust that contributes to lung disease. High end grinding systems feature very powerful dust collection systems and skirting. Your shop vac will not be up to the task.
Be careful. Some garage floor kits contain volatile organic compounds that require a respirator during application and should not be used in closed air spaces like a basement. Protect yourself, your family and your pets.
Liability/Compliance - Am I mitigating my risk?
Do you know your local building codes and environmental compliance?
I'm not a general contractor. I don't know all the building codes in Pennsylvania or Maryland. Thats why I entered a contract for building my home here in Dillsburg (home of the New Years Eve Pickle Drop). Same reason applies to why I used a licensed remodeler to finish parts of the basement. When I go to sell, I am confident that I wont have any issues from non-compliance with the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code. It passed all inspections required by the PA UCC.
I hear all the time from homeowners that they (or the handyman) prepared their concrete by acid etching the concrete and collected up all the slurry in a shop vac in wet mode. OK. Then they dumped it down the city sewer drain on their street. Not OK. That act is potentially a local, state and EPA violation of the Clean Water Act. Disposal of slurry is even worse for those using an acid staining kit, because you might have just dumped heavy metals down the drain.
Having recently read the article Home Remodeling: DIY or not? on bankrate.com, Ill stick with gardening and some other tasks that I doubt will land me in court or paying a fine.
Resale Value - Am I adding to my homes value?
All of us want to continually maintain or increase the value of our home. Its one of our largest investments and no one likes to have their investments go down in value.
If you are getting ready for a DIY project that is fairly permanent, ask yourself:
1) Will my end results increase the desirability or value of my home?
2) Would you see this in a model home or Parade of Homes?
3) Does this make my home look like it was constructed and maintained by professionals?
I may offend some homeowners, but most of your DIY garage floor kit do not look like a professional coating. I often liken this to a homeowner painting their own vehicles.
When we were in the 2011 Pennsylvania Home-A-Rama, we completed the coatings in 6 of the 8 entered homes. One home featured a DIY kit applied by a painter. We kept getting the question" Stronghold Floors didn't do the garage floor in that first home, did it? No, we did not. Everyone noticed the difference.
Time Investment - Do I really have the time to do this?
How much time will be invested in research, material and tool acquisition, testing the waters and completing the project?
We are all pressed for time these days. Never enough time to get everything done. Some projects which may look simple on a TV commercial can turn into a lot of trips to the hardware store. Nothing is worse than the realization you need another item when already halfway through the project. Sometimes that realization may come too late, when stopping the process negatively impacts the results.
For those trying the Do-It-Yourself epoxy garage kit, ask yourself:
1) Do I have all the right items for the preparation? Don't stop the acid etching process once started, you don't want to leave that residue lay on the garage floor or on the driveway (where it may stain or damage the surface).
2) Do I have the proper repair materials on hand and understand their cure time? Many materials for filling cracks or surface pitting may need hours to days before you can continue with the process.
3) Am I prepared to put out the epoxy materials? While the DIY epoxy materials do not set fast like professional coatings, they do still have a limited window of time for application.
4) Can I wait 5 to 10 days before using my garage floor again? Many kits require a very long cure time before returning to full service. Professional garage floor coatings often return to full use in as little as 12 hours.
Hidden Costs - Am I really saving in the long run?
Is my DIY solution going to last as much as a professional job?
My hot pepper garden works year after year. My attempt at wiring in a generator during one of the recent superstorms MAY have contributed to burning up the central vac, HVAC transformer and TV (I wanted a new flat screen anyway).
DIY is not always going to save you money in the long run.
I think our record for thickest DIY epoxy garage floor goes to a gentleman in Cockeysville, Maryland who, each year, kept applying a new epoxy coating over the old, failing coatings. Each year, he had the same bare spots under the tires, but he did manage to build up about 1/8 of an inch in portions of the garage.
When asked how much he had spent over the past 10 years, it turned out to be more than if he had purchased a decorative chip, professionally installed, warranted garage floor coating from
You guessed it, us. And, yes, he did contract us to fix the problem once and for all with our garage floor coatings.
You can do it, but do you really want to?
If you do wish to do your own coatings, make sure you use very high grade materials. We get asked all the time for where to buy epoxy kits - we recommend Formula4Coatings.com.