Many people have concrete slabs as the floor in their garage, and they rarely do anything to cover up the concrete slab. It’s a garage after all; why would you want to put nice flooring down on something that’s going to get dirty? One option for people who disagree, however, is garage tiles. But are garage tiles waterproof, or will they be destroyed after a rainstorm?
Because of the materials they’re made from, garage floor tiles are inherently waterproof themselves. Some types, like garage tiles made from PVC that include a straight seam, can be completely waterproof, although the majority of garage tiles will not form a completely watertight seam when installed.
Although most garage tiles won’t keep water out from underneath themselves if it’s in high enough quantities, they are typically made with gaps to allow water to flow out from underneath them to keep mold or mildew from growing. Keep reading to find out all about the different options for garage tiles, as well as how to determine your waterproofing needs.
Are Garage Tiles Waterproof?
In general, garage tiles are manufactured using three different materials:
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Since these are all synthetic materials, they all offer waterproofing as one of their benefits. However, one important thing to note is that there will still be tiny gaps between each tile when you’re installing garage floor tiles, even if they interlock. The highest quality PVC flooring tiles with a straight seam when installed are known for being watertight, but the rest aren’t.
Therefore, it’s essential to understand your options and look for specific features if you’re expecting a lot of water run-off from parking your cars (for instance, if you live in an area with a lot of precipitation or snow in the winter, or if you plan on washing your vehicles in your garage).
Many tiles have a feature that keeps most of the tile lifted off the concrete, allowing space underneath them for water and fluid run-off. If you have a drain in your garage or your garage is self-draining, this is a nice feature and will keep your concrete from being wet for extended periods.
Why You Might Want to Install Garage Tiles
You might think that garage tiles are usually restricted to the wealthy who own dozens of cars and want a nice show-room floor to show off their collection, and you’d be wrong. High-quality garage floor tiles are more affordable than ever so that anyone who wants a highly water and fluid resistant floor surface that’s also very attractive can install garage tiles.
There’s a variety of reasons you might want and/or need garage tiles on your garage floor. These reasons may include:
- Protect the concrete floor from debris from outdoors
- Protect the floor underneath from fuel, oil, and other corrosive substances
- Protect your garage from wear and tear due to parking your vehicle on it
We’ll discuss each of these reasons for installing garage tiles in greater detail below.
Protect the Floor from Outdoor Debris
Your car picks up a lot of debris when you’re driving it outside. Waste can include sand/salt in the winter, mud, dirt, pebbles, rocks, oil, other fluids from the road, and whatever else you might find on the road. Many of these substances can be corrosive and harmful to concrete, especially when you’ve been parking your vehicle on it for years.
Although concrete is a very tough and durable material, it does wear after being subjected continuously to debris from the environment. You may not notice it after a few years, but your perfect concrete surface is being stained and pitted by these contaminants during that time.
Particularly harmful is the deicing fluid that plows, and road crews use during the winter. This is laid down as salt, which melts off your tires and on your garage. It then forms a brine-like liquid that seeps into the pores of your concrete. This leads to spalling, in which chunks of the smooth top layer of concrete start to crumble off, leaving ugly pits.
If you don’t live in a place where you get a lot of snowfall, you might not be worried about the damage to your concrete. Of course, your car still picks up oil and other leaked car fluids that can leave ugly stains and damage to your concrete (more on that below).
Protect the Floor from Oil and Other Leaked Fluids
Cars leak a lot of fluid on the roads, and when you drive, your tires and undercarriage inevitably pick up some of those fluids. Besides the damage to the environment caused by these leaks, you’ll also cause damage to your garage floor. When you continuously park your car on a bare concrete floor, you’ll allow those fluids to contact the floor through your tires.
While these fluids might not physically damage the concrete in a garage, it will leave unsightly stains that are next to impossible to get rid of. Many garage tiles are made of stain-resistant plastic or rubber, which means they can just be wiped or hosed down and cleaned up. In this way, you can avoid damage to your garage floor.
Protect Your Floor from Normal Wear and Tear
Cars are hefty, and even the most challenging concrete will start to crack or spall when a heavy vehicle is parked on it day after day, year after year. Garage floors with large cracks will often need to be completely replaced, which is very expensive. If you do work in your garage, dropping tools, using car jacks, or spilling chemicals on your garage floor will also damage it or stain it.
Garage tiles can help mitigate some of that damage by acting as a tough, resilient barrier between your car or tools and the concrete floor. Plus, if they’re waterproof, you’ll keep chemicals and fluids from leaking through them to the floor beneath.
There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to install garage tiles for pure aesthetics. The more expensive tiles allow you to fully customize your floor, so you can choose various colors and designs to get you the look you’ve always wanted. Nothing says you’re a professional, quite like a great garage tile floor.
You can often choose from a variety of colors and designs for your garage floor, and you’ll receive the number of each color you’ll need based on your square footage. Certain types of garage tiles or garage floor coverings may not offer much in the way of color choices, so that’s something you’ll have to keep in mind when weighing your options.
Waterproof Varieties of Garage Tiles
As mentioned above, you have three options for tiles if you’re looking for waterproof ones. While all of these options are inherently waterproof due to the materials, they’re constructed from. They vary in terms of their water tightness, as well as their durability.
Durability is important because tiles that are more likely to wear or crack will need to be replaced, or they’ll allow water to seep through. These three materials are:
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Polypropylene is a common plastic used in the manufacture of various goods, including furniture, automotive manufacturing, and packaging materials, among many other industries. Polypropylene garage tiles are generally hard, rigid, and inflexible, and come in various colors and styles.
These tiles interlock with each other using a peg and loop system, creating a solid barrier that varies with how much water or fluids they’ll let through. Generally, unless you have a flood in your basement or a massive fluid leak from your car, you won’t have to worry about much water getting through.
The hard plastic results in a surface that’s very stain resistant and very easy to clean. Instead of having a concrete floor that stains easily and holds the stains. Try getting oil out of your concrete floor and good luck to you, but with polypropylene garage tiles, you can just get a rag and wipe up the spill.
While polypropylene tiles may not create a completely watertight seal, they will keep most water and fluid from getting underneath them. One thing to note is that many polypropylene tiles are slightly raised to allow for fluid drainage, something that wouldn’t be necessary if they were completely watertight.
There are even some types of polypropylene tiles that purposely have holes in them to allow for flow-through drainage, something that would probably be desirable if someone does something like wash their car in their garage. They’re also mold and mildew resistant, so you don’t have to worry about either of those things growing on your tiles.
Polypropylene tiles can range greatly in price depending on the quality of the tile you want to get. Some may cost as little as $2 per square foot, while others can cost $6 or more per square foot. Like most other things, you get what you pay for, and the more expensive tiles will have added features like skid-resistant surfaces, greater strength ratings, and more options for colors.
Rubber tiles come in various shapes and sizes and can either be a tile that you just lay on the floor or a tile that sticks to the floor. When you think of soft rubber tiles, you may think of the floors used in gyms, often rolls of rubber flooring. However, there are also rubber tiles available that interlock together.
If you’re building a gym in your garage, you may be interested in rubber tiles because they’ll make a much better surface to work out on than on hard plastic tires. While polypropylene tiles may be able to stand up to the weight of a car when it’s evenly distributed, they might crack when hit with a concentrated amount of weight in a small area, like if you dropped a weight on it.
Rubber tiles are water-resistant as well, although you may find that they do get somewhat wet if covered with water. These tiles, for example, interlock to keep water out from underneath them, and the texture they have has the added bonus of helping you avoid slipping even when they’re damp.
Rubber tiles can deal with a lot of abuse, from dropping heavy weights on them to having heavy vehicles drive across them. They’ll never crack, though they will wear after a while, especially if you constantly spill chemicals and fluids on them.
However, you’ll find that they are somewhat more porous than hard polypropylene tiles, so they may stain or hold moisture more than their counterparts. While they are waterproof in the sense that liquids won’t get through them, you may find that they stay damp for a while. Keeping your garage well-ventilated will help them dry out.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
An alternative to polypropylene tiles is PVC tiles, which are semi-flexible and made from a softer rubber than polypropylene. Unlike polypropylene, these tiles are capable of creating a completely watertight seal because of their more flexible construction. They don’t necessarily have drainage underneath, and they’re not a hollow-core construction either.
PVC tiles come in a wide variety of sizes and colors so you can have an exact look you want in your garage. However, you may not be able to find as wide a selection of surface textures and designs, as most of these tiles have either the coin or levant style tops. An added benefit for PVC tiles is that they won’t squeak, which is something polypropylene sometimes does.
Just like with polypropylene, PVC tiles and water and fluid resistant, so they’re hard to stain, and most spills and liquids can just be wiped up. Another great point about using tiles is that you can just replace a tile in the rare event it’s actually stained or damaged beyond repair.
Weather Considerations and Waterproof Tiles
It’s useful to have a better understanding of exactly what your garage floor is up against when you drive your car in on it, especially if you live in an area that’s known for harsh winter weather. Water is naturally corrosive, and it will eat away at anything if left for long enough. This is made worse, however, when it’s water mixed with the salt and de-icers that road crews use in snow.
If you’ve ever seen a clump of ice stuck to the bottom of your car that’s really brown, you’ll see exactly what we’re talking about here. Without getting too much into the chemistry, the salt that gets attached to the bottom of your car reacts with the minerals and compounds in the concrete, which causes the concrete to crack and break.
Likewise, the water and salt mixed together can put more pressure on the concrete surface if/when it refreezes, which is why you may find issues with your concrete.
Man-made plastics like PVC and polypropylene, however, don’t have this problem. The saltwater doesn’t damage them because of their high water and fluid resistance, so you don’t have to worry about parking a wet car on top of them. Likewise, if you get PVC tiles that can create a truly watertight seal, you won’t have to worry about the concrete floor underneath.
Alternative Garage Floor Coverings
If you don’t feel like spending the extra money on plastic garage tiles (because although they’re one of the best surfaces in terms of being waterproof, they’re also among the most expensive), you can look at a few other options for garage flooring.
You can get large rubber mats to roll out over your garage floor to give some waterproofing and protection to your concrete. You will lose out on some customization, however, as they usually only come in one color and very few options in the way of design and texture. They are very easy to install, though, and do provide protection for your garage floor, so they do the job.
An epoxy coating, which is basically a type of coverage that goes on in a liquid and then hardens because of a chemical reaction between the two components, is completely waterproof. It has a number of disadvantages, mainly related to the application. It requires a completely clean surface that’s also very dry, and it can be hard to work with. It also needs regular re-applications.
Believe it or not, some people decide to install carpet tiles in their garages, and it can be a good choice. Carpet is obviously not waterproof, but it’s an inexpensive alternative to plastic tiles, and it does provide protection to concrete surfaces. When it’s dry, it’s fine to walk on as well. However, carpeting stains very easily, but it is a durable surface, nonetheless.
Garage tiles, especially those made from plastic or rubber, are almost completely waterproof. Some of them also provide a watertight seal to protect the floor underneath them, though these will get pricey. If you’re looking for a way to protect your garage floor, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option than garage tiles.