Once upon a time, painting one’s wood floor was not just the sign of an elegant, well-appointed decorating turn, but oftentimes masterful patterns, colors and mosaic displays turned ordinary rooms into extraordinary ones.
Is the art and science of floor painting enjoying a renaissance? We hope so. This unique way of turning an ordinary wood floor into a traffic-stopping one requires some prep, forethought and easy-to-find supplies.
Whether all you want to do is paint your floor a solid color or you intend to use stencils and patterns to do the job, we can help you accomplish your aim.
In this article we will examine the major pros and cons of painting a wooden floor, how to do the job, the best paint products to use etc.
So let’s get started.
Ask yourself: Why do I want to paint my floor?
Perhaps your wood floor has seen better days or it’s been damaged due to wear and tear, a flood or an accident that has rendered the floor stained, discolored or an eyesore in need of repair.
On the other hand, new homeowners, when confronted with unsightly wood floors that neither match their idea of great interior design nor give a room the stage on which to place their furnishings, know a painted floor can change everything about the look of a room.
If the floor is dramatic enough, it can become the room’s focal point, putting art work and furnishings to shame!
What are the best products to use to paint your wood floor?
Having determined which look you would like your floor to adopt once you’ve done your research (for reference: https://www.pinterest.com/profloortips/painting-wooden-floors/), you may wish to follow the advice of Patricia Poore, the Massachusetts expert on vintage floor painting, and choose between three thin coats of satin- or matte-finish polyurethane to lay down the solid primary color you have selected.
Alternately, follow the advice of decorator Annie Quigley and head for a store that sells marine paint. These tough paint products stand up to all sorts of abuse yet come in heavenly colors, as witnessed by the lovely hues found on all sorts of seafaring vessels.
Her recommendation is using a semi-gloss paint and sealing it with polyurethane to achieve a high-gloss look. Enamel-based latex is an oil-based product that stands the test of time, and isn’t that your objective?
Pros of Painted Wood Floors
- Painted wood floors offer creatives endless opportunities to craft original art. You can paint the floor a dominant color and use painters tape to shape checkerboards, stripes, patterns and borders. Recreate a vintage floor straight out of an 18th century farm house or follow the lead of artisans like Jackson Pollock who elevated paintbrush splatter to new heights. Every painted wood floor is an original, even if the design was “borrowed” from someone else.
- Painted floors are budget-friendly. Compare the cost of laying all-new flooring with a can of paint, primer and a modest gathering of painting tools. Whether you choose a product at your local big box store or go directly to a paint dealership, you’ll find exactly the colors and supplies you need to do a high-quality job.
- Even if you decide to double down on your creativity, you won’t have to spend a fortune to hire a contractor to add patterns and designs. Inexpensive stencils, patterns and templates for DIYers can be found at craft stores and on web pages. Follow easy instructions to achieve results that would have cost you thousands had you hired a professional floor artist. Do it yourself and you get bragging rights.
- Painted wood floors are easy to clean. Unless you love to man a mop, undertaking this chore won’t take hours or throw your back out of alignment because you had to get down on the floor with a brush and bucket. You’ve chosen a paint and finish that seals the grooves in the wood so they are practically impervious to dirt, grime and stains. And if you find a dent, chip or crack or the floor loses its luster over time, you can either embrace the weathered look or grab a paint brush to undertake touch-ups.
Cons of Painted Wood Floors
- From the moment you pick up a paint brush or roller and lay down that first coat, you’ve made a commitment that flooring experts say will “be hard, if not impossible, to revert your floors back to the way they were.” Covering patterns and dark colors can be an especially daunting challenge, one that could require you to call a contractor to manage the cover-up. Decide to keep the finish and put the house up for sale and prospective buyers could take one look and run.
- Prep work could be back breaking. Renting a sander can help, but if the reason you are doing this paint job is to hide a less-than-beautiful wood floor, evening things out and paying attention to mars and gouges will require you to get down on your knees to attend to them. Further, if you paint yourself into a corner and don’t have an “escape plan” in place, you could find yourself crawling over counters if the floor you’re painting happens to be the kitchen. Invest in knee pads and wear safety gear.
- You could find out, too late, that your wood floors are too porous or have too many cracks, blemishes and damage to “hold the paint.” Take a tip from experts and paint a small, obscure section of the wood floor, let it sit and observe the result. Homeowners attempting to refurbish wood floors that were laid in the 1970s have discovered lead in old finishes that must be tested before you start to re-paint them.
- You may have to move out of your house when you tackle this project. Painted floors can require months of curing time before they are hard enough to repel traffic and soil. Here’s another reason to think twice: Fumes from painting floors can be offensive for some and big trouble for folks with allergies and sensitivities.
How to paint a wood floor
Who better than Bob Vila of This Old House to advise you on how to paint your wood floor? He suggests taking the following 5 steps:
- Gear up: Don a face mask, safety glasses, and knee pads. Even if you use a sander, you will be on your knees at some time during the painting process.
- If the floor is already refinished, either hand sand the area with 100-grit sandpaper or rent/borrow either an orbital or portable sander to do the job. Your goal is abrading the area so the paint adheres to the floor.
- Clean up all of the dust with a damp towel, mop and/or tack cloths if you want to be kind to the grain and finish the job without encasing dust and soil.
- Address bare spots. Use a brush or roller and primer to even out these spots. If your floor has never been finished, use the primer on the entire floor so it’s sealed and ready for painting. Vila recommends an alcohol-based, shellac primer/sealer because it dries fast, sticks to everything and doesn’t stink!
- Vila recommends latex enamel formulated for wood projects like floors and decks, having long ago abandoned alkyd or oil-based enamel for environmental reasons. You may feel the same way so substitute other paint recommendations for his.
Once your floor is dry and cured, you can add decorative touches or patterns. This House Beautiful article can help through the process.
What about Staining Wood Floor?
If you decide not to paint your wood floors because you think staining them is a better option, not so fast, say the folks at Pete’s Hardwood Floors who tell tell their customers, “Let me talk you out of sanding your floors!” Here’s why they say this:
- Stain can make sander scratches “shockingly visible” and extremely unsightly.
- Some wood species are not meant to be stained, especially maple, birch, and coniferous woods like pine and fir.
- Bleed back is ugly. This can happen when stain wicks back up to the surface after applying multiple coats of stain that the floor boards are incapable of absorbing.
- It takes a very long time for stained floors to cure. Depending upon heat, humidity and air exchange, some stains can take 72 hours; some won’t ever cure.
If, despite being warned about outcomes, you insist upon staining your wood floors, you may want to take another page from Pete’s playbook by reading, “Yes, I Know Staining is a Headache; I am going to Try it Anyway”.
You’ve got lots of decisions to make either way, so whether you paint or stain, knowing as much about either option is going to help you make the best decision for both your floors and your peace of mind!
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