How to Paint Wood Floors Tutorials

Sanding

Painting wood stairs and floors requires the same preparation as for any interior paint job. If the surface has been finished previously, such as with stain and polyurethane (or old paint), lightly sand the entire area with 100-grit abrasive paper. For stairs or a single room—120 square feet or less—you may use an orbital palm sander or a portable belt sander. Kneepads help and a dust mask is a must. 

For large or multiple rooms, consider renting an orbital floor sander from your local home center or tool rental depot. In either case, it’s not necessary to take up the old finish; just lightly abrade it so your paint has something to grab onto.

After sanding, sweep and vacuum. I like to remove any remaining fine dust with a slightly damp towel. Shake dust from the towel outdoors as necessary. You may also use tack cloths to pick up any residual dust if you’re worried about raising the wood grain.

Photo: thingsthatinspire.com

Photo: thingsthatinspire.com

Video

DIY a Stairway Runner

@julielutgenlawrence

Julie from @julielutgenlawrence shows that painting your walkways doesn’t have to stick to floors—staircases are fair game as well! This angeled staircase features a white-painted runner that looks absolutely stunning, without the risk of slipping underfoot by well-intended fabric.

Try a Graphic Motif

@verdigreenhome

Leave it to Azie Shellhorse from @verdigreenhome to make a compelling case for completely coating wood floors with tons of paint. In designing what they affectionately call The Little Art Hotel, Shellhorse and Chelsea Bednard Design opted to paint the floors in a white, beige, navy, and blush pink diamond pattern, which dramatically brightened up the entire space.

5 Things No One Tells You About Painting Floors

  1. Painted floors will chip. "Painting floors is a great quick-fix when looking for a cost-effective upgrade, but it isn't necessarily a permanent solution," says Steckel. "Paint will always flake when exposed to friction, no matter the application method or surface. If you are going for a bit of a wabi-sabi or rustic effect, then this could work out well in the long-run."
  2. The prep work is the most important part. "The key to painting a floor that is often deprioritized is the prep work. The quality of the finished product is 100 percent determined by the quality of the prep," says Steckel. If you're going to paint your floors, make sure you have enough time to devote to the prep work before you even pick up a paintbrush.
  3. Ventilation is essential. "You will most likely be using paint with volatile organic components, so ventilation is key," recommends Steckel. The only problem: Opening the windows directly to the room could allow dust into the room while the floor is being painted. Make sure your windows have screens in them to prevent some debris, open the upper windows if possible, and open doors and windows in the surrounding rooms. Always remember to wear a mask.
  4. You might want to hire a pro. For the reason above, hiring a pro could be the safest option. Interior painting projects typically range in price from $600 to $1,000.
  5. Map it out before you start painting. "This way you know where you're going to start painting and where you're going to finish, so that you can walk out of the room while it dries." Try to avoid painting yourself into a corner.

5. Painted floors can trick the eye

Painted floors can create some clever optical illusions. If you have white- or light-colored walls, paint the floors to match to make the space feel much bigger. Choose paint with a glossier sheen (or add a glossy topcoat) to bring in more light. Or, choose a darker color than walls and ceiling to visually ground a space and add drama.

What Sheen Best Suits Painted Wood Floors?

Sheen is the reflective quality of the paint. Although most floor coatings (varnish, etc.) have a sheen value, I will keep this guide focused on colored paint. There are four levels of sheen for wood paint and each has a different reflective quality defined by the percentages below. Starting from the shiniest, they are glossy (75%), semi-gloss (55%), satin (40%) and matte (20%). House logic has a great article on this so check that out.

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PRO TIP #4 The shiner you go, the more those little dings and scratches will show (awesome rhyme right?). While useful, don’t focus too much on the percentages as they are textbook values. I suggest looking at real world examples (in person) to help you make a final decision instead of browsing through images online. Simply visit your local retailer and look at their stock, no guesswork involved.

When people ask me for my honest opinion, I usually recommend either satin or semi-gloss. I personally think that full gloss doesn’t fit well in most homes and the matte/flat sheen looks a bit dull (most of the time). On that note, here are their pros and cons:

Satin: Definitely the most popular kid on the block! Satin finishes strike a good balance between reflectivity and practical day to day use. The reason why so many people love this option is because it lasts ages and little dents and scratches are not too visible. Families or people with pets also choose this paint sheen for that same reason and usually end up being happy with their floors.Semi-gloss: While not as “shiny” as full gloss, this paint is pretty damn reflective. This is not a bad thing though, a lot of people adore the look and specifically go out of their way to buy it. It does show the dirt easily and some people suggest that you mop at least once every two days. It’s also more susceptible to accidental scratches but rules like “shoes off” or “pets outside” can easily resolve this.

PRO TIP #5 I have left out “full glossy” and “matte” options because only a small percentage use it for their home. I personally feel that the high gloss looks like shiny plastic and the matte or flat sheen looks dull. That is my opinion though and I encourage you to choose what works for you.

Why Would You Even Consider Painted Wood Floors?

    For the look: Some people prefer the look over the
  • For the look: Some people prefer the look over the naked hardwood look, especially if the wood has been re-stained. Paint also allows you to express your creativity by adding designs and patterns to your floor. You could also go with a simple solid color throughout. Painting allows you to add a unique look that bare wood cannot replicate.
  • To cover up cheap hardwood material: Even if the floors are brand new, your wood planks could be low quality (especially if you have used pallet wood for your floors) and simply not look good. You may even be considering pulling them out and replacing them. Before you do that, it’s worth giving them a fresh coat of paint in a style that fits your house. You will be happy with the results.
  • Revive old and worn floors: Over time, your hardwood flooring will start to show its age. While this sometimes shows character, this deterioration often looks horrible. Tell-tale signs are usually visible scratches, scuffs or color loss. Even if you try repair the damaged hardwood, a coat of good paint can easily bring them back to life.
  • Saves you time and money: Instead of replacing the entire floor, painting wood floors is super easy on your wallet and looks great. It usually takes only a single weekend, even if you only spend a couple hours per day on the project.

Step #2: Clean and Prep Your Space

Start by removing all furniture and rugs from the area you’re painting. If your wood floor has previously been painted or stained with a glossy finish coating, you’ll need to sand it. Using medium-grit sandpaper (120- to 150-grit) and a sanding sponge, lightly sand the wood floor to dull the surface before painting. Clean the entire floor by vacuuming up debris and mopping the space. Use a damp rag with warm soapy water in a bucket to remove any difficult spots. Thoroughly rinse the floor with fresh water. Allow the floor to dry overnight. Tape off any molding or baseboards.

Helpful Tip

• It is not necessary to remove baseboards if you carefully tape off the wall borders before painting.

Step #6: Allow the Floor to Dry Completely

Check the label or the Technical Data Sheet to find the cure time of the paint. Dry time is critical when painting hardwood floors, as you’ll want to be sure the paint has cured before you walk on or return any rugs or furniture to your space. Note that this could take a few days.

Helpful Tip

• Read all primer and paint instructions carefully, as dry times (how long to wait before applying a new coat) and cure times (how long to wait before you can return your wood floor to everyday use) may vary.

When painting wood floors is a good solution

  • If your floors are damaged: If you have especially damaged floors that will prevent you from adequately sanding the area, then staining likely isn’t the option for you. “Over years and years of [sanding], the wood gets thinner,” Micetich says. “So paint can be a good option where you might not have the ability to do as much sanding, prep, and removal work needed for the staining process.” Adam Varano, owner of Wood Vitalize in New York, also says that the painting can help mask any water or stain damage. 
  • If you want a solid color for your floors: According to Varano, people will often paint their floors for a solid color that doesn’t show the wood grain. This then helps make the floor’s color look even and consistent. “They’re worried about there being too much [color] variation if you just go with a natural stain,” Varano says. “Some wood is naturally darker than others, and stain still shows that. But if you paint, it makes it a little more universal.”

9. Painting floors is budget friendly

Compared to the cost of laying all-new flooring, painting tired floors is incredibly budget friendly: all you’ll need is a gallon (or a few) of paint, plus primer and supplies. Just be aware that, once you paint, it’ll be hard, if not impossible, to revert your floors back to the way they were. Read more about the wallet-friendly merits of painting in Expert Advice: 4 Affordable Floor Finishes from Dirty Girl Construction.

 Above: Marine blue floors at Kin Kao Thai Kitchen
Above: Marine blue floors at Kin Kao Thai Kitchen in Toronto, designed by Scott & Scott Architects.

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