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January 10, 2012 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Best way to paint a floor that gets a lot of traffic?

I want to paint the floor of my classroom with the periodic table of elements (the industrial flooring squares are the perfect size to make a huge chart on the floor). What kind of paint should I use, and what kind of coating to make it resilient? This is a middle school floor that must endure a lot of foot traffic and movement of tables and chairs, not to mention the periodic cleaning and waxing by maintenance. Is this even possible to have something last more than a few months? Will the chemical floor strippers used by maintenance just strip it clean?
posted by archimago to Education (8 answers total)
They sell this formulation of polyurethane clearcoat called "gym floor" that is extremely durable (its for gyms). It's clear, so you can put it on top of whatever (it's not perfectly clear, and it does dry rather thick, but it will work fine for your application) and it will hold up to a lot of abuse for a long time. Seriously, if I was coating it with gym floor, I wouldn't even worry about the durability of the paint underneath, just use whatever you have or is easy or you like. It's like laminating your floor.
posted by jeb at 10:18 AM on January 10, 2012

What kind of flooring are you covering?

The generic answer is: strip any protective waxes off, clean thoroughly, coat with primer, paint with the desired graphic in "floor" paint (which is designed to handle heavy abuse), and then ideally overcoat it all with a protective clear finish (varnish, urethane, etc.).

Ask for guidance from your local paint shop, or as a less-ideal option, your local hardware superstore paint section.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:20 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not sure what it's technically called other than generic square industrial school floor tiling. It's probably vinyl.
posted by archimago at 10:23 AM on January 10, 2012

Why not work with the custodial staff of the district's Director of Facilities? They will be able to give you great advice on what to use and how to do it. Might even do it for you if you buy materials.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:31 AM on January 10, 2012

Vinyl doesn't take paint very easily. Start with some paint samples on a very small part of the floor.
posted by coolguymichael at 10:41 AM on January 10, 2012

There are specially formulated vinyl primers from several manufacturers. You'll probably want to start with one (and test first, but I suppose it wouldn't behoove testing and waiting a year to see how it holds up). For any painting task, of course, clean thoroughly first -- TSP is a good choice.
posted by dhartung at 11:23 AM on January 10, 2012

Polyurethane and polyverathane are very durable against foot traffic, but not so much against metal furniture getting pushed around over them. 3 coats or so should last you at least a year though. Test it on something else to make sure it plays nice with the paints you'll have under it. The most durable ones take the longest to dry, so don't plan to start this project on a school night.

Talk to the maintenance crew and find out what they use on the floors, the labels should state what types of flooring they can be used on -- if "finished wood" is mentioned, this should work fine.

My ill-informed internet guess is you've got linoleum, but maintenance should know for sure.

You might check if there are any laws or policies relating to traction on floor surfaces or VOC levels. It would be a shame for the administration to scrape all your work off again.
posted by yohko at 3:01 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are vinyl decals an option, instead of paint? You don't need a giant square of custom vinyl, but rather some lines for the table borders and bigger decals for the letters and numbers. And lots of masking tape for establishing lines so you can place the decals in a balanced fashion.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:52 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

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