Help me improve my floor!
May 26, 2011 7:06 PM   Subscribe

Can we paint our dull, lousy-looking laminated timber floors?

We have fake timber floors made with laminated timber sheeting, which look like this, a relic of the not-so-terrific renovation efforts of the previous owners. They're not particularly realistic looking and have become dull looking. Since we've gussied up everything else around them I have began to wonder if there is anything I can do to smarten up the appearance of the boards in general, since we can't afford to tear them up and lay down real timber.

Can we paint them? Can we spruce them up with a lick of a gloss polypropylene varnish?

The flooring is a reddish-brown and I would like to either darken them with a glossy finish, or just give them a simple coat of gloss if adding a colour is unwise.

Has anyone had any success with doing somehting like this? I'd be so grateful for the advice of anyone handier than I am.

I should also say that it's a high-traffic area, and we're not interested in carpeting or seagrass for reasons of cats and children.
posted by lottie to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have a couple questions:

1) is the flooring definitely laminate flooring, or
2) is it possibly laminated hardwood flooring?

If it is laminate flooring then, no, I don't know of anything that will paint or refinish the surface. The materials they use on the surfaces of laminate flooring are designed to be resistant to most chemicals, including paint, fingernail polish, etc.

Laminated hardwood flooring, more commonly known as Engineered hardwood flooring, is real wood veneer laminated to a plywood core or, in some cases, High Density Fiberboard (HDF). If this is the case, you should be able to sand the finish down to raw wood and refinish it.

It's also possible, although less likely if it's a floating floor, that it could be a vinyl product which would have a similar result to laminate flooring.

note: I spent most of my life either in or around the floorcovering industry. These two flooring types are commonly confused for each other.
posted by nickthetourist at 9:36 PM on May 26, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, damn. I'm pretty sure we have the laminate. Our floor has never seen real wood of any kind. Someone at our local hardware store described the product as a photographic image of woodgrain under a laminate.

So bummer... nothing will stick to it, huh? Would you re-lay a new floor? I'm pretty sure the floor is concrete underneath as the whole building is concrete, walls to ceiling. Maybe we can polish that up? I've seen great concrete floors.

I feel stuck with it. Thanks for the great information. Any advice you could give me would be very much appreciated.
posted by lottie at 9:55 PM on May 26, 2011

Best answer: Basically, a laminate floor is a core made of HDF, a printed paper visual layer, and a wear layer. These layers are laminated together under 300-500 pounds of pressure and heat to fuse together. The wear layer is made of a material called aluminum oxide with gives scratch resistance, wear resistance, and stain resistance.

If what you dislike is the color, I'd recommend pulling it out and installing a new laminate floor in a color you prefer.
However, if you'd prefer not to live on laminate floor, finished concrete can definitely look good, is durable and should be easy to maintain, I think. Unfortunately, my only real world experience with finished concrete is when walking through retail stores who have used it.

Either option is good.
One advantage to the laminate floor is it will be a bit softer under foot because it floats (only the joints are connected) over a foam pad whose primary purpose is sound deadening, but also offers some cushion.
Also, laminate floors are fairly easy to install.
posted by nickthetourist at 10:08 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for your expertise - I really appreciate it. I'm not sure yet what I'll do. Probably buy a nice rug!
posted by lottie at 3:18 AM on May 27, 2011

lottie: is anything I can do to smarten up the appearance of the boards in general, since we can't afford to tear them up and lay down real timber.

Just so you know, there are a lot of good but inexpensive flooring options these days, including laminate floors that look good - I'm a fan of Pergo floors and if you're in the US, they have an outlet. Also, I bought basically the least expensive hardwood flooring our supplier carried and got them on sale and honestly, they were pretty cheap and have held up really well.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:37 AM on May 27, 2011

I used some TrafficMaster Allure (from Home Depot) in a back hallway and was really surprised by all the comments I got about how I must have spent all weekend installing hardwood. Really, it took me all of three hours and was pretty inexpensive.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:30 AM on May 27, 2011

If you paint a floor, even a new wood floor that you prime and put a couple of coats on, the paint will wear through to whatever's underneath as you walk on it. It will look like crap. Don't paint a floor.

If it's high traffic, as you say, then a good carpet will work, or replace the floor with some other wood or laminate flooring material. There is used flooring available at salvage yards, but you'll have to refinish it. New flooring has a very durable finish on it that you can't duplicate with polyurethane or similar stuff. Bamboo is good and can wear very well.

Good luck.
posted by davoid at 9:22 AM on May 27, 2011

I still don't know that painting is the right option here, but ESP (Every Surface Primer) claims that it can make any surface primed for painting. I have had good success with it on melamine cabinets and varnished laminate trim.
posted by lollusc at 6:54 PM on May 27, 2011

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