How to paint wood floors
January 18, 2021 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Have you painted hardwood floors, especially in your kitchen? We are trying to stretch the life of our current kitchen floors for a few years until we're able to afford a full redesign, and we're looking for the best way to go about this.

Previous posts about painting floors have discouraged the poster from doing so, but we're definitely going through with this method. The floors in our house are in rough shape, and we're replacing them with new hardwood in other rooms on the first floor. However, the kitchen floors are already a little different, and we're holding out hope that we do a redesign down the line and don't want to replace the floors now.

Our plan is to paint the floors to help them last another 5-10 years. We know this means we'll need to sand the floors down (and we'll have to do it with a box sander, because the space isn't big enough for a buffer). However, we're getting a little nervous because many reviews of latex and enamel floor and patio paint report that the paint never dries. I saw one site say they used regular wall paint and then coat it with clear polyurethane on top, but most other advice on the internet insists on using the floor paint.

Have you painted floors? Have you painted kitchen floors? What worked for you, and what would you recommend avoiding?
posted by thecaddy to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So if it were me, I wouldn't paint a kitchen floor. Too much water, and too much traffic in most homes. What I would do if I had a wood floor underneath is sand the wood and put a finish on it, not a paint. Here is a real basic explanation of the various types of wood floor finishes, courtesy of Bob Vila.
posted by seasparrow at 1:39 PM on January 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

It's totally doable and definitely something I've seen done in the Northeast, in older (mostly seaside) homes. Remodelista has covered painted floors a few times over the years, so probably worth a poke around that site, especially on their tips article... (Sorry, no personal experience)
posted by larthegreat at 1:48 PM on January 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

The floors throughout the upper level of our house are painted, and the bathroom floor gets plenty wet. It's always been coated with Breakthrough paint, which is an extra durable acrylic. The big count against Breakthrough is that it dries extremely fast, even if you add and extender. You can't roll back into a painted area after about 5 minutes. Lesser con: it smells very bad. The big pro is that it dries so fast that you can walk on it in stocking feet in a little over an hour. I'd wait till the next day to put furniture back in the room.

Send me a message if you'd like more info about it. The learning curve was challenging because I had to figure it out by myself.
posted by wryly at 2:43 PM on January 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Um, an entirely different tactic: get a piece of artists canvas the size of your kitchen floor. Lay it out flat, let the creases subside, then paint it with white acrylic. Let it dry.

Paint it again with white acrylic. Let it dry.

Depending on your paint quality you may need to do this a third time. paint it with any random acrylics you have, in whatever pattern you like (or the Full Pollock if you wish). Lay it on thick.

Let it dry, and now you have a profoundly durable "carpet" that cleans easily, is waterproof, is pretty rigid (lays flat), can be rolled up if you wish, doesn't cost much, and can be entirely removed for when you want to change the floor itself.

I dunno, I just really liked the outcome in my last place (fairly worn area near sink, 6x8ft canvas covered it up, looked snazzy despite my painting skills, and lasted like 10 years before I moved). Stupid-easy, and I didn't have to worry about the transition between newly-refinished-floor and not-refinished-floor. Think about it, anyway.
posted by aramaic at 5:26 PM on January 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

(I should add that I didn't bother to hem the canvas -- once it dried, I just cut back an inch or so from the edges, and the acrylic held it together. If you have a tarp or something you could alternatively just paint past the edges instead.). And the utility of all this depends on your being able to find big hunks of canvas, obvs.
posted by aramaic at 5:38 PM on January 18, 2021

I've painted several wood floors over the years, although it's been a while. I don't remember what kind of paint I used except that it was considered floor paint and I used a primer first. I never had any problem with it not drying. I used it in old homes in totally different climates: Gulf Coast Florida, NYC, and upstate New York. They're easy to clean, no problem with wet spills in the couple of kitchens with painted floors. And if you get tired of the color it's easy to change it.

One of the floors I painted had some gouges in it, I used wood filler, worked great.
posted by mareli at 7:33 PM on January 18, 2021

I haven't painted a floor before - closest is epoxying my cement basement. But the floor paint not drying thing, huh. My suggestion there is to just paint an inconspicuous small spot and make sure it appropriately dries in whatever timeframe the instructions on the can call for. I'd consider a primer coat as mareli used as well. If you're doing good prep work (you already noted sanding) it should turn out just fine.
posted by MillMan at 9:40 PM on January 18, 2021

Hi, I've painted or supervised painting over 100 floors with latex paint and sealers... but full disclosure it has been in theatres where the finish was "scenery" and only had to last weeks or months. So here are my recommendations.

For absolute best results getting an oil-based product is the way to go - but it will be very stinky and could be illegal in your state. It also dries very slow. I would not reside in a house that is having this kind of product applied to the floor until it has dried for a few days.

Here's what I would do for a water-based floor.

1. sand down to wood - especially if there is oil or polyurethane on the floor already. Paint will not adhere well to that. Patch any big cracks with a 2-part epoxy filler for strongest results - then you'll have to sand again over the patches. Paint will show imperfections and cracks much much more than a stain as there is no wood grain to camouflage. Vacuum and damp mop with the driest possible mop or rag. Wet your mop or rag and wring out as much water as you can. Then squeeze out some more. The surface must be dust free and bone-dry, use fans.

2. prime with a high quality water based primer - not oil - but not just cheap wall primer. I'd suggest the water based BIN 123 or Killz products. They are a bit stinky as they have different binders and such mixed in. Make sure it is well dry before next step. Use fans

2. Paint with floor paint - my go to is California All-Floor available in pre-mixed colors, and you can find a paint shop that will tint it. You could stop here - the paint is epoxy fortified and can stand up to light mopping and scrubbing, but you will not get 5 years out of it. You probably need two coats - better to go thin than thick. Let dry overnight, and/or use fans.

3. Seal it. Use a water based sealer not polyurethane. Unfortunately this step is the trickiest but will improve the durability a great deal. Standard is Minwax Polycrylic. It is quite thick and milky in the can - at first looks like it will make the floor white - but it dries clear. Stir it gently so it does not get foamy in the can.

Also, because it is kind of thick, the polycrylic can show brush or roller marks as it dries. I use this Water Wiz synthetic applicator pad that screws onto a paint pole. You can use it in a tray in place of a roller - or to go much faster have one person apply the sealer with a roller (leaving puckered up roller marks) and then a second person smooths out with the applicator. It does cure quick - so you have to move with agility to smooth it out, and have the applicator in motion as you put it down onto the surface and again as you pick it up. Kind of a skimming - swooshing movement. Try and have good lighting or a light source at a low angle so you can see any brush marks as you use it, and move the applicator in the direction of grain or floor boards. The applicator pads come off the wooden block and clean up wonderfully quickly in a sink with soapy water. They clean 10 times faster than a brush. I throw out rollers used for sealing - you never get it truly clean.

Here's the tricky part - DO NOT PUT FANS ON THE POLYCRYLIC. It is quite soft and plastic-y and you really want it to dry (cure) completely before you walk on it, or put on another coat. But if you put a fan or have too much moving air, it will dry cloudy and white. You might not notice if you are using a very white floor color.... but if it is at all dark color it will look really bad. You have to just wait it out. At least overnight, 24 hours is preferable. If it clouds - you have to paint over with the color and start over. It cannot be saved.

In 24 hours you can put a second coat of the polycrylic, and if you are going nuts you can do a third. They sell it in gloss, semi-gloss, satin, and flat. I like the semi, the gloss is never as good as a real polyurethane gloss.

Do not sand any of these things between steps. Whenever I try and sand water based paint it starts to soften under the heat then pucker and peel off - it does not smooth it down like oil based finishes.

These steps are all a bit fiddly but they do go quickly and the drying time is much faster than oil, and you don't sand, and you can live in the place while you do it. Beware the primer and all-floor will be stinky but usually I can stand being in the same room, and sleeping in a room with the doors closed. It is a cheap project if you can take three days off (and order lots of take out food).

Standing water will destroy this finish, it will not have that hard, impervious water-beading-up surface you get from oil based or polyurethane. Fixing just a patch is tricky as the membrane (the sandwich of primer, paint, sealer) can't really be sanded down like polyurethane, best you can do is paint over a patch and hope it doesn't look too bad.

I would strongly suggest getting waterproof rubber-bottomed mats for the sink and maybe the stove area, and keeping old towels on hand to wipe up spills. You can clean and do limited scrubbing with mild cleaners - best to rinse with damp mop and dry if it is humid.

If you want the best possible finish - this for athletic courts is The New Hotness in stage floors that need a high gloss like polyurethane but without the fumes. I don't have personal experience so you will have to do a test on your own.
posted by sol at 8:45 AM on January 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

When we bought my house seven years ago, we didn’t have enough money to put flooring on the third floor so we painted the floors—hallway and two bedrooms. We did not sand. Sweep/mop, TSP/rinse, let dry, primer, floor paint. No sealing or polyurethaning. It’s help up very well, although there are area rugs and runners throughout.

The stairs leading to this level are also painted; they’ve gotten one touch up so far and could use another. I imagine kitchens would take a harder beating.
posted by Sublimity at 7:11 PM on January 19, 2021

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