5 Things To Consider Before You Paint Your Floors

Painted floors are trending—here's how to paint yours the right way.

Rustic living room with a white painted wood floor
Photo: Getty Images

For anyone embracing a rustic, minimalist, or Scandinavian-inspired aesthetic, painted floors are having a moment. Especially if your hardwoods aren't in great condition, painting the floor can be easier and more affordable than refinishing. When floors are painted white, they tend to take on the clean, minimalist look of an art gallery.

However, painted floors aren't for everyone. Over time, they will inevitably chip and show signs of wear—perfectionists, beware. To consider all the factors before picking up a paint roller, we reached out to David Steckel, a home expert at Thumbtack. Here's everything no one tells you about painting floors, plus the right way to paint floors to get the best results.

The 5 Things No One Tells You

  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 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 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.

How to Paint Floors the Right Way

  1. Sand the floor. Before you start painting, you'll need to sand wood floors to remove any varnish or UV finish. Steckel recommends renting a floor sander to save both your back and your floors.
  2. Clean the floor. After sanding, you want to remove as much dust as possible by vacuuming, sweeping, vacuuming again, and then lightly mopping the floor. Let this sit for a few hours to dry and so the dust can settle. Then vacuum one more time.
  3. Patch any holes. Unless you're going for a rustic look, fill in any cracks or holes with wood filler. Once dry, prime these spots first and let them dry.
  4. Prime the floor. Next, prime the floor with an oil-based primer. Wear a properly fitted mask to ensure ventilation.
  5. Apply the paint. Once the primer is completely dry (check the instructions on the label), apply your first coat of paint. Most paint brands offer a "floor enamel" or a specific paint formulated for floors. Remember to select the finish you want, whether matte, glossy, etc. Let the paint dry. Depending upon the paint and color you're using, you may need to apply a second coat.
  6. Add the topcoat. Once the paint is completely dry, apply a top coat that works with the primer you used. Avoid putting oil on top of latex, as it will flake immediately. If you're not sure, check with your paint store for a topcoat recommendation.
  7. Let each coat dry completely. And enjoy the new look!
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