Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

Julie Day Blog

Painting Wood Floors

Painting wood floor with a roller.

Using a roller to paint our wood floor.

This summer, I committed what any self-respecting lover of natural building materials would call a cardinal sin. I walked into our old farmhouse with nearly 100-year-old pine floors, and when my husband asked what we should do with them, I replied, “Paint ’em.”

Yes, you heard me – paint them! He gave me the same look you’re giving me now. But in this case, a nice coat of paint would be just the thing to hide the scars, pits, and patches; and fill in the cracks and seal up this rickety old floor.

Floor with patches before painting.

Floor with patches before painting.

Painting would also save the backbreaking labor and expense of refinishing, not to mention the disappointment when they inevitably ended up still looking like beat up old floors. It was a winning proposition from all directions. And, it turned out beautifully.

We kept it simple, choosing a glossy paint that would give a sleek, clean look. We started with a mossy green, but that turned out not to conceal the flaws as much as we wanted, so we recoated it with an almost black color.

That’s the cool thing about painted floors – you can change the color, and there’s no end to the creativity! You can:

  • Use painter’s tape or stencils to make checkerboard and geometric patterns, stripes, designs, and motifs.
  • Set off areas of the room using painted faux “throw rugs” or borders.
  • Brighten up dark spaces, or anchor bright spaces.
  • Give new, vibrant life to old floors at a fraction of the cost of replacing or refinishing.

While the green paint we tried first was nice, it wasn't the look we wanted.

Painting floors is not effortless, especially if the wood already has a finish on it. If you want the new paint to stick, there’s a good bit of prep involved, and several steps:

Floor Painting Planning

This is a project that requires some advance planning. Naturally, you’ll need to move all the furniture out of the area, and you won’t want to sleep in the house until the fumes dissipate. You’ll also need dry weather for the paint to cure properly before moving back in, as humidity will keep it tacky.

We painted our floors and then left town for about a week. When we came home, they were dry enough to move in; but it was several weeks before the smell was completely gone.

Wood floor painted a darker color

This darker paint color was more to our liking.

Choosing Your Paint

For best results, go with a standard oil-based porch and floor paint or oil-based enamel. These aren’t exactly the greenest products on the market, but they’ll stand up to foot traffic better than any other paint. Other types of paints offer a tradeoff – they’ll have less fumes, but they won’t be as durable.

No matter what paint you choose, consider wearing a respirator! And, while you’ll get the best results if you seal the doorways with plastic to keep out dust, we found that the fumes were so overpowering that we couldn’t handle being in there without the windows open and ceiling fans running the whole time.

How To Paint Wood Floors

Make sure your floor hasn’t been waxed before painting, and remove the wax if it has. Follow these steps when painting a floor:

  • Step 1: Rough Surface: Using a square pad sander (or by hand), rough up the finish on the floor with 150-grit sandpaper. You don’t need to completely sand them, just remove the gloss from the old finish.
  • Step 2: Clean Floor: Thoroughly vacuum and damp-mop the floors, to remove all the dust. Allow them to dry completely.
  • Applying paint to floor with paintbrush

    Brush or roll on the paint.

  • Step 3: Apply First Coat: Using a brush or roller, apply the first thin coat of floor paint. A brush will give a smoother finish, but a roller is faster. Resist the urge to glop on the paint – it won’t dry! Start by cutting in the edges with a brush, then use a brush or roller to work your way towards the door so you aren’t painted into a corner. Allow the paint to dry for 24-48 hours, until it’s dry enough to walk on.
  • Step 4: Smooth Paint: Lightly go over the floor with 220-grit sandpaper, to smooth out the grain and give a sleek surface, then clean the floor to remove all the dust.
  • Step 5: Apply Second Coat: Apply a second thin coat in the same manner. Paint your way towards the door, then get yourself out of those fumes! Some paints may require up to three coats.
  • Step 6: Decorative Touch: After your base coat is good and dry, you can add stripes, motifs, or other designs. Use safe release painter’s tape so it won’t pull up the base coats.
  • Step 7: Seal Floor (Optional): For high-traffic areas, you may want to coat the finished floors with a clear polyurethane.
  • Step 8: Let Paint Cure: Within a few days, you should be able to walk gently on the floors, but it will be several weeks before the paint is fully cured and the smell goes away.

Further Information

Check out these inspiring articles for painted floor ideas:

Please Leave a Comment

17 Comments on “Painting Wood Floors”

You can follow comments to this article by subscribing to the RSS news feed with your favorite feed reader.

  1. Jenn Says:
    July 28th, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    What brand and color is the dark brown paint?

  2. Official Comment:

    Julie Day Says:
    August 10th, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    It’s “Fired Earth” by Valspar.

  3. Howard Brown Says:
    August 22nd, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    I live in Mobile and have a30year old house. The whole upstairs has hardwood floors that need to be redone. It goes against every bone in my body because I think it’s a sin to cover up pretty wood but we are considering painting them instead of trying to refinish.
    The questions we have are what kind of paint to use, how many coats of polyurethane to ues and want sheen of polyurethane

  4. Stefanie Says:
    March 26th, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    How durable are the painted floors? Furniture, pets, kids?

  5. Dan Butler Says:
    September 5th, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Paint looks good. Can a dark stain, I’ve read that stain is actually very similar to paint in that it lays on top of the wood, accomplish the same look. Layer on some poly over the stain.

  6. Jay Says:
    September 5th, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    To add a solid smooth surface layer that will protect your pretty new paint job try adding a coat or two of poly over the paint. Yes it’s a pain in the neck but its worth is when it comes time to clean those painted floors.

  7. dawn Says:
    February 22nd, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Could you tell me what brand and color the green is that you started with? Thank you!!!

  8. SM Says:
    March 3rd, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Beautiful floors!! Do painted floors always keep some of the texture of the wood below, or did you do something special?

  9. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    March 11th, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Depending on how smoothly the floors were sanded, some of the texture in the grain may show through the paint.

  10. Nicole Sloan Says:
    April 10th, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    We painted the pine floors in our kitchen with an oil-based floor paint and absolutely loved the look. My only problem with the floor is that I cannot find a product to clean it. It just never feels clean in my kitchen because of the floor. Also, any water product leaves a white residue. I want to repaint my floor but would like to know how to take care them this time.

  11. Jeanette Says:
    July 3rd, 2014 at 8:36 am

    I used to do housekeeping at a house with painted wood floors and I used vinegar and water on them. Did a great job cleaning them and its safe for pets if that’s a concern.

  12. Heather Says:
    July 19th, 2014 at 7:18 am

    With the paint did you get flat satin or glossy? Also did you sand after second coat and how many coats did you use of poly. Particularly the brown floors. :) thanks they’re beautiful!

  13. Jinger Says:
    October 13th, 2014 at 12:04 am

    Can I paint a glue down hardwood floor? The newer wood floors are to thin to refinished with stain? Can I paint and would I need to sand and prime or could I just use a primer? Thanks!

  14. chantale Says:
    October 30th, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    IS it possible to take the paint off if I want after all?

  15. chantale Says:
    October 30th, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    The paint I used was a acrilic for wood floor it s white and wonderfull but if I want to sell my house it s easier if the wood can go back to the natural color What can I use for take the paint away?

  16. Gypsy Says:
    January 28th, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    I have a “rug” painted in my breezeway in a checkerboard design, using the Sherwin-Williams water-based floor and deck paint. It has held up fabulously, and it’s a very high-traffic area (we have several pets as well.) Now I’m trying to talk my husband into letting me do the same with the living and dining rooms! The paint I used is so much more durable than my varnished floors. Mop-up is simple; I use a bit of lemon ammonia and white vinegar in a bucket of hot water.

  17. D.W. Says:
    March 19th, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Ask any woman, scars are interesting. Never, never paint a real wood floor! Travesty! That said, in my house, which did not have hardwood floors, I chose to put down thin wood sheets, then paint them with porch paint. It works for me. I never would have painted real floors.

We want to hear from you! In addition to posting comments on articles and videos, you can also send your comments and questions to us on our contact page or at (800) 946-4420. While we can't answer them all, we may use your question on our Today's Homeowner radio or TV show, or online at todayshomeowner.com.

Click to check out all our great giveaways!