The paint for a basement floor has to have a lot of ‘solids’ in the solution, and that does cost a little more, but it’s very much worth it. How to paint basement floors is a no-brainer: thank you gravity.
We also have articles on painting floors in general … and on painting plywood floors in particular, which has some stencil ideas as well. If you are painting ANY kind of plywood there are some key concerns about primer: read this on painting plywood.
What kind of basement floor paint is best?
Best basement floor paint: 4 quality choices
Basement floor paint must be tough, but please do not use exterior paint inside your home (read about the danger).
Benjamin Moore’s INSL-X (comes in 8 colors)
- Very durable, high-quality floor paint:
- Under 50 dollars: I use this very product in my home (35 years as a professional painter)
- Anit-slip: cannot play hockey wearing socks in the basement
- Only covers about 100 square feet per gallon (lower than normal: it’s thick)
- Not for automobile garages
KILZ Porch & Patio Latex Floor Paint
- About 30 dollars, has great reviews and ships free
- Only 2 colors to choose from—gray and a different gray—but we all like gray, right? Luke, you like gray.
- Interior and exterior
KILZ Slip-Resistant Decorative Concrete Paint
- Under 50 dollarsand ships free
- Very attractive non-solid pattern in 2 colors: tan, gray
- Possibly ok for garage floors, but I would not recommend it
- Interior and exterior
- Non-slip surface so no playing hockey in your socks
INSL-X Tough Shield Acrylic Floor/Patio Coating
- A Benjamin Moore product: always trustworthy
- Under 40 bucks
- Saddle brown only
- Benjamin Moore’s budget choice, but still very good
Read the label on the product page about the VOC content (read about VOCs in paint). We wear respirators anytime we are not sure what we are breathing. I simplified the crazy world of respirators for you.
Painting basement floors: How To, in 5 steps:
- Cut. Go all around the edges and posts etc first.
- Roll. Just pour the paint on the floor! Make a puddle and use it as your bucket. We use an adjustable pole and “do it standing up”. It’s so easy. Biggest tip: don’t use cheap roller covers: they shed lint and will totally ruin your work. Apply evenly and fully.
- Let it dry a few hours, test if dry (wear socks, no shoes)
- Second coat? Probably not necessary if you are using the best basement floor paint. Use a bright light to see up close. Often the answer depends on your color choice: grays are great and reds you’re dead. The cut may not need 2 if the rolled section needs 2. The paint can instructions tell you how long to wait between coats but don’t wait too long or you will not have good bonding between coats!
- Is it really dry? Use your fingernail to test how soft it is If it is not dry, wait!
- Thank you gravity for making some things in life easy.
We detail all steps including preps and primer in our section below on How to paint basement floor.
Tips for painting basement floor:
- Do not try to paint a basement floor that gets wet from any direction: it’s a world of hurt. See the concrete moisture test below.
- Paint on concrete does not cover as much area as wall paint (little grooves swallow paint). You need to buy the best basement floor paint, and calculate the quantity carefully (rough surfaces swallow up paint).
- Cannot stress it enough: quality basement paint prevents future headaches! Floors get abused. Why repaint after only a handful of years? Uff.
- Painting a garage floor? You need garage floor paint. See the bottom of this post…you are really asking for it!
So be happy: painting basement floor goes very fast. Even very big areas (after prep) will take only an hour or so. Plan carefully but be aware that many photos you will see around the internet are taken right after the floor was painted so, of course it looks great. How about 5 years later?
Check for moisture coming through the floor: using a quality duct tape, fix a 2-3 foot square of plastic wrap down tightly—no air gaps (floor must be clean and not damp). One day or two later, if you have moisture trapped inside the film, you cannot paint that floor. Contact a builder to see if you can rectify this problem. There are some specialized sealants, but you must find what the source of H2O is.
How to paint basement floor:
- Think it through before painting basement floor. Plan the moving of the furniture if you cannot move it into another room. You may get paint on things, so think about covering nice things with plastic drop cloths. Use tape to keep in it place with tape that will not leave a glue mark (painter’s tape). If you have old cloth (even cardboard or padding) have it ready to lay out on the newly painted floor to keep objects from sticking.
- We have listed all of the tools you may not have, such as scrapers, rollers, brushes etc. Think clean-up will be hard? Nope. We have great posts on how easy clean-up can be. Check it out in the Tips section. in the Tips section.
- Prep: the final look is only as good as your prep job. After you are done your prep: paint cannot really hide any sins! Sand old paint that won’t scrape off (feather the edges), and sand any wooden floors (use assorted sizes-from 80 grit to 150 grit), and prime the unpainted spots: use a quality primer (below) for bonding reasons: remember this is not just for looks—it has to be very tough.
- Uneven floor in spots? Use floor leveler. DAP is our friend: this size bucket covers perhaps up to 10 square feet if spread not-too-thick. Measure before you buy. Does your leveler need a primer? Good to check now.
- Lots of furniture to move? No? Go to step 9. Yes? Do the job in sections: over a longer time period.
- First, clean the section you will paint LAST. When you clean you will spread dust so only clean once when the prep etc is done. Clean your staging (holding) area; move things onto that section’ cover them and the floor you cleaned, then clean the area you will start with.
- Nearby your storage section, place soft (old) blankets you will use later on the freshly painted section for phase 2. These cloths will go under your furniture and above the just painted sections, protecting the soft basement floor paint.
- Wow, cool tip Brad, thanks. Hey, no worries, that’s why you came to me: 35 years as a professional painter remember? Time-saving is money-saving to us.
- Unpainted concrete floors should be acid washed first. I don’t recommend the toxic muriatic acid which is nasty. But even with this eco-friendly product, we wear goggles!! Move around the solution with a brush that fits on a broom pole. If you go with real acid, remember, never add water to acid, only acid to water. A drain in your basement floor will be helpful here or you have to use a mop and bucket to deactivate the acid. Test your drain first! Let the concrete dry completely. Unpainted concrete needs a masonry primer, and this one is considered to be a paint-primer in one.
- For any flooring, use a quality primer for proper bonding of the top coats. Did you ever stain the floor with water etc? Stains will bleed through 100 coats of almost all paints: your primer must be a stain sealant. You are paint-ready.
- Do your cleaning in this order: vacuum, mop, then use a damp cloth for the edges. Try to get all the small bits of dirt: this will lead to paint chipping in time.
- After cleaning and priming, caulk/fill cracks. Large gaps should not be caulked but filled with special water-tight crack filler, or go for 6 tubes of cement caulk. Caulk needs no priming but crack fillers might. But beware…
- DO NOT USE OUTDOOR PAINTS INDOORS: they are very toxic and harmful as they off-gas for months.
- Ready? Set, Go. Wait. Open some windows or somehow set up proper ventilation, unless you have VOC-free paint (tints added to VOC free paints make it into non-VOC-free!) Here is our look at VOCs. Plan your painting direction: know your final way out (joke about being painted into a corner).
- Cut. Go all around the edges and posts etc first. Normally we ALWAYS roll before we brush (cut), but here we never do that. We have written a post on how to easily clean a brush.
- Painting basement floor – Roll: usually we say roller pans suck-use a bucket. Here we say, don’t even use a bucket! Just pour the paint on the floor! Ah, The Dude Abides. Make a puddle and use it as your bucket. We use an adjustable pole and “do it standing up”. It’s so easy. Biggest tip: don’t use cheap roller covers: they shed lint and will totally ruin your work. This shows how trying to save money is very expensive! Keep your coats from making puddles, but apply evenly and fully.
- In a few hours, the paint will probably be ok to walk on, but still quite soft so wear socks or check your shoes for little pebbles etc.
- Does it need a 2nd coat? Probably not if you are using the best basement floor paint. Use a bright light to see up close. Often the answer depends on your color choice: grays are great and reds you’re dead. Is there a difference between coverage in the brushing and the rolling? The cut may not need 2 if the rolled section needs 2. The paint can instructions tell you how long to wait between coats but don’t wait too long or you will not have good bonding between coats!
- Is it really dry? Use your fingernail to test how soft it is If it is not dry, wait!
- Lay your blankets out (from step 1) and on that carefully place your furniture (maybe lay furniture on flat edges rather than legs to spread out the weight).
- The next day, check that no blanket/padding is sticking. If anything pulls up the fresh paint, you have to touch up.
- Cut, roll unpainted sections, as above. Don’t be afraid of cleaning roller covers: it’s easy. Summer curing times can be weeks and in winter time a few months! Treat it gently for a while!
Garage floor paint: good news and bad news. Which one do you want first?
Bad? Why do they always say bad?
The bad news is that rubber tires will pull up even the best basement floor paint.
The best is epoxy paint, but you have other options for garage floors like Armor All mats, and the 2-part epoxy (just below) is one, but these days you do not have to use a 2-part product and work very quickly before it turns into unworkable mush-goop.
There is a new product we have not tried, but we will definitely be switching to this Kilz Concrete Garage Floor Paint—a one part epoxy, so cool. Slate Gray only.
Another product that has a great rating is Rust-oleum Epoxy Shield. Comes in red, tan or gray. We have not tried it.
Epoxy paint tip: if you use epoxy paint. Obviously, follow directions but they may not tell you: keep your brush and roller strokes in the same direction. … and wear that chemical respirator!
There exists a latex one-step garage floor paint, but I am skeptical. I have read good reviews. Let me know if you use it!
Benjamin Moore also sells Garage Guard about 110 dollars for 1 and one-quarter gallons (a quart of hardener comes with the main part). It’s not easy, and ask me about the time I sprayed it—oh what a day that was—but it is a great product. This will make a great basement floor paint.
A clear epoxy sealant would increase the longevity: from Rus-Oleum. Covers 500 square feet of the previously painted floor.
Bonus garage ideas:
- Floor mats that park you in the same spot every time…. on my wish list.
- Wood, yes wood tiles. For garage? Yes, and the dance floor. Ole’
This ‘tradie’ from down under knows what he’s doing. I would have spot primed between coats, but he’s bloody ripper…ta mate.
Video: painting with the best basement floor paint