You are in luck. Applying floor paint is the easiest thing we painters do. Don’t thank me, thank gravity.
Doing a basement floor (or garage)? That is a slightly different animal.
I was with this painting company who explain the benefits of painting a floor. At the bottom of this post, we give you some alternative ideas to just painting in one color. Fun.
Now, the best floor paint recommendations and then a list all you need to know about how to paint a floor. Easy.
I always looked forward to painting a floor: no dropcloths, no ladders, and fast! (Just as long as I had my knee pad-pants).
I won’t make any jokes about getting painted into a corner. I’m not trying to be funny. If I was trying to be funny I’d say did you hear about the beer just for painters? They put the label on the bottom that says: “Open Other End.”
Can you paint laminate floors or paint vinyl floors? Sales posts will tell you yes. We say a big no*. You can sand, use chemical etching and expensive primers and try to make the best floor paint bond to these materials, but you are really setting yourself for a big mess that’s worse when you must re-do. This kind of flooring is not made to be painted and the job will not last very long. Just pull up the laminated floor and put in something easy such as we suggest at the end of this post. *Interesting stencil systems are listed at the bottom—fun!
Can you paint ceramic tile? No, but some will say yes, and they will say “buy my stuff”. Don’t do it. Tiles were never made to be painted! Read the paragraph above!
- Buy quality paint to prevent future headaches! Floors get abused. Why repaint after only a handful of years? Uff. 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?
- Plan on a lot of free time: floor painting goes very quickly. Other than moving furniture, most floors take about an hour to actually paint. Plan carefully and copy all the steps that relate to your situation from the checklist below.
1. One coat should be enough with the best floor paints.
Floor & Patio Low Sheen (or High Gloss) Enamel Paint
- State of the art, high-quality paint and very durable
- Retail cost is under $60 – see your local store
- If you have children, low VOC paints are a must. See our post on VOCs and your health.
KILZ Interior/Exterior Enamel Porch & Patio Latex Floor Paint
- About $30
- Has great reviews
- Only 2 colors to choose from—a gray and another gray—but we all like gray, right?
A third option we don’t have any experience with is Valspar
- About $40
- 3 color options
- The one bad review is from someone who put it on concrete: sucka
2. Floor paint checklist:
- Think it through. Plan how you will move furniture back and forth in 2 phases of painting if you cannot move it out. You’ll get paint on things, so think about covering nice things with plastic drop cloths. Use painter’s green tape to keep in it place: the cheap masking tap leaves a glue mark. Have soft old blankets or cloth (even cardboard) standing by (to protect newly painted floor).
- Here you can grab any of the tools you don’t yet have. Think scrapers, brushes, rollers. We have lots of info on easy cleanup on this site. See the Tips section.
- Prep: the final product how smooth or rough the floor looks when your prep is done. Feather the edges of old paint that won’t scrape off, and sand any wooden floors to create a paintable surface (start with 80 grit and move to about 150 grit), and prime which is step 10.
- Uneven floor in spots? Floor leveler is easy to use. DAP is trustworthy: measure the area what you need and check the details so you don’t buy too little. If your leveler needs a primer, prime it when you do the rest, duh, you knew that—shut up Donny!—You’re out of your league! (The Dude is cool, man).
- Lots of furniture to move and no way to move it out? No? Go to step 9. Yes? Do the job in sections: one per day.
- First, clean the area you will do LAST. When you clean anywhere, you will spread dust so only clean one time, in two stages. Clean your holding area first, then move furniture onto that section, then cover it all and protect the floor you cleaned. Then clean the other section that you will paint first.
- With or near your furniture, place old blankets/cloths you will use later under the furniture when you move it to the freshly painted section for phase 2. This will keep the furniture from sticking and pulling off the new soft floor paint.
- Wow, cool tip. Now the easy part starts.
- Concrete floors that were never treated should be acid etched first. We stopped using toxic muriatic acid which corrodes the un-corrodible. Still, with this friendly product, we wear gloves and goggles!! Work the etching solution with a brush for a broom pole. If using real acid, remember, never add water to acid, only add the acid to the water. After that process, wetting the floor with a mop is important. Test your drain first! Let to dry fully. If you have a concrete floor that has never been treated, it needs a masonry primer, and although I’m not a big believer in paint-primer in one this has high ratings.
- For all types of floors, use a quality primer for good bonding of the floor paint. Are there any water (or other) stains? Water stains will bleed through many coats of paints that are not designed to block stains.
- Clean in this order: vacuum then mop, then on your hands and knees use a damp cloth in corners. You want to get 99% because everything you leave on the floor will make it’s way to the paint bucket and get spread around. This will lead to paint chipping in time.
- Caulk/fill cracks after cleaning and priming. Large gaps should be filled with a special floor crack filler. A good option is tubes of cement caulk. Crack fillers may need to be primed (check the product you buy), but caulk generally does not need to be primed. Next, select your paint but a big warning…
- DO NOT USE EXTERIOR PAINTS INDOORS: They are very toxic and harmful for months.
- Ready? Go. Wait. Don’t paint yourself in a corner and plan your final way out. You need proper ventilation, even if you have VOC-free tinted floor paint (tints added to VOC free paints make it into non-VOC-free!) Here is our look at VOCs.
- Cut the edges. Go all around the edges first: usually, we tell people to ALWAYS roll before you brush (cut), but when painting a floor, you cannot do that. Work this fact into your exit plan. Here is the easy & quick way to clean a quality brush.
- Roll: we have written: “roller pans are for rookies, so use a bucket”. But for floor painting, we don’t even use a bucket! We just dump some paint on the floor in a puddle! We use an adjustable pole which saves your back work. The roller cover you use is important: cheap roller covers shed lint and will totally ruin your work. This shows how trying to save money is very expensive! Here is our choice of roller covers. When brushing and rolling, don’t leave puddles, but don’t be afraid to really coat it. Cleaning roller covers is easy.
- The next day the paint will be dry enough to walk on, but soft so you’ll want to wear socks as you walk. Make sure it is dry as you don’t want items to stick to it and pull it up.
- Need 2 coats? Use a work light to see the coverage, but that depends on your color and if you used low-cost paint (fewer solids in the solution) you may need 2. The cut may not need 2 just because the rolled parts need 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 the newly painted floor totally dry? Be sure. Use your fingernail to test if it is soft. If it is, wait and wait. What, do you have some hot date?
- Lay your blankets out (from step 3) and put your furniture etc., on that and if you think you need to, cover it (same plastic, same tape). Lay your furniture on the big flat sides, not the legs—the intense weight on the legs might cause sticking.
- As the floor drys, check that not objects are sticking. Gently move things and see and if you pull up some paint, touch up right away.
- If you are doing your floor painting project in stages, now simply repeat the steps of cutting, rolling the unpainted sections. Your newly painted floor will be soft for weeks in the summer or months in winter: treat it gently!
- Later if you wish, seal it with a quality clear top-coat—a waterborne polyurethane from Rust-Oleum
Finally, we want to let you know about some painting alternatives like:
- Interlocking rubber mats
- Exercise interlocking mat (3/4 or 1 inch) Repels sweat, easy to clean
- Hardwood tiles. Many colors sold as dance flooring.
- Stencil your vinyl flooring in Spanish, Mediterranean, and European designs. Interesting, with a video for help. If you try it please let me know. You will need 1. primer, 2. chalk-paint, and 3. brush.
- Marble-look tiles: peel and stick vinyl.
- Carpet tiles: peel and stick. Ribbed for…traction!
- Fun decals that last FOREVER—NOT
- Make it last: protect the traffic lanes with clear vinyl runner.