Magical Realist's Profile

Display Name: Magical Realist
Member Since: 11/30/08

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I have an old house (built in 1923). It's near a university, and thanks to generations of student tenants the oak floors have seen a lot of hard wear. They also have some dark stains, (no) thanks to one of my cats, and while I have managed to bleach those out most of the way, they're still visible.

The floors have been refinished too many times already, so there isn't enough wood left for another major refinishing. In a couple of rooms, they've been over-sanded to the point that there are bouncy spots in the floors. So I've given a lot of thought to painting them, and after looking at a lot of photos and reading articles like this one, I think I'm going to go for it. I got a good deal on the house, love it and the neighborhood, plan on staying in it for at least another decade, and am not worried about resale. If I ever am, I'll have the floors replaced entirely (the house is worth the expense). But for now, I just want clean, bright-looking floors!

Since I live in a place that's gloomy and gray eight months of the year, an off-white or very light taupe seems the most appealing option. The house has a light, airy feel I love, and I think pale floors will enhance that. Carrying the floor color up onto the deep baseboards would make the rooms look bigger, too. Since I'm also an artist, adding patterns and patches of color (especially on the stairs) could be a lot of fun, and make up for the fact I can't have rugs due to the cats.

That said, I used to be a house painter and have refinished wood floors before, so the "how-to" isn't a problem. The floors currently have a coat of oil-based polyurethane on them. So it will be a matter of cleaning-->scuffing with sandpaper-->vacuuming and dusting like mad-->priming with Kilz (oil-based)-->applying gloss porch and floor paint. I have one upstairs bedroom that's really bad, so I'll start with that one and gradually work my way through the house.

I know this is a very old post, and most of the comments are old as well, but for anyone stumbling across it looking for guidance, I thought I'd answer a couple of common questions:

Yes, you can paint over linoleum. Scrub it thoroughly, strip off any wax, give it a light sanding to scuff the surface, and prime it with an oil-based primer. Then paint. If you have ugly lino that you can't yet afford to replace, this is a great option; it'll buy you 3-5 years before you have to re-paint, during which time you can save up for new flooring. (Or, if you're like my mom, you'll end up painting the floor a fresh new color every few years and spend the tile money on something else.)

Vinyl can be painted, but adhesion's a problem since the surface is soft and constantly flexes underfoot. It's a temporary fix, at best. Clean, Kilz, paint, and start budgeting for your new floor, because painted vinyl will look like poo pretty quickly. Or just figure you'll repaint it every year or two.

Concrete can be a tricky beast, especially in a basement or former garage that might have dampness or oily spills on the floor. You'll have to clean and degrease the floor thoroughly, and if it has a very smooth, shiny surface you'll need to etch it with muriatic acid to give it some tooth. There are special primers for concrete floors--use one. It really will make a difference. I painted the workroom floor in my basement without using a concrete primer, and the mineral salts in the concrete came up through the paint. I then had to strip away as much paint as I could, re-prime with concrete primer, and re-paint in order to fix the problem. Don't be me. Use the primer the first time, and save yourself the headache.

Plywood, chipboard, and particle-board subfloors are easy to paint--sand the rough spots, prime, paint. Use an oil-based primer suitable for raw wood in order to keep stains from rising up through the paint.

If you think you might want to change the color every few years or so, don't apply a water-based polyurethane, as it will keep future layers from sticking as well. Just paint the floor, touch it up as needed, and repaint as desired. The higher the paint gloss, the better it holds up, so use either high-gloss or semi-gloss, rather than urethane.

Use oil-based primers, yucky as they are. They block stains far better than latex primers, and provide better adhesion. Given how much wear a floor takes, and how much work it is to re-paint, do it right the first time. You can use latex paint over them, and subsequent paint jobs will not have to be re-primed (unless you've worn through to bare wood, but spot-priming will take care of that). If you have a really stubborn rust or dye stain that bleeds through oil-based primers, pigmented shellac will usually kill it (it's the one thing that keeps the Calcimine often used as an interior finish in old houses at bay, and that stuff is pure evil).

If you don't like the thin gaps between the baseboards and the floor, use caulk to fill them. Push the caulk into the gaps with your finger, then wipe the excess away with a damp rag.

Okay, I didn't plan to go on at such length, but there you go, Floor-Painters of the Future...


How To: Paint Your Floors and Not Screw it Up
8/24/12 03:52 PM