Worn and faded hardwood floors can drag down the look of a room. But having scuffed floors sanded down and re-stained can be expensive and messy.
One alternative that’s gaining popularity: painting older hardwood floors. You can add solid colour, stripes, or any imaginable stenciled or hand-drawn patterns to a floor.
There’s actually a long tradition of painted wooden floors in American homes, says Tom Silva, general contractor on the long-running PBS television series “This Old House.” One hundred years ago, paint was considered a practical way to protect floors and add some beauty in the process.
In a survey done this month of more than 1,200 users on the home-improvement website Houzz.com, 15 per cent said they’re ready to make the leap to painting while 85 per cent were still more comfortable with stained wood floors. But Houzz editor Sheila Schmitz says some of the site’s members who have embraced painted floors have done so with real creativity.
“We’ve seen homeowners reinvent their floors with glossy white paint, oversize stripes, checkerboards with alternating natural and painted finishes, and even more fanciful shapes,” Schmitz says.
It’s a DIY project that requires effort but little experience.
So how do you do it, and what are some of the boldest, most interesting approaches you can take?
Fans of painted floors point out that the process is less labour-intensive than staining because you don’t have to sand away every old scratch or stain. But that doesn’t mean you can skip the step of prepping your floors.
Clean the floor well, says Silva, then scuff it with sandpaper just enough to create a slightly rough surface. That prep work is the key to making sure the first layer of paint or primer will adhere. Primer isn’t required if the floor already has some finish on it. But putting down a few thin, clear coats of primer can make it easier if you decide years from now to remove the paint.
If you do prime the floor, use sandpaper to lightly scuff that clear coat after it dries to help subsequent painted coats adhere well.
BOLD FLOOR, NEUTRAL WALLS
Interior designer Camila Pavone was ahead of the trend in painting her kitchen floor in 2010. The room previously had green walls and a stained wood floor. Pavone switched the walls to a creamy white (she used Martha Stewart’s “Glass of Milk”) and covered the wood floor with jade green paint. She considered using marine paint but chose a formula called Break-Through!, which dries quickly and creates a harder surface than many other types of paint.
Five years later, Pavone is still thrilled with the result. The floors “always get a ‘Wow’ when new people come to my house,” she says. “The only thing I didn’t take into account was the wear and tear of two dogs and now two kids. The claws on the dogs do scratch the floors up a bit. But I try to pretend that if I saw that in a store display in Anthropologie, I would think it was fabulous. So I don’t stress.”
Because the kitchen is a high-traffic area, Pavone has repainted the floors once every two years to keep them looking shiny and scratch-free. But that work is relatively easy.
“It’s a really fast project and normally only takes around two hours,” she says. “I would totally do it again!”
PICK ANY PATTERN
Paint can also be perfect for entryways. Thick stripes, diamond or chevron patterns can make a small foyer seem bigger, drawing attention to an otherwise ignored space. Once the floor is cleaned and prepared, simply lay out your design with painters’ tape. Be careful to measure the width of stripes or the angles of diamonds or chevrons to make sure you’ve laid the tape in the proper places.
Consider using large stencils to add a pattern to the floor of a larger space, like an enclosed porch. Or paint a brightly colored “rug” in the centre of a room by first painting a solid rectangle, then adding a pattern once that solid coat is completely dry.
Another option: Coat the floor with a semi-transparent stain or paint that allows the grain of the wood to show through. Once it’s dry, use painters’ tape to create a border around the room that you’ll fill with a contrasting or complementary colour or pattern.
TAKE TIME FOR TOPCOATS
Once you’ve finished your painted masterpiece, add one or several clear coats on top for protection. Patience between layers is the key: You may be tempted to paint again as soon as one thin coat feels dry to the touch, but you’ll get a much stronger and more attractive result if you leave extra time.
Silva points out that oil-based topcoats “may add a little bit of a goldish colour to it, because of the oil. Water-based will give you the true colour of the paint.”
And, obvious as it may sound, remember: “Know where to start and where to end,” says Schmitz, “so you don’t literally paint yourself into a corner.”