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:


  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

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

  5. 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.

  6. Nicole,
    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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. can you confirm the dark paint color, as fried earth, I was unable to find that color in the Valspar data base, only deep earth, which was more brown in color, was the fried more of a black color?

  13. Intending to paint a wooden floor white. The wood is red-deal and the floorboards are new and untreated. I would appreciate your assessment on the the process I am intending to do which is as follows using water based products;

    – Primer with stain blocker (1 or 2 coats?)
    – Acrylic under coat
    – Satin Wood topcoat
    – Junckers Lacquer (1 or 2 coats?)

    Unsure about sanding requirements. If possible could you advise. Should I apply a stain blocking primer to the knots before priming the floor?
    All advice welcome.
    Thanking you,

  14. @Tim:

    Tim, have you considered using Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Based Primer? It dries very quickly in about 1 hour, which is what you want with a floor. You might be able to get away with one coat, although two would be ideal.

    The issue with acrylic paints and undercoats is that they aren’t as hard wearing as oil based ones, so there’s a possibility your floor could get scratched or dinged relatively easily. Note that the author of this article also recommends oil-based paints. If you use the primer that I mention above you wouldn’t need to either sand or use an undercoat anyway.

    I don’t have any experience of water-based paints on floors but be aware that they do dry quickly which will affect the flow of the paint and rolling out lines; basically it will be harder to get a decent finish. I’ve also heard that waterbased satin (and gloss) paints, whilst becoming touch dry fast can actually remain tacky beneath the surface for a couple of weeks, which isn’t ideal for a floor scenario what with furniture and foot traffic.

    If you’re going to finish with a laquer then I would suggest two coats after LIGHTLY sanding, so that you’ve got a key for the varnish to adhere to.

    If you decide to use an oil based paint, which I actually think is a more practical solution, then the main issue with that is that white paints will discolour to a creamy, or even yellow tone over time, especially in areas that don’t get sunlight ie under a rug.

    Hope that helps.

    • Tim,
      I agree with Edward. Oil based paint will dry harder and scratch less than latex and blocks stains from knots better. I haven’t used it on floors, but I’ve had good luck using oil-based Zinsser Cover Stain as a primer, which does a good job of blocking stains and is easier to use than a shellac based primer, but ether one would work.

  15. My dogs have ruined my 58 year old hardwood floors with urine staining them black. This would not have happened if I had put a coat of polyurethane on them before I moved in. I have decided to paint with a rustic red. I don’t need to sand because the floors seem to be smooth enough. I need to know the step by step procedure. Should it be:
    1. Primer? (Kilz?)
    2. Oil based paint (2 coats)? Sand between coats?
    3. Polyeurathane?

    Please, professional only answers are appreciated.

  16. Susan, no matter what you do your home will always smell like pet pee if your home ever warms up due to the nasty embedded pet pee that is now a permanent attachment to your wood floors. You will have to pull up the floors and replace. If you plan on leaving the animals in your home just don’t bother and leave as is.

  17. Thanks for this article!

    I too live in a 100+ y/o home with original heart pine wood floors. While the down stairs floors, stair case and upper foyer are all in very good shape and a good coat of poly, the upstairs bedrooms suffer from at least one floor that was covered in luan and two that have been covered in laminate.

    We pulled up the luan and exposed the original wood which had been painted previously. After spending two days with a drum sander and many sheets of sandpaper, there was no end in site! While I was able to get a majority of the poly & paint off, there were so many pits & repair areas that it was turning into a major project and the end result was questionable. We had seen painted floors before and decided this was the way to go due to limited resources and time crunch for getting the room ready.

    I found this article yesterday evening and today, after painting the walls, and final cleaning the floor, I started the task. I used a Valspar oil-based gloss enamel for floors and the first coat went on very smooth. I masked off the base-boards, used an edger all the way around the room, and rolled on the first coat. The entire process took me a little over an hour for a 18 x 18 foot room. Now just waiting the 24-48 hours minimum to sand and apply the second coat. I intend to put a layer of poly on to finish it out.

    From what I see so far, I am very pleased! Depending on how the other rooms look when we pull up the laminate, this may be the route we go with those!

    Thanks again!

  18. Thanks to Ben and Edward for your replies above. Recently came across a paint WB50 recommended as a floor paint.

    Wondering if anyone has used WB50 as a floor paint ?


  19. We redid a house that was “trashed” by people and animals. A two foot square section of the floor was completely black from pets peeing on the carpet in that spot. I was sure we would have to cut that section out and replace it. I saturated it everyday for a several days with full strength Sol-U-Mel, letting it dry out between. The stain kept getting lighter and it was completely deodorized and did not need replaced.

  20. Liquid clothes softener, pour on pet unrine stains, no matter how soaked in, it will pull it up and deodorize. I didn’t think it would work, but then nothing else was working either, and it’s was an inexpensive gamble. I bought an old 1917 Arts and Crafts house that had issues with dogs being left unattended, it was awful. The softener worked. You may have to do an application a few times, if it’s a deep stain. We did that first, pulled up all we could with the softener, and then sanded. You would never know there were dogs in the house.

  21. Older info but still relevant! While deciding whether to paint or refinish my scarred, stained oak floors I learned that black stains show where dog/cat urine has soaked deep, deep into the wood. Even if you can sand, bleach and re-stain so it looks OK there will be a faint odor discernible only to cats and dogs unless the floor is sealed with shellac-based primer. That means any pets who enter that room may decide to pee in the same old spot! I own two cats and may someday have a dog so I opted to head off trouble before it occurs. Hence my decision to seal and paint rather than refinish. Thanks for the help!

  22. I have a few hundred square feet of salvaged wood flooring that I want to paint. The question is, should I sand and paint BEFORE installing the flooring, or after? It seem somewhat obvious that I’d paint everything after it was all installed, but maybe I’m missing something?

  23. my floors are original to beach cottage built in 1879. i want to paint but in some places the pine boards have quarter inch gaps. Is there a substance i can use to fill in before painting? It looks terrible now with one coat on, worse than ever if that is possible.

  24. I’ve used the color “fired earth” on both a wood kitchen floor and the floor of my front porch. Using an oil based floor paint
    It’s super durable and is a gorgeous color.

  25. We were fortunate to find that under carpet we removed there was another carpet that was hammered down. After all the laughing and pulling up nails we realized it looked like a distressed wood floor. Color was fine so I mopped with Liquid Gold and am happy with the easiest makeover ever. Btw Liquid gold soaked in and the floor was a little darker.

  26. We had an issue with pet stains on our wood floors after pulling up carpet. Spray it liberally with hydrogen peroxide and it will bubble up right out of the wood. May have to do a couple of times on heavy soils but takes the stain and smell right out

  27. Another good choice for painting wood floors is a pre catalised water baawd epoxy. Its dey in few hours that you can walk on it gently almost no oder its hard enough that in about a week you can take 80 grit sand paper to it with out causing little to no harm. After 2 weeks you could take a hammer to it and never know it. It will go on over just about anything and stick. Used ir on my entey way and family room we have 3 big dogs and I got tired of them scratching the floor Problem resolved

  28. C davis – I’m interested in this. Can you tell me more about how you did your floor with the epoxy? I’m thinking you have typos in your sentence and it should say water based epoxy?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here