How to Paint Wood Floors

How to Paint Wood Floors

I love the look of painted wood floors. I know it’s not for everyone or every house, but white (or colored) floors really brighten up a room so much and are a nice change of pace from darker stained wood. We’ve learned that it’s traditional in houses like ours built in 1890 to have painted wood floors on the upper levels. When houses were built at that time, they used really pretty (expensive) woods on the first floor (ours are white oak) and cheaper, lesser quality woods like pine on upper levels, where guests would rarely go. Because these floors weren’t for public viewing, they were often random leftover pieces of wood in mismatched sizes. Then to camouflage the flaws, the floors would have been painted.

our office before, with chipped pink floors

The wood floors in both our office and guest room were painted when we bought the house. One of the first projects we did when we moved in five years ago was to paint the office floors … and of course I wanted them to be pale pink! We didn’t do any research on how to paint a wood floor. We used cheap, off-the-shelf floor paint that we mixed by hand with a pink paint sample. We didn’t sand the wood. Who knows if we even bothered to wash the floor first! We didn’t use any primer and only applied one coat of paint, with a roller. We let the paint dry for maybe a few hours before we moved the furniture in. Basically, we did every single thing wrong!

our office floors before

Because we had no idea what we were doing and did it all wrong, the paint started chipping pretty much immediately and the floor always felt sticky and dirty. Furniture would stick to the floors, so every time you moved something, chunks of paint and wood would chip off. The floors looked really bad really fast. So much for the pretty pink floors I’d hoped for!

guest room floors before

When we decided to paint both the office and guest bedroom floors white, we did a TON of research first. By following some simple steps and using A LOT of patience, we now have white wood floors in both rooms that are not only gorgeous, but should last for a long time.

our guest room floors after being painted


  • drum sander with medium- or fine-grit sandpaper (rentable from a home improvement store)
  • hand sander with fine-grit sandpaper
  • respirator
  • safety glasses
  • rubber gloves
  • vacuum
  • sponge and/or rags
  • TSP substitute
  • good primer — we like Zinsser 1-2-3
  • high quality floor paint like Benjamin Moore Porch + Floor
  • high quality 3-inch paint brush
  • patience, lots and lots of patience

Painting a wood floor is a time-consuming process, not something you can do in a weekend… more like over the course of several weekends. Each of our floors took about 5-6 days of work, which is a giant pain, but skipping steps or rushing along just isn’t worth it in the long run.

After the first round of sanding.

How to do it:

1. Vacuum. You’ll want a clean surface to start with so you can sand the floor and not the dirt on the floor.

2. Sand. We rented a sander from Home Depot for a few hours, which I think was about $80-90, including all the sandpaper. Since in our case we were only trying to smooth out the old chippy paint, not sand all the way down to bare wood, fine-grit paper was what the nice people at Home Depot recommended to us. Don’t forget to wear a respirator when you do this because it’ll be super dusty! And then you can pretend you’re Bane and that’s an added bonus.

3. Vacuum.  Get rid of all that dust.

4. Repeat. You’ll ultimately want to sand the floors 2-3 times with the drum sander, vacuuming afterwards each time.

5. Sand. Use a hand sander with fine-grit sandpaper to go around all of the edges and corners that the big sander couldn’t reach.

6. Vacuum. Get the vacuum out again, and clear up any more dust you’ve made.

7. Clean. Use TSP substitute to remove any residual dust and residue. I wore rubber gloves and used a large, clean sponge to wipe the TSP on the wood and then a clean rag to wipe it off.

8. Prime. Apply 2-3 thin coats of primer with a 3″ brush, going with the grain of the wood. The more primer you apply, the more surface the paint will have to grab on to and the less likely you’ll have chipping later. More primer also means fewer coats of your expensive floor paint, which just saves you money in the long run.

9. Wait at least 24 hours for the primer to dry between coats and after the final coat.

10. Vacuum.

11. Paint. Apply the first thin coat of paint using the 3″ brush. A brush will give you a smoother, more even surface than a roller. Thin coats of paint will dry more thoroughly and prevent that sticky-forever feeling. We are very happy with the Benjamin Moore Porch + Floor paint that we used. At about $70 per gallon, it’s expensive but we think it’s worth the money (this isn’t sponsored, this is just how we feel!). It’s actually a pretty watery paint, which surprised us, but this allows it to sink into crevices and level itself, creating a super smooth surface. It’s really nice to work with and we also like that is has a soft matte finish.

12. Wait at least 24 hours for the paint to dry before walking on the floor wearing socks (no shoes!).

13. Paint. Apply a second coat of paint. On our office floor I ended up doing 3 coats of primer and 3 coats of paint. On our guest room floor that was in better shape to start with, we did 2 coats of each.

14. WAIT 28 DAYS! You can walk on the floor with socks 48 hours after the final coat of paint, but it takes 28 days for paint to fully cure. That means no shoes and no furniture for about a month. This is the hardest part of the whole process!

Painting floors is not the easiest project and it’s very time-consuming, but it’s totally worth it in the end. We LOVE the way the white paint on the floor has brightened up our guest room and office. Our original wood floors are never going to be perfect, since they weren’t necessarily meant to be pretty 125 years ago, but a fresh coat of paint goes a long way to hide the imperfections. We like that we can still see some gaps between the boards, which gives the floors a ton of character. I mean, people pay for this kind of character and we have it naturally!!

P.S. How great are the new navy blue walls in our guest room?? We love them with the bright white trim and floors. We’re just a few days away from reaching that 28-day threshold on our guest room floors, which means next week we can finally move the furniture out of the office and back into the guest room, and we can start putting together the office too. Ugh, we’re so excited to be so close to done with these projects!

our office has a guest bed in it right now, but Trixie doesn’t mind!

What do you think? Do you have any painted wood floors in your house or would you ever consider painting your floor? Do you like the look of wood floors or do you prefer stains?

— Kerry

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