DIY

How to Paint Hardwood Floors

Old hardwood floors transform into a light and airy dream after this refresh. You won’t want to miss how to do this. Learn how to paint hardwood floors in these three easy steps. 

White hardwood floors have been painted for a refresh in a dining room.

We moved into our 1950s home a little over two years ago and immediately refinished all the hardwood floors ourselves. However, we didn’t touch the dining room floor. They weren’t nearly as bad as the rest. A year later, in the spring of 2021, I decided I wanted to change them up completely. 

I knew I wanted my kitchen to have a lot of calm, neutral colors in it. Ultimately, I decided to paint the hardwood floors in the dining area with leftover paint we had used on walls in other areas of the house. 

Now, I am not an all-white home kinda gal. I need color. 

But I love using white in kitchens and bathrooms for a pure, clean look. I also like that it’s easier to see what I’m cleaning when I’m cleaning the floors. Hardwood floors can disguise some things. Now I can tell when they are truly spick and span. 

Besides, if I ever want to add a bit more vibrance, rugs are always a beautiful addition. 

A cheap project, I was very happy with the end results of the newly painted floor. However, over time I discovered that I had not painted it 100% correctly. This resulted in a number of scuffs and scratches. Which is why, after quite a bit of research, I am repainting them for the second time.

A scratched and scuffed up floor is ready to be repainted.
Before, a white hardwood floor has scratches and scuffs from wear and tear.
A freshly painted floor boasts a bright white color.
After, a hardwood floor boasts a bright white color and sheen.

Not only did I actually sand the floors this time (yes, I actually tried to get away with not sanding in a high-traffic area), but I also applied a finish, too. This helped it seal everything in. I am so excited to see how it looks a year out from now. 

I have a really good feeling that this will last quite some time. 

After painting a hardwood floor white, a room is bright and open.

Whether you are painting them for the first time or simply doing touch-ups, I’ll show you exactly how to paint hardwood floors… correctly. 

Why paint a hardwood floor?

Never paint a hardwood floor, they say. 

Well, they haven’t seen the likes of my dining room floor! 

Let’s be real, sometimes we don’t have the skill or patience to restore old hardwood floors. In some cases, it may be easier and a lot more palatable to add paint to old hardwood floors instead. 

I was torn, myself, when deciding whether I wanted to paint our hardwood floors or not. I much prefer stained wood floors–the detail within the grain of the wood, every plank neatly laid parallel to one another along the length of the room. But certain rooms really benefit from paint. Whether it’s one base color, checkered squares, or other ornate designs that resemble tiles. 

Our dining room needed to appear lighter overall and open up. That’s why I chose to paint it a lighter color. 

A can of paint sits on the edge of a room after having paint added to hardwood floors.

I still love the look of it and haven’t yet regretted it. 

Tips for Painting Hardwood Floors

Even if you’re just touching up painted floors like I did, all of the same steps will apply. Follow them to a tee and your floors will last that much longer.

After sanding, it is important to vacuum any sawdust. Additionally, you can use a tack cloth or a wet towel to wipe it down after vacuuming. Let it dry before moving on to painting.

A woman vacuums a hardwood floor to prep for painting.

Use an extension for the roller to make painting easier. Particularly if you’ve never painted the floor previously.

It helps to vacuum with a hand vacuum between each coat of paint/finish, after the previous coat has dried. Lint and hair seem to find a way into a room no matter what.

To cut in around baseboards, use an angle paint brush. Offload the paint on the side of the brush that won’t be touching the floor. Line it up perfectly where the seam between baseboard and floor is and drag it straight across the floor. It takes a bit of practice but is not as intimidating as some may think. If it’s your first time ever touching a paint brush and you lack confidence in your ability, by all means use tape instead. But tape just creates its own issues and tends to be more trouble than it’s worth, in my opinion. 

Paint is being offloaded into a can.

You can use regular interior latex paint on hardwood floors. That’s exactly what I’ve used. However, for a high-traffic area use at least a semi-gloss paint if not a high gloss. Additionally, don’t wear shoes in the home afterward. This should be done on any and all hardwood floors, old or new. Shoes do more damage to floors, period.

A woman looks down on a bench with a can of opened paint.

For a finish that will seal the paint, use a water-based polyurethane. Oil-based ones are more toxic and will leave a yellow tinge that can be very noticeable on painted floors. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.

Tools and Materials

Paint roller and roller brush

Paint tray

Acrylic floor paint or interior semi-gloss/high-gloss latex paint

Angle paint brush

Drum sander (for larger spaces)

Orbital or sheet sander (for corners, edges, and touch-ups) I use this one HERE  

220-grit sandpaper

Tack cloth 

Vacuum 

Vinegar water solution, 1:1 ratio

Water-based polyurethane finish  I use this spray HERE  

Safety goggles/glasses

Respirator 

A can of paint and a sander sit on a bench as a woman learns how to paint hardwood floors.
A finishing spray sits on a table before sealing paint on a floor.

How to Paint Hardwood Floors

Prep Area

Prep floors first by making a gentle, yet effective cleaning solution. Use vinegar and water (1:1 ratio) to mop floors clean after removing all furniture and everything else from the room. Clean corners with a towel soaked in vinegar water. After the floors have dried, proceed to the next step.

Hardwood floors are cleaned by hand with a damp cloth.

Sand

Using a palm sander (sheet or orbital), sand all the edges of the floor near the baseboards in the room. Be careful not to scuff up baseboards. If you are just doing touch-ups, focus on sanding only the areas that are being repainted.

A floor is being sanded down before adding paint.

Then, use a drum sander to sand the remainder of the room. 

After sanding, clean up any sawdust or debris with a vacuum and then a tack cloth.

Paint Hardwood Floors

To paint hardwood floors, start by cutting in using an angled brush, painting everything 2-3 inches from the wall and inward. Do this along the perimeter of the room near baseboards before proceeding.

A woman is cutting in around baseboards using an angle brush land white paint.

Then, using a roller brush, add the first coat of paint to the floor. Start in one corner and work your way across the room until you’re finished.

If needed, add a second coat about 12-24 hours after applying the first coat. Always follow instructions on the paint label. Each paint is different.

If you are adding any type of design and will be adding other colors, wait at least 24 hours before adding that color on top of the base color.

Most floors can be walked on with socked feet 8 hours later if needed. Just don’t move furniture, wear shoes or bare feet, or do much else on them in between curing time.

Seal 

Using a water-based polyurethane, seal the top coat of paint by applying it with a brush and roller (or use this spray HERE like I did) just like you did with the paint in the prior steps. Using a roller where you can helps prevent thick coats and speeds up drying time.

A water-based polyurethane is in a spray bottle ready for use.

Curing time varies depending on temperatures and humidity. Most experts would recommend letting it cure for up to a week. However, since I needed my kitchen and was only doing touch-ups I only waited about 24 hours. That first week I was extremely careful on that floor, though. I didn’t even wear house shoes and practically tiptoed over it when I absolutely had to walk across it.  

For best results, follow curing time instructions on the can of polyurethane. Wait until full curing time is complete before adding furniture to the room. Skip mopping floors for the first couple of weeks after painting them and instead opt for spot cleaning when necessary. When you resume regular mopping, use a gentle solution such as vinegar water to clean painted floors.

A floor is finished after being painted.

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