How To Paint Wooden Floors | A DIY Guide

31st October 2016

How To Paint Wooden Floors White and the materials you'll need

In the weeks before we finally moved in we’d been working on our new home and I thought now would be the perfect time for an update on progress in the kids room with a guide to help you paint wooden floors.

Having stripped away the thick layers of painted wallpaper (see how it looked in the before tour) and discovered the good and the not-so-perfect crumbling walls beneath, we called in an excellent plasterer who got the job done in a couple of hours. The blue carpet came up without a fight (or any underlay!) to reveal the floor which aside from a small amount of carpet glue and a few layers of dirt on top, were in great condition. As it’s a really bright room, we wanted to go with a white floor, picking out a couple of shades from Farrow & Ball and settling on Wimborne White which has warm tone to it.

They say the best way to learn is on the job…we began the process virtually clueless but now with experience under our belts I think we have a definitive guide here. Let’s get to it…

Comparing Farrow & Ball's Strong White with Wimborne White

Comparing Farrow & Ball’s Strong White (left) with Wimborne White

FOR SANDING AND PREPARATION

• Commercial floor sander-we hired ours for around £70 a week from a local company.

• A mix of grade sanding belts for the sander ranging from 40 to 120 grit – you can purchase these when you hire the sander.

Palm sander for the edges of the room. The Bosch PSM 200 AES has two different configurations for sanding at angles with a built in dust box.

• A punch tool (these allow you to drive the floor nails in without damaging the wood).

• Drill – the Stanley Fatmax cordless is pretty nifty with two batteries.

• White spirit.

Before you go anywhere near a sander, check that all nails and screws are well secured into the floor, otherwise you’ll go through all your sanding belts in no time when they tear them. If your floor has the original nails, use a punch tool and hammer them in to just below the surface of the wood, otherwise you can secure any wobbly boards with screws.

On an older floor you’ll find that boards have often been cut and removed at some point to make way for electrical and plumbing work. These will need to be secured. Lift the loose boards first to make 100% sure of what’s underneath before you start drilling or screwing – you don’t want to hit a pipe or wire.

Drill pilot holes and use a countersink bit (fairly generously) before screwing to ensure screws sit below the surface of the floor. Then you can simply fill over the top and you’ll never see them. Obviously leave exposed any that you may need to unscrew again in the near future – these can always be filled and touched up at a later date.

Vacuum any loose dirt from the surface and grooves between and scrape the join between the skirting and floor if you have one to avoid painting in bits of dirt. Give the floor a wash to remove any more surface dirt before you sand.

TIP: Is there any carpet glue left? You can use white spirit and a scraper to remove the worst of the residue, then the rest should come off with the sander.

You can now begin the fun part-the sanding!

Find out how to paint wooden floors including the sanding and prepping stages

It doesn’t matter which way round you approach it – we did the main part of the floor first and the edges last, but you need to make sure you remove the layers until the wood is looking brighter. Start with a heaver grade such as a 40 grit first to remove the ground in dirt, then finish with a finer grade for a smooth finish. Make sure you’re happy with the feel of it under foot as once you’ve painted there’s no going back.

TO PREP FOR PAINTING

• Wood knotting solution.

• Wood filler. You can make your own from the sawdust mixed with Bona Mix & Fill or use an all purpose filler.

Vacuum and wash the floor again to remove any residual dust and dirt and leave it to completely dry. You might need to repeat this stage a couple of times so as not to paint the dust into the floor. Not nice. It’s always advised when painting any wood to ensure that you treat all the knots with a coat of knotting solution to stop them showing through the paint afterwards. In some cases, the knots might be sappy and I’m told that if you treat them with a heat gun you can draw the sap out and scrape it off before you knot them. Just be really careful.

Fill any large gaps in the boards with the filler, allow to fully dry and then sand smooth by hand.

How to paint wooden floors including sealing the knots with solution

Sealing the knots with solution – there were quite a few…

READY TO PAINT

• Undercoat and primer – try Farrow & Ball’s light and pale undertones for white floors.

• Good quality floor paint – we used Wimborne White by Farrow & Ball.

• Good quality paint brushes. Trust me, you don’t want to be picking loose hairs out of the paint.

DIY guide on how to paint wooden floors using Farrow & Ball Wimborne White

Now you can get on with the painting. Give the floor another vacuum to remove any last bits of dust including underneath the skirting boards then apply a layer of undercoat and primer. Go around the edges of the room first with a small brush, then fill in with a larger one, making sure to paint yourself out of the room. Don’t maroon yourself! Once the undercoat is dry, follow the instructions of your paint of choice for the topcoat. This floor required two coats of the top coat and it has a slight satin finish for heavy duty wear.

TIP: You might not like the look of the wood showing between each board – I didn’t, so I was quite liberal in working the paint in between the joins.

If you’ve time to, leave the floor to cure for a few days. We left ours for approx. 10 before putting any furniture onto it and I think it made a difference to the finish.

Find out how to paint wooden floors in an Edwardian house.

And here’s the finished floor. Pretty sweet, right? It’s worth remembering that painted floors will always chip eventually, and that’s part of the charm, but for now, the kids are enjoying playing on it!

Next step? Prepping the ceiling, walls and woodwork. More on that and the colour we’ve chosen soon…

Got plans to paint your floors? Has this been useful? You can follow our journey with #TheChathamHouse on Instagram and join the conversation.

Photography © Tiffany Grant-Riley 

*This post is in collaboration with Homebase. 
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COMMENTS

Great post and the room looks stunning! Have a lovely week. x

We pulled the carpet up in our bedroom to find a floor painted white- but badly! These are super tips

Oooh well you’re virtually there then, they might just need a bit of a spruce up?

Love the tips, will have to bookmark it for when we paint our floorboards. x

What is the product that you used on the knots. I know of a shellac primer made by Zinnzer for knots but I’ve never seen anything that was dark like you used. Can you please tell me what it is. Thank you

Hi Lisa, yes – I’ve actually been using Zinnzer on my office floor which is being painted white. The product we used for upstairs on the knots is from Colron. It’s pretty good!

Brilliant post! So useful to have a complete guide to floorboard painting, definitely something I’ll be bookmarking.

I don’t even have a wooden floor to paint but I loved this post! So informative. You’ve done a fabulous job. It looks amazing!

Thank you for taking the time to comment Jane-glad you liked it, even if you don’t have floors to paint!

Thanks. Great tips.

[…] her Instagram feed with such feverous interest! Anyway, Tiffany has helpfully put together a DIY guide on painting wooden floors. I’ll be referring to it in the future, for […]

[…] this post where, having had three out of four walls re-plastered we then worked on painting the wooden floor, […]

[…] The floors were given two coats of Wimborne White by Farrow & Ball which gave great coverage and I have to say is holding up well to the sort of everyday abuse wooden floors get from small children-toy car traffic, chairs dragged across the floor etc. If you’re tackling a similar project and are as clueless as we were when we started, take a look at out (almost) definitive guide to sanding and painting wooden floors. […]

[…] The floors were given two coats of Wimborne White by Farrow & Ball which gave great coverage and I have to say is holding up well to the sort of everyday abuse wooden floors get from small children-toy car traffic, chairs dragged across the floor etc. If you’re tackling a similar project and are as clueless as we were when we started, take a look at out (almost) definitive guide to sanding and painting wooden floors. […]

[…] duty sander, repairing loose or broken boards and filling any gaps as Rob has done. You can find a step-by-step guide to sanding floors, including the prep from our previous project in the kids’ room. Ignore the knotting step […]

Hi,

I’ve just come across this post and I’m just wondering whether the primer/undercoat covered knots initially? I’m doing ours and used knotting solution however paint looks like a white wash over knots at the minute…… I’m hoping once top coat is applied it will cover!!
Your boards look great by the way ??

Hi Lauren, it depends which undercoat you’re using but with F&B we applied the recommended two coats with the additional two coats of top coat. You really won’t see the knots once you’ve followed all the steps. Hope you’re pleased with the results!

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