We’re back with another installment of Ask the Home Flooring Pros. This week we address the question of painted floors. We’ve all seen some great results from painted wood floors but can you paint laminate floors?
Laminate flooring doesn’t last forever, and when it starts to show wear and tear, the drop-off in its visual appeal can be steep and fast. Is painting a laminate floor an option?
Painting Laminate Flooring: Can vs Should
You can paint laminate flooring. You can paint anything, we suppose.
However, just because you can paint it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Our professional recommendation on the subject is that while laminate flooring can be painted with one of the techniques used below, your results might not be very appealing and they probably won’t last very long.
Painted Laminate Flooring on Pinterest and Houzz
When you search this question online, many sites come up that appear to be chock full of flooring made gorgeous through painting. These pages on Pinterest and Houzz are prime examples, and they certainly boast a plethora of pics of beautiful floors.
But, upon closer inspection, you’ll see that hardly any of the pictures display laminate painted floors or painted flooring of any kind. Most show laminate, wood, vinyl and other traditional materials.
Why We Don’t Recommend Painting Laminate Flooring
For those who forge ahead with painting their laminate flooring, we’ve outlined the best techniques below. They’ll give you a shot at producing a paint job that lasts long enough to give you some return on your investment of time and money.
Here are the most common problems for those who try painting laminate flooring:
- The surface isn’t properly prepared, so paint doesn’t adhere at all or scrapes off easily
- The wrong type of primer and/or paint is used, and it doesn’t last
- It’s very difficult to sand off the wear layer and leave enough flooring in good enough condition to merit painting
- If the initial results seem attractive, they are quickly marred by sliding chair legs, stiletto heels, kids’ toys, dogs’ claws and similar
The “Advice” section on the highly respected This Old House site attracts contractors who enjoy giving answers borne of years of experience. Their answers to the question, “Can I paint laminate flooring?” are worth reading before you forge ahead with the project.
If you’re Going to Try it Anyway
We estimate that painting 500 square feet of laminate will take you a couple of days with these potential costs which vary according to the quality of the materials and tools you use:
- 2-3 gallons of primer: $50-$100
- 2 gallons of floor or porch paint (more if you get creative with your design): $30-$50
- Optionally, 2 gallons of epoxy: $200-$250
- Paint brush, roller, cover and tray: $20-$40
- Orbital sander rental (optional): $20-$35 for one day
- Sand paper and block: $8-$20
For $100-$245, more if you use epoxy, plus a couple days you’ll never get back, you can paint your floor.
If the cost isn’t a factor and you enjoy this kind of DIY adventure – meaning one that might not work – then have at it. It’s quite possible you’ll want to pull up the laminate immediately. Or, the flooring might look decent for several months of treating it very gently.
On the other hand, many of you will prefer putting the money and time toward the installation of a new flooring.
The Wrong Way to Paint a Laminate Floor
Mistakes to avoid when painting laminate include:
- Not vacuuming and cleaning the floor – because paint won’t stick to dog hair and dirt
- Not scuffing the wear layer with sandpaper to improve primer adhesion (when not mechanically sanding it off)
- Using wall paint – it will bubble up rather than adhere, and if it does stick, it will peel like sunburned shoulders
- Not priming
How to Paint Laminate Flooring
These are the techniques that offer the most promise of success.
The Works: Reference.com offers a quick step-by-step laminate floor painting guide that covers all of the basics. The key is to remove the floor’s wear layer, the tough plastic surface which resists paint, to get down to material that will readily accept and hold paint.
The most complete process is to:
- Sand off the wear layer and down to bare wood material with an orbital sander for most of the floor and sand paper for the edges
- Degloss the floor with a liquid product that will take off the shine
- Prime the floor with a quality wood primer – perhaps the most important step
- Paint the floor using quality porch or floor paint and as much creativity as you want to put into the project
Let the Sander do the Work: If you’re experienced and careful with the sanding process, it can be used to remove the gloss of the underlying photo rather than using a liquid deglosser. What you want to avoid is going too deep with the sanding, since this has the potential to cause ruts and grooves in the softer materials below.
The sand-but-not-degloss approach is the one taken by the folks at Lifehacker. Frankly, it’s the approach we recommend too, but with the caveats we’ve stated throughout. We think that getting rid of the plastic wear layer and getting down to wood before painting gives the paint a much better chance of sticking when something scrapes across it.
Skip the sanding completely: There’s a bit of controversy (Oh, my!), about whether the floor first needs to be sanded. For example, the namesake of Lisa’s Creative Designs goes right to the primer step after “a quick sweeping,” as she describes on her blog.
Lisa’s post, one of only a few on the mentioned Pinterest page actually about this topic, is quite chatty and contains her photo documentary (she took a lot of pictures) of the project. She’s an experienced DIY homeowner, and we think you’ll benefit from her description of the real-life issues you’ll face as you prepare and paint your floor.
Can you Paint Laminate Flooring?
Yes, you can. Now, having given our thoughts on the matter, we leave it to you to decide whether what can be done should be done.