Paint can be an unexpected highlight for wooden floors

Even celibate religious societies need a little color. An analysis of old paint layers in the historic dwelling house at Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts revealed that the rooms had once had decorated with vibrant yellows and reds. A room restored to this color scheme shows how it helped make the room brighter by amplifying the natural sunlight.

Paint was present not only on the trim and baseboards, but also on the floor. While most homeowners today wouldn't think to add paint to a wooden floor, the brilliant result of the yellow floor at Hancock Shaker Village shows how effective this process can be.

Hardwood floors are often a sought after feature in homes, but the bare wood look is a fairly recent trend. Chris Stout-Hazard, writing for the real estate site Zillow, says paint was a useful way to protect the floors before modern sealants were developed. Paint has also proved to be an interesting way to upgrade the look of a floor that doesn't match the color scheme or style of the rest of your home.

Paint opens the door to a number of creative patterns and designs. Those with artistic talent can make everything from abstract spirals to stunning 3D scenes. Checkerboard patterns and alternating colors on stairways have also been popular.

Homeowners will often refinish a floor to protect it against scratches and other damage, but this process can be messy and expensive. You'll need to clear the room of furniture, get rid of the dust kicked up by the sanding process, and wait a long time for stains and sealants to dry. Painting is a less complex process, and can be completed more quickly at a lower expense.

Painted floors can be surprisingly durable. Joe Provey, writing for the home improvement professional Bob Vila, says the proper paint will not only resist stains and scuffs, but can harden the wood and make it less vulnerable to gouges or splintering.

As with any painting job, you'll want to prepare the surface before you start putting down coats. Lightly sand the surfaces you plan to paint with 100- or 150-grit sandpaper. Vacuum up any dust and wipe down the floor with a damp cloth to remove any lingering particles.

After this light sanding, the existing finish should be sufficient for any paint to adhere. In places where this coating has worn away, put down a layer of primer. A primer coat should be used for the entire surface you wish to paint if the floor has never been finished.

Carefully consider the color you will use for the floor. Stout-Hazard says neutral, light colors are ideal, since they will be most effective in reflecting sunlight. It is a good idea to avoid black or white colors, since they will be more likely to show dirt and stains.

Make sure the paint is suitable for use on floors. Provey says latex enamel paints, including those rated for decks and porches, are best.

Apply thin coats of paint. Maxwell Ryan, writing for the home design site Apartment Therapy, says thicker coats can dry improperly, making the paint look dull and wrinkled.

Check the paint can for the recommended drying time; it is usually a good idea to let a coat dry for at least 24 hours before applying more paint. Use at least two layers for the best results.

In areas that will get a lot of foot traffic, it is helpful to put down some extra protection. This Old House recommends a water-based polyurethane sealer be applied on top of the paint. Provey says you can also simply use area rugs as a protective layer.

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