How To Paint A Basement Floor

When converting a basement area into usable space, one of the first considerations is floor covering and learning how to paint a basement floor. The options include carpeting, using something like linoleum, or installing tile. These options can take time and be expensive. Sometimes there is a need for a good floor finish that is done quickly and at a low price point.

Paint is an excellent choice for a number of reasons:

- If done well, it can be very durable.
- It is relatively waterproof as compared to other options.
- It can conform to uneven surfaces such as rough concrete or tile.
- It can be applied with simple tools and basic skills
- It can be very nice looking by picking something decorative.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the basics of how to paint a basement floor, covering various common situations and the most important considerations for each.

There are a number of types available. This article will cover the preparation and application, which is very similar for the various types of paints used for basements.

Concrete Floors

The first step in painting any concrete surface, especially floors, is prep.

1. Make sure the floor is dry – Basements tend to be wet, but in order for the paint to really adhere, cure, and seal properly, it should be applied at a time when it is dry. The easiest way to accomplish this is to wait until a dry time of year when things dry out naturally. You can also use a rented dehumidifier, or fans to dry the space. If you have HVAC in your basement, running it extra can help dry out the slab for painting.

2. Make sure the floor is clean – By clean, we mean “clean”. Any loose particles of dust or seemingly inconsequential cobwebs can wreak havoc on your otherwise pristine paint finish. At the worst extreme, enough dust or dirt on the floor will cause the paint to fail to adhere, and soon peel up.

3. Make any needed repairs – If you’ve got a chunk of concrete missing around a support structure such as a post, or at a place where plumbing or electrical conduit penetrates the floor, fix it before the paint process begins. Painting over damage could cause future repairs to fail or be more difficult.

4. Consider seepage sources – Some basements have water seep in through cracks or holes in the floor. This is usually caused by hydrostatic pressure in the ground and isn’t easily rectified. If you have openings in your floor that are sources of water during wet seasons, be careful not to seal over them with paint. Doing so will result in water under your paint and could ruin the entire job. If these areas are few, you can leave them uncovered so they seep naturally. If they are many, a permanent solution such as a pump or drainage channels will be required.

Once the floor is clean and prepared, you’re ready to apply the first coat, which is generally a primer coat. (some finishes don’t require a primer, consult the product information for your finish)

Applying Paint and Primer

Basements are not ideal locations for modern spray equipment, so it’s time to bring out the tried and true tools of painting. Here’s what you’ll need:

- Roller Frame (if you get the cheap ones, get a few!)
- Roller Covers (generally a low nap to create a smooth surface, thicker naps create texture)
- Roller Extension Pole (a 5′ wooden pole is perfect, broom handles sometimes work)
- A Roller Pan or Grate (a grate hangs in a 5gal bucket and is faster once you get the hang of it)
- Masking tape and masking paper to cover areas you don’t wish to paint.
- Brushes (get an assortment of sizes)
- Clean-up materials (mineral spirits, lacquer thinner, or other – depends on your finish)
- Ventilation Equipment (if needed in a closed space)

Step One – Rolling on a Coat

One of the most common mistakes when rolling is using too much paint. Conversely, using too little is also a common mistake! One of the secrets to a good paint job is using just the right amount on the roller and keeping that amount on it throughout the job.

You have too much on the roller if you’re seeing thick lines on both sides of the roller and are pushing a “wave” of paint in front of the roller. This problem can generally be cleared-up by spreading the paint around a bit, but try to reduce the amount of on your roller with the next trip to the paint bucket.

You have too little on your roller if you’re seeing lots of spots with no coverage or very thin coverage. Usually a roller with too little paint on it requires greater effort to roll and makes a particular “dry roller” sound that you quickly learn while painting.

A perfect amount  produces an even covering without messy “fat edges” on the sides or empty “holidays” in the paint.

You would of-course start at the farthest point from the exit (stairs) and work your way out of the room, avoiding the proverbial “paint yourself into a corner” scenario! The roller can be worked in a variety of patterns, but the most effective is a straight back and forth motion, working in square shaped areas.

Pro Tip: To clean-up roller marks as you go, twist your wrists slightly putting a little more pressure on the side of the roller which is toward the direction you’re moving. This creates a “trailing edge” side of the roller that isn’t pressed hard against the floor. This edge cleans-up and smooths out any roller marks created as you pass over them.

Allow Each Coat to Dry -

Unless otherwise stated in the product manufacturer directions (Epoxy, for example) allow each coat to try thoroughly before applying another coat.

Allow The Finished Work to Cure -

Once you’ve applied the top coat, let the entire application cure for as long as possible. In an ideal world, you would leave it for a month or more! Most finishes harden for quite some time and the longer they’re left to cure prior to use, the more durable they become.

Since a month of curing is out of the question for most people, try to at least give it a few days after it feels dry before bringing in furniture. Use of felt pads on the feet of your furniture might prevent scuffing, but beware that it often causes discoloration of uncured paint that can’t be removed by any means other than another coat of paint!

Extreme Floor Makeover

Some floors aren’t in pristine condition. Here are a few common situations owners face when painting a floor.

How to fix the peeling

If your floor has been painted in the past and it is now peeling, it’s got to be worked on a bit before new paint is applied. If you’re looking at a small area, a wire brush applied by hand or as an attachment to an electric drill can work wonders on peeling paint. You don’t have to remove the paint that is well adhered, only the loose material.

If the area of peeling is large, then you’ll need to use a large floor scrubber with a stiff or wire brush attachment. Mechanical means, such as wire brushes, are safer than chemical removers, especially in confined areas.

In the lucky event that you have excellent drainage, you might consider a pressure washer to remove loose paint. However, you’ll then have to wait until the floor is totally dry before application of your finish.

Rough Floors

Another common issue is rough concrete. It’s not unusual for builders to have a different standard for concrete finishing in the basement as compared to the rest of the house.

The bottom line is that you can paint over rough concrete assuming the other preparation steps are taken. If you simply don’t want the rough concrete, the repair options generally include floating the floor with a thin layer of special material, or grinding down the rough spots which can be very messy indeed.

Tile Floors

Similar to rough concrete, tile can be painted over. However, smooth tile surfaces often don’t provide good adhesion for the paint. Consult with the manufacturer of your finish to determine the best preparation materials and methods for painting over smooth tile.

Durable and Enjoyable Flooring

If you follow these steps and use a good quality floor paint or epoxy floor coating, you’ll enjoy years of use from your new floor. It will be easy to clean, great to look at, and resistant to water damage. Try mixing in a few area rugs to really kick the look up a notch or two!

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