How To: Paint a Concrete Floor

How To: Paint a Concrete Floor

Leah Moss
Aug 25, 2009
(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Yesterday we reflected on inspiring examples of painted concrete floors, and today it's time to get down to business. Having recently had our concrete floors painted, we have some inside tips to share as well as a few words of caution...

As I mentioned in that last post, we had an unfortunate sewer back-up that forced us to rip out the existing 50s basement remodel—such a shame! Believe me this basement was not cool even for the MCM lovers among us. It was dated and dark and full of mold, so I was happy to bid adieu to the crumbling green speckled asbestos tile and moldy yellowing knotty pine, and usher in something a little brighter.

We considered acid staining, but due to the glue residue and many, many irregularities left from the former asbestos tiles, we opted to go with paint which would cover the not-so-beautiful floor marks but still show off a bit of texture. We were also drawn to paint's brightening effect for our dungeon of a basement.

Full disclosure: Because the process involved removing asbestos tiles (and the happy fact that our homeowner's insurance was footing the bill), we had professionals do the work. We did, however, watch every step of the process and careful notes to pass on to you—probably annoying the heck out of the contractors!

Here's a close up of our floor before being painted:

The "Before"
(Image credit: Leah Moss)

Although still a low cost option, painting the floors was a much more involved process than we initially thought. here's what we learned:

  • Don't use regular interior paint or even deck paint, which is intended for wood, not concrete. Opt for a paint specifically intended for concrete. We used Behr's 1-part epoxy concrete and garage floor paint.
  • Because we had to contend with glue from the previous tile, the floor needed an ample amount of prepping.
  • The concrete needs to be completely dry. If there is moisture, run a dehumidifier for as long as needed to solve the issue. This part took us almost a week.
  • In our case the floor needed to be buffed with medium grit sandpaper to remove the majority of the glue and create a surface for the primer to adhere to.
  • Then two coats of Behr's Concrete and Masonry bonding primer 880 were applied. This acts like a glue that binds to concrete and allows the topcoat epoxy to stick.
  • After allowing the primer to dry for at least 24 hours, apply the epoxy, beginning by using a paint brush to cut in around the perimeter.
  • Then, starting at the end of the room opposite of the entrance, begin painting the floor surface with a lambswool roller on a poll. Our contractors poured the paint directly on the floor instead of using a paint tray.
  • Wait at least 12 hours for the first coat to dry, then apply a second layer.
  • Let the floor dry for at least 7 days before walking on it with shoes or placing furniture on it. The directions on the paint can say to wait 72 hours, but due to the long drying time of the primer, the surface is prone to easy scratching for at least a week, and up to a full month—this was a surprise!
  • For a highly durable finish and a slick surface, cover with a non-yellowing urethane by Torginol. Our contractors said this is not always necessary as the paint by itself is intended to be driven on in garages, but most people will tell you that it's worth it to have the extra protection. The only drawback to having the urethane coating is that if the floor somehow still does happen to scratch, you cannot simply touch it up with the epoxy, as it will not adhere to the glossy top coat.
The "After"
(Image credit: Leah Moss)

What other tips do you have for those undertaking the concrete painting process?

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