There’s more than one way to touch up or refinish a hardwood floor. Learn how to paint a hardwood floor and give it new life with these tips.

Many people prefer the look and feel of hardwood floors. They remind us of centuries past. But early hardwood floors were much rougher and had wider planks. They were more for function than design. If a homeowner had the money, she often covered heavy traffic areas with ornamental rugs. And when the floor wore down or homeowners wanted a new look, they often painted the wood floors.

Why not try that today? Many homeowners have rooms or stairs made of wood that either are in need of refinishing or just need some wow factor. And all it takes is some DIY ingenuity and a few cans of paint.

Plan your color or pattern

Get great ideas from decorating sites and Pinterest for fun patterns, especially if you’re going for a farmhouse or vintage style. For a stair runner, you’ll need to plan your background and top color. And patterns are fun, though more labor intensive. Squares, stripes or diamonds look great, but require more planning and prep. Paint your lighter base color first, then choose a darker color for the diamond, stripe or other square. Look for online tutorials to help you measure and tape the floor for the pattern. And get creative, making a diamond rug effect in your dining area, for example.

Prepare the hardwood

Most newer floors have been stained with polyurethane, and they’ll need a good sanding before applying paint. If your room is large, try renting an orbital sander or use a belt sander. Have a dust mask ready and with the belt sander, you’ll need to add good knee pads. After sanding, vacuum the floor to clear dust and mop it well. You might have to prime in areas that are worn badly, but check with your paint supplier.

Lay down the paint

When painting the first coat, keep it light. If you have a small area, use a brush. A roller is great too, as long as you’re careful about the amount of paint, and control drips of course! Use a latex enamel for the top coat, and choose a formula that’s made specifically for floors or porches. Be patient and allow about 24 hours for that first coat to dry. Apply at least one more coat, two more if you can. Adding polyurethane can seal paint in high-traffic areas, or you can let it wear down some if you’re going for an antique look. Then wait another 24 hours. If you don’t give it enough time to dry, furniture, shoes and dog nails will mark up all of your hard work.

If a painted look seems like too giant a leap, try whitewashing your hardwood floors. You’ll get an old-fashioned look, but more of the original character will show through. Prep the floor as you would for painting, and use a sponge to wipe a generous amount of white wood stain on the floor, working in small sections from one corner. Wipe most of the stain off before it dries with a dry rag or sponge. 

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