How to Paint Distressed Wood Flooring

A distressed hardwood floor.
  • 5-7 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 200-400
What You'll Need
Paint roller
Good quality trim brush
Primer (optional)
Sand paper (around 200 grit recommended)
Caulking with putty knife

The end results of painting your distressed hardwood floor can vary depending on the age of the floor, the type of wood, and how many times it has been sanded and painted in the past. Fortunately, painting a distressed floor can be a rewarding way to preserve the historical charm of the home and add to its aesthetic value.

Step 1 - Pick Your Paint

Choose an oil-based paint as these are much more durable to wear and tear than latex-based products. Paints with linseed oil are more environmentally friendly as well. Keep in mind that oil-based paints tend to drip more easily and are difficult if not impossible to clean from clothing, so it is essential to plan accordingly.

Step 2 - Prep Your Hardwood Floor

Vacuum any dirt and debris from the floor first; use the hose attachment around baseboards and other hard-to-reach areas. Then fill in any cracks or holes with caulk.

Begin painting around the edges of the floor with the trim brush. Work carefully around any furniture and fixtures; be sure to have a coat that is solid enough, but not to the point where the paint drips.

Step 3 - Apply Paint

Roll the paint with, not against, the grain of the wood. Allow it to dry for at least three days. Using a primer is optional, though usually not necessary unless there is a good deal of surface wear on the floor and no numerous coats of paint applied to it in the past. Take your time when applying the paint roller to your floorboards to avoid unnecessary do-overs.

Step 4 - Sand Your Hardwood Floor

Sand the floors without applying too much pressure, just enough to smooth any uneven brushstrokes on the floorboards. If you choose to use an electric sander, use one that can be adjusted to a slower setting. Maple and pine are common wood types for older floors, and you do not have to sand them to the point of scratching these softer and lighter woods. The purpose of sanding is so that the wood grain will show back through the paint, adding to this unique look.

Step 5 - Clean Up

Vacuum up all sanding dust, and then apply a second coat of paint just as you did the first one. It is important to allow plenty of drying time for oil-based paint: three to four days at a minimum. Wear only socks when walking across your newly-painted floor and try to keep foot traffic across it as light as possible for about 30 days.

When it is time to place furniture on the floor, never slide or drag furniture across your painted distressed hardwood floor; always lift and carry any heavy objects that need to be moved.