The short answer is that YES, you can paint laminate flooring. But, there are certain drawbacks in terms of durability and cost you should be aware of before actually deciding to do so.
The problems with painting laminate flooring
Laminate and hardwood flooring may look similar, but they are very different. Whereas hardwood flooring is porous, meaning it will absorb some of the paint into its pours allowing for greater adhesiveness – laminate is man-made and non-porous which effectively means it is completely sealed. This makes painting laminate a much more difficult process.
There are a number of issues I have with painting laminate flooring and believe in the majority of circumstances you should just replace it. If it makes you happy I see no harm in doing it, but you should be aware of some of the issues you may face. I have listed some of these below.
What makes painting laminate flooring hard is that all flooring requires a certain amount of durability. That is, it needs a lot more than kitchen cabinets, or bedside cabinets – a floor will be walked over many times, you will drop things onto it, and you will be repetitively cleaning it with force. Additionally, the painted laminate will likely cover a larger area – providing more viewable space for the paint to chip or to wear away completely.
To paint laminate flooring in such a way that the paint will (hopefully) stick to the laminate you will need to put in quite a bit of work. This will include:
- Cleaning the floor thoroughly.
- Sanding the floor so as to remove all the shiny layers of the laminate – making sure not to sand so much you ruin the flooring altogether.
- Cleaning the floor again and ensuring that all dust particles are not present.
- Applying a deglosser.
- Applying the primer coat to the floor.
- Applying the paint to the floor once the primer is dry.
- Waiting for the paint to dry.
- Applying a further two coats as above
Once you have completed the above steps you will have painted your laminate flooring. As a precaution, I would ensure to have extra paint on hand for the foreseeable so you can touch up chips and blemishes that will occur over time (see my notes on durability).
As you can see, the process is quite demanding – and the sanding alone may be enough for you to wish you had never started the project in the first place.
The most cited reason for painting laminate flooring is that replacing the floor would just be too expensive. Laminate flooring is not cheap, and yes painting your floor would probably be cheaper – but in my opinion, you are really just putting off the inevitable. You will more likely than not need to replace that flooring at some point in the not too distant future with or without your amazing paint job – so why not deal directly with the problem.
If you’re still not convinced, it is probably best to look at the costs of both and then decide whether to paint or replace them.
Below I have listed the tools and paints you will need to give your floor painting project the best chance of success.
Paint Brush, Roller, Tapes & Tray
Reasonably cheap and can be acquired from most well-stocked sheds ($20 or free)
Orbital sander (Amazon link)
An orbital sander is a perfect tool for sanding your laminate. This will remove the glossy finish and get your boards down to the basic fibreboard core. These however are not cheap and may see you blow through much of your budget with a single purchase. Consider borrowing or renting one if this is possible. Otherwise, a good sander will set you back $40 – $140USD (£30 – £120 GBP).
Deglosser can be bought relatively cheaply – you can find some here ($15).
Primer Paint (Amazon link)
Your primer coat will be the most important painting that you do. It will ensure your floor will absorb the paint and prevent chipping and wear.
Most primers are not made for foot traffic, and as such will not guarantee results.
For laminate, an oil-based primer is advised. Also if you intend to paint your laminate a dark color consider buying a colored (perhaps grey) tinted primer. This will cut down the number of coats you will need to apply, or at the very least reduce the visibility of any chips that occur over time.
Each gallon of primer should adequately cover 300 – 400 square feet, and depending on the brand you choose should cost approximately $40.00 USD (£30 GBP).
There is a large choice of floor paints, or you can even use porch or garage paint. The main thing here is that it has been mixed for foot traffic – normal paint will not do. This should set you back on average $50 USD (£35 GBP). Check out epoxy floor paint for more durable paint that has been specifically mixed for high traffic areas, though normal floor paint is the norm.
From the above information, we can estimate that painting 300 square feet of laminate flooring would cost approximately $200 (£150).
This includes everything you would need to complete the job, and obviously doesn’t include any cost for the time YOU will spend working on the project.
So should you paint your laminate flooring?
I’m afraid there is no definitive answer as to whether you should go ahead with the painting project – this is a personal choice!
However, the cheapest flooring I can currently find is $207 for the same 300 square foot squared floor space- admittedly this does not include tools, spacers, or underlay – but in my opinion, offers far better value than spending the time and effort on a floor that may or may not last (I suspect the latter).
Unless you are painting a floor in an area that has limited foot traffic such as a cupboard, or maybe at a push a spare room I believe the smart money would be the investment in a new laminate floor.