Painted Hardwood Floors – Good Idea or a Bad One?

Hi Everyone,

I’ve been thinking a lot about painted hardwood floors these days and want to address the advisability of painting them, vs. natural or staining.

But first, a brief report. I’m sad to report; it’s been a difficult two days.

The sellers for the new home have been nothing, but lovely, Therefore, I don’t feel at liberty to say too much; only this:


I decided that it would not be in my best interest to purchase the home in Northampton.


Yes, I’m disappointed; I’m sure that many of your are too. But, I made this decision based on new information, that this is not my house. However, as I said, that’s all I can say at this time. In the future, it’s a topic I could write about, but not now. I wish I could convey more. But, understandably, since the home is still for sale, and there were photos of it on here, I cannot. Please note that all images of the house I was planning to purchase have been removed from this website.


Anyway, I’m back in New York after having stopped at my dentist to coronate my tooth,


But, thank you all for the amazing ideas you gave me on Sunday and yesterday for the double parlor living/dining room I’m not purchasing. (little lol)For the record, the difficulty of the room had no bearing on my decision. It’s an incredible space! And, as you can see, is rife with possibilities.


So, let’s get into the topic of painted hardwood floors.


The truth is, I live in a conservative area. (not that a painted floor is radical, but not the most conventional) However, we did a painted floor ONE time about 20 years ago.

Well, it wasn’t exactly painted. We called it pickled, but the floor guy first bleached the oak hardwood floors. Then, he painted a translucent off-white paint with a slight green undertone to counteract the red tones in the wood. And then he put three coats of clear acrylic poly over it. Gorgeous, it was!

So, while I can’t call myself a bonafide painted wood floor expert, after a good amount of research, and stuff I’ve learned a lot over the years will tackle this extensive subject.


First, a little Painted Wood Floors Primer so that we can get our terms straight. (believe me. I need this too!)


  • Of course, there’s straight painting.
  • Pickled
  • White Washed
  • Limed – This is a technique that, in the past, was created by mixing calcium hydroxide and chalk, but let’s not go there. There are easier ways to get the look we want.


The last three terms are often used interchangeably, but in actuality, the techniques are different.


Whitewashing and pickling are techniques that allow you to lighten your wood without hiding the wood grain.


Gerald Bland, Inc. Painted Hardwood floors. looks like a whitewash

Gerald Bland’s New York showroom is an excellent example of this.


Gerald Bland, Inc. Antiques showroom painted hardwood floors

I love his showroom! And, I also think this technique is beautiful with oak and a great compromise between a darker stain and painting the floor white. It reminds me of the raw wood before it receives its stain.


via Geral Bland - jan-van-os

Short digression, but he is selling this glorious artwork by Jan Van Os.


The original pickling and limed floors used harsh caustic chemicals to create the pale floors. But we’re not going to do that.


Minwax makes a whitewash pickling stain.


Whitewashing is best suited for pine.


Pine doesn’t have deep pores, so the pickling stain needs to be applied with the grain of the wood.


Pickling is a technique best used on oak


The whitewash pickling stain is applied across the grain so that the color will seep into the deeper pores of oak.

Please enjoy this short video which explains pickling. (sorry about the cheesy music)


For a truly beautiful low-maintenance white floor, you might want to consider having them bleached before applying the stain. The best woods for bleaching include oak, beach, ash, and gum; but not pine.


Loi Thai Tone on Tone dining room with white washed painted wood floors


Loi Thai of Tone on Tone wrote a beautiful post about his gorgeous bleached and white-washed white floors.


And Bob Vila has written another great article which explains the pros and cons and techniques of different methods of bleaching.


via - technique for white washing floors


Rikke of “That Nordic Feeling blog” wrote an excellent post about her beautiful white wood floors AKA as “Scandi-Style” uses a product that’s called “white oil.”

Her information is great if you’re a pro; but I do not think that THIS IS A DO-IT-YOURSELF anything.

For example, in one of the steps, she writes:

Warning: The cloths can ignite, so make sure to soak them in plenty of water and keep them in a metal tin or the likes until you can dispose of them in the proper manner.

I see… I don’t know anything about this, but it’s something that I would do but only if the place was EMPTY and I had tripled checked that the house insurance was paid up!


But let’s go now into straight, painted wood floors.


Below is a very pleasant video produced by an English chap which explains his technique for painting wood floors.


And Another excellent article about how to paint wood floors from Bob Vila.


Careful consideration needs to be given to what technique you use because there are so many variables.


But here’s what I think is always a bad idea in terms of painted wood floors.


Doing it yourself. In most cases. UNLESS, you really know what you’re doing and know what you’re getting into.

Floor work is an exhausting back-busting job. And to do it properly requires many steps of prep, paint, sand, paint, sand, paint, paint, paint, paint, paint…

But, Before hiring someone I would also be sure to get tons of references and make sure that this person has experience doing the type of technique you’re interested in. If he looks any way but overjoyed at the prospect of doing a painted floor, then he’s not your guy. A good place to ask for recs is at your trusted hardware store that sells paints and stains.


IMO, There are areas in interior design where one can do it themselves or save money, but this isn’t one of them.



I did find a lass who not only did her own painted wood floors, but videoed pretty much the entire process. If you have an old funky floor and really do not mind getting down on your hands and knees for hours on end, you could try it out. (see, all rules can be broken!) There are great comments and then a follow-up post about how it held up.*


What else to consider if deciding to do painted wood floors?


Lots, of course. And here are some frequently asked questions with my answers.


Are there certain situations where a painted hardwood floor could be a big mistake?


Well, first of all, I don’t think it’s ever a mistake to do a pickled/white washed-type floor. One can still see the wood grain and it’s not completely opaque. But the number one thing I would consider is resale.


If you’re planning on being in your home less than ten years, unless it’s a rustic farmhouse or at least a home built in the 19th century or earlier, I would consider painting the floors very carefully.


But it depends where you live, too. My feeling is that if your home looks amazing, then you will have no trouble selling it.

People sometimes don’t know what they like UNTIL they see it. Like Albert Hadley’s fabulous home he created for Nancy Pyne.


simply white ode to albert hadley living room - best shades of white paintAlbert Hadley’s room was the inspiration for my Simply White Palette board form the Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection.

Charming home decor of William McClure

I adore William McLure’s white, painted hardwood floors.


But Williams’s homes tend to be in old, rustic converted factories. The floors are inherently old and funky. So, paint is a perfect solution!


If I paint the floors in one room, do I have to paint all of the floors?


It depends on the room and the layout.

For instance, in an open plan layout, I think that you really need to paint all of the floors. If you need to make a change, I would use a different material, like a stone, for instance in the entry. But of course, it depends on the configuration.

In a traditional layout with completely separate rooms, a logical place to paint one floor is the kitchen.

Like Ben Pentreath!

via Downintheboondocks on instagram

Or, you could paint just the stairwell, but it needs to make sense within the over-all design scheme.


If I pickle the floor or whitewash, will I get that horrible pinky stain so prevalent in the eighties?


You might. What I recommend is experimenting before you jump in and pay a lot of money for something you don’t want. You can experiment with different shades of white. If it’s going too pink, maybe try adding a universal tint of green. It’s best to experiment on a piece of wood that matches your floor but isn’t a part of the floor.


What if I paint the floors and I hate it?


Well, you need to have a vision. If you don’t, then don’t do it.


How difficult is it to turn them back into a stained floor?


I think that it depends on which method you use. I would stay away from anything oily if there’s a chance that you do want to turn them back. And also if the paint seeps deeply into the wood it might not be possible. But definitely talk to a professional. Or if anyone has experience with turning a painted floor into a stained floor, please let us know how it went. (or any other experience good or bad)


What about doing a pattern on a painted floor or a border?


Absolutely. I adore the painted border that William McLure created with the white painted wood floor in his old place. and below are stripes that he painted on his kitchen floor. That one is actually an old linoleum floor!



Does a painted wood floor have to be white?


Lynn Morgan entry with a cool geometric pattern


No, it does not. I’ve seen beautiful painted wood floors that are blue or green or even red. And of course, millions of patterns. There are some wonderful painted floors here.


Do you put a poly finish over a painted floor?


For anything water-based, if you want it to hold up– yes! Three coats! If you use the paint specifically for porches, you might not need to. Whenever I don’t know something, I either call the company or speak to the guys selling the stuff; or, look it up. But like a doctor for an illness, it’s wise to get more than one opinion.


Okay, how does it hold up?

See above* :]


How do I convince my husband that painted wood floors are a great idea?


Take him to Sweden.


However, short of that, arm yourself with plenty of fabulous visuals of rooms similar to the look you’re going for. Like this post, hopefully. ;] And then you can convince him. However, you have to be very clear on exactly how it’s all going to look and make the house feel so much brighter and stylish. Good luck. :]


Let’s finish off with a few more beautiful painted wood floors


Photo by Sharyn Cairns/News Life Media/Country Style


This is a bedroom from the same home as the Gustavian dining room at the top by Mona Nerenberg


Bill Ingram


For a big post about stained wood floors please click here.

To be sure, I love a dark, rich hardwood floor stain, as well. You can see some beautiful examples in Steve Cordony’s Rosedale Farm in Australia.


Iksel - gorgeous wall mural - Steve Cordony's dining room


OH! And, I found the source of that glorious dining room wallpaper in Steve’s dining room, if anyone’s interested.


It’s often difficult to decide on your hardwood floor finish.


It’s also important to consider that the floors are part of the over-all color scheme.

But, what I recommend is looking for inspiration photos. Hope that helps!

As for the Northampton house; I always try to be philosophical about these things. But, one thing I’ve learned in life is to listen to my gut feelings– no matter what. It knows; it’s never wrong. It’s only when I don’t listen that I get into trouble.

There will be another house. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but soon. And, I also hope that the sellers quickly find their new buyer.




PS: If you’re interested in some fabulous summer sales, you can find some great deals here.


Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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