When we moved into our 1920s property last summer, the potent smell of the previous owner’s pets on the carpets meant we ripped them all out in earnest the day we got the keys and were let loose on our new abode.
Looking back, it was quite a savage and risky move - had we not been as lucky with the floorboards underneath, our gamble might not have paid off.
Fortunately the master bedroom floorboards were the ones that mattered, and by some miracle they had minimal damage and were all original when we revealed the rooms’s underbelly.
The floorboards were darkly stained and the bedroom desperately needed light and a breath of fresh air - all of the necessary elements were there though: a square functional space, a bright and tall window (albeit slightly wonky) and mirrored wardrobes concealing various other horrors we weren’t yet going to tackle.
The aim was simply to get the room back to a usable, light and fresh state, on a budget of...well, as little as possible. I had looked into the ins and outs of painting a floor white, poring over blog posts such as Jessica Rose Williams’ Cottage Renovations - Painting Floorboards White, which provided much needed inspiration and confidence.
The result was a bedroom we are happy to go to sleep in and wake up in - very simple, calm, bright and airy - what more can you ask for?
We are so happy we took the plunge and had a go at this. As a quick and incredibly cheap alternative to recarpeting, with a laid back Scandi vibe, you can’t really beat it.
Here’s how to paint your floorboards white:
You will need:
- 2 x Tins of white water-based floor paint (primer included to make it easier). Use any brand and tone of white you like - we used a B&Q own brand which we found in the clearance section for £6 a tin! You may need more than 2 tins depending on your floor size.
- Mini sponge roller
- Paint tray
- Paint brush
- White spirit and a cloth
- A sander
- 180 grit sanding discs
- A vacuum or brush and pan
- A hammer
- Knee pads really help!
Prepping the floor
- Hammer in any nails protruding from the floorboards. Take your time and feel each board with your hands for this. If you skip this step your sander may pay for it later!
- Sand the floorboards. This doesn’t have to be done to within an inch of their life - you are just aiming to make the floor acceptable to walk on (no splinters wanted!) and key into the boards, removing some of the top layer of old paint or stain so that the new paint sticks. We used a hand-held Ryobi sander and just went logically up and down the lengths of the boards smoothing out any imperfections and creating a key. You will go through quite a number of sanding discs: just check it often and change whenever the disc goes too smooth.
- Vacuum or brush up any sanding dust and then wipe the floor down with a cloth and some white spirit. This is when you want to start wearing knee pads! You will also need to open some windows and wear a protective mask if possible to avoid the fumes. Take breaks often.
Painting the floor
- Next, you’re on to the painting - hurrah! I worked in sections, starting in the farthest corner of the room so that you can paint yourself backwards out of the door. If you’re right handed, start at the far right corner and if you’re left handed, the far left - you don’t want to end up kneeling on your paint job. Start by using a brush to paint along any edge that the roller cannot reach in your first 2 metre square section. Go with the direction of the floorboards, not across them, to avoid getting paint down the cracks between. Try not to overload your brush or roller for the same reason. Use your sponge roller to paint back along the length of the boards. It’s initially satisfying work and you’ll see instant results even though the first coat can be patchy (especially on a dark floor like ours). But bear in mind the project can be very hard on your legs and knees (and whole body!), so having more than one person to paint is a bonus.
- After the first coat is finished, you will need to wait something like 4-6 hours for the paint to dry before doing the second coat - check your specific paint tin for instructions. We only did 2 coats altogether (primer wasn’t needed with our paint), but I wish we’d done 3. It would just have given an even whiter finish. Time and energy didn’t allow for this though as we had other projects to get on with before moving in - as you’ll see in our other blog posts!
- Once you’ve completed your final coat, you’ll need to let the paint fully cure before walking on it or putting heavy furniture on it. We waited 7 days as we hadn’t moved in yet, but the paint tin advised at least 72 hours. Always test to make sure.
And voila - a brand new floor! All in all the floor makeover cost around £15-20, which was for paint, white spirit and sanding discs as we already had the other equipment. Not bad for the price of a takeaway!
Accessorise your new floor:
You really can choose any style of furniture and soft furnishings to go with a painted white floor, but here are some ideas to accessorise on a budget and achieve the Scandi look we went for:
- Ikea - Hilja Grey Curtains - £13: lovely soft grey linen-style curtains which drape to the floor and give a bright and airy feel
- Ikea - Bergpalm Striped Bed Linen - £22 for a double set
- Ikea - Rorkar Flatwoven Rug - £17 (80 X 150cm)
- Ikea - Konstanse Cushions - £5 each
- Make sure you out Aldi Special Buys - We got this matte-look metal ceiling light in cream for £6 and teamed it with a £12 Dunelm Chrome Twisted Flex Ceiling Fitting
1. Should I fill in any cracks in the floorboards?
If you want a very polished and even finish you can fill in the cracks and gaps between floorboards after sanding and before painting. We embraced the gaps and the character it gave the floor (as well as the time it saved!) but this is very much a personal choice and depends on the condition of the floorboards you have - any gaps wider than about 5mm would need to be filled to stop paint getting down.
2. Do white floors show dirt up more?
This is one of the reasons many people would avoid a white floor and I can understand this - having a black dog around with dirty paws and long hair sometimes feels like we're gluttons for punishment! However, like Jessica Rose Williams points out in her blog, I actually prefer knowing when the floor is sparkling clean rather than dog hair tumbleweeds finding their way into dark corners. With it being white, it automatically feels cleaner, like a white bathroom suite. The light and calm feeling the floor gives so far outweighs the negatives considering the budget-friendly quick fix it gave us.
3. Is it better to get the floorboards professionally sanded?
If you can afford it and you have the time, having the boards professionally sanded will give a more even surface for the paint and therefore potentially give a higher quality finish, but if you are not afraid of some uniqueness and quirk in your flooring, just go for it yourself! You can opt to hire a specialist floor sander if you want a happy medium.