Laundry rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, utility closets and entry ways that are covered in worn linoleum can be painted to create a fresh, modern and stylish space.
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Generally, professionals don't recommend painting linoleum. DIYers scoff at this notion and have found much success when they follow a solid plan for prepping the vinyl flooring before they put down the first coat of paint.
With the right techniques, materials and a lot of patience, a dull expanse of linoleum flooring can be made over into a gleaming, gorgeous and stylish design element for your home.
Pros and Cons of Painting Linoleum
Once cleaned, repaired, painted and sealed, the linoleum makes for a great canvas for other flooring options, such as engineered wood planks, hardwood boards, stone or ceramic tiling or laminate wood flooring.
When done correctly, a painted linoleum floor can last for years. You will need to maintain the painted and sealed surface with gentle cleaners and be careful of scraping furniture or heavy appliances across the paint job to keep it pristine for as long as possible.
Linoleum doesn't accept paint very well and tends to collect grime and grease, making it even more difficult for paint to adhere to the surface.
Painting linoleum floors as a home improvement project is time consuming, requires a few steps and days and a laundry list of tools and materials to complete. It may not last for many years to come, but the results can be considerable and completely change a room's overall feel until a more expensive and durable flooring option is available.
Choosing Paint for Linoleum
Choose a primer that can cover any dark designs on the vinyl flooring and also accept the top coat of colored paint without altering the hue. Rustoleum linoleum paint can smoothly be applied and stand up to heavy traffic.
Once you have chosen a color and sheen, test the paint on the sanded linoleum before you take on the entire project. Not all linoleum is created equal and may not accept the paint well even after all the hard work you've done to prep the vinyl flooring.
Get Ready to Clean Linoleum
Whether the linoleum flooring is a few months or decades old, it will need a serious scrubbing before you begin to prime it for paint. This can be the most labor-intensive part of painting linoleum flooring, so be prepared. A simple swish with a damp mop and mild dish soap and water solution typically won't remove the top layer of grime.
After cleaning, you will also want to go over the linoleum with water to remove any cleaning residue. The floor needs to be completely clean of dust and grease and dry before you put down that first layer of primer. Use a commercial cleaner to save yourself some elbow grease when working with linoleum that is thick with globs of old grease or a layer of grime.
TriSodium phosphate is inexpensive and cuts through decades of grime and grease. Use this after scrubbing the floor with soap and water for a thoroughly clean surface that will accept the primer well. If the floor is not thoroughly clean, the paint may buckle, bubble or peel once it is dry.
Materials Needed to Paint Linoleum
Gather all of your needed supplies before you roll on the first layer of primer. When working with wet materials, it's best not to stop to retrieve a rag or roller. This can cause discoloration or unsightly streaks in the work.
To complete the painting project, you will need:
- Latex primer
- Painters tape
- Paint rollers and brushes
- Rags to wipe up overlaps or drips of paint
- Caulk for tears, rips or tiny holes in linoleum flooring
- Sandpaper in 80- and 120- and 220-gritsheets and orbital sander if working with large spaces
How to Clean the Flooring
Remove all of the items on the floor, such as washer or dryer, furniture, portable kitchen islands or any large items. It's best to paint the entire expanse of flooring and not work around hulking appliances that sit on the linoleum. By removing all objects and painting the entire expanse of linoleum you reduce the risk of the paint chipping or peeling next to vibrating, warm or moveable workspaces or appliances.
Once the room is cleared, wash down the linoleum with soap and water and finish with a commercial cleaner. After the linoleum has dried, at least an hour or overnight, the linoleum is ready to be sanded. Sanding is the final step before the primer can be put on top of the slick flooring material.
Stone Painting Techniques for Linoleum
A stone floor is variegated, with different natural shades blending across a series of tiles. Painting a vinyl floor to look like stone requires a sponge and two paint colors.
- Work across the vinyl flooring in large swaths of one color and sponge on a lighter or darker shade of the paint color around the edges of each square.
- Blend the painted edges into the main color, working from the outside toward the center of the linoleum square.
- Gently dab a lighter color around the center of the tile to give a mottled stone appearance. Be gentle and don't crowd the lighter colors.
- To make tiled linoleum pop, paint the lines around each tile to look like sandy grout.
Techniques for Painting Linoleum
To dress up a drab expanse of linoleum you can use large floor stencils or block off geometric patterns with painter's tape. It's an easy process to stencil a linoleum floor and can open up a small space, such as a laundry room, or add dimension to a large, square space, such as a one-wall kitchen design.
Before you begin to stencil a linoleum floor, plot the design with paper. Lay down templates of the stenciled design you have in mind and take a step back to consider if it works for the space. Small stencils on large floors can become lost or look haphazardly placed if not done correctly.
For geometric patterns, use a chalk measuring tape to snap the lines into place before laying down the painter's tape. These are easily erased and adjusted as you plot the angular design across the linoleum. For small spaces, alternating light and dark colors in measured rows can bring depth and a surprise design element to an otherwise bland but functional room.
How to Prep Clean Linoleum
After cleaning and repairing the linoleum thoroughly, you are ready to rough it up. For best results, allow the floor to dry after sanding and cleaning, rolling on the primer and finally after the paint and top coat have been applied.
Sand the linoleum with the 220-grit paper. Go over rough patches or repairs that are bumpy with the 80- or 120-grit paper by hand. Wipe down the entire area to remove any sanding residue and allow to dry.
Roll the primer on with rollers you would use for the wall. Paint in even, wide strokes across the expanse of flooring from one corner toward an exit. Let this dry overnight or at least 4 hours before applying the paint.
Painting Linoleum Floors
Roll the paint onto the floor in wide, even strokes. If working with a pattern, it is best to apply each color at one time. Allow to dry before adding a second coat.
Once the paint is dry, apply a top coat and/or sealant to create a durable surface.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.