Everyone Is Painting Their Vinyl Flooring — But Is That Actually a Good Idea?

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A simple coat of wall paint can radically change a room's appearance, but does the same principle hold true for flooring? Lately, DIYers are answering that question for themselves — for better or worse — by testing out the concept. Painting vinyl floors, however transformative it can seem, may or may not be right for your home.

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Considering painting your floors? Read on to learn what you need to know about painting over vinyl or linoleum floor coverings and discover if this DIY project is worth the results.

Vinyl vs Linoleum

Before you even pick up a paintbrush, it's essential to understand your flooring material. Vinyl and linoleum floors, although somewhat similar in appearance, have several distinctions from one another.

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Vinyl Flooring

  • Made of synthetic materials
  • Durable and low maintenance
  • Available in roll, tile, and plank products
  • Typically considered waterproof

Linoleum Flooring

  • Available in roll, tile, and plank products
  • Made of mostly natural products attached to a backing
  • Not as waterproof as vinyl; some linoleum products are coated with urethane to enhance their ability to keep out liquids

What Is Vinyl Flooring?

Vinyl flooring consists of layers of synthetic materials sandwiched together to create a durable, low-maintenance floor surface. Vinyl floor covering is generally available in two styles, including roll or sheet products and tile or plank types. Roll vinyl covers a room's subfloor with few or no seams, while tiles and planks have seams between the pieces. Depending on the quality of the materials and the installation, vinyl floors are considered waterproof when installed correctly and may have textured top layers to enhance their appearance.

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What Is Linoleum Flooring?

Although often mistaken for vinyl, linoleum flooring and vinyl have little in common other than how they're installed. Both are available in roll, tile, and plank options. Linoleum consists of mostly natural products, including various combinations of linseed oil, wood, resin, limestone, cork, and pigments attached to a backing. Unlike vinyl, linoleum's color remains consistent all the way through the material. Not as water-resistant as vinyl, some linoleum products are coated with urethane to enhance their ability to keep out liquids. Traditionally, linoleum was often waxed for moisture and wear protection.

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Painting Vinyl vs. Linoleum

Though vinyl and linoleum are different materials, painting them remains similar between the two types and generally consists of cleaning, prepping, priming, painting, and adding a pattern if desired.

Why Paint Vinyl or Linoleum Flooring

There are several reasons homeowners may consider painting over their vinyl or linoleum floors. Keeping costs low and seeking an easy fix for a worn-out floor likely tops the list. It's hard to dispute that a can of paint is probably less costly than a roomful of new flooring. And tearing up and replacing glued-down vinyl or linoleum can be described as tedious at best.

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However, looking at the long term, is it really cost-effective or that much easier to paint the floor? After all, painting wood floors is an inexpensive way to update a room, so why not vinyl?

Cost to Paint Vinyl Flooring

You can find the paint and a few materials to cover 100 square feet of vinyl or linoleum flooring for under $100. So, you'll save on initial costs for this home improvement project over the price of installing almost any new floor.

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Does Flooring Paint Last?

No, paint doesn't last very long on vinyl floors; this is why the low cost and effort of this makeover may not be worth it. Assuming that you can remove every trace of dirt, coating, wax, or anything else that could inhibit paint's sticking ability, vinyl floors are designed to repel things that want to stick to them. Simply put, vinyl floors don't take paint well.

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Although the initial cost of this paint project is minor, a vinyl floor may need recoating or replacement in a short time due to the paint coming off or scratching from simply being a high-traffic area. Another reason to shy away from painting vinyl flooring is that it may be a potential red flag for buyers if you plan to list your home on the market anytime soon.

"Painting bathroom tile or vinyl flooring will look stunning for your photos and any before/after social media posts, however with high traffic or high moisture areas, the paint often doesn't last long. Buyers are quick to see that the paint is a temporary solution and view these types of painted surfaces as more of a detriment than if the floor or tile were left in its outdated pattern," Katrina Dewit, a real estate advisor in Minneapolis tells Hunker.

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So, if you are thinking about selling at any time in the near future, you may want to think again about painting old vinyl floors. "Most prospective buyers say that the chipping paint would be a daily irritation and view the cost of replacing the painted surface as higher than if it was left alone," Dewit says.

Considerations for Painting Vinyl and Linoleum

Painting a vinyl or linoleum floor may be the best option in some cases. If you need a new floor that's quick, easy, and inexpensive, painting can be an excellent short-term refresh to get you through an event or season until you can replace the material.

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Chad Thompson, sales representative at Satoree Flooring, tells Hunker, "When someone asks me my thought on painting a vinyl or linoleum floor, I will always ask them, 'What is your end goal?' If they are only looking for a quick fix and don't need it to last, I will advise them on some simple methods to accomplish that. If they have expectations of something more than that, I advise them to reconsider and choose an appropriate product. It really comes down to what their needs are for that given area."

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Painting Vinyl Flooring Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • A well-done paint job is attractive
  • Arguably easier than installing a new floor

Painting Vinyl Flooring Cons

  • Won’t last long without scratching or flaking off
  • Seams and texture will show through the paint
  • Vinyl floors resist paint adhesion
  • Wax and dirt are difficult to remove entirely before painting
  • Labor-intensive

Vinyl Floor Painting Materials

Although you won't find a vinyl floor paint section at your local home center, some products work better than others for the purpose. Interior floor coating kits (like this one from Rust-Oleum) are designed to cover many kinds of flooring materials, including vinyl and linoleum. Porch and floor paint can also be an option as a top coat over primer on a vinyl floor.

Preparation is necessary before priming and painting the flooring surface. Removing dirt and all waxy or oily residue is required. Along with thoroughly cleaning the floor, you'll want to apply a deglosser or degreaser to give your coat of primer or base coat the best chance of adhering to the surface.

As is true for wall paint, applying darker and less glossy paint on your vinyl floors will hide imperfections better than light, glossy versions. However, the textures and seams between vinyl tiles or planks will generally show through, as only minor scratches or flaws are likely to be concealed.

Floor Painting Tools

Painting your vinyl floor doesn't require a long list of tools, but a few are crucial for success. If you're using an interior floor coating kit, follow the product directions, which may or may not include sanding the floor to scuff it for better adhesion.

A complete list of tools you'll need to paint a vinyl floor should include:

  • cleaning supplies
  • painter's tape
  • paintable caulk
  • 220-grit sandpaper (as applicable)
  • a synthetic paintbrush
  • a paint roller
  • an extension pole for the roller (if desired)
  • knee pads (if desired)
  • a 3/8-inch-nap roller cover
  • a 1/4-inch-nap roller cover
  • stencils if you wish to add design elements

How to Paint Vinyl Flooring

If you're still determined to paint your vinyl floors despite the risks of the finished product scratching off, it's important to have the best tutorial so that the job will be as long lasting as possible. Painting your vinyl flooring consists of several steps designed to make the process simple while also ensuring the finish is as durable as it can be.

1. Clear the Room

Remove all of the furnishings from the room. Depending on how your room is laid out, you may find it beneficial to remove and stash away any interior doors that could get in the way. Remove floor vent or register coverings and floor-mounted electrical outlets. Protect floor outlets from water, primer, and paint with painter's tape and plastic sheeting.

2. Clean the Floor

Use a heavy-duty cleaner and scrub brush to remove all dirt, oil, and wax from the floor.

3. Sand the Floor

The directions may not include sanding the floor if you're using an interior floor coating kit; however, if you're using standard primer and paint or porch and floor paint, sand the entire floor lightly with 220-grit sandpaper. Scuffing with sandpaper gives the primer coat a better surface to grip.

4. Protect Trimwork

Use painter's tape to cover the baseboards at the edges of the room to protect them from deglosser and paint.

5. Degloss the Floor

Applying deglosser to the floor also improves the chances that the primer will stick well. Deglosser etches the glossy surface and could reach places the sandpaper may have missed. Apply deglosser to the entire floor area following the manufacturer's directions on your chosen product.

6. Apply a Primer or Base Coat

Starting at the edges of the room, cut in along the the edges of the floor using a synthetic paintbrush and a primer or the base coat of a floor painting kit. Be sure to also cover areas where your roller won't fit.

Apply primer to the rest of the floor, starting at the opposite end of the room from the exit door. Use a 3/8-inch-nap roller cover and roller for application and an extension pole for comfort if desired. Read the drying time for your specific product so you can ensure the primer or base coat is ready for painting.

7. Apply the Paint Coats

Use a 1/4-inch-nap or 3/8-inch-nap roller (depending on your product directions) to apply the first coat of paint, acrylic enamel floor paint, or the finish coating from a kit. Allow the first coat to cure for the product-specified time before applying the second coat in the same manner. If you choose to add stencil designs, apply them after the second coat with a 1/4-inch-nap roller.

8. Allow Curing Time

How long your new floor needs to cure depends on the paint product you apply. Although some products may allow you to walk on the floor within a day or so, most of them suggest waiting up to seven days before subjecting them to regular use. Use caution not to drag heavy furniture on painted floors.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does a Painted Vinyl Floor Last?

How long your vinyl floor can hold paint and look good will depend on how well the floor was prepared before painting and how much use the floor gets. The paint may last for several years in low-traffic areas (like the laundry room) or as little as a few months in areas with heavy foot traffic (like the bathroom floor or the kitchen floor).

Do Painted Vinyl Floors Scratch Easily?

Although marketed as scratch-resistant, floor paint is still just paint and not an epoxy coating as you may see on concrete or wooden surfaces. Painted vinyl floors will resist scratching only as well as the paint on them can handle the abuse. Avoid using abrasive cleansers and dragging furniture over painted vinyl floors to minimize scratches and the need for touch ups.

Can You Use Standard Wall Paint on Vinyl Floors?

Standard wall paint and floor paint are designed with different results in mind. Wall paint may sacrifice some durability in exchange for a more vibrant color, while floor paint may be thicker and better suited to flexing and sticking to the surface. Technically, you can use wall paint on a vinyl floor, but the results likely won't be satisfactory.

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