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How to Paint a Concrete Floor

By Jim Dugan
Professional Contractor & DIY Expert

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  • A colorful, painted finish can add considerable beauty to a drab, ugly concrete floor. Unfortunately, getting the finish to stick to the concrete can be a challenging endeavor. Even experienced, do-it-yourselfers who think they know how to paint a concrete floor often end up with rampant peeling and flaking, because they donít understand how to encourage adequate adhesion. Put simply: the typical interior concrete you find in a garage or basement is too smooth to hold a painted finish. Before you even think about painting a concrete floor, understand the potential complications associated with this sort of home improvement task; then decide if it's really worth your while, or if you should consider other alternatives.

    Painting Concrete Floors

    If you apply an acrylic floor paint or epoxy coating to your garage or basement floor, the finish may look amazing at first; however, it will not hold up to consistent traffic unless you've employed specific preparation techniques intended to promote adhesion. Professionals understand that rough surfaces hold paint best. To improve adhesion, they sand slick surfaces, such as vinyl and plastic. This abrasion method won't work on concrete. To make paint stick, you must roughen the floor, using an acid etch.

    Acid Etching Concrete

    Before painting any type of smooth, horizontal concrete surface, you must first apply a muriatic acid etching solution. Make no mistake, this process is extremely dangerous. Muriatic acid can burn skin, and the fumes can cause serious respiratory problems. If you plan to etch concrete yourself, you'll need to wear rubber boots, gloves, overalls and protective goggles. What's more, the fumes could damage walls and ceilings, and improper application and neutralization could lead to dangerous consequences that may land you in the hospital. If you bypass this critical step, the painted finish will inevitably peel. If you are inexperienced working with muriatic acid, your best bet is to hire an experienced painting contractor; however, if you're dead set on doing this project yourself, continue reading.

    How to Clean Concrete Floors

    Unseen dirt, oils and grime will keep paint from properly adhering to concrete. Before doing anything else, wash the floor, using a coarse scrub brush. Ordinary soap wonít do the trick; use a water-based degreaser, or you'll have no chance at achieving adequate adhesion.

    Finishing Concrete Floors with Paint

    Once you've cleaned and etched the concrete floor, you may apply paint. Acrylic floor paint offers good results; however, for a longer-lasting finish, you should apply an epoxy floor finish. Apply the paint, using a roller equipped with a shed-free cover. Be careful to roll while moving in reverse toward a door or other exit point, or you may become trapped behind a wet finish.

    What to Do with Concrete Floors

    If you'd like to improve the appearance of your concrete floor but donít have the money to hire a contractor to prepare and paint it, consider applying an acid stain. Staining concrete floors is much easier than painting, because the prep work is less demanding. Even if you donít know how to stain concrete floors, you should be able to perform the project adequately by following the detailed instructions that come along with the concrete finish you buy at your local paint or home improvement store.