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Painting Floorboards - Solvent or Water Based?


I am an architect often looking to specify the right paint for the right job, and DIY enthusiast, and have read the informative forum discussions on your website with interest and appreciation.

My question relates to painting floorboards and what sort of paint - water based or solvent based you would recommend. I am looking to paint over the white timber floorboards in my Georgian home. When I painted the floors 3 years ago I used white Farrow & Ball primer and floor paint, and while I enjoyed the speed at which it dried, I have been disappointed by how it has aged (it chips and flakes off quite easily), and it is now leaned too far towards the ‘shabby’ side of ‘shabby-chic’!

I have read with interest your previous topics about how to achieve an oil based finish with water based paint by ensuring good prep and base coats, and also your notes about the incompatibility of other primers with F&B floor paint, so it seems perhaps oil is the way to go to achieve a good finish without loads of labour intensive prep?

I am not concerned about fumes, (I will do the work in the summer and have good cross ventilation and no children), and I can work around the longer drying times between coats.

My concern is will white modern oil paints yellow overtime? I have F&B Estate eggshell on my skirtings so it currently matches the floor well, and am worried that over time there will be a noticeable difference?

Also, of the various solvent based floor paints on the market - Dulux Floorsheield or Johnstones Flortred, or Little Green Oil Based Floor paint - do you have any reviews or thoughts?

Kind Regards,

Hi Julia

thanks for your question, and glad you have found the info on the site useful.

I would say that if the primer and current coats aren’t doing too well, you need to be thinking about how to avoid the usual result when overpainting a flaking base. A good degrease, plus thorough sanding with any sort of power orbital sander and abranet or festools abrasives will give you a good starting point, so your efforts arent wasted.

For durability and application, the thread you refer to, several favour Little Greene oil based floor paint.

One alternative you might consider - Kevin Mapstone painted one of the most spectacular painted floors you ever saw using Rustoleum floor paint from Holmans. This is part way through the prep btw!

He explains how he did it.

Not so modern oil paints would yellow too, but gracefully, and over time, so not really attention grabbing. However it seems that post 2010 oil paints higher than “normal” in vegetable oils will yellow quicker than expected. Also alkyd hybrids appear to have a tendency to yellow too. There are exceptions to this, or I think, more accurately, users have more tolerance to certain oil paints than others and as long as they don’t colour degrade in a fortnight, they are deemed to work as expected!

There is little to no debating that acrylic paints won’t yellow.

Ron Taylor in Warwickshire is a one for matching whites.

Could you paint the skirtings with the floor paint white? Not too much work, and they would colour age together? No reason to stop at skirtings, the frames as well if necessary to get a good match?

Thanks so much for your prompt reply.

I hadn’t considered re-painting the skirting which indeed would solve the problem of differential yellowing which is indeed good thinking outside the box.

Will also have a go at improving the base prior to re-painting. What do you use to ‘degrease’ a floor?

As another thought which is probably a bit OTT - If I painted with a solvent based paint to get the durability and imperfection filling finish, then went over it with a water based final top coat so it doesnt yellow, would I get the best of both worlds? In time where the paint chipped or flaked off, you would see white (albeit a yellowing white) which would be less obvious? I know there was a thread about incompatibility of F&B floorpaint with other primers, but could you put it directly on a solvent based paint?

Hi Julia

degrease with Krudkutter, the “nice and effective way” or sugar soap the old and effective way.

Yes OTT and no point?

There are theoretical specs as an alternative to the impeccable Rustoleum approach,
a clear lacquer over oil exists, but yellows white paint before the light does.

You could apply oil based primer, to build up the layers and provide adhesion over the existing paint. Then use a white water borne paint - in theory emulsion paint won’t yellow - and then seal it with several layers of clear Diamond Glaze acrylic floor lacquer.

Maybe someone has a clearer head on this one?

I’ve done very few floors but stick with my tried and tested for wood - knot with BIN. prime and undercoat with Coverstain and topcoat with 2 x coats acrylic floorpaint of choice.

In my own bathroom I also wanted White that would stay white, so I used Zinsser Perma White - acrylic eggshell on walls (American labelled ‘eggshell’ is as flat as Matt Emulsion) and PermaWhite acrylic ‘Satin’ (more like an eggshell) on the floors and skirting. No its not a floor paint but its done the job fine with regular use from two teenage daughters!! Yhis is a DIY/home tip - I’d use a pro floor paint for clients!

Thanks for that Dave, some useful alternatives.

Here’s my version its not white but came out a treat and very hard wearing.

Hi, I would recommend Bedec Acylic Floor Paint for this. Quick drying (always a bonus with floors!), self-priming and very hard wearing. Bedec have an in house colour matching service which for a small fee can be arranged by any of their stockists. I have tested for accuracy with F&B and some Dulux colours, all of which were very accurate.

With good prep and possibly a coat of Coverstain you should have the perfect base for painting your floor.

Hope this is some help :smiley:


Pardon me, I forgot to give you a link!