Eventually, flooring starts to look tired, worn and needs an update. It is well known that hardwood floors can be refinished, but what if you have laminate flooring in your household? If you like to take on household projects yourself, this will ultimately lead you to ask: can you stain laminate flooring?
Although you cannot stain laminate flooring with traditional wood stain, you can achieve similar results with a laminate floor finish or paint.
In this article, we will discuss the options you have for refinishing laminate flooring and how exactly to go about the project step by step.
What is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring is a synthetic composite material made to mimic wood flooring. The base of the material is made of an amalgamation of particleboard, fiberboard, and other wood byproducts with melamine resin. An image, pattern, or design is applied to this base, and then a clear, glossy protective layer is imposed on top and fused together in a lamination process. The overall effect is of a realistic flooring material that is convincing in its portrayal of wood, ceramic, or stone.
Can You Paint or Stain Laminate Flooring?
Since laminate flooring is a man-made material and not natural wood or stone, it is non-porous. Most laminate floors have an aluminum oxide coating to protect the flooring from spills and stains. This means that most floor stains are not compatible with this type of flooring. Additionally, this topmost layer of the laminate flooring prevents most paints from adhering properly without proper preparation.
Some steps can be taken to make your laminate flooring susceptible to paint laminate floor finish. Mainly, the top protective wear layer must be removed to reveal the raw materials beneath.
Wood Stain vs. Laminate Floor Finish vs. Paint
Wood stain is a specifically engineered paint product made of colorants and a solvent used to change the color of the wood. Traditional wood stain or gel stain both rely on their ability to seep into the wood itself to stain it a new color. The pigment will soak into the wood fibers via the solvent, and it will then set and bind to the flooring. Since laminate flooring is non-porous and not as absorbent as wood. Laminate flooring cannot soak up and bind to a traditional wood stain.
Laminate floor finish is basically the laminate equivalent of a traditional wood stain. It is made specifically with the capability to bind to laminate. You can choose a finish in a hue that resembles the natural wood color you aim for and achieve great results! This finish is applied to the laminate in the same way a traditional wood stain would be applied, with a washcloth to smooth out stroke lines in the finish.
Painting your laminate flooring is another great option for refinishing. Preparation to apply the paint is the same as opting for a laminate floor finish. A floor-specific paint is recommended to stand up to the everyday use of the flooring. The best practice is to purchase epoxy-based paint or paint with a polyurethane base.
Why You Should Consider Painting or Staining Your Floors
If the current flooring in your home has been in commission for a while, it has likely become worn, tough to clean, and dull. A great way to breathe new life into your home design and flooring is to refinish it. This is a more affordable option than trying to rip up and install all new flooring.
How to Stain / Paint Laminate Flooring
- Paint or laminate floor finish
- Painting supplies (rag, paint-roller, paintbrush, tray)
- Painter’s tape or newspaper
- Vacuum, broom, mop, or other cleaning materials
- Laminate floor repair kit and putty knife
- Machine sander (orbital sander) and sandpaper (180 or 150 grit)
1. Choose Your Paint or Laminate Floor Finish to Stain
Quality is key at this step. It is imperative that you choose a resilient paint product to maintain the longevity of the project you are taking on. Paint applied to the floor has to withstand moisture, heavy use and wear from foot traffic, and accidental spills and stains.
Porch paint or floor-specific paint is a great option. Latex paint is an acceptable alternative, but we recommend more durable paint specifically formulated for floors. An epoxy-based paint or a paint with a polyurethane base are your best options.
You may opt for a laminate floor-specific finish to achieve the result of a wood-stained look. Choosing a natural wood-like hue finish will yield the most conviving results.
Whatever you choose, ensure that it is of good and compatible quality with your project. Nothing is worse than pouring all of this time, effort, and money into a DIY project and then having the quality of products let you down!
2. Prepare the Area
Remove all furniture and anything else obstructing the floor of the area you will be working on. The entire workspace should be clear; this isn’t a project you can tackle in bits and pieces.
The floor should be thoroughly cleaned before beginning the project. Every step of the process benefits from a base that is clear of debris. Sweep and mop the project floor before beginning, and be sure to pay careful attention to corners and edges!
3. Repair Imperfections
Inspect the current flooring for gouges, deep scratches, dents, chips, cracks, or other imperfections. These will need to be repaired before continuing with the project since a blemish-free and even surface will yield the best results.
Most home improvement stores will sell a laminate floor patching kit or just the putty-like material used to fill these imperfections. Fill the gouge with the material and smooth with a putty knife. This will have to dry for at least twenty-four hours.
If parts of the flooring are damaged beyond repair, you should consider replacing that patch of laminate altogether.
If you are a visual learner and want to see exactly how to repair laminate flooring, check out this informative video:
4. Sand or De-Gloss the Flooring
Using the machine sander, make sure to thoroughly sand the entire area of flooring. This is arguably the most important step because this is where you are removing the protective wear layer that prevents paint or stain from sticking to laminate flooring.
Pay special attention to areas that were repaired with the laminate floor putty since you will want these areas to be even with the rest of the flooring.
Do not over-sand; otherwise, you could end up creating holes in the laminate (that will need to be repaired before continuing with further steps).
Take care to achieve a smooth, even, scuffed surface over the entirety of the flooring.
If you opt to de-gloss instead of sanding, you will need to purchase a de-glosser product and follow the instructions included! Your goal is to completely remove the protective wear layer of the laminate floor so that whatever primer, paint, or stain you apply will be able to adhere to the flooring.
5. Clean Dust and Debris
Vacuum, sweep, dust-mop, scrub, or any combination of these should be employed to clean all dust and debris from the surface of the floors. Grit and particles can compromise the bond of primer, paint /stain, and flooring! Leftover bits will negatively affect the smooth, professional outcome of the finished flooring that we are trying to achieve.
6. Prepare Painting Area
Cover the bottom of the wall, or trim that meets the flooring with painter’s tape or old newspaper. Anywhere that is close to the project area that you do not wish to get paint or stain on should be covered to prevent accidents and mishaps!
7. Prime the Flooring
Now is the time to apply an oil-based primer to the prepped flooring. Oil-based primer will stick to the smooth surface that you created the best. Your goal is to achieve a smooth and even coat of primer over the entirety of the flooring to create the best surface possible for paint or laminate stain to adhere.
It is not required but highly recommended to apply two layers of primer, giving the flooring ample time to dry between coats. This extra layer will only aid in smoothing the surface of the flooring, but it can also help fill and seal any small surface cracks in the laminate flooring.
8. Paint / Stain
If you are painting the flooring, you can fill your tray with paint and either use a paint roller or angled paintbrush to evenly coat the entirety of the project with the paint. Let each coat completely dry before applying a second or even third coat of paint. The number of coats you should apply is based on your preference and how you want your floors to look!
If you opt for a stained look through laminate floor finish, you will apply this with either a washcloth, dry mop, or paint roller. The technique is more of a rubbing and spreading the product than painting. Again, let each coat dry completely before applying another coat. Each coat of finish will deepen and darken the wood-like color of the floor.
The sealing step is what will ensure all of your hard work stands up to the test of time (and wear). The sealant will help your floors hold up against foot traffic, water damage, and prevent the new finish from cracking or flaking.
Paint the polyurethane sealant onto the floor in the same way you primed and painted the floor, ensuring an even and smooth surface with continuous coverage from wall to wall.
Make sure this final layer is completely dry before moving furniture back into the space.
Step back and enjoy your newly refinished flooring (for a fraction of the price of installing hardwood)!
How to Keep Laminate
So you have just put all of this work and time into painting or staining your laminate floors… but now how do you maintain them? The better care you take of your newly refinished floors, the longer your efforts will last!
A great way to take care of your laminate floors is to avoid any build-up of dirt or debris. Clean a spill immediately and wipe down the floors regularly.
Even though the sealant and paint will have water resistance, that is only for small spills or mishaps. The base layer of the laminate flooring is still made of wood byproducts, so it is best not to soak the flooring with mopwater.
Dry mopping is recommended to remove dust and debris, and a slightly damp mop is gentle enough to use every 2 – 3 months. Spot treating stubborn stains with soapy water will protect the floors from sustaining water damage.
Harsh chemical cleaners and steam-cleaning are not recommended for this type of flooring because they can ruin the top layer of sealant or warp the wood-like, fiber product layer beneath the paint. Never use waxes or polishes on laminate flooring.
Avoid abrasive tools that can scratch and ruin the top sealant layer of the laminate flooring. Steel wool or some vacuum attachments should be traded for a soft-bristled broom or a dust mop. Even keeping your pets’ nails trimmed can prolong the longevity of your laminate flooring!
Using doormats and area rugs is another great way to limit wear and tear on the refinished flooring and will help limit dust and debris being tracked across the laminate.
If your flooring requires some TLC, or a revamp, you can stain or paint your laminate flooring. Once you’ve taken the proper steps to resurface and prepare the laminate, the staining or painting process is straightforward! Make sure you are working with the cleanest, most even surface you can achieve, and your flooring will look spectacular. Taking on home improvement projects yourself is an affordable way to update your home.
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