painting floorboards uk

Painting Floorboards – Step-by-Step DIY Guide (2022 UK Edition)

Painting floorboards is an easy way to update the look of a room. A classic style is white painted floorboards, that can then be jazzed up with a colourful rug to fit the theme of the room. This look can work anywhere from the kitchen or bathroom, to a living or dining area.

Our simple guide will show you how to achieve a professional finish. The key is in the preparation, so expect a lot of cleaning and sanding! By the end of this guide, you should know how to paint floorboards with ease.

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Tools & Materials


  • Hammer
  • A heat gun or paintbrush (if stripping paint)
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Decorator’s knife
  • Floor sander
  • Paintbrushes (at least 3, for knot primer, floor primer, and paint)


  • Paint stripper (if using)
  • Warm soapy water
  • Wood filler
  • Sandpaper block
  • Knot primer
  • Floor primer/undercoat
  • Paint (topcoat)

Painting Floorboards – Step-by-Step Tutorial

1. Clear the Room

Our first step is hopefully obvious, but just in case: remove all furniture and any rugs or sculptures that are touching the floor. You can’t paint anything you can’t access!

Pro Tip: If you have to remove a carpet, make sure that the floorboards underneath are in good condition before continuing with the rest of the steps.

2. Tap in Nails

If you notice any loose nails sticking up from the floorboards, use a hammer to bash them down.

3. Strip Back the Floor

If your floorboards already had paint or varnish on them, then this needs to be removed. Check out our paint stripping guide to decide on the best method for you. Normally, a chemical stripper is painted on, left for some time and then scraped off. Another way is to apply a heat gun to melt the paint, but be aware that this could also burn the wood.

Pro Tip: Switch off underfloor heating if you have it. The heating will affect the drying time of any product applied to the floorboards.

4. Clean the Floor

Fill a bucket with warm, soapy water, then get a cleaning cloth and give the floor a good scrub. Remove any dust and dirt, and also check for any mould that might have collected in corners.

5. Fill in Holes

Get a tube of wood filler and a decorator’s knife and fill up any holes or cracks in the floorboards. Leave to dry.

6. Sand

Once your floor is dry, you need to sand it so it is perfectly smooth. The easiest way to do this is to hire a floor sander for a day. Our guide to paint stripping has a section on mechanical sanders.

Use a sanding block and old-fashioned elbow grease to sand corners and any odd bits the mechanical sander couldn’t reach.

7. Clean the Floor Again

All that sanding will have generated dust, so give everything a vacuum and then wipe around with a damp cloth.

8. Prime the Knots

Take a look at the floorboards. All the dark whorls you can see (I think they look like sooty thumbprints) are knots in the wood. These knots have to be painted over with a knot primer to stop them from showing through the topcoat. Prime the knots and leave them to dry.

9. Prime the Floor

Having primed the knots, you now need to apply an undercoat to the whole floor. Once that’s done, leave to dry.

Pro Tip: Work backwards from the furthest corner to the door. Don’t paint yourself into a corner!

10. Paint the Floor

Finally, apply a top coat of paint in your desired colour. Once it’s dry, assess whether a second coat is needed, or if you want to apply a varnish over the top to seal the paint.

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Painting Floorboards – Final Thoughts

You’ve just learned how to paint floorboards for a fresh look. Although time-consuming, the process is simple, provided you don’t skimp on the preparation.