DIY: paint your linoleum floor white

East Van apartment,

East Van apartment,

When I moved into this typical 1930s apartment in Vancouver’s east side in 1999, the first thing I did was paint over the kitchen’s dingy gold linoleum flooring. The linoleum was the worst thing about that apartment. Everyone always says not to paint linoleum – or any surface you walk on, for that matter – but the painted floor turned out to be durable, easy to deal with and gave me no end of pleasure. You would think a white floor would really show the dirt, but it didn’t seem to (partly because I rarely wore shoes in the apartment, out of deference to my downstairs neighbour), and the glossy painted finish was way easier to clean than the scuffed, dirt-attracting lineolum had been. You can see the old linoleum below (along with some fake protest signs made by an artist friend):

East Van apartment, kitchen

It’s ridiculously easy to do: Degrease the floor as much as you can, either with a proper degreasing liquid or just some strong soap, let it fully dry and then sand the linoleum thoroughly. 80 or 100 grit is fine – you can go finer but avoid anything finer than 150 because the grit does tend to clog a bit. Buy a couple of cans of a tough, dedicated floor paint. Most paint companies carry floor paint, but I got mine from Home Depot – I can’t remember the brand but it was water-based, not too smelly, and could be tinted any colour you wanted. I used a semi-gloss pure designer white. Between coats and when recoating, make sure you only walk on it in white socks, and follow the recoat times to the letter. Before moving heavier items back in, wait a week while the paint hardens. I didn’t want to move the fridge, so I just painted around (and under) it.

East Van apartment, kitchen

The result was quite interesting, because the texture of the lineoleum showed through in a pleasing way (see photo with the vacuum cleaner). The white floor made it feel much more mod in there, which was was great because all the pieces of furniture I owned back then were dingy antiquey items I ended up with when my grandfather’s house was sold. As an aside, that interesting corner cabinet in the kitchen was a typical old Vancouver cold cellar – these were cooled by a vent to the outside and were meant for storing vegetables and cheese etc. Apartment kitchens from this era also frequently had hot water tanks in plain view, because these were added later. Hence the homemade birch screen below, which is a 5’x5′ sheet of Baltic birch cut in equal thirds, sanded and finished with varathane, and then re-assembled with two long piano hinges. All together, this doesn’t amount to a proper kitchen renovation, but it was a cheap cosmetic fix that made the apartment feel a lot nicer. The whole job cost about $200 if you include the birch screen.

East Van apartment, kitchen

East Van apartment, kitchen

21 comments on "DIY: paint your linoleum floor white"

  1. Nice job.

    One word of warning, though – some old flooring material has asbestos in it. So I’d be careful about sanding. Not sure when the asbestos came out of flooring material – I’d assume sometime after the 1970’s.

    Me, I’m too lazy to sand. I’d probably look for a high-adhesion primer – it’ll stick like glue to just about anything (even ceramic tile). I’d paint that on first (it can be pretty stinky), then follow that with a couple coats of floor paint.

    There are also epoxy floor coverings designed primarily for industrial use. They’re super-tough, and certainly more durable than any vinyl or linoleum floor.

    1. Thank you! The kitchen was already pretty minimalist before (obviously a lot of lower cupboards had been ripped out, but what was left was quite nice, 1930s wooden cabinet doors without any detail at all, a simple bench-counter, two little long shelves, a nice window, that built-in corner cabinet, and thick baseboard. Really ornate carved/panelled cupboard doors are more of a challenge – I was lucky that these were absolutely plain slab cabinets. But I think that whatever you have, if you make everything white, or all one colour, it will always work. That’s the thing with open plan and open shelving… if you stick to the same colour palette, it won’t look too messy. I stuck with white, silver and wood. Good luck! PS. Since writing this I’ve talked to the girl who lived there after me, and she said she did repaint the floor a couple of times (quick hand-sand then repaint) and it looked great. So you may need to touch up at some point. But I think it’s worth it, for the effect.

  2. This looks really nicec. Has it held up as far as wear goes? That is my major concren with this project. We are buying a house and there is a large area that is done in 12″ lino. tiles (the leel and stick). I hate it. However, it will be awhile before we can swing a new floor. It I could paint it sucessfully for 200-300 bucks I would do it. It would need to hold up though or it would be a waste of time since I plan do redo it in 4-5 years. I am interested in the possibilities.

  3. DeeDee, I’m not sure. It will depend upon: how well you sand it first; the quality of paint; and the level of wear. I don’t mind some look of wear, but you might. It’s very easy to repaint/retouch, but that will require sanding too. I did hear they had to repaint the kitchen floor after I left, but I think they were really hard on that floor, wore shoes in the house a lot, including for big parties, etc. I didn’t. Good luck!

  4. How has this painted linoleum held up over the past year? Has this paint peeled or delaminated? Are you still happy with this? Would you still recommend this?

    1. I don’t live there anymore, but the new tenants report that they’ve repainted it a couple of times over the past 8 years. I’m not sure if it’s mainly because they wanted to switch from the white I painted it, or because I didn’t use the best grade paint (I still haven’t determined which paint bonds best to lino – I just used a water-based floor paint from Home Depot) and perhaps it didn’t wear all that well. I don’t have many details. But apparently the paint never flaked off to reveal the linoleum beneath – the tenants just repainted it for looks. I don’t know what to suggest other than that if you can live with your current linoleum, then do! In my case, that was impossible. The linoleum was not just ugly, it was far too stained and scuffed to live with, and yet the landlord wasn’t willing to remove it. He didn’t mind my painting it, though, so that’s what I did. And I loved it for the 3 years that I lived there with it! I mostly had a shoes off policy in the apartment so the floor stood up particularly well, but even with shoes it seemed relatively tough. By the way, a friend of mine paints hers regularly, every couple of years or so, in different colours. It does fade away after a while and then she just repaints it. It reminds me of when I lived in a Greek village for a while and periodically we would all re-whitewash all our floors and walls. Not sure if this helps!

  5. This was helpful! I bought a house that was built in 1956 and needs a complete overhaul! The lino is a brick red and I absolutely hate it since I had the kitchen redone all white except for dated appliances, which obviously will be replaced with something that looks less 1930-ish. So I’ve been trying to talk myself into attempting painting the linoleum myself, but was put off because I was sure it’d be difficult & wouldn’t wear at all well. But you’ve given me confidence, so thank yoy!

    1. You might have to re-sand and re-paint the floor periodically, but it’ll be worth it. Certainly creates drama. Sand the lino well and do your paint research well. I used water based but the oil-based marine paints can be better (yes, I know they’re toxic). Good luck.

  6. I’ve asked this question for years since we live in a rental house with awful linoleum bathroom and kitchen floors. I tested a bunch of paint and methods and nothing seem to work in a way that I trusted would last at least a year. I did one last google search and found this stuff called Linoleum Lacquer. It works on linoleum and vinyl and I think laminate (or is that the same as vinyl). Anyway, they have tons of colors, we chose gray. It took about a half hour to prep and we covered it in 1 coat. The worst part is obviously not getting to use your bathroom for 24 hours. The result was gorgeous though and its been almost a year. The gloss from the vinyl is still there and since we painted it a gray color it almost looks like polished concrete. We’re really pleased.

    1. Hey, thanks for this Nic! Very helpful. This post still gets hundreds of hits after all this time, and since I haven’t had linoleum in a while, I haven’t kept up with products.

  7. anyone have an opinion regarding the use of exterior latex on a linoleum floor? i’m in a rental with linoleum throughout, love getting deals on mis-tints, thought it might an option since it’s likely to be durable/bonding.

    1. DO NOT use exterior paint inside! Tip. It doesn’t dry the way interior paint does, had a different, weather-resistent tack and texture. May off gas. Don’t do it!

  8. Please note, that anyone linoleum installed prior to 1987, may have asbestos so you should NOT sand it as recommended in many of the above posts (according to Linoleum Lacquer’s website). This makes me wonder if a floor paint will adhere. Has anyone used either the floor paint, or Linoleum Lacquer without sanding in a high traffic area such as the kitchen? Does it withstand the footsteps without flaking or chipping? What is the lifespan?

  9. Tried to call Home Depot – they have never heard of paint specifically for linoleum – just for concrete. What type of floor paint was used? Trying to do this myself but want to do it right.

    1. I’m not an expert in this. I can only tell you what I used, and it was just a regular water-based floor paint. It was over ten years ago now so I assume much different things are on the market now. I can’t guarantee success! I just know I liked it… Perhaps someone else has some advice? As for Jill’s warning about asbestos, that is something to think about. However I very carefully roughened the linoleum with paper – there was no discernible amount of dust if I remember correctly. And then I wiped the floor down. But of course if you don’t know what’s in the linoleum, wear a good mask and gloves! Or don’t sand it!

  10. I painted my linoleum 15 years ago using an old-based floor paint. It has held up very well. Am getting ready to paint it again. The only drawback is that it is a solid color and the texture collects dirt in the grooves. I think the next coat will fill it some of those depressions to make it easier to clean.

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