Painting a Wood Porch Floor
If your front porch floor is made of wood, it's important to keep the surface protected with durable floor paint, stain, or a sealer. But which one's best? All of these coatings have pros and cons, but know that once you paint your wooden porch floor, or use a solid stain similar to paint, you will have to remove it should you decide to use transparent stain, or a sealer, in the future. Removing layers of old paint with stripper is very messy and difficult.
Front Porch Floor Paint vs Stain
Porch paint is a lot thicker than stain and forms a solid layer that hides surface imperfections in floor boards. Using paint on older porch floors is beneficial because it will hide the cracks and wear better than a transparent stain would.
Porch paint usually has some gloss to it too for better stain resistance and easier washing. The downside is the gloss can make the painted surface a little slippery when wet, but there are premium paints available that contain sand for traction purposes. You can also add your own sand to save money.
Exterior floor paint and solid stain peel and chip badly if neglected long enough. If you don't stay on top of re-coating your porch when it's due for a paint job, you will end up having to do a lot of sanding and scraping. With a colored sealer, you bypass having to do any scraping or sanding; all that's needed is a wash and another coat of sealer. But the downside of using sealer is it usually requires a re-coat every year, or two. A sealer reveals the natural beauty of the wood. Paint and solid stain do not. Although solid stain doesn't mask the grain texture of the wood as much as paint.
Replace Cupped Floor Boards Before Painting
Porch floorboards and steps that are cupped and collecting water should definitely be replaced before painting them. Nothing makes paint fail faster than pooling water. Rotting wood should also be replaced. The paint will last a lot longer and be easier to maintain if the wood you're painting is in good condition.
Prepping Your Porch Floor for Paint
1. Remove furniture. The first step is removing everything from the porch. You won't be able to walk on the floor, or place anything heavy on the painted surface, for at least a day or two. I would allow the paint to dry for at least a few days before placing anything heavy on it, but follow the specs and recommendations for the paint you use.
2. Wash the floor. Using a pressure washer is ideal, but not always necessary if the floor's in good condition and you're only doing a routine re-coat. Sometimes pressure washing can damage the wood and create more work, but if your porch is peeling terribly and really dirty a pressure wash quickly removes loose paint chips and surface crud. It's important to remove debris from between the floorboards too. Always give the wood enough time to dry out before painting, especially if the wood's bare. This is really important. How long depends on your climate and humidity, but if the wood's bare you might want to wait a week before painting.
3. Sand the boards and loose paint. Most of the peeling paint will come off while power washing, but sanding is still needed to remove the rest and smooth out the surface. The best way to sand peeling paint layers off your porch floor is with a paint removal sander like the Wagner Paint Eater. I use mine to sand peeling paint and stain layers on decks, siding, and floors. The sander works awesome for quick removal. If your porch floor isn't peeling, use a random orbital sander with 80- to 100-grit sandpaper to prepare it for new paint.
4. Replace severely damaged boards. Like I explained earlier, warped boards collect standing water that will cause the paint to blister and peel prematurely.
Don't paint over rotting wood!
Priming and Painting Your Porch
Before you prime and paint, make sure no rain is expected for twenty-four hours. I always plan my exterior painting projects with a forecast showing no rain for at least a few days following the job. I would also advise against painting your porch in humid conditions. The drier it is outside, the better for preventing potential issues with the paint not curing properly.
1. Prime if needed. Not all porch paints require primer, and whether or not you should use primer also depends on the condition of the wood you're painting. An old porch with peeling paint would benefit from a specialized exterior primer meant for that condition. The glue-like primer would improve the bond and hold everything together. Primer also helps with tannin-bleed issues that can occur when painting over bare wood. This can become an issue when using a light paint color. You can also spot prime tannin-bleed stains. The best primer to stop tannin from leaking into your floor paint is oil primer. Analyze the condition of your porch and determine what's best, and follow the specs for the paint you're using.
2. Use quality porch paint or stain. Exterior paint for house siding and trim should not be used on porch floors. You will end up with chipping paint and a huge mess. High-quality porch paint is meant for use on floors and will hold up longer. The product I've used several times successfully is the Porch and Floor Enamel from Sherwin Williams. I've used it on indoor wooden stairs, concrete floors and porches without any issues. The paint comes in a satin finish that's fairly scuff resistant. I always apply two coats. I know Rustoleum, Valspar and Behr also have porch and floor paints.
Don't rule out stain either. I used Super Deck solid stain from Sherwin Williams on the front porch floor featured in the beginning of this article. Solid deck stains don't mask the natural texture of wood as much as paint does. Unlike paint, deck stain doesn't require primer when used over bare wood, so that's a big time saver. You can usually apply them over paint too.
3. Don't forget to re-coat your porch. The benefit of porch paint is it holds up longer than a sealer, but you still need to stay on top of maintenance and re-coating. You should re-coat your porch floor every three to five years. The longer you neglect repainting it, the more scraping and sanding you'll have to do later. It's best to repaint before you start having issues with the finish. Keeping the floor clean is important too.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Matt G.