Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.
Why Paint Your Basement Floor?
The best way to waterproof and protect the concrete floor in your basement is to paint it with epoxy, or concrete paint. The high gloss finish of an epoxy-coated floor looks amazing and it's a lot easier to clean than bare concrete.
Although floor painting does involve prep work on your hands and knees, the painting part is usually easy and can be done in a couple days with a brush and a roller on an extension pole. Like most surfaces you paint, concrete floors have to be carefully cleaned in advance. It is also really important to choose paint, or epoxy, that is strong enough to tolerate weight from heavy objects in your basement.
Is Your Basement Floor Wet?
A basement floor must be dry before painting it so moisture doesn't cause adhesion problems with the floor paint. Does rain water leak into your basement? Cracks where water is coming in should be repaired and waterproofed before painting. Use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture.
One way to check for existing moisture on your basement floor is to tape a piece of transparent plastic to the surface. Tightly seal the edges of the plastic with tape so air cannot enter. Inspect the plastic the next day for condensation. You can also use a moisture meter.
Floor Paint Vs. Epoxy
Epoxy and paint are both durable options for a basement floor, but epoxy dries a lot harder for increased durability. Traditional two-part epoxy is the most durable coating for garage flooring, but not the best option for a basement because the hazardous fumes can become quite toxic and even explosive in a confined space, unless you have plenty of windows to safely ventilate the room.
Epoxy is usually more glossy and decorative than paint. You can add color flakes to make the floor look amazing. Cost wise, paint is cheaper and readily available in stores compared with some pricey epoxy floor kits you have to order online.
The best epoxy for a basement floor is water-based. Two-part epoxy with one hundred percent solids dries the hardest, but as I mentioned earlier, the fumes are horrible and not safe for use in an enclosed basement near the pilot light of a furnace without adequate ventilation. The dry time is also very slow.
Water-based epoxy dries faster and still provides good durability without the toxic fumes. Some water-based coatings even allow you to walk on the floor the day after application. If water-proofing your basement floor is more of a concern and you don't want to spend the extra money on an epoxy kit, a water-proofing floor paint is a good option too.
Rust-Oleum Epoxy Shield Kit
Epoxy Shield kit is a two part, water-based coating, for basement floors. The kit includes a cup of flakes you mix with the epoxy for a decorative look. The finish is a glossy satin that can be top coated with a clear finish for added durability.
Drylok is a water-based floor paint that works well on concrete in a basement or garage. This product does not require primer. The material dries in about four hours, allowing foot traffic the same day of application. The paint doesn't have a decorative flake finish.
Sherwin Williams Porch and Floor Enamel
I have painted basement stairs and one concrete floor with Porch and Floor Enamel without any problems. The paint comes in a satin or gloss finish. On a basement floor, I would use the gloss finish. I always apply two coats when I use this product, and the material dries the same day. I would probably avoid using Porch and Floor Enamel on a basement floor that gets exposed to a lot of moisture. The better option would be a water-proofing paint, or epoxy.
Prepare Your Basement Floor for Paint
The surface must be clean and dry before applying paint, or epoxy. Fill existing cracks with patching compound, or water-proofing caulk, meant for masonry repair. Sweep the floor and then wash the surface.
If the concrete is sealed, it might need to be etched with muriatic acid and washed thoroughly before painting. Etching is sort of like liquid sanding. It makes the surface of concrete more porous so paint can seep in better for a stronger bond. Read the application specs for the product you want to use so you can buy the right materials for preparation.
Painting a floor is easy for the most part. The prep work is what consumes the most time. Cut-in along the edges where the floor meets the wall. Roll the material on with a 1/4-inch nap roller 9-inches in length. The easiest way to roll paint onto a floor is with an extendable painting pole.
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.
© 2011 Matt G.
MelloYelloMan on November 06, 2011:
Epoxy for the win man :) I hate working with it though, to be honest... haha!