Monday, July 15, 2013

Candy Paint Job

It’s not uncommon for me to have visions of grandeur.  Though you may think that I carry out most of my kooky ideas, I think you’d be surprised how many of my creative plans don’t make it past the blueprint stage.  In all honesty, I’m usually too deflated to want to share what my plans were in situations where we couldn’t make them happen.  Call me bitter because I am.

The plan for our basement floor was exciting.  Since the walls of our newly renovated laundry/entertainment space are all white, I wanted to add some drama to other elements of the space; one of those elements included the floors.  My plan was to paint wide gray and white stripes on the basement concrete floor.  I loved it, the hubs rolled his eyes.  As we worked closer and closer towards painting the floor, I was met with more and more resistance from my general contractor (husband).  Bottom line, I really wanted striped floors.  I still do, but my ever-wise husband talked some sense into me and made me surrender to plain ‘ol stripe-less floors.  Here are the main reasons why we opted to skip the striped floors:

1.       Measuring, taping, and painting stripes are not simple or quick tasks.  Granted, I’m a proponent of “nothing worth having is ever easy”, but our other reasons for skipping the stripes made this first point have more weight in our final decision.

2.       Since stripes would be painted on top of our first two coats of paint (i.e., we would paint white stripes over the solid gray floor), the stripes would be slightly raised, meaning the floor would not be completely smooth.  Now I’m not worried about tripping over a stripe, but if something were to drag across the floor it could chip the clean edge of a stripe.  We would always live in fear of someone sliding a chair across the floor and destroying our laborious paint job…not something we want to worry about in a utility space.

3.       Once we refill the space with the washer/dryer, laundry table, laundry bin, linen storage, desk, chairs, entertainment center, rugs, etc…we may not even see the stripes!  Given the size of the space and the amount of stuff we have to fill it with, there will be little visible floor space leftover.  If you can’t see ‘em, would painting stripes even be worth it??  This was the reason that ultimately changed my mind.

4.       I need to keep the hubs happy.  Though we agree on most of our design details, there are some instances where we just are feelin’ the same vibe.  You can probably guess that striped basement floors are an example of our occasional difference in design opinion.  Aesthetically he wouldn’t mind the stripes, but he doesn’t feel it’s worth the time and effort.  For as many decisions that he lets me get away with in the rest of the house, I think it’s important to hear him out and compromise when he feels strongly enough to outwardly disagree with me.  

5.       Last but not least, the option to paint stripes will always be present.  So if I get the I-absolutely-need-to-have-stripes-on-my-basement-floor bug ever again, it’s doable.  

So there you have it – plain jane floor it is.  After lots of research we settled on a product that had great reviews which boasted durability and DIY-friendliness .  We opted for a product called U-Coat-It.  We purchased this product directly through the manufacturer, and had it shipped to us.  Home Depot and Lowes sell kits of 2-part epoxy floor paint (which is stronger than 1-part epoxy), but the reviews were terrible.  Price wise, U-Coat-It was double the price of the Behr or Rustoleum epoxy kits, but the reviews were incredibly positive and encouraging.  Plus they include absolutely everything in the paint kit for you, right down to the 5-gallon bucket needed to mix the paint solution, as well as safety glasses and gloves to keep you safe 'n clean.  We really didn't want to go through the hassle of painting the floor with the cheaper kits, only to find it chipping and peeling a few weeks later, so we bit the bullet and opted for the pricier, but better-backed product.

When it came to colors, we didn’t want white because we weren’t going for sterile hospital look, so we knew we wanted to pick a grey hue.  U-Coat-It offers two grey options: light grey and medium grey (oddly enough, dark grey isn’t an option?)  We went with medium grey since it gave off a warmer vibe. 

But before we could paint the floor we had to clean it.  This was probably the most tedious portion of the floor transformation.  First we swept the floor and picked up fine dust with a shop vac.  Next we needed to mop to remove decades of sediment, grease, rust, and other miscellaneous grime.  To mop, we used a bucked of warm water with some Simple Green and really went to town with scrubbing the floor.  We used a mop as well as a stiff bristled brush to do this.  The amount of crud on the floor pretty much made traditional mopping impossible (i.e., changing the dirty bucket water for clean water, etc), so as one of us scrubbed the floor, the other followed suit with the shop vac to soak up the excess water and dirt.  We repeated this process three times.  Yes, three times.  Unfortunately, the floor was that filthy.

Once the floor was clean, we needed to better prepare the surface of the concrete for optimal paint adhesion.  Many products suggest a concrete etching product to do this, but U-Coat-It recommended washing it with muriatic acid.  The muriatic acid does not etch the surface of the concrete, but instead neutralizes the alkalinity of the surface - a chemist's picnic.  An acid wash sounds both 80s and dangerous, but I can assure you it was neither.  Well it could be 80s if you jammed out to some hair metal while doing it.  We opted for Yeezus, which does feature the occasional 808 drum kick.  But as far as danger is concerned, the muriatic acid wash process isn’t to be feared.   You can purchase muriatic acid at a pool supply store; we actually snagged some out of the pool shed at Chris’ parents’ house.  We mixed 9 parts water with 1 part muriatic acid.  Since we were dealing with chemicals we made sure to wear the proper safety accessories while handling the acid: goggles/safety glasses, gloves, mask, long pants, and shoes.  Keep in mind that the water will dilute the acid a lot, but when first mixing the solution you need to be extra careful with the acid.  Next we dampened the concrete with a garden hose – we set the nozzle to either “mist” or “center shower” so we didn’t over-wet the floor.  Then we dipped a stiff bristled brush into the acid mixture and scrubbed the floor with it.  This was interesting because the acid solution had sort of a peroxide-like effect on the concrete – lots of white bubbles and fizzles when you first spread it on.  We needed to keep the acid from drying, so while Chris scrubbed, I continued to keep all areas of the floor damp.  

Once we scrubbed the entire floor with the acid solution, we rinsed it clean with the hose, vacuuming up the excess water with the shop vac as we rinsed.  Whew, done right?  Nope – we repeated this process twice, and then followed up with one more really good rinse session (garden hose + shop vac).

Once the acid wash was complete and we had enough Yeezus for the night, it was time to get the first coat of paint on the floor.  The product comes with special instructions on how to properly mix its components, so Chris was careful to measure only what we needed for the first coat so we didn’t waste any paint.  The paint is very time sensitive so we needed to move quickly.  The weird part about applying the first coat of paint is that the floor needed to be wet to do so.  Having painted many things, we had a really difficult time accepting this.  It was weird, but we did what we had to do…even if we were cringing the whole time.  Chris painted, while I kept the floor misted and damp.  The first coat is intended to go on very thin.  As you could probably infer, once the paint hit the wet concrete it sort of spread out and watered-down very quickly…it seemed so wrong.  There is a method to this madness though – concrete absorbs moisture, so by applying the paint to wet concrete, the floor will absorb some of the watered-down paint as well.  This essentially creates a bonding barrier between the concrete and the second coat of paint, which hopefully equates to better overall adhesion of the product to the floor.  

Drop down and get your roller on, squirrel.

Watery paint...oh so wrong.
Even though the whole applying paint to a wet surface process seemed sacrilegious, we were able to do the acid wash and first coat of floor paint in the same evening – oh heck, yes.  And then we treated ourselves to some well-deserved ice-cream cones.

Before Chris applied the second coat of floor paint, he filled any cracks in the floor using a product provided in our nifty U-Coat-It bucket.  It was essentially like a caulk, which he applied to the few cracks that we had, allowing 6 hours dry time before he applied the next coat of paint.  The second coat of paint does not require water like the first coat did – you simply paint it on as you would any other paint.  Chris mixed the remaining parts for the paint and got cracking.  He said it was a tad nerve racking since the paint cured quickly (so he needed to move fast), and because he didn’t want to run out of paint.  Luckily, he didn’t run out of paint and was able to get the second coat down before it cured.  Whew.

Mixing the second coat.  You can also see what the first coat looked like when it dried.

We let the floor dry for a whole weekend while we skipped town and headed to the beach.  When we came home we spent a whole half hour “ooo”-ing and “ahh”-ing over our new candy-coated floor.  Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but I’m here to tell you that our basement floor is drop dead gaw-geous.  Only time and lots of wear will tell if the paint product we chose will stand up to its positive reviews, but as of right now it feels solid and looks great.  We would highly recommend it to anyone looking to paint a garage or basement floor. 

Even though we scrapped the striped-floor idea, I can assure you the space is about to get far more exciting.  Many of you have been left on the edge of your seat after I teased you with how awesome the staircase is going to be when I get my squirrely little hands on it, and I’m excited to inform you that those pictures are just around the corner.  The project for this week is to begin painting the steps, so keep your eyes peeled for a bit more excitement in our basement renovation progress!

Pssst - check out these colors...


  1. Lookin' good! Love the before n' after.

  2. I agree! you could be one of those Saturday morning renovation DIY shows with the terrific commentary, Erin. Awesome job, Chris and Erin!

  3. Mind if i ask how the paint is holding up? Our idea of groutable vinyl floor tile failed miserably, and I need a new option.

  4. You have done a great job. The floor looks sleek, neat and professionally done. You have given a wonderful and interesting account of the complete job.

  5. This is a nice post in an interesting line of content. Thanks for sharing this article, great way of bring such topic to discussion.

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