NBT: HOW TO PAINT A CONCRETE FLOOR. (Or, an introduction to special needs parenting)

Next Big Thing: Floor Painting!

My son is moving, in fits and starts, towards potty training. It’s … a process. And it’s a process that’s been particularly hard on the carpet in his room. I hate carpet, anyway — the dust, the staining, the general grossness. The popcorn.

So I decided to take it out and just paint the slab under it, since whenever we sell the house (however many years from now that will be), we’ll probably have to put carpet back in it. So this project doesn’t have to be perfect, just relatively cheap. And of course safe, very easy to clean, and not look, you know, too terrible.

Let’s do this one as a how-to, hm?


Step 1: The Battle Plan

Figure out what to do with the kids. See, some projects the Acrobat will ignore and let you get on with; some projects the Empress might even help with. Some you can do with the two of them at home, at least. But some, like ones with wet paint on the floor of the Acrobat’s favorite room for TWENTY-FOUR HOURS’ DRYING TIME BEFORE MOVING FURNITURE BACK IN?! Not so much.

My husband and I are lucky that we have both sets of parents fairly close to us, so we were able to foist the littles off on them for a couple of nights. After the prerequisite scheduling maneuvers, of course — with six adults, one teenager, and two little ones to account for, with all the various doctor’s/therapy appointments, out-of-state trips, work and school and sleepovers, I’m surprised it came together as easily as it did. We only had to reschedule once! They took a kiddo each, Friday night and Saturday night, so I could paint it Friday and have all of Saturday for drying time.

Also, figure out what you’ll need to get, and get it before game time.

  1. The paint, obviously. I used Behr Premium Plus Porch & Floor paint in SW Naval.
  2. Concrete patch compound (in the paint department at Home Depot)
  3. A floor scraper that would make an excellent murder weapon in a mystery novel.
  4. Coarse (60 grit?) Sandpaper.
  5. A paint roller frame with an extendable handle.
  6. Fine-nap rollers. Buy the 9/16 nap, rather than 5/16, because you can’t find 5/16. Also buy the three pack because it’s a cheaper per-item price, but only use of them, because you’re a genius like that.
  7. A pole sander, but you already have a pole, so don’t buy one, risking the side-eye of the cashier, and just kind of hope it works when you get it home. (It, luckily, does.)

Step 2: Prep

Prep in stages, and admit to yourself (but no one else) that it’ll take longer than you expect. Do as much prep work beforehand as possible — remove the carpet on Sunday, in fact, because you’re impatient. Your husband, despite feeling sick that day, will valiantly keep the kids out of the room while you rip the stained and smelly mess up, cut the carpet into strips to roll up, and tear the pad up to put in bags. Haul them all to your trunk (leaving it open to keep from stinking up your entire car; it won’t work, but it’ll make you feel better) to be thrown away later that day.


Go to Home Depot somewhere in the middle because you forgot to get a crowbar for the tack strips. Figure out, slowly, that it’s a lot easier to bust the strips out in one piece if you place the wedge of the bar in front of each nail and tap it in with a rubber mallet, rather than trying to wriggle it underneath the strips and then pry them up by hand. Try not to think about the cramping in your hands. Use the floor scraper to damage the eardrums of everyone in a four-block radius scraping up the glue, gunk, dirt, etc. on the floor.

Sweep. Try not to cry at how little difference sweeping makes.

Try not to cry at the futility of the human experience.

The next day, patch the holes as well as you can after your Acrobat goes to school. Get your eager-to-help Empress to go around with a wet washcloth to wet the dents before you patch them with the gunk and hope against hope they’ll dry before he gets home. Also patch the TEACUP-SIZED HOLE in the floor that the builder just carpeted over.

Realize, too late, that you forgot to wet the teacup sized hole first. And then re-patch it while Kim rinses the patch compound off the Empress’s shoe after the Empress stepped in it while twirling around to show off all the work she helped with.

Reassure your daughter, when she apologizes later that afternoon, that you’re not at all mad at her for stepping in the patch — reassure her (and yourself) that accidents happen to everyone, and that you have done the same thing yourself, more than once. That we can fix it, and we’ll just try again next time.

Try not to scream when the patches are not dry by the time the Acrobat gets home, and he thinks it’s super cool to smoosh them with his fingers and peel up at least one.

Do this again Tuesday. Then Wednesday, too, just in case. Finally resign yourself to your son having a dented floor.

Step 3: Sand

To ensure maximum family hearing loss, sand when everybody’s home. 

Sand with the door open so that both children can come in and run in literal giggling circles around you while you sand the floor one way, then sweep (“JUST DON’T … oh, okay. That’s — okay; just don’t … oh, never mind. I’ll sweep again.”) then sand the other way, then sweep (“NO, Acrobat, please don’t lick the dust …! Empress, let go of his shirt, please –“)

Step 4: GAME TIME!!

Friday morning, after taking the Acrobat to school and coming home to get to work, when the Empress asks to help again, remember vividly when you were tiny, and could start helping your dad build (and occasionally destroy) things. Show her how to change the sandpaper out of the sander; do it together. Thank her for throwing the used paper away. Sand again, just for fun. Be unsurprised when it’s not as fun for her when there’s no Acrobat to follow around and laugh with. After the noise from sanding dies down — or you can no longer hear anything, ever — and you’re sweeping, again, and she asks to help again, ask if she could take the paper off the sander again, “the way we did just a minute ago.”

Realize that she can do it all by herself. In the other room. Without waiting for you, slowpoke mommy.

Tape off the baseboards. Say goodbye to the Empress, wishing her well on her library and sleepover adventures, and start cutting in the edges of the floor.

Once you’re wondering if your back will ever be straight again (haha — no) it’ll be time to start sloshing paint on the floor and rolling it out. Important: Start away from the door, and work your way back. Also, don’t open the window; it will inevitably be a dusty, windy day, and you will be sad.

Shut the door — let’s not have little Loki prints all over the house. And relish four kid-free hours. Eat something. Then do it again — two coats at least.

Don’t do a coat of polyurethane — it’ll just be, you know, so much longer, and it’ll be more expensive (and you’ll miss out on the delight of actually scraping up bits of the paint you painted next week when your son has another accident in his room and you’re a bit too zealous with the scrub brush/scraper).

And then you’re done! And it looks fab, as long as you don’t mind the dents (adds character …?) or worry too much about the photo lighting.

He loves it; it makes a satisfying chinking when he plays with a swing chain in his room. What, you don’t let your kids play with chains? Why on earth not?

Oh. One more thing. Put “polyurethane the Acrobat’s room” on the list of future projects.

2 thoughts on “NBT: HOW TO PAINT A CONCRETE FLOOR. (Or, an introduction to special needs parenting)

  1. I’m glad to see you do this! So many are scared to paint floors. I’ve painted floors in all the houses I’ve lived in…even painted subfloors when we didn’t have much money for real wood floors. I must say a painted subfloor done well, looks amazing! Well done on your floor! Cheers, Koko❀

    1. Thank you so much! I love the way it turned out — I’d probably do a little more patching and sanding next time, but hey, live and learn; I’ll definitely be painting more floors in the future, too. You’re right — it’s such a beautiful look.

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