On the continuing theme of the viability and ‘how-to’ of white-painted floors —sparked by a reader’s question —we asked designer Laura Handler how she painted the parquet floors of her 1950’s coop white. Here’s what she wrote:

As far as my floor – it was such a nightmare – it took forever to find the stuff I wrote down. Here it is :

As you know, I wanted to use oil-based paint on my ugly parquet floors, but my contractor said the building would not let me do it because of new EPA laws…someone would smell it and rat on me…So I had to go with a water-base solution.

First, I patched the floor where old kitchen and closets had been taken out, then sanded it down:

Laura Handler
Laura Handler

I thought I’d bleach or pickle the floors so did some tests. Black stuff kept leaching through with every product, except opaque white, so opaque white it was.

Laura Handler
Laura Handler

… [Editor’s note: this is a great example how essential it is to TEST the material you want to transform, to see if it has any unexpected reactions.]

Laura Handler
Laura Handler

The tech guy from Benjamin Moore recommended the following products on the phone (HA! was he a disaster):

I primed the floor with two coats of  STIX Waterborne Bonding Primer. Wood color leached through:

Laura Handler
Laura Handler

Then I painted two coats with this white floor and patio coating.

The Benjamin Moore guy told me to seal it with non-yellowing gloss water-based polyurethaneAnd when the floor guy put the non-yellowing polyurethane finish on…it turned BRIGHT YELLOW. Ugh!

I called the guy at Benjamin Moore back and he said it was not his problem and to call Janovic Plaza where my floor guy bought the product!

I called Janovic Plaza Corporate and they said the guy at Benjamin Moore had given me the wrong information. I hope it got him fired.

They credited me for all the polyurethane, the gallon of white paint needed to redo the bedroom that yellowed, and gave me Lenmar Endure Waterborne Floor Finish for free. It is a two part acrylic epoxy that must be used within 24 hours once combined. No additional top coat necessary.

Bad news is: you cannot touch it up. But it worked.

I painted two coats of the two-part epoxy OVER the two (and in the bedroom – three) coats of paint.

Here’s the first coat:

Laura Handler
Laura Handler

You can see the newly-painted-and-sealed floor in the image at top.

The finish is still a bit uneven from the wood colors and is starting to craze a bit in places, but it’s fine. It is the ONLY alternative if you want a water-based finish, which by law you must have in NYC and some other states.

(Or, I’d try to break the law….)
I vacuum the floor often (my hair is everywhere like a dog’s) and mop it once every two weeks. I keep windows closed as much as possible and wear no shoes, but let my guests do what they want.

I think of it as a loft floor: not perfect, but fine.



Thanks a million Laura Handler!

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