The paint on our sunroom floor was an awful color, badly chipped, and worn out. Removing paint from the entire surface was the best option for a good result.
Here’s how, with a little effort and elbow grease, I removed layers of paint and sealed the surface of our stamped concrete floor. I think it’s the best way to remove paint from concrete that’s inside of your home.
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How much time you’ll you need
My project work area was a 9’x9′ floor. In the paint removal phase, I split this space into quarters and spent a couple of hours per quarter per week for several weeks – an hour mid-week, another hour on the weekend. (Seems like a long time but for us this isn’t a critical room like a bathroom so the timeline worked.)
The final half day of work was spent scrubbing, sanding, cleaning and sealing the floor.
The project took 12 hours of physical work. I used Citristrip Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel which requires additional time to work. Of course, there are different options.
If you are attempting an interior floor project, the size of the area, number of layers of paint, type of stripper, etc., will be different. You can certainly do a floor of the same size in less time – especially if you use a chemical paint stripper meant for fast paint removal.
Parts, materials, and tools
To remove paint
- Citristrip Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel (or paint remover of your choice)
- Plastic drop cloths
- Flexible drywall joint/putty knife
- 9-in-1 Painter’s Tool
- Wire wheel brush drill attachment
- Floor scrubber blue pads
To prep for sealer
- Dish soap (Whatever you have on hand will work fine.)
- Rags (Terry cloth rags are tough, great for removing gunk from a concrete area.)
- Garbage bags
To be safe while you work – appropriate protective gear
- Dust mask or respirator
- Rubber gloves (You’ll want sturdy nitrile not latex gloves. Recommendation: DEX FIT gloves.)
- Protective clothing (Example: long not short sleeves.)
- Safety glasses
- Drill (Recommending this Bosch power drill.)
- Floor scrubber
- Shop vac (This Porter Cable gets the job done.)
7 steps to remove paint from a concrete floor
These steps apply for any concrete floor. If your floor isn’t stamped concrete you can skip step #5.
Step #1: Prep the room, clean the floor
The first thing to do is cover up yourself and your nearby furniture. This project is messy and many paint removers are caustic. Wear long sleeves, pants, and closed-toe shoes.
Clear out the room or clear out enough space so that you can move freely – on your knees and backwards at times.
Also, give your floor a thorough sweep or vacuum.
Step #2: Plan your work, work your plan
If your project is a small area, you can strip the entire floor at once. If it’s a large area, working in sections is a good idea. Be sure to plan your exit. Eg., start at the back of your room and work your way out.
If you’re using biodegradable paint strippers like a soy gel or Citristrip, your best bet is to cover the stripper with plastic to let it work. For best results, stay off of it so you don’t thin it out under your feet making it too thin to really work.
Step #3: Apply paint remover and scrape
I used Citristrip because it doesn’t have a “causes cancer” notice on the label like a lot of chemical strippers. It’s biodegradable and non-caustic. (Note: older versions of Citristrip included NMP (N-Methylpyrrolidone) which is toxic. Check your label and be sure to buy the updated formula.)
I needed to remove at least four layers of old paint. No telling what type of paint was there (acrylic paint, latex paint, oil paint), or how many layers of paint, or how long they had been around. I wasn’t sure that Citristrip would get many layers of very old paint off of concrete but it worked fine.
Concrete is a porous material. The most effective method I found is to keep the Citristrip wet. It loses effectiveness when it dries out. It’s also hard to clean up if it dries. You’ll have to strip it off with more Citristrip.
Your best bet is to use this process: slather a section of the floor with a thick paste like layer of Citristrip; cover with painter’s plastic; wait a few days and let Citristrip work; remove plastic; scrape loosened paint; repeat. You’ll likely have to do spot treatments where there’s stubborn paint.
The paint scrapers I used are 9-in-1 Painter’s Tools which are stiff with a sharp pointed end that is great for tasks like getting loose paint out of the lines in stamped concrete.
The other paint scraper is a flexible and wide drywall joint/scraper knife. It scrapes a lot in one go.
Step #4: Use a floor scrubber
Once the entire floor was stripped there was a lot of remaining paint residue. I thought I might need a floor grinder or my orbital sander and some 50 grit sand paper.
I rented a 13″ scrubber through my local hardware store for one day at $35/day. Warning: heavy machinery.
With safety goggles and dust mask on, I went over the floor a few times with the scrubber set up with blue, medium-duty scrubber pads. I used two pads total.
Step #5: Use a wire brush
The scrubber was effective at cleaning the top of the concrete area, but it couldn’t get in between the stamped 4” squares. For that I used a coarse wire scrub brush drill bit attached to my cordless Bosch drill.
After a couple of passes with this stiff brush I was ready for the next step.
Step #6: Final prep before sealer
Next step: vacuum up all the dust. Then wash the entire surface with warm soapy water. Then use clean rags and a bucket of clean water to rinse everything. Finally, let it dry.
Step #7: Seal the floor
I applied two coats of Kilz Low-Lustre Sealer which is easy to work with, gives good coverage, dries fast, has hardly any odor. It’s sort of milky when poured on. I used a polyester brush — Kilz recommends that or a nylon one.
Lay it on thick but not so much that it pools. The finish doesn’t dry super fast so you can work it with your brush as you go, moving the liquid around to create a uniform coat.
Conclusion: was all the work worth it?
This DIY project is one of the best ways to upgrade a whole living area. Our floor looks great, feels great on bare feet, and is easy to keep clean. Totally worth it.