Flooding the Basement – Something We Did Very Right

In its day, I think the basement in my new house was spectacular. There’s a rod iron handrail, green tile, shag carpeting, drop-ceilings, wood paneled walls, even a mirrored bar! Of course, it isn’t hard to figure out when this basement got its upgrade – the groovy 70’s!

What I imagine our basement looked like in its hay-day – but with green tile mixed in there

Unfortunately as time went by, much of it fell into disrepair and began to fill with dust and grime.

You’ll have to excuse the terrible pictures, they’re from a video tour I took of the first time my husband and I walked through the house. I took video tours of all of the houses we visited because my grandmother liked to see them!

By the time Josh and I got our hands on the house, you couldn’t even walk down into the basement without shoes on. In fact, you literally couldn’t even make it down the stairs because they must’ve been covered in shag carpeting at one point and now they’re covered in carpet nails. 

We figured that out the hard way.

A couple of times.

That said, it’s a poured concrete basement that’s nice and dry with high ceilings, so we wanted to make use of it! First thing was first: we cleaned.

And cleaned.

And cleaned.

We decided that the very first thing we had to fix was the floors. They were so gross and we couldn’t clean them to the point where we felt comfortable walking downstairs then back up into our clean first floor without fearing that we were tracking mountains of dirt with us. We got an enormous pick (digging bar, wrecking bar, no one seems to be able to agree on a name for these monsters). Actually it’s my pop’s pick, I have no idea why he has an enormous pick but I decided not to ask questions) and chipped up all of the tile! It was amazingly easy and totally fun. 

Once we did that, we realized the glue that had been used to hold down the tile was just dirty. It wasn’t coming up per say, but every time we walked on it, our feet would get black. We needed a new floor in the basement.

Badly. 

But we didn’t want to spend a ton of time or money on it.

Or any money, really.

Plus, what kind of floor do you get for a working basement? Not carpet, we’ll be using some of the space as a shop. Not tile, we saw how that went before and it didn’t look to have lasted. Not laminate, too much mold risk.

We ended up finding the perfect solution: Epoxy paint! This isn’t a sponsored post, but if Rust-Oleum sees this, hook me up – I’ll speak your praises all day! 

Truth is that we didn’t have to think to hard to figure out what to do, my parents did this to their basement years ago. But I remember how difficult it was to figure out what to do with their floor and once we heard about this stuff it was a no-brainer. 

The first thing we had to do was scrub the floor with something really, really strong. We used Krud Kutter; it’s cheap and super effective. 

Then, we used the hose. 

Here’s how it went down: my cousin and I each had mops and we would scrub a small section of the floor with the Krud Kutter solution. My aunt would then come through with the hose and spray down the section while my mom used the wet/dry vac to vacuum the water up almost as quickly as it went down. It was quite the process. I never thought I’d be drowning my basement with a garden hose, but it worked! We then, and this is important, toweled off any wood that got wet and set a dehumidifier going which we emptied the second it filled constantly for about a week (even after we’d painted the floor). Even after all that, the floor STILL wasn’t terribly clean, but it was clean enough.

Back to the Rust-Oleum Floor Epoxy, have you ever painted a wall? If so, then you already know all that you need to know about how to use this stuff. Epoxies are two part solutions, that’s what makes them so effective. Instead of a regular paint, you get a Part A and a Part B and neither part will solidify on its own, but together they become rock solid. You pour one part into the other (which they thankfully leave space for so you don’t need a separate mixing bucket) and you’re off! Literally, you paint the floor like it’s a wall.

So satisfying

It’s important to note that the pattern of painting is slightly different. There are paint chips that you sprinkle onto the floor after you paint it which dry into the floor. Because of this, you don’t want to paint patches that are too big for you to be able to reach the edges to sprinkle the chips. We did about 4’x4’ sections which worked well.

Just like when painting a wall, you can also tape off areas where you don’t want paint.

We couldn’t imagine trying to crawl under the boiler

A few tips:

  • Paint the edges first like you would a room. We painted the edges second for half of the basement and I don’t know why, but you can’t see the edges if you paint them first but you can if you paint them second.
  • Use a roller with at least a ½” nap. This will make the paint go on a little thicker which is good. In the instructions it lists different nap sizes for different surfaces, but for the DIYer I think a ½” nap is a good catch-all.
  • Don’t worry about the paint drying too quickly. I had it in my head that once you mixed the two parts together, you had to hurry and paint fast or it would dry, but that’s not the case. Don’t get me wrong, after you paint the floor it will dry in a day, but the “pot life” (how long you have to use the mixture before it hardens) is longer than they warn. I’d say we had it sitting out for at least three hours no problem. Plus, we sealed a can for a couple weeks with mixed epoxy and it STILL worked when we opened the can again.
  • Use the chips! The paint chips are what’s so brilliant about this! They add just a little bit of, I don’t know, eye confusion. In other words, it’s much easier to see dirt on a single-tone floor than it is to see when the floor is already covered in little pieces of stuff. We went light on the paint chips for fear of running out, but we had nothing to worry about and had a bunch left over. 

Now, let’s remember what the floor looked like before:

Ew

And here it is after!

Aah!

Crazy how different the whole basement looks, right??

Next we have to paint the walls, especially under that old coal stove exhaust pipe, but all in due time.

There are two basic paint colors, tan and grey, so we went with tan to brighten the basement as much as possible. We learned later that you can actually buy tint colors for something other than tan or grey if you want online. Honestly, though, I think the tan will look good with anything and I’m glad I didn’t have the option of a wackier color because I might have gone for it when I shouldn’t (hot pink basement, anyone?)

The other half of the basement progression from just washed, to painted edges, to finish. You don’t want to see it pre-washed…

I’d rate this project as pretty simple if you’ve painted a room before, medium if you haven’t. You have to be okay with not getting it quite as perfect as a regular wall since it is a basement/garage/concrete. I don’t know about everyone’s basements, but when I was down and inspecting everything (as you inevitably do while you paint) I noticed that the lines between wall and floor aren’t as crisp as drywall and blue tape doesn’t stick as well to concrete and there are little holes everywhere, but once I pulled back I didn’t notice any of that in the final product. This is a good “do your best and don’t worry about the rest” type of project.

I hope someone finds inspiration from this post – I think all basements should get this done! Even if we decide to completely finish the basement later, we can still carpet or laminate over the paint and feel even more confident in the cleanliness.

Let me know what you think!

Warmly,

EGinny

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