The standard wisdom, as mentioned by the fellow renting floor sanders at the local big box store, is to paint the ceiling first, paint the walls second, and finally sand the hardwood floor and paint with polyurethane.

I'm concerned by the dust generated during sanding. Even if I wait several days for the walls to cure properly, I'm sure some wood dust will need to be wiped.

And so I'm wondering: It seems that sanding/painting the floors after painting the ceilings, and painting the walls last, is the more sensible approach. Is it?

What about the ceilings? Since I'll anyway have the floor carefully covered with plastic sheets (or lots of newspapers?), does it make sense to also paint the ceilings after doing the hardwood floor?

  • By working your way from top to bottom, you get the opportunity to fix errors as you go as part of the process lower down instead of redoing work to fix errors. If you work your way from bottom to top, you have to clean up errors below on final finishes. You will need to wipe/vacuum thoroughly to get the sanding dust off, but at least you won't be trapping the dust under your paint on the walls & ceiling. Though, if you're looking for textured paint, that might do it, albeit unevenly :) . – FreeMan Mar 22 '16 at 17:25

No. Modern "dustless" sanders are quite clean, and if you have to wipe some walls it is still likely less work than protecting the floor perfectly. And while you can always clean up dust, you can't touch up paint drips or floor scratches nearly as easily.

I made this mistake. I painted after doing floors in my kitchen renovation, because the floors were hired out but I did the painting myself later. There are some small drips of paint still visible on the floor. Not a huge deal, and I could have been more careful and avoided them, but if the order were reversed it would not have been a problem.

So bottom line, you can do either approach, but all other things being equal, it's preferable to paint before refinishing floors.

  • I paint 2-part urethanes. You have about 10 minutes to clean that up (with its solvent) or it's set for life. From that perspective, I find latex paints are rather easy to remove from surfaces. I was using latex to develop a paint match. Even a couple weeks gone, I found I could easily scrub it off after soaking in soap and water. I would give that a try. – Harper Mar 22 '16 at 18:57
  • +1 It's easier to wash walls and touch up paint, than to repair accidental damage to newly finished floors. Pro or not, accidents happen. – Tester101 Mar 22 '16 at 19:52

Your reasoning is sound & I agree with it. Doing the floor first just means that you'll need to tarp it while painting or immediately wipe up any drips or spills. Either way is no big deal at all & you'll be doing a far superior job than the Pro's.

Factually, the much bigger benefit to doing the ceiling & walls last is that any remaining dust that didn't get out with sweeping, vacuuming & mopping gets very nicely incorporated into the paint & is never a bother again. This is huge & vastly more hypoallergenic.

  • gave you an upvote because I really don't see the problem with your answer and people who downvote without providing a comment as to why should be tased. – kinar Mar 22 '16 at 18:05
  • Thank you, I fully appreciate that. Yeah, just lazy people who can't help but to do sloppy work that just they are pleased with. I dated a few chicks with hypersensitivity & now it's extremely common. Methods need to adapt to special concerns, when possible. – Iggy Mar 22 '16 at 18:30
  • Generally I find Iggy is a person of extremes, but here, I suspect the downbait is "than the pros". Pros help out on this forum and they vote. I got negged everytime I said that. – Harper Mar 22 '16 at 18:47
  • 2
    What's the basis for the claims that (1) floor-sanding dust is a lingering allergen and (2) painting walls is an effective way to remove that allergen from the air? Yes, floor sanding is dusty, but does it produce some dangerous allergens that linger more than those generated through normal uses of a house, like cooking or using a fireplace? Perhaps there is something about floor sanding that demands this level of caution, in which case I'd like to know more about it. – Shimon Rura Mar 22 '16 at 19:17
  • 1
    Why would dust convect to the ceiling? Is dust somehow always less dense than air? Why would dust attract other allergens (more than gravity or other materials)? Even if you are building for a hypersensitive resident, would painting walls/ceiling after floor finishing be superior to mopping those surfaces? – Shimon Rura Mar 22 '16 at 20:31

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