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Well doll faces it’s about time I get down to it and finally deliver on my longstanding promise to give you a glimpse into how I lime washed the busted concrete subfloors in little miss Emmy Lou’s Danish Digs. Yeah, I know. That was, like, a REALLY LONG time ago. Ya’ll this is me. I have a fierce commitment to procrastination. And also, I’ve been crazy busy with some fun new projects that I can’t WAIT to share with you. But first, let’s take a trip back in time and enjoy the transformation from ‘What Was, to What Is: Basement Floor Edition.’
To preface, I went into this project knowing I wanted a super cost effective way to zhuzh up a concrete slab as a temporary solution until we had enough dough saved to replace all the basement flooring. I really wanted to do something unique with these floors. I did NOT want to just slap some paint on them. I was hoping for more depth. More character. Something that felt perfectly aged (even a little old world European) rather than shiny and new. There had to be something I could come up with that could ‘wow’ without breaking the bank. I settled on Limewash and never looked back; I would work out the details later.
Remodelista describes a Limewash finish as “mottled and matte with a chalky texture like suede.”
Remodelista describes a Limewash finish as “mottled and matte with a chalky texture like suede.” Um, sold. I’ll take the suede floors in soft white please. I immediately took Pinterest and the internet looking for tips and was flooded with inspiration but came up virtually empty handed on viable tips. There are plenty of projects using Limewash; even on cement. But absolutely NOTHING about it’s use on flooring; Specifically a raw cement subfloor.
I reached out to a few reputable companies that are suppliers of Limewash paint products (up top Romabio Paints for being both responsive and super helpful) but everything I read and heard pointed to a less than positive conclusion: It probably wouldn’t work. Limewash is meant to patina over time. It would likely wear away really quickly. And given that it’s mineral based, be next to impossible to clean with traditional cleaning methods.
However the more I researched alternative options, (which, for concrete subfloors are both limited and shockingly expensive) the more sold I was on giving Limewash a shot. I did a lot of research and had really high hopes, but to be honest, my expectations were pretty low.
So as promised, I’m FINALLY divulging the nitty gritty details on how I turned my cracked and gnarly basement subfloors into the ‘mottled and matte suede like finish’ I was hoping for for less than $60.
let’s dig in!
SUPPLIES & TOOLS NEEDED
- 1 Kilo High Calcium Hydrated Lime from Earth Pigments (1 package provided more than enough coverage for a 12×12 room)
- Acrylic Binder (8 oz) from Earth Pigments
- 4″ Nylon/Polyester Blend Enamel Brush (The bristle blend is important)
- 5 gallon bucket
- Stir stick
- Chemical safe gloves and eyewear
- Water based Polycrylic
- foam roller
- FLOOR REPAIR SUPPLIES
- Sakrete Fast Setting Repair Mortar
- shop vac
- wire bristle brush
I would be lying if I told you that I felt relieved and inspired the first time I laid eyes on my bare subfloor in real life. On the contrary, I was instantly intimidated. It was riddled with cracks from a settling foundation, holes where carpet tack was once pounded into place, unsightly gashes and a bunch of overspray, splattered paint and carpet glue.In our case, It took probably 15-20 hours of work to prep these floors; many due to my own mistakes. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this part of the job, but as is usually the case, the magic is in the prep; starting with clean, level floors is absolutely key to a dope finished product.
Step 1: Patching your floors:
We used a crowbar and a hammer to pull up our tacks and strip. Once everything was out I took time to brush over each hole with a wire brush to remove loose debris and vacuumed up all the excess dust and gravel with a shop vac. We used Sakrete Fast Setting Repair Mortar I like the ease of use and simplicity in the prep of this product, but it dries super quick! It definitely took a bit to master and I found it best to work fast and snag an extra set of hands; one of us wetting each hole, the other applying the mortar. If you’ve got a lot of ground to cover, consider splitting the material in half and only mixing one part at a time so it doesn’t dry out before you have a chance to let it set for a bit and scrape it all back.
Pro Tip: Follow the package instructions to a T. Don't listen to your husband when you panic about it drying too fast and he tells you "just slap it on and sand it down later," because you cannot, in fact, sand it down later. Instead you’ll spend no less than 10 hours busting up what you’ve just installed and redoing it. You will swear, pout and feel very sorry for yourself. Read directions. Do it right. Let the patch material sit for 10-15 minutes and then scrape away the excess the way you would drywall patch.
I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty details of grinding down the ‘lips’ and high spots where the cement had settled around the footers because that sounds like a liability disaster. You should not be taking that kind of advice from this kind* of girl. (*the kind who took hundreds of cement fragments to the shins and forehead and also forgot to wear a mask most of the time.)
Step 2: Cleaning your floors
I used a scraping tool to pull up some of the larger splotches of paint and residual carpet glue. Basically anything that was non-porous and would not absorb water had to go. The drywall texture overspray was pretty significant on the perimeter of the room so I used a wet sponge (water only) to try and disperse it a little bit. I did not use any cleaning chemicals at all. In the end, I left much of it in place. It already had an almost chalky feel; not far off from the Limewash itself. Plus my goal was that these floors would feel a bit aged and weathered. Imperfect. Here’s a quick little video of what the floors looked like just before I applied Limewash.
Step 3: Apply the Primer Coat
“The purpose of the primer coat is to prep the surface by predampening it, as well as allowing some lime to settle in and to make the surface more chemically compatible to receive the Limewash.’ [Earth Pigments]
To prepare, mix 20 parts water to 1 part hydrated lime by volume and stir. (I used cups) Hydrated lime is caustic so it’s important to protect your skin and eyes by wearing gloves, long sleeves, a mask, and protective eyewear. You’ll notice the lime tends to settle at the bottom so it’s important to stir it often. I ended up giving a stir between every other dip into the bucket.
To apply the Limewash, dip your 4″ brush into your fully stirred mix and apply it over a 2’x2′(ish) section at a time in a crosshatch or figure 8 pattern. It won’t look like much at this point, but that’s ok. Keep working in 2-3 foot sections until you’ve completed one primer coat on your whole floor.
Pro Tip: Mr. Miyagi taught us all a valuable lesson about the importance of technique in his 'Paint the fence' and 'Wax on, wax off' scenes. There is more to proper Limewash technique than I initially imagined. I watched this 'How To' Video from Earth Pigments and I'll share additional tips as we go.
Step 4: Apply the Wash coat
Once you’ve applied your primer coat it’s time to lay down your wash coat(s)! This is where the fun starts!
To prepare, add 6 quarts water and the remaining package of hydrated lime to your primer mix, (Add powder to water to avoid inhaling powder during mix) Pour in 1 bottle of acrylic binder. The acrylic binder was recommended to enhance the adhesion of the Limewash. According to Earth Pigments, this is especially important in exterior applications as well as interior application that have the potential to ‘powder off.’ [Earth Pigments] If I were to do this again, I would likely skip this step as I feel the same goal was achieved by sealing the floors with polyethylene.
- Have a spray bottle on hand to redampen areas as needed. If you notice too much Limewash ‘sitting’ on top, spray it down and help it settle into the pores a bit more.
- Lime powder does not stay suspended in water and requires frequent stirring. It may be best to pour small portions of your mix into a shallow bowl to ensure your bristles touch the bottom and pick up the lime.
- Working in a cross hatching or figure eight motion helps push the lime into the surface. Continuously brush over the same area while it dries to help eliminate brush marks and achieve a more suede like appearance.(The photos below show the result of not going over the section enough.) You can also go over areas with a damp sponge to help reduce brush marks.
- It is better to do several thin coats than one thick coat. I ended up applying 2 wash coats to these floors plus touch up as needed.
Step 5: Seal with Polycrylic
Once your wash coats are completed and the final result is to your liking, it’s time to seal these babies up! Make sure you vacuum up any remaining dust and debris. I also wiped sections down at a time with a microfiber cloth to ensure nothing was left behind.
Using a foam roller and Polycrylic in a satin finish I rolled two full coats over the floors allowing 3 hours of dry time between coats.
So the verdict is in folks! You CAN, in fact, Limewash a concrete subfloor. I’m gonna shout it from the virtual rooftops across Al Gore’s internet! I could not be more pleased with he final product. In fact, I love them so much that I kinda want to do our whole basement! (I mean, after the trauma of cement patchwork has faded.)
These floors remind me of something I’d find in an 1800’s era European stone cottage. They’re full of character, imperfections, depth and they brighten up this basement bedroom in the most delightful way.
Thank you for your interest in (and requests for) this tutorial and your patience with me getting it into your hot little hands. What do y9ou think? Would you give it a go in your own space?
As always, thanks or being here my loves!