6 Steps to Better Floor Protection

Insure yourself against spills, drips, and accidents

All it takes is a single drip on a client’s carpet or quality hardwood to change the trajectory of your crew’s workday. Cleaning up accidents costs you valuable time and money, yet many painters ignore floor protection altogether.

Even if you have the world’s most experienced team of painters, accidents can still happen—and that’s why good surface protection is so important.

Maria Costello, vice president of supply chain management at Trimaco, and Josh Jobe, regional sales manager for Trimaco’s South Central region, offer these six tips to painters to make sure that their floors are properly prepped before every job.

1. Don’t skip the prep.

The first mistake many contractors make is trying to save time or money by skipping floor protection altogether. Though it might save some time upfront, it will almost always cost you more in the long run if you ignore prep.

“In an ideal world, no one spills paint, but it always happens,” Jobe says. “If a spill happens or paint drips off the wall or ceiling, you’re adding time and labor to the job. If you damage the floor, you have to repair it.”

By contrast, preparation takes much less effort than repairs, letting your crews finish projects faster and with less stress.

“Putting down any type of paper or drop cloth is like an insurance policy,” Jobe says. “If accidents happen, you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to fix it. You took care of it before it ever became an issue.”

2. Answer the important questions.

As a painter, you know no two jobs are the same—and that applies to prep as well. When you begin prepping for a new job, consider all the variables involved. These example questions may help you identify your teams’ gaps or needs before you ever get to the job site:

  • What is the surface we’re covering?
  • How long will this project last?
  • How long will our prep materials need to remain in place?
  • What coatings are we using?
  • What kind of flooring does this area have (e.g., carpet, hardwood)?
  • Are there other objects or furniture in this area that need to be covered?
  • What are we protecting against (e.g., drywall dust, paint)?
  • How much traffic will the work area experience?
  • Do we need impact resistance?

Different types of surface protection offer different benefits, so thinking through these questions will help you determine which protection you need.

3. Choose the right protection.

Considering those questions will guide you to choose the right protective materials for your project. Trimaco features a wide variety of surface protection products, all of which are stocked at Sherwin-Williams stores nationwide.

As a general rule, many contractors will use canvas drop cloths when they plan to use rollers and paper/board products when using paint sprayers. This is a good starting point for making a surface protection decision. Non-slip or butyl-backed canvas is often used on projects using brushes and rollers, particularly on projects with low foot traffic or limited time spent in one place. Canvas can also be used on exterior projects to protect shrubs and bushes.

Though paper is commonly used on spraying jobs, not all paper products function the same. Builder’s paper is ideal for low-risk situations, such as new construction before finishes are installed. For jobs where there’s more foot traffic or more expensive finishes to protect, Jobe and Costello recommend Trimaco X-Paper Flooring Protection over standard builder’s paper regardless of how you are applying the paint, due to the extra layer of protection and durability it offers.

“X-Paper is a higher quality paper product than builder’s paper, so it’s not going to tear as fast,” Costello says. “It’s going to last longer. Painters think they’re saving money buying builder’s paper, but if they have to tape it up or replace it every day because it keeps tearing, it’s actually costing them in time and resources.”

For those seeking an even stronger level of protection—particularly for high-end residential projects with expensive flooring and lots of ladders moving around—Trimaco offers X-Board Paint + Remodel Surface Protector. X-Board is durable enough that some contractors even reuse the same board for multiple jobs.

4. Apply with care

It’s important to consider what you are trying to protect and whether you have adequately achieved that protection. Make sure to apply your protection carefully to keep it in good condition and avoid leaving any exposed areas. If paper tears or breaks, be sure to tape it up. If your paper, board, or drop cloth comes up a few inches short of the baseboard—where drips are most prevalent—you haven’t properly applied your protection.

“The better you apply your surface protection, the longer it’s going to last and the better it will work,” Jobe says. “Sometimes you see inexperienced contractors who have put floor protection down, but they’re keeping it two or three inches off the baseboard.”

This is a problem, Jobe says, because “if you’re not putting it down completely, you’re still leaving yourself space where spillage can reach the floor. The quality of your products matters, but so does the quality of your installation.”

5. Don’t waste resources.

During a recent Pro Show in Dallas, Texas, Jobe says he heard contractors talk about their preparation methods—and some of them were extremely inefficient!

“Contractors talked about putting three layers of building paper down, because they know at least one layer is going to tear,” he recalls. “If they just invested in one roll of X-paper, it would give them all the protection they needed. While it’s a little more expensive than one layer of builder’s paper, it’s a lot cheaper than three!”

6. Honor your clients.

Leave your customers’ property in even better shape than it was when you arrived. That means exercising caution not just in the areas where you’re painting, but in any other rooms or hallways where your crew will be traveling.

“If you’re painting an upstairs or back room in a residential house, we would recommend that you use floor protection from the entrance of the project all the way to where the project actually starts,” Jobe says. “That way, if you do spill or get paint on the bottom of your shoes, that paint isn’t going to get tracked through the house. It makes it look like the contractor cares about the project, and they’re taking care of the house by putting in floor protection.”


Putting in the extra time and effort to properly protect your environments will not only save you hassle on spills but also set you apart from your competitors. After all, in the painting world, your business’ reputation has a huge effect on your bottom line. You already go the extra mile to give your customers a great experience. Apply that same attitude to protecting their floors and surfaces.