According to the National Floor Safety Institute, walkway surfaces are responsible for 50% of slip-and-fall accidents. Luckily, there’s a way to make your walkways less trecherous.

Nick O’Keefe, owner of Oak City Coatings, says adding sand to paint can increase traction, preventing tumbles on slick decking, driveways or porches and making your home safer for seniors. “You can also add sand to wall paint to give different faux finishes and textures,” he says.

We asked experts about when to use cost-effective, DIY-able sand texture for traction or aesthetics, how best to apply it, and what alternatives exist.

How To Add Sand To Paint

To achieve an effective texture for walls or traction for floors, follow these tips.

Select suitable sand

Don’t grab a bucket of sand from the beach. “Using sand from the outdoors adds dirt and contaminants to your paint,” says Nick Slavik, owner of Nick Slavik Painting and Restoration Co. “And the size of the granules are generally too large.”

Overly large grains won’t adhere as well to a wall or floor and can look unsightly. On flooring, they can also be uncomfortable underfoot.

Slavik says some companies make silica sand additives for paint. “They are a uniform granule size and clean,” he says.

Fine sand marketed for use on walls can add subtle aesthetic texture, but you need a coarser grain additive marketed for use on floors for traction. Slavik says manufacturers will recommend the amount to add depending on the use.

Pick appropriate paint

When adding sand for traction, Slavik recommends using specific floor paints for added durability in high-traffic areas. Choose a mold-resistant exterior paint formula for wooden decking or another outdoor surfaces.

Note: O’Keefe says adding sand doesn’t work well with semi-transparent stains. “These penetrating stains work their way into the wood, leaving the texture on top,” he says.

For textured walls, Slavic says “use a high-quality, premium wall paint for good coverage and usability.” Water-based acrylic paints work well for blending and adhesion.

Properly prep the surface

Prepare walls or floors for painting by removing peeling coatings, repairing surface imperfections, cleaning and adding a coat of primer. This provides an even finish and maximum adhesion so it lasts a long time.

Mix in the sand

Thorough mixing is key. “Otherwise, you can run into an uneven texture application due to the sand clumping together,” O’Keefe says.

Paige NeJame, owner of CertaPro Painters, South Shore and Boston, says improper mixing can also lead to sand coming loose after application.

How much sand you add depends on the desired finish and the sand type. “The manufacturer of silica sand additives will have recommendations,” Slavik says. In general guide, add about one part sand to every four parts of paint. Too much sand creates problems with paint adhesion.

“Have the paint store add the silica additive and shake it using their industrial paint shaker,” Slavik says. Once home, stir with a paint stirrer or drill attachment. “While using, stir every few minutes to keep the sand from settling,” Slavik says. Test the mixture before applying it across the entire surface.

Mixing can be messy. Place a plastic sheet, dropcloth or old newspapers under the paint can to protect the surrounding surfaces and furniture from spillages.

Apply the paint

Slavik says it’s important to use premium brushes or rollers and to keep a “wet edge” when working on walls or flooring. “This is where you [brush or] roll only sections that you can do while the paint is still wet,” he says. “This gives you a professional, even finish with minimal lap marks or shine differences.”

Apply a second coat of plain paint

Add a topcoat once the first coat is fully dry. Using a sand-free coat of paint on walls or floors seals in the sand, extends the life of the paint job and provides a more even finish.

When adding sand, finishing with a coat of clear floor sealant provides the same advantages as an extra coat of paint. It also offers extra moisture- and stain-resistant properties for high traffic surfaces. Be sure to select a sealer suitable for use with the paint and surface material.

The texture on flooring eventually wears away underfoot, meaning reapplication is typically required every two to three years.

Does It Work To Sprinkle Sand on Wet Paint?

Yes, you can sprinkle sand onto wet paint for traction.

O’Keefe recommends the “broadcast method” for an even textured result on floors. He says this involves “applying a coat of paint in smaller sections and, while wet, broadcasting the sand onto the wet area.” The preferred method of most floor installers, O’Keefe says this works well with heavy or coarse textures and lets you lay as much texture as you like.

You can sprinkle the sand by hand from a bucket. However, most professionals rely on specialist aggregate sprayers for even distribution. These products are available for rent from some home improvement retailers.

Other Materials To Add To Paint for Sand Texture

Sand is not the only thing you can add to paint for traction or texture. Consider the following options.

Perlite

“Perlite particles are light and don’t settle as quickly as sand does, making them easier to mix and apply evenly,” NeJame says. This makes them a convenient choice for texture on walls.

While perlite’s less-abrasive texture is more comfy under bare feet than sand, Nejame says it might not offer as much traction. If you’re considering it as a non-slip flooring option, test a sample before buying in bulk and covering a large floor.

Joint compounds

Adding joint compound, made from a mix of gypsum and limestone, creates a thick textural paint that can mimic a decorative, marble-like Venetian plaster finish. It doesn’t have anti-skid properties, so don’t add it to paint for traction purposes.

Other ground materials

“Other ingredients you can add to paint are textures like ground walnut shells or aluminum oxide,” O’Keefe says. Both of these coarse products can be used for texture or traction.

For texture on walls, you could also try partially soluble coffee grounds or insoluble cornmeal. Just keep in mind these can tint light paint colors. Never select soluble additives, which will completely dissolve in the paint.

Other Ways To Gain Traction on Surfaces

If you don’t fancy the messy job of mixing sand or other additives into paint, there are other options for creating non-slip surfaces.

Non-slip paint formulas: “It’s really best to buy paint that comes pre-mixed with an anti-skid additive,” NeJame says. It’s convenient and provides an even and durable finish when you want traction.Anti-slip deck strips or textured tape: “The narrow non-slip strips are often made of fiberglass and come in colors that blend with the deck’s paint,” NeJame says. Alternatively, you can apply tape (often to stair treads). “This is low cost and more suitable for commercial applications where aesthetics aren’t the primary goal,” NeJame says. “We’ve installed these with glow-in-the-dark properties for extra safety.Textured rubberized coatings: NeJame says these adhere to the surface, providing a non-slip effect.Area rugs: O’Keefe recommends these. They’re commonly applied to indoor surfaces, but outdoor rugs for decks or porches are available.

About the Experts

Paige NeJame is the owner of CertaPro Painters. They provide interior and exterior painting and carpentry services in the Boston suburbs and along the South Shore of Massachusetts.Nick O’Keefe owns Oak City Coatings, a paint company in Raleigh, North Carolina. They service interior and exterior painting for residential and commercial projects.Nick Slavik is the owner of Nick Slavik Painting and Restoration Co, a premier painting contractor in New Prague, Minnesota.Read More