What do you do when you have a small budget and 1100 square feet that need new flooring?
Why, you paint them, of course.
That wasn’t my original plan, but I’m so happy I did!
When I had my hardwood floors pulled up, my intent was to restore the terrazzo underneath.
However, it turns out that walls were removed at one point, and the floor beneath was unsalvageable. I needed a Plan B, and it needed to be inexpensive, non-toxic, eco-friendly and durable.
I’d been spending a ridiculous amount of time on Pinterest finding inspiration and ideas for my kitchen and floors, and my creative side was churning through possibilities.
I’d already been looking into painting my kitchen cabinets…would it be possible to paint my floors? And more importantly, would it be possible to paint them in a way that was actually beautiful?
I jumped online and started looking up options for painted floors.
That’s when I found this:
Gorgeous, right? And these are her plywood sub-floors! You can read about that at her site. [ Source ]
And I found this:
Also wood floors, but they used the same paint I was looking into, so this was inspiring. I love the weathered look.
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And then I found this:
These colors. I don’t know, but something about these floors just made my heart go all squishy and I knew this was what I wanted too. [ Source ]
No matter what we did, the first step was to skim coat the floors because I wasn’t kidding about what we found underneath.
Two skim coats later, this was my entire downstairs:
A clean canvas.
No. It isn’t perfectly smooth.
My contractor used a self-leveling compound, and it took two coats to get full coverage. I don’t mind that it’s imperfect, because it has character, and the irregularities give it an additional layer of hand-craftedness that I am in love with.
We were out of town while all this happened, and after a few days, we ventured back in with an actual plan.
I found a tutorial on painting a checkerboard pattern on the floor and I planned it out. Then I got the supplies to do it. Everything I used is non-toxic with zero VOCs (volatile organic chemicals). This was essential.
Enter: Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
If you haven’t heard of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint before, it is a godsend.
You can paint directly on virtually any surface with minimal prep, and no primer or sanding is needed-most of the time. Best of all, it’s easy to create your own perfect color. It mixes easily and the coverage is exceptional in my opinion.
I’d never used it, but I’d been studying up on it for weeks to paint my kitchen cabinets.
Luckily, there was a workshop in my area, so my best friend and I learned how to paint, wax and faux-finish stuff with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint all in one day. Awesome.
I purchased a few quarts of colors I thought might work on my floors, and headed home.
My floors get a lot of natural light throughout the day, but the UV film on my windows has a tint which makes colors behave oddly as the daylight changes. So, I mixed up several batches and created test patches near the largest window so I could check the colors throughout the day and evening.
I finally settled on these two colors:
Base color (dark): 1:1 French Linen to Old White.
Alt color (light): 1:3 French Linen to Old White.
We got to work and rolled out the base coat. It got a little complicated because we were mixing small batches at a time, and when we tried to mix a bigger batch, there was a slight color differential. It turned out fine and added to the hand=painted quality, but smaller batches are better (1-2 quarts).
The next day, my hubby helped me measure out my grid for the checkerboard. This actually took much longer than it should have because we didn’t really have a grip on what we were doing. Making a checkerboard on the diagonal on a floor with corners and wall breaks takes a bit of calculating, and a lot of patience. I broke down twice.
Once the grid was figured out, it was time to tape.
Oh boy. That was tedious and rough on the knees. My husband is quite good with numbers and tried to get me to try another method he’d come up with, but “I’d read my tutorials and was going to do it the way they said to do it” (turns out his way was MUCH faster).
Since this is not the step-by-step, I won’t go into all the details, but I will tell you that I was about a third through the dining/sitting room area and I had a melt down.
There was no way I could tape 1100 square feet of floor in any reasonable amount of time.
So, I did what any rational person would do: I went back to Pinterest and searched for other options besides the diagonal checkerboard floor.
That’s when I came across this:
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The clouds parted and the sunlight rained down from the heavens (I swear I heard angels singing too).
I sat down on the floor with a pad of paper and a pencil and sketched out my vision. This would not only work, but it would look awesome! We ripped up tape and laid out new borders, measured and re-taped.
It only took a couple hours, and when we were done, it looked like this:
I was so excited, I could hardly sleep.
The next morning, I mixed up my paint and systematically painted every square and line. I wished I’d timed it, but it didn’t take long, and by the time I finished the next section, I could pull up the tape on the last section. Brilliant!
It was worth every bit of effort, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I love the chalky matte finish of this paint, but these floors needed to be sealed.
Annie Sloan has a Lacquer product that you can use on floors, which comes in a liter size container, has a mostly matte finish, and covers about 110 sq feet.
The retail price is $55 for this, and there’s a warning not to use it in areas that get a lot of water.
So, I needed a more durable and economical solution that wouldn’t ruin the beautiful look I’d just created.
We spent two days researching sealer options and narrowed it down to three kinds and did patch tests on the floor where my new kitchen cabinets would be later installed. I painted and then sealed it with each of the sealers, then I dribbled red wine, yellow mustard and ketchup on each area.
The more matte the finish, the quicker it stained. That was a bummer.
In the end, I went with Varathane High Traffic Satin finish.
It has virtually no odor, is non-toxic, water based, and dries pretty clear (most polyurethanes will yellow the color to some degree). It was the most reasonably priced, changed the color of my floors the least of the three, was the most stain resistant and it looks AWESOME.
And as you can see, the shine is mild enough that it enhances the floors instead of taking away from them. It’s also amazing for sock skating.
In the end, we have beautiful checkered floors on the diagonal spanning the width of my dining and sitting area. They have a natural sort of border that really separates that space from the living room visually. And against the exposed brick, I love it!! You can read the Step-by-Step on how I painted checkered floors here.
We did the living room and breakfast nook in wide painted stripes.
So easy, and it created that casual coastal look I wanted. I actually think it’s better like this rather than having the diagonal squares across the entire downstairs—it makes it feel less formal. You can read the step-by-step on how we painted wide stripes here.
We left the kitchen floors blank because I hadn’t decided what to do with them. We did seal them in that plain grayish base color while the kitchen got installed.
So, there you have it: my hand painted floors right here. Non-toxic, hand-crafted and budget-friendly.
What do you think?
Have you ever thought about painting your floors? Or have you painted your floors? I’d love to hear your story.
**Update: After a year, my floors still look awesome and are so easy to maintain. I love them!! They are holding up quite well, and my guests and family regularly compliment them.
I don’t ever worry about spills; even wine, coffee and sauces have all cleaned up easily. And they’re still awesome for sock skating. ????