April 2018–February 2019
Yes, that is an absolutely wild range of dates, but hey, full disclosure is what I’m all about. But no, I did not work on painting the kitchen floor for eleven months straight. There was a lot of stopping and starting and working on other stuff at the same time. That said, any normal person would have finished this project in about a week, tops. I, however, like to drag things out to the point of absurdity, probably for psychological reasons I don’t really want to look into.
And in case you needed a better BEFORE look at the floor I’m going to be dealing with in this post, just scroll up a little. It only gets better from here, thankfully.
So. Why paint and stencil the floor in the first place? Why not just put in new tile? Well, there are a few reasons. One is that we knew we didn’t have time to demo and re-tile the floor before moving in, and I, hilariously, thought that I could quickly paint the floor in a weekend and call it an easy, temporary fix. Hah! HAH. The other reason is the cost. Realistically, even if I do the tiling myself, we’d still need to pay someone to do the demo work and haul away the old tile. Then there’s the need to install a new plywood subfloor to tile over. Then there’s the cost of the tile itself. And the grout. And the sealant. And all of the other stuff you wind up buying over the course of a project that makes it cost more than you can really afford. There’s also a bonus third reason, which is really just that I thought it would be fun. And it was!
Step One: Sand.
Before painting almost anything, you’ve gotta sand it. When you’re painting something non-porous like ceramic tile, you really need to sand it. You need to make sure that there’s no gloss left at all, and ideally you want to give the surface the slightest bit of “tooth” for the paint to grab onto.
I used a mouse sander, which worked fine. Ideally you’d use something with a little more heft like an orbital sander, but if you’re sanding, you’re sanding. I recommend 220 grit for sanding ceramic tiles—it’s enough grit to remove the gloss, but not so much that you wind up with a rough mess. Be sure you have extra sandpaper!
Step Two: Clean.
Clean, clean, and then clean some more. Aside from removing every last bit of grease and grime that might interfere with the adhesion of your paint, you need to make sure that there is absolutely NO dust left from your sanding anywhere. I vacuumed first to get the bulk of the dust up, then scrubbed with a bucket of hot, soapy water and a scrub brush. Finally, I mopped the entire floor twice with TSP substitute.
Then I let it dry overnight, which took a huge amount of restraint on my part. I’m not good at letting stuff dry overnight.
Step Three: Paint!
Before you close the page and unfollow me forever for painting without priming first, LISTEN: You don’t need to prime before using chalk paint. Seriously. I used Rust-Oleum Chalked in Charcoal, which reads as black. This was my first time using chalk paint, but I knew that it’s supposed to have excellent adhesion properties, that it dries very quickly (with no odor), and that the finish is extremely smooth and flat. I didn’t want ANY brush/roller marks on the floor, and chalk paint will give you that kind of result.
I used a brush first to cut in around the perimeter of the room and on the grout lines, because I was concerned about really getting the paint to fill in every little crevice. This went quickly—maybe half an hour for the whole room. I gave that another half hour to dry completely, then used a small foam roller to fill the tiles. FUN!!! It was so satisfying to watch the faux-rustic tiles disappear, and velvety black engulf the floor in their place.
I did two coats, allowing 30 minutes of drying time (that’s what Rust-Oleum recommends, I swear).
Step Four: Seal.
Because chalk paint has an extremely matte finish (and is therefore prone to massive amounts of scuffing), you need to seal it. Some people use wax to seal chalk-painted furniture, but because this is a kitchen floor, I used polyurethane. I used Minwax Polycrylic (again applied with a small foam roller) because I already had a can on-hand, and it worked really well.
Now, if you’re planning to stencil your floor, you might wonder if you should wait to seal it. I thought about that, but I knew that the amount of crawling around on the floor I’d be doing while stenciling would definitely damage the finish. So I did one coat of polyurethane at this point, just to give it some protection. If you’re not planning to stencil your floor, go ahead and do three coats of poly at this point and call it done.
I let the poly dry for about, uh, a month and half. You do not need to wait a month and a half, but you should at least wait overnight.
Step Five: Stencil time!
Unless you want to freehand the whole floor, you’re going to need a stencil. There are many many many stencil sellers out there, and lots of them are happy to make custom stencils and custom sizes. I bought mine from Pearl Design Studio. They don’t seem to have the exact stencil I used anymore, but they have a gazillion other options.
My tiles are 19.75″, which meant that in order for the stencil to line up with the actual 1/4″ grout lines (which you obviously want if you’re going for a realistic tile effect), I had to get a stencil that was either 19.75″…or 9.75″, which would allow for four stencils within each tile (subtracting 1/4″ for the fake grout line). Does that make any sense? If you’re planning to do this and you’re confused, let me know.
Anyway, I got two identical stencils. I figured this would save me a lot of time while I waited for the stencil to dry after washing the paint off, and also make painting the partial tiles around the perimeter of the room a little easier since I could cut one of the stencils down.
Paint-wise, I just used the same paint I used for the cabinets (Valpsar Du Jour and Farrow & Ball Pink Ground). Honestly, I think just about any kind of paint would be fine as long as it’s suited to using with a roller. It’s going to get sealed with polyurethane, anyway.
There was absolutely no way I could take photos of the actual stenciling, but it went like this:
1. Tape stencil in place.
2. Using a “dry” roller (meaning absolutely no excess paint at all), lightly roll paint over the areas you want to fill in.
3. CAREFULLY remove stencil.
4. Carry stencil to sink, rinse off paint, and leave on a towel to dry.
5. Tape second stencil in place, but not right next to the fresh paint you just rolled on.
6. Roll on paint, and repeat. OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER.
7. Then do it all again with a second color, if desired.
8. Use tiny brushes to do touch-ups.
9. Weep. Eat something. Apologize to your knees.
THIS is what took me so many months to finish, because I was a fool and didn’t set aside a block of a couple of full days to just GET IT DONE. Don’t be like me. Give yourself 3-4 days and do all of it at once. You’ll be fine eating Taco Bell (who are really going the extra mile right now, by the way) for a long weekend.
Step Six: Seal (again).
Now that all of the stenciling is done, roll on THREE COATS of polyurethane. Read the instructions on the can and let it dry for the right amount of time between coats. Put up baby gates to keep the babies and the dogs out. Negotiate with your cats so they don’t jump over the gate (I assume this is how things work with cats—you have to cut a deal).
Do the edges (or anywhere there’s a partial/cut tile) last. Then you can gradually and strategically cut down one of your stencils to do those last bits. Save your other (uncut) stencil in case you need it again someday.
The paint has held up really well. There are some scrapes from when we had to drag appliances across the floor (and from the countertop demo) that I need to touch up, but that’s not a big deal. Honestly, unless you’re doing something that’s obviously destructive, it’s surprisingly durable.
I LOVE THE STENCILED FLOOR. It looks a million times better than I could have hoped, and it really does fool pretty much everyone who sees the kitchen. I have no desire to re-tile the kitchen anytime soon, and that’s a good feeling. I’m sure someday we will, but this is a very good longterm stopgap.
You’re going to have to wait on an official “reveal” photo because I don’t want to leak any KITCHEN SPOILERS, but take a look back at these before photos. This is a MAJOR improvement. What a relief!
If you have any questions about steps in the process I might have missed, ask away!
FYI: I signed a contract with an ad management company for the first time ever. I’m not sure how this will play out over time, but for an initial time period, I’m required to let them do whatever they want with ad positioning. Once that period of time is up, I will likely reduce the number of ads. Also, I’ve blocked ads for dairy, meat, gambling, get rich quick schemes, guns, hunting, religion, sensationalism, tobacco, and weight loss—so it’ll probably just be a bunch of ads for, like, sandals and air freshener.