DIY Painted Stencil Tile Floors TUTORIAL

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You’ve, like, never even heard of this right!?

Let me just say right out of the gate: In the off chance that you really have never heard of this idea, I cannot take credit for the genius behind it. It’s merely another inexpensive and easy solution (honest) that I highjacked from the interwebs to salvage bad, builder-grade tiles that I was downright itchy to fix! There are easily a dozen painted stencil floor tutorials all over the blogosphere. I probably read them all.  You should too because everyone’s floor is different, and therefore so is the approach. Plus, people work hard to put this shizz together for you guys so GO READ IT mmkay?

Listen y’all. I am a practical reasoner. I dug through the tutorials, read the pros and cons of certain products, and made my own decisions based on what I thought would work best for our powder room floor. I chose NOT to prime my floors because they aren’t super porous and they had a rough enough texture I figured the paint would adhere well. Turns out I was spot on. Who knew? I also choose to protect them with a waterbased poly despite some warnings that it could turn the floors yellow. My bathroom does not have a window and therefore the floors get no direct sunlight. Everything I found suspected that sunlight was the primary cause for yellowing.

I had a lot questions about how these floors would hold up. Spoiler alert: They’re doing great! However the caveat, and reason I chose this space as my trial run, is that this powder room gets only minor foot traffic compared to our other three bathrooms. It is primarily used as a guest toilet.  We do have one paint chip right out of the gate where my husband dropped a plumbers wrench during the vanity install. Even now I’m rolling my eyes but I kept my cool. I didn’t even swear at him (outloud). I’ll chat about this a bit more later, as well as what I’ll do differently the next time I give it a go.


Here’s the Step-by-Step

Pre Step: Take a ‘before’ picture of your space because you honestly won’t even believe your own eyes at the end of this. Your friends won’t believe it either when you tell them how bad they used to be and you’ll for sure want to be like, ‘See?? Crazy, Right?! I told you so.’

Step 1: Clean the floors until you see your reflection. I used the uber toxic TSP product recommended by basically everyone, and a little bit of elbow grease. Make sure to wear a mask and properly ventilate the room you’re working in to salvage your brain cells! I used a flathead screwdriver and a razor blade to pick off the random foreign bits, like paint splatter from the ceiling I rolled the week before, and the unidentifiable gooey stuff that one sometimes finds in a bathroom. I don’t want to talk about it. After two full TSP scrub down sessions, I wiped the floors clean two more times with warm water. These suckers were downright shiny! But still ugly.

Step 2: Prep the space. You’ll want to either tape around the bottom, or just remove all together, both your toilet base and your baseboards. Fortunately I was already planning to replace my baseboards so I removed them before cleaning. It ended up saving me loads of time and I’ll explain why later. If I do this project again, I would 100% take the time to remove the toilet too (which I didn’t do.) A flat, open surface just makes everything exponentially easier. Also, nobody should be as intimate with their shitter as I was with mine. It ain’t right.

Step 3: Apply 3-4 coats of your base color Chalk Paint allowing for 2 hours of drying time between coats. I intended to use Anne Sloan Paint as recommended by Helmick Hacienda, but Lowe’s didn’t sell this brand so I used the Behr Designer Collection Chalk Paint and I loved it! (Side note: While the paint color is mixed onsite at the hardware store, it is not customizable; You’ll need to pick from a selection of colors available. Fortunately there is a pretty good mix) I used a standard paint brush to tackle the grout lines first, and then rolled over each individual tile with a foam roller while the grout lines were still wet. I found it easiest to paint 4-5 tiles at a time, then move on to another section of the floor.  Ensuring proper drying time is a crucial step because if the floor is still tacky, the paint will begin to pull away when you attempt your next coat. I let the floors cure overnight at this stage to make sure they were stencil ready.

Step 4: Align your stencil with a middle tile taking care to ensure that there is no overlap, and the corner guides line up with the surrounding tiles. Tape down your stencil on all 4 corners to keep it from slipping. Many tutorials also recommend using a spray adhesive to hold the stencil in place and minimize bleed, however I chose to skip this step. #lazy

There are a couple of tool options for painting your stencil; Stencil brushes work well for detailed patterns, especially if you’re using multiple colors. Foam brushes can be a great option for a more basic pattern and will make the job go much faster.  I used what I had on hand, and therefore opted for the roller. There are a few important tips at this point that I want to be sure to mention:

  • I tried to go in the same direction with each roll versus rolling back and forth to prevent excessive bleeding under the stencil.
  • Check your work by pulling back one corner and taking a quick peek. I preferred the crisp, bold look of two coats of paint, but if you prefer a more worn or distressed look, you may find that one coat is sufficient. Fortunately chalk paint dries relatively fast so I could roll on one thin coat, wait 5ish minutes (or impatiently blast it with a hair dryer when things got desperate) and roll on a second thin coat before moving on to the next tile. Remember, there is no wrong answer here! It just comes down to preference (and patience!)

Step 5 (the one you get to avoid if you’re not a bullhead): Stenciling around toilets, room edges and in corners is like trying to juggle frogs; Despite your best efforts to keep things under control, theres always some rogue piece of plastic jumping out of place, jacking the whole thing up, resulting in multiple swears.

One tip I read said to start with the biggest surface area left and slowly cut away your stencil so it fits in all the little nooks and crannies. Because of the simple striped pattern I chose, (‘Nola’ from Cutting Edge Tiles) I found that rolling as close as I could to the obstacle and then finishing the stripped pattern with a paint brush was the easiest. It litereally took F O R E V E R. I did (unintentionally) save myself a lot of heartache by removing my baseboards ahead of time because I could get close enough to the wall that anything I missed was easily covered by the new basebord. Thank you sweet baby Jesus. In the end I only had to trim off two sides in an effort to get a good corner piece that I could use in all four corners.

Step 6: Allow your masterpiece to dry and cure overnight. Take an epsom salt bath, massage your sore, tired knees, say a prayer that this blessed floor can actually hold up to the shenannigans of your active family of (insert number here), and cry yourself to sleep with sweet, sweet relief that the worst is over.

Step 7,076,372 (I think): Wake up in the morning, pour some coffee, wipe the sleep from your eyes, and mentally/emotionally prepare to apply several coats of a water-based, matte polyurethene whilst shuffling around on your bruised and busted knees. You’re so sick of these effing floors right now, but you still have an inexplicable love for them nonetheless; It is exactly like parenting. As with each coat of paint, allow 1-2 hours of dry time between poly coats. I rolled 3 thin coats with a clean foam roller and I could absolutly feel the integrity of the surface vastly improving with each coat. In hindsight, I probably should have done two additional coats just to ‘seal the deal.’ [HA! I love a good pun!] Someday I’ll fix Frank’s little ‘wrench situation’ and throw those last two coats on.

Step 8: Grab all living people in your general vicinity and drag them to the spot you’ve just spent the last seven years of your life. Stare, mouth agape, at your beautiful new baby. It is so.damn.good. You can’t believe you pulled this off! You will be showered in praise and glory. Soak it up DIY Kings and Queens. Soak it aaaalllllll up!

Pro Tips and Things I would do Differently:

  • Removing the baseboards (because I was replacing them anyway) ended up saving me so much time. Next time, I’ll remove the toilet too. Yes, it will be worth it. Let’s just say I got REAL familiar with my loo and found myself in questionable positions; A whole new set of cheeks (read my actual face) pressed firmly against the porcelain. I could live another 10 lifetimes and not miss sharing that level of intamacy with a place my whole family does their dirtiest work.
  • Surviving the tediuous monotony with a good Podcast and an ice cold Colorado Microbrew is highly recommended. I’m pretty sure you’re not going to learn this solid gold tip from another tutorial. This of course is merely a suggestion, but it certainly promises to keep things more managable during the *almost* makeout sesh with your toilet bowl.
  • Keep your Stencil Clean: I quickly learned that after 4 coats of paint (two coats, two tiles worth) the stencil needed to be rinsed. Paint does build up on the surface making it thicker and it becomes harder for the paint on your roller to reach the desired spot on the floor. I rinsed my stencil every two tiles, dried it on an old towel, and got back to work.
  • Buy the second stencil. Every tutorial will tell you to do this. I didn’t want to spend another $20. Instead I spent 20 hours cajoling my one and only; washing, waiting, rolling and lamenting about how I would just be a better listener next time around.

That’s it y’all! Thats all she wrote! What do you think?

Get to work.

Thanks for being here!