How to Stencil a Floor

This project has been on my “to do” list for waaaaay too long.

Over three years ago now we ripped up the terrible old carpet in my parent’s retreat (“retreat” sounds super fancy though it’s really just a modest sitting room adjoining their master bedroom) then pondered what we could do to cheaply and easily jazz-up the ugly sub-floor.

Floor Before

How to Stencil a Floor Before

Sub-floors are commonly plywood though ours was particle board (yellow tongue).
Oh, and please excuse the messy nature of the before pics! I didn’t anticipate I would be sharing them on my blog when I took those photos over three years ago!

I was so excited when my mum actually okayed painting it. Ah, the possibilities!

Long story short, at the time things were busy so we opted for something quick – a plain white base with simple green stripes.

It looked fine, though was never quite right for the space. Sometimes “fine” is perfectly okay, though in this case I felt the need to take it up a notch. Plus, I just wanted to have some creative fun!

So, around a year later I started looking into alternatives, and fell in love with a geometric trellis stencil I found on Etsy. If you follow me closely, you might recognise it from this Ikea curtain hack. Sadly, that particular stencil is no longer available however you can find similar ones if you search for “trellis stencil” or “moroccan stencil”.

Don’t ask me why it then took another two years to actually get around to re-doing the floor. I guess these ideas just need to marinate…for exceptionally long periods…in my case.

Anyhoo, I got there in the end, right? And it looks awesome (if I do say so myself)!

If you’ve ever wanted to paint your floor, here’s the process we used…

Although this time around we weren’t starting from scratch for the purpose of this tutorial I’ll detail everything from the beginning. 
As mentioned above, our floor was particle board. You may need/want to tailor my specified products to suit your particular substrate. 

How to Stencil a Floor - Prep


Basically, you just need to ensure that your floor is clean, smooth, even and ready to accept paint.

Depending on your substrate and how fussy you want to be, the type and degree of prep may differ. As mentioned earlier, our sub-floor was particle board (yellow tongue). This accepts most regular paints. It has an inherent ripply texture which we were happy to embrace and there are also a few subtle join lines though nothing major enough to warrant patching.  If your floor has large divots, obvious gaps or is just plain uneven, you may want to fill areas first using some purpose caulk.

We simply lightly sanded, vacuumed thoroughly then applied one coat of primer (Dulux 1 Step Acrylic Primer, Sealer & Undercoat) to help block stains, boost coverage and assist the base paint to adhere.

Painting a floor is much like painting a wall. We cut in around the edges first using a brush, then filled the rest using a fine nap roller.


DIY Stenciled Floor Paint


This is where you apply the base colour for your stencil.

You can get all types of fancy specialty paints, however we simply used regular wall paint (Accent Premium Low-Sheen in “Natural White” by Dulux). We applied two coats in the same fashion as the primer; cutting in with a brush around the edges first, then filling the rest using a fine nap roller.

Note: No matter how well you clean the floor and isolate the room, you’ll probably notice that fresh dust, hairs, small insects and other fine particles will magically appear to be smooshed in with your paint. Just keep a damp cloth on hand to wipe them away or pick them up as needed.


How to Stencil a Floor


The cool (and potentially fiddly) bit!

Getting started can feel daunting though the best advice I can offer is to think about your pattern placement then just go for it – in a careful, considered kinda way. It’s only paint so you can always re-do any major stuff-ups. Just remember that it doesn’t need to be perfect to look great.

To begin with we laid down the stencil at our desired starting point, making sure it was nice and straight, before taping the corners to avoid accidental shifting. Next, I evenly primed a small dense foam roller with regular acrylic wall paint (in a custom colour I mixed-up using left-overs we already had) before off-loading any excess on a folded old bed sheet. Then I began painting. Once one pass of the stencil was complete, I lifted it carefully then realigned it, making sure it was still straight and square. Then I taped it down once more and proceeded to paint the next area, continuing in this manner until the entire floor was complete.

The edges are a little tricky. The corners are especially hard. You can flex the stencil to almost 90 degrees however you don’t want to crease it. There are a few different ways you can tackle the edges however I found that it worked well to use a long narrow implement (such as a window squeegee, plaster float or simply a rigid sheet of card) to push the stencil into the edge and then a stencil brush to stipple up to the implement as best as possible. If you’re fortunate enough to have a second person as a helper, it does make things easier. You will almost certainly still have to hand fill some areas though if you take your time it won’t detract from the overall design.

Note: If you’re not sure where to start looking for stencils, simply have a Google around. eBay and Etsy are both great sources. As mentioned earlier, my particular stencil has now been discontinued however you can find similar ones if you search for “trellis stencil” or “moroccan stencil”.

Note: When deciding where to begin, keep in mind that the room may not be entirely square and try to avoid leaving slivers at the edges as these are hard to fill and can make the design look stunted. We started stenciling at the entrance and along under the widow to ensure the most visible area of flooring would look neat and square. You can measure and mark if you’re not confident with repositioning the stencil by eye and for a large room I would probably recommend this. Smaller spaces are a little more forgiving and there is some wriggle room for adjusting things if they start to get off-track.

Tip: I found that the paint dried super fast so didn’t notice any issues with smudging though you can use a hairdryer before lifting your stencil if you’re experiencing paint transference problems.


Non Yellowing Floor Sealer


To protect the paint, provide a subtle finishing sheen and make cleaning easier, we sealed our floor with three coats of clear acrylic (Cabot’s CFP Floor in Satin).

We first ensured the floor was clean of dust and marks, then applied the sealer in the same manner as the primer and base paint; cutting in around the edges first with a brush then rolling the rest using a fine nap roller.

If you use a specialty floor paint with a built-in sealer, you may not need to worry about this step.

Note: Most sealers will yellow over time to some extent, though some are by far worse than others. Do a bit of research, ask an expert and choose carefully.

Tip: As with the base coat, you will probably notice fresh specks of dust and hairs when applying the clear sealer so keep a damp rag on hand to wipe them away as required.

DIY Stenciled Floor Tutorial

DIY Painted Sub-Floor Tutorial

And that’s it! As you’ve probably garnered, painting a floor is really not that different to painting a wall. The main difference is ensuring the finish is durable enough to withstand use and can be easily cleaned. Definitely a DIY anyone can have a go at!

How to Paint and Stencil your Sub-Floor

As soon as I complete my parent’s living room (which should happen some time in the next week or two!) I will get onto finishing and sharing this space too.