I often surf the web trying to find inspiration for furniture ideas and my home improvement projects. Last year we bought a smaller home which needed quite a bit of updating. We added a bedroom, painted the entire house, gave the fireplace a facelift, set up my new workshop and much more. Although it’s coming along, it still seems like there’s so much to do. One of our home’s biggest eyesores was a very outdated entryway complete with 90’s era sponge painted walls, mosaic glass door inserts and forest green tile. Our main floor powder room is also part of the same space and it had beautiful apple red painted accent walls, to no doubt accentuate the beautiful forest green tile. And if the colour of the tile wasn’t bad enough, the grout had never been sealed and twenty years of grime had worked itself into the grout lines making it especially gross. I couldn’t wait for it to go!
I changed the lighting almost immediately after we moved in. Our initial plan was to remove and replace the tile this upcoming summer, do some sort of woodwork on the walls (shiplap or molding) and remove the doors’ glass inserts but summer is still a ways away and I’m totally impatient. I wanted to try something new and painting the tile seemed like an amazing possibility. A quick search online brought up quite a few posts with some pretty impressive results.
I read many mixed reviews from several different DIYers on the subject. Some claimed it worked beautifully while others warned not to do it. Since we were already planning on replacing the tile, I decided to test it out myself. Nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Since I wanted a bright white foyer I thought a stenciled floor could give this space a little dimension and visual interest. I found a great mid-century pattern (Tsunagi tile stencil) on Etsy. It’s stylish, simple and you can order it made to measure for your tile size. It took approximately 3 weeks for them to arrive from the UK. The kit came with two full sized tile stencils and two quarter sized stencils for the harder to reach, awkward corners. Here’s an up close shot at the pattern.
Next I chose my primer and paint. After years of testing out primers there wasn’t much to think about here. I would use my old faithful; shellac. It’s an amazing primer and it’s so easy to work with. Drying time is minimal and since I had used it on hardware before, I was pretty sure it would easily adhere to a non-porous surface like tile. Choosing the paint was a little more complicated.
The paint I used not only had to stick to the tile, but it also had to harden to a shell-like protection. It had to withstand constant wear, cleaning products, water and everything else we might bring in on our shoes and boots in a Canadian climate with tons of snow. Ten years ago I would have used oil paint. Since that’s no longer possible, I went with Sherwin Williams’, Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel. It dries to a hard finish, is washable and unlike oil paint, shouldn’t yellow. The colours I chose were Online for the base and Pure White for the stenciling. They look amazing together! Really happy with this combo.
Of course, it goes without saying that the prep work is essential to being successful with a project like this. I can’t stress this enough. Take the extra time to make sure your surface is ready for all your about to put on it. You’ll thank yourself later. I started off by taping all the baseboards then I vacuumed. Once complete, I sanded the tile surface. I had both my sanders out for this job. Normally my go-to is my orbital but for this job I preferred the palm sander. I used 120 grit to just dull the tile a little. You don’t need to go crazy here. Once I was done, I washed the entire floor with tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) then followed up with a good rinse water mopping, with a touch more of TSP thrown in for good measure. For those of you who haven’t heard of TSP before it’s a cleaner/de-greaser that in my opinion, gives you a good base to start priming. FYI, I use this on furniture also.
Once the prep work was finished, I started priming. I bought Zinsser Shellac in white and brought it with me to Sherwin Williams when I bought the paint. I asked them to tint it the same colour as the base coat. By doing this, I avoided having to give two coats of the base coast paint. Shellac is $24.99/quart and the paint was $44.19/quart. Seemed logical to me. Shellac primer dries almost immediately (20 min to touch and 45 minutes to recoat) so by the time I finished the entire floor, I was able to go ahead and start with the base coat. Both primer and paint were rolled on with a 4-inch paint roller. I also had a paint brush for the corners and sides. The primer and base coat steps were fairly straightforward and took a couple of hours to complete. Next came the stenciling.
I had worked with stencils before and had a pretty good idea of how much patience I’d need. It’s a tricky process and it helps if your organized. Start somewhere where you’re not painting yourself into a corner and try to find some sort of pattern to follow. You’ll see in the photos how I organized myself. Here’s the process I followed:
- Center and tape all four corners of the stencil to the tile
- Roll a minimal amount of paint onto the roller. This is incredibly important: Think of it as building layers. If you put too much paint, you’ll have bleeding under the stencil and then you’ll spend a ton of time (like I did) touching up your tiles. Remember, minimal amount of paint, always!
- Take the next stencil (skip a tile here so as to not overlap on already wet paint) roll on paint
- Go back to the first tile and roll second layer of paint
- Remove stencil from that tile
- Wipe off underside of stencil of any excess paint (you don’t want any marks on the next tile)
- Repeat steps 4-6 on the second tile and repeat endlessly (or what might seem as endlessly)
Not going to lie here, the whole project was pretty intense. It was time intensive, physically exerting (sitting, kneeling, bending days on end) it was even mentally challenging. At some points in the process I thought it would never end. Keep in mind the area was quite large and I only had two full consecutive days to do the work without stopping. The touch ups took quite a few of my evenings after work. I would say from beginning to end I worked inconsistently for about three weeks. Was it worth it? Without a doubt!
It’s been a little over a month and the paint should almost be cured by now. We are not giving this area any special treatment. We are living hard! If this is something we’re going to keep, it must pass all of the tests. So far there has only been one minor incident: I scraped the floor in the powder room (it wasn’t completely dry) with an old step ladder that had some jagged edges. It was my own fault and honestly, with this pattern, it was easy to fix. I re-primed the area, touched up with a little paint and a small artist paint brush and you can’t even tell. We’ve brought in snow, salt and dirt with our boots/shoes and the tiles are holding up beautifully. Even if it wears a little, we’d still love it. I think this pattern and the colours would work well with a distressed look. Of course, I’ll give you updates as time goes by.
Finally, you’re probably wondering what others think? Other than thinking I’m crazy, they’re surprised that the floor is painted and then incredulous at how good they look. Even we have a hard time believing that with such little money, we were able to give this whole area a complete makeover. Isn’t paint magical? Would love to hear what you think. Think this project is in your future?