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Saturday, February 27, 2016

how to paint a hardwood floor

I had a hunch when we bought our house, that there would be hardwoods under the carpet upstairs.  It was a very happy day in our house when we pulled up a corner of the carpet to discover my hunch was correct.  I did a little dance.  Ok, a big dance.  That maybe my husband caught on camera.  That I'm definitely not sharing here.  

Then, I got really excited, and my wheels started turning to ripping up carpet and refinishing floors and adding charm back into our upstairs.  And Ryan did his slow blink, which is basically his equivalent of rolling his eyes without rolling his eyes.  He knows that when I get an idea, there is basically no stopping me.  Come hell or high water, I will make it happen.  

I never had the chance to prepare a nursery for our daughter when she was born. We had a one bedroom apartment, and she lived in our room the first 14 months of her life.  Then, we moved to a two bedroom apartment before our son, Leif, was born, but he also shared our room because his sister was such a poor sleeper that there was no way I'd have them share a room and risk a baby waking her up at night.  

At the time we bought our current house, Leif was 6 months old, and for the first time I had a baby that got his very own room.  Unleash the mama bear.  Postpartum nesting was on!  

I devised a plan to paint the hardwoods upstairs, along with repainting trim, wall, ceiling, and the radiator, stripping and staining the beams, etc, etc, etc. But for the sake of simplicity, we'll just talk about the floor in this post.  Aside from marrying my husband and birthing my children, this might be my proudest accomplishment.  I'm not kidding.  

For the sake of wow factor, here is a before picture of the room...

And here's the after...

It's amazing what a little imagination, paint, and elbow grease will do for you!  So, let's start at the beginning of the floor process, shall we?  It was a huge undertaking, but I just took it one step at a time, and it probably took me a month to complete the whole thing.  

The first thing I up the carpet.  I just took a box cutter to slice a 3 to 4 foot section off and started peeling it off the floor.  Once the carpet was completely removed, I went back with a rubber mallet and a small crow bar to remove the wooden tack strips, following up with removing any leftover staples with needle nose pliers.  Yes, my hands were extremely sore the next day! 

Part of our floor had been previously painted, but the wood itself was in miraculously great shape.  We had two and a half inch fir planks in pristine condition.  Let me just thank the Lord above for that one.  That could have gone terribly in the other direction.

Then, I moved on to prepping the floor.  I swept up an absolutely appalling and disgusting amount of dirt and dust that was under the carpet.  It made me never want to have carpet in my home ever again!  Then I used my hand sander to sand down some parts that had a weird adhesive, big blotches of paint, or anything that wasn't smooth on the floor.  

After that, I mopped it a couple of times with a half vinegar half water solution and allowed it to completely dry for a day.

Time to paint!!  I used the off the shelf white Behr Porch and Patio Floor Paint, in hopes that it would be more durable.  Three coats later I was happy with the coverage.

First coat:

Second coat:

Third coat:

Then, my friends, the hard part.  I like to complicate things in life.  A white floor would have been lovely, but I had visions of something grander and a lot more fun.  So, I did my research, followed a few tutorials, and came up with a plan.

Start with the wall opposite the door because that is what will be seen first and most.  The pattern will look best if it ends in perfect half-square triangles on the most visible wall.   Decide how large you want your diamond.  I decided that I'd like to have 4 across, so we measured the room and divided by four to get our measurement.  Then mark the length of that measurement from corner to corner along  wall opposite the door.

Now, hang with me here, this next part might seem confusing, but if you just do it one step at a time, it'll make sense.

Measure the distance between the first two marks on the floor divide by two to find the center point and mark it with a pencil.  Using that same measurement that you just figured out from the center to the edge, use a framing square to draw a reference line perpendicular to the center point (this will be the tip of your diamond).  Now connect the end of the reference line to the corner using the straight edge of your framing square and draw that line.  This is the first side of your diamond.   Then connect the end of the reference line to the other corner and you have the other side drawn.  Then you can do the same to create the other three diamonds.

Using your straight edge, follow the angle of that first line you drew all the way to the other side of the room.  Do this for all the lines of your original four diamonds. So basically, you end up drawing straight lines across the room, not drawing diamonds, but your straight lines will intersect and create diamonds.  I wish I had taken more photos of this part, but we were too busy trying to get 'er done.  You can see faint lines in the photo below.

Too keep from getting confused in the taping and painting, mark each diamond that will remain white with an X of painters tape.

Now get your tape on.  Tape the outside edges of the diamonds that will be painted.  I used a painters tape made for wood floors (also from Home Depot).  To get perfectly square corners use a putty knife.  Where you want your tape to end, line the edge of your putty knife up with the pencil line on the floor and press firmly on top of the tape.  Then, rip the tape off using the edge of your putty knife as a guide.  This took a bit of practicing, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly.  Go back over that whole line of tape pressing down with your putty knife to seal the edges really well to the floor.

Time to paint...again!  

Here a quick tip for you.  I had about half of my gallon of porch and patio floor paint left after I painted the base coat white.  Instead of buying a whole new gallon of floor paint, I took that can back to Home Depot and had them re-tint the paint gray for me, which they did for free.  For this project, I used the wall color and had them darken it by 50%. 

To minimize seepage under the tape, brush the paint from the tape inward and then fill in the middle with paint. 

And yes, it took me three coats of gray as well.  

The moment of truth comes when you peel that tape off the floor.  It really comes to life then.

No matter how careful you are, there will still be some gray that seeped under the tape, especially if your floor has ridges and cracks like mine does.  I just took some white craft paint and a small paint brush to cover any gray seepage that was noticeable.

And last to protect all that hard work, I did two more coats of water-based Bona Floor Poly.  I chose water-based because sometimes oil-based can have a tendency to yellow over time.

Voila!  New floor.  New room.  Gobs of character for the price of one gallon of paint, one gallon of floor poly, painters tape, and a lot of hard work.  I'd do it again in a heart beat though.  It's still my favorite room in the house.


  1. Wow, awesome. Is this leif's room?

    1. It was Leif's room until Pippa came along. Now it's her nursery, and the big kids share a room. Thankfully, the color palate was neutral enough to switch easily to a girl's room.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you! I couldn't believe how well it turned out!


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