Facelifts for Old Floors

Don't just cover dull or damaged wood floors with carpet or rugs. Give them a new look with paint, stencils, and a little elbow grease.


Painting should be reserved for worn or damaged floors. Although a painted design can be removed with a standard refinishing process, some paint residue may remain. Surface preparation and a primer coat are the keys to making a painted floor wear well.

Removing the Old Finish
Enlarge Image Photo 1

Old varnish or wax prevents paint from adhering to the floor, so old treatments must be removed. If only a section of the floor is to be painted, tape it off with painter's tape. Remove any staples and pound in all nails. Fill any gouges with paintable wood filler. Sand the floor with a handheld sponge sander and medium- to fine-grit sandpaper (see photo 1). Wipe floor with a tack cloth, then scrub it with a liquid floor cleaner (see photo 2). Let the wood dry completely.

Painting Tips
Photo 2
  • Flat paint will give a smoother, less sticky surface than semigloss.
  • Two or three coats ensure a flat, even look. For a lighter "pickled" look, use only one coat.
  • Use a pad-style applicator for the most even coverage (see Photo 3).
  • Allow sufficient drying time between steps; this will vary with humidity and air circulation.
Varnishing Tips
Enlarge Image Photo 3
  • When your painted design has dried, use a clean pad-style applicator to apply a coat of floor-quality, satin-finish polyurethane varnish.
  • For high traffic areas, apply a second coat of varnish, allowing varnish to dry completely between coats.
  • If the varnish top coat wears away with time, reapply as needed.
To Remove a Painted Design

Sand and scrub the floor as described in "Removing the Old Finish," above. Apply floor-quality stain to bare wood, then varnish to seal the wood.

Help kids learn their A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s with this letter-perfect playroom floor made with store-bought or handmade stencils. For other kid-friendly designs, look for simple shapes in coloring books, or purchase die-cut shapes at crafts stores and cut your own stencils. For older kids, use the letters to spell out short words.

What You Need:
Enlarge Image Stencil letters and numbers onto the nursery floor.
  • 2 or more colors of high-quality, flat latex paint
  • Pad-style paint applicator
  • Oversized letter and number stencils (available at hardware and crafts stores)
  • Painter's tape or stencil adhesive
  • Stiff stencil brush
  • Paper plate
  • Floor-quality, satin-finish polyurethane varnish
Instructions:
Enlarge Image Photo 1

1. Prepare the floor by removing old finish and priming, as described on the page "Floor-Painting Basics."

2. Paint the floor in a light but lively color. (See tips on previous page, "Floor-Painting Basics.") Let dry.

3. Decide placement of stencil designs. Scatter the stencils randomly across the floor. Secure each stencil to the floor with painter's tape or stencil adhesive (see Photo 1).

4. Paint the designs. Using a stiff stencil brush, dip the brush tip into the darker color(s) of paint, then pounce brush onto a paper plate to remove most of the paint. (Work with only 1 color at a time.) Tap the mostly dry brush onto the floor through the stencil. When paint is partly dry, carefully peel off the stencil. Take care not to slide the stencil as you remove it, or you could smudge the paint. Allow paint to dry completely.

5. Seal the floor. Add one or more coats of varnish to the entire floor, as described on previous page ("Floor-Painting Basics").

A Swedish-inspired oval garland of leaves and branches can be a lighter way to define floor space than using a heavy rug.

What You Need:
Enlarge Image Throw away the throw rug and paint on a border instead.
  • Hard-lead pencil or water-erasable sewing marker
  • High-quality, flat latex paint in white and green
  • Pad-style paint applicator
  • Curved leaf stencil as desired (check crafts stores, or cut your own; see Step 4)
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Paper plate
  • Floor-quality, satin-finish polyurethane varnish
Instructions:
Enlarge Image Photo 1

1. Prepare the floor by removing old finish and priming, as described on the page "Floor-Painting Basics."

2. Paint the floor white. (See tips on the "Floor-Painting Basics" page.) Let dry.

3. Mark the area to be painted. Using a pencil or water-erasable sewing marker, draw a large oval or circle around the area you wish to define.

4. Cut stencil pattern, if necessary. You may find a pattern you like that's the wrong size to fit around your area. If so, adjust the pattern to size by making it larger or smaller on a photocopier. Then cut your own stencil from blank stencil plastic, using a crafts knife.

5. Paint design. Starting in a corner or other inconspicuous area, align the stencil with the line you've drawn on the floor. Dip a lint-free cloth into paint, then blot it onto paper to remove most of the paint. Gently press the cloth to the floor through the stencil opening (see Photo 1). Remove the stencil and move it to the next position. (Take care not to place stencil on wet paint.) Repeat until design is complete.

6. Seal the floor. Add one or more coats of varnish to the entire floor, as described on the page "Floor-Painting Basics."

Place this painted rug wherever you might put a real one -- next to a sink or vanity, in front of a doorway, or as a runner down stairs or a hall.

What You Need:
Enlarge Image This rug won't ever slip or buckle!
  • Painter's tape
  • High-quality, flat latex paint in white and another color as desired
  • Pad-style paint applicator
  • Hard-lead pencil or water-erasable sewing marker
  • Small paintbrush
  • Floor-quality, satin-finish polyurethane varnish
Instructions:
Enlarge Image Photo 1

1. Tape off the rug's outer border, not including fringe. The one shown is 18x36 inches.

2. Prepare the floor by removing old finish and priming, as described on the page "Floor-Painting Basics."

3. Paint the floor with two or more coats of white paint. (See tips on the "Floor-Painting Basics" page). Let dry.

4. Add the design. Draw the scroll design with a hard lead pencil or water-erasable sewing marker, and fill in the outline with a contrasting color. (For other design ideas, look at actual rugs for simple geometric shapes, such as stripes, squares, diamonds, and circles.)

5. Add tassels. Draw tassels at the short ends of the rug, spacing each tassel about 3 inches apart. Outline the tassels with white paint, then fill in the design with more white (see Photo 1). Let dry.

6. Seal the floor. Add one or more coats of varnish to the entire floor, as described on the page "Floor-Painting Basics."

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