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How to Stencil a Pattern on a Floor

Homemade stencil + primer + paint = brand-new floor

a finished painted floor with stenciled pattern

When Lori Dunbar pulled up her sunroom carpet, then the four more layers of flooring and underlayments beneath it, she was surprised to uncover not the hard maple found elsewhere in the house but battered pine. "And it was in really rough shape," she says. "So I thought, This is a chance to do something creative." A graphic designer by trade, Lori used Adobe Illustrator software to tweak a blossom design she found online, making it larger and more stylized. This would be her template for a hand-cut foam-core stencil, with dots between the petals to serve not only as a flourish but also as a guide for lining up the stencil as she moved it across the floor. After a pro sanded the floor, Lori put down a coat of primer, followed by three coats of porch-and-floor paint in glossy egg-yolk yellow. Starting in the middle of the room, she used a small paintbrush and white paint to fill in the pattern, using just one coat for an aged look. Two coats of polyurethane provided added scuff protection. "The motif is beautiful on its own," says Lori. "And the color is so cheerful. No wonder everyone loves this room."

Download the template for Lori's floor transformation.

Step One // How to Stencil a Pattern on a Floor

Sand and Prime

sanded floor before painting

Floorboards must be sanded and thoroughly vacuumed to create a smooth, clean surface for painting; consider hiring a pro. Wipe the floor with a microfiber cloth to remove all dust, and put down a coat of primer, using a long-handled roller. Follow the grain. Cut in along the baseboards with a paintbrush.

Steps // How to Stencil a Pattern on a Floor
1 ×

Sand and Prime

 
Step One // How to Stencil a Pattern on a Floor

Sand and Prime

sanded floor before painting

Floorboards must be sanded and thoroughly vacuumed to create a smooth, clean surface for painting; consider hiring a pro. Wipe the floor with a microfiber cloth to remove all dust, and put down a coat of primer, using a long-handled roller. Follow the grain. Cut in along the baseboards with a paintbrush.

 
2 ×

Paint on the Base Coat

 
Step Two // How to Stencil a Pattern on a Floor

Paint on the Base Coat

base coat painted floor

Top the primer with three coats of porch-and-floor paint in a glossy or semigloss sheen. Sand lightly between coats and let dry for a day or two before stenciling.

 
3 ×

Transfer the Stencil to Foam Core

 
Step Three // How to Stencil a Pattern on a Floor

Transfer the Stencil to Foam Core

the stencil for a painted floor

Lori used Adobe Illustrator to alter and enlarge a floral design and to generate her template. The one we've included can be printed out on standard paper and enlarged at a copy shop. She then used a hobby knife to painstakingly cut a stencil out of a large sheet of foam-core board (available at office-supply stores). "Paint the stencil's foam-core edges to even out imperfections," she says. "And be prepared to trim the stencil down when the design bumps up against a wall—foam core doesn't bend." Another option is to cut the stencil out of a large flexible Mylar sheet.

 
4 ×

Paint the Design

 
Step Four // How to Stencil a Pattern on a Floor

Paint the Design

the stencil pattern partially filling the painted floor

Starting at the center of the room, map out rows. Lori planned for a border of yellow along the front and back walls, for an area-rug effect while allowing the design to "run under" the side walls. Holding the stencil down with one knee, she filled in the design with a small, lightly loaded paintbrush. The dots between the petals, as well as the floorboards themselves, helped align the stencil and create even rows. She put down only one coat of the white (any sheen will do) for a weathered look.

 
5 ×

Finish With Polyurethane

 
Step Five // How to Stencil a Pattern on a Floor

Finish With Polyurethane

the stencil pattern filling the painted floor

Lori let her kids create a little more wear before finishing the floor with two coats of water-based polyurethane. Other tips? "Don't paint yourself into a corner—work your way toward the door," she says. "And use a thick towel or mat. Stenciling can be murder on your knees!"

 
 
 
 

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