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  • Writer's pictureKelly Bazzle

How to paint and stencil a tile floor

I’m really excited to share this guide on how to paint and stencil tile flooring.

The reason I wanted to do this is because my master bathroom tile has been discontinued and after we did a shower/tub renovation, the floor tile doesn’t really match the shower tile and we needed to fill a hole leftover from taking out a wall in our bathroom to open up the room. (See below to understand what I mean about the hole)

Patching the hole in the tile

Quick note: If you have a situation like this and you just plan on covering it up with paint, I suggest getting a Vinyl Quikrete to fill it. This is what I did with this project and even though there are a few little concrete bumps, it worked great and I’m stenciling over it anyway. The stencil will help hide any of the rough surfaces in the end. 

Clean the tile floors before priming and painting

Once the Quikrete was dry, I took a piece of sandpaper to it to smooth it out as best I could and then I cleaned up my mess. I purchased some TSP cleaner and diluted it in my own spray bottle. TSP is great to use on surfaces you’re about to paint because it cuts down on the grease and grime in the area, especially a bathroom.

I let the floor dry and then I got ready to prime the floors. 

Let's prime those floors

Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer is what I used to prime the floors. I did three coats of primer on the floors to prep for the gray paint to cover it and not show the pattern of the old tile. You can do as many coats of primer as you want. The more, the better. 

I have to admit, the hardest part of all of this was keeping dust, hair, etc. out of the paint. I feel like I was constantly finding little pieces no matter how many times I vacuumed.

I took a shortcut by not removing our toilet while doing this project. I used a small foam brush to brush the primer around the base of the toilet. I also didn’t put tape around the baseboards right away because I plan on painting them again once this entire project is done. We also removed the baseboards in the closet mid-project because they don’t match the rest. 

While I was priming I made a point to make sure the primer was getting into the grout.

Once I was done with the primer, I started putting painter’s tape on everything that touched the floor to prep for the gray flooring enamel.

I’ll admit, this project took a couple Saturdays. So each time I started a new step in the process, I made sure to vacuum really good because we were still using the bathroom, we just had towels down to make sure we didn’t mess with the primer. 

So, one thing is for sure, there’s no such thing as vacuuming too much to suck up all little specs and hairs before painting.

Painting the tile floors before stenciling

When it came time to paint the base color on the floors I wanted to make sure I was picking the right product. I did some research and then I talked to a Sherwin Wiliams associate about the project. The manager of the store suggested their Porch and Floor Enamel (which you can make whatever color you want) and I was sold. He said I would only need a few coats before doing my stencil in white on top. Then it was time to pick the color… 

Picking paint colors is such a hard thing for me to do. There are too many options. But, I made a decision. And then I changed my mind. For those of you who know me, this makes sense. 

I ended up choosing the “Passive” gray to be the base of my tiles because I didn’t want the contrast of the stencil and the base to be too high. 

This is the color up against the tile of my shower. 

Of course I spent 15 minutes making sure all pieces of hair and dust were gone before I started the gray base. I also used a small roller to apply the paint because I had to get into some hard to reach areas. 

I got one coat down and within an hour or two I was able to get a second coat down. I was really impressed with this product and how nicely it covered the primed tile. 

The Porch and Floor Enamel did great with two coats for a week between Saturday project days. It held up great but it definitely needs a top coat. That will come after the stencil is done. 

Side note: Please ignore my baseboard around our privacy wall… that will be finished at the end of this project too!

I went ahead and did one last coat of Floor enamel and let it dry before starting to stencil. 

Bazzle DIY Tip: Use the end of your foam roller to make sure the grout is painted with the floor enamel as well. You want to make sure your enamel is covering the entire surface before you stencil. 

Picking a stencil for the tile floors

I feel like there are millions of designs to choose from on Pinterest so I really had a hard time choosing a stencil that I like for these floors. You know how I said I was really indecisive picking a gray paint? Yeah, scratch that. I was really indecisive picking a tile stencil that I liked. 

But, the Etsy Gods were shining the day I found this design. I love it. I ordered two of the 12×12 stencils from Cutting Edge Stencils on Etsy and they even sent a few fun stencils with the tile stencils. 

Picking a paint for the stencil

I was so impressed with the Sherwin Williams Porch and Floor Enamel that I decided to head back and just get a quart of the enamel in white to use for my stencil pattern on top of the gray. 

Bazzle DIY Tip: Make sure you have a few small paint brushes on hand for detailing after you’re done stenciling just in case you have some rough edges. The stencil won’t make a completely smooth line, which I think makes the flooring look original. But, I still get all perfectionist… I can’t help it. 

Time to stencil the tile

I made sure I started stenciling the fully square tiles first and I worked from the outside in… There were some obstacles throughout the process and I’ll address each one of them. Make sure you use painters tape to hold the stencil in place. I used high-density foam rollers and I made sure the roller wasn’t covered in thick paint, it was just enough for a thin covering so that the paint wouldn’t bleed under the stencil. 

Trim the stencil

Wipe excess paint off

The stencil comes with pretty thick sides, I went ahead and trimmed the sides to help with my stenciling so that I didn’t mess up other squares as I painted. 

And don’t worry if you get your stencil paint into the grout lines. You can fix that at the end of the project. 

This is important. The paint will build up on the other side of the tile. So make sure you flip it over onto something like a trash bag or plastic and take a rag to remove the build up each time, or else you’ll just put paint marks all over the place as you’re setting the stencil for another square. 

Getting there...

Painting without baseboards

Painting with baseboards

This is a breeze, if you have a chance to take out your baseboards because you want to replace them, the time to do it is before this project. I found that the closet area without the baseboards was the easiest area to paint because I could paint ride off the edge of the tile. 

This was a struggle in the other section of my bathroom that had the new baseboards already put in. I had a really hard time rolling the paint on to a trimmed stencil and meeting the wall without the paint bleeding through the stencil and this resulted in some rough edges. The perfectionist in me was not happy. 

Stenciling the triangle tiles

Before I started trimming and cutting the stencils, I folded the stencil to cover all of the triangle tiles that didn’t have a baseboard installed. This was really easy. When you’re painting the stencil against a baseboard, you just have to have a trimmed piece of stencil. 

REMINDER: Keep wiping and dabbing that excess paint off of the stencils as you go. IF you find that your stencil is building up too much paint, take a break, soak the stencils in hot water & DAWN soap and peel the built up paint off as best you can. 

Trimming your stencil as you go

Always start with your biggest size and trim as you go. This will help you along the way and as far as the toilet goes, I just made sure I really got excess paint off of the stencil between stencils as I took pieces and made them match up around the base of the toilet. It’s not perfect, but that’s one of the reasons I love this project so much, once it’s all done, it all looks great and flows together. 

Seal that floor

I picked a clear water-based Polyurethane to seal the floor to protect it. If you want your floor to look even more weathered, you don’t have to seal it. 

I also didn’t want the floor to shine too much so I picked matte. This link to the right is for satin, but they also carry a matte at Home Depot. 

TIP: Always vacuum between projects when everything is dry... hair and dust always finds a way to your floors between project days, trust me!

I hope you enjoyed this how-to guide to help you stencil your tile floors. If you have any questions, just send me a message under the Contact button and I’ll be more than happy to help you with your project! 🙂 

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