A few weeks ago, we decided to paint our kitchen floor in a checkerboard pattern. There has been tons of interest since in how to do it, and I am thrilled that so many of you are planning this very same project! I LOVE how it turned out and can’t wait to see pictures from all of you who are brave enough to attempt it.
We are no experts on floor-painting techniques, but I thought it might help to share some do’s and don’t’s that we learned along the way. I’m going to try and answer all your questions, too, so feel free to let me know if I missed something, and I’ll try and include it. Okay, here goes.
How do I know if painting my floor is a good idea?
If you’re a DIYer like me, the best floors to paint are floors you don’t like. This way, if you royally screw it up, you aren’t that much worse off than before. With our kitchen, we didn’t like how the pine had yellowed, and we found ourselves with high-end maple cabinets (and I mean plain maple with a clear coat on top) that needed a home, and they became our island. We were originally going to paint the maple, but then it kind of grew on me, even though I thought it was ugly before. I also love checkerboard floors, so we decided to DIY the checkerboard floor and keep the maple cabinets the way they were. The idea was that the floors didn’t look so great anyway, so it was worth a shot to see if painting them could work instead of replacing them.
I wouldn’t paint a beautiful and amazing floor in any sort of DIY fashion, though. If you really want to paint a beautiful floor, I would consider hiring someone who really knows what they’re doing, just in case you make it worse.
But, say you aren’t in love with your floor, and you’re willing to bank its future on your DIY skills. In this case, I think painting a checkerboard pattern on it is the best idea ever. We LOVE ours, and I kind of wish the whole house looked like it. I am so glad we did it. Here are some more tips.
What colors should I use?
I honestly think you could learn to love whatever you choose, but consider this. Anytime you do anything with the design, there are always two things that result, and you need to make sure you’re going to like both of them.
The first result is the look of the colors you choose. Do you like the way they look together and with the other things around them? Do you like looking at them?
The other result that comes from doing anything to your house is the feel. Does it feel like a French bakery or a gas station? Does it look updated or scream the 80s? This second thing is what’s harder to predict. It’s easy to make sure the colors go together but harder to make sure that your good choices don’t inadvertently remind you of something you don’t like, like the restroom at Taco Bell.
So pick colors you think would look good in the room, but think hard about what else it could accidentally look like. Barbie Dream House? A 50s diner? Just make sure that whatever you like doesn’t end up creating a new thing you didn’t intend.
Sometimes you get happy surprises this way. With our kitchen, though, I didn’t choose black and white because I didn’t think the feeling I would get from it would match the rest of our house. It might’ve looked awesome, but I didn’t want to do all that work to find (and with the kitchen wall color and cabinets).
What Kind of Paint do I use?
When you’re talking about a floor, the topcoat is what gets the wear, provided that your paint is sticking to the floor in the first place. So, when I had wall paint left over, I figured I could use it as long as I put a good clear coat over the top, where the “wear” happens.
We first scrubbed the floor and then painted on a coat of primer after the floor had dried. Then, we painted the white coat. I think it was three coats of white. Then, we taped off the squares and did three coats of gray (all with dry time in between). Then came the time for the top coat, which was where our problems started.
We had used Polycrylic (water-based clear coat) on many projects before, and it was always less durable and good than good old-fashioned polyurethane. So we were planning to go with polyurethane and bought a gallon of it. Before we used it, though, we got comments on Instagram saying the polyurethane would ruin our work by turning it yellow. This is why (I suspect) our original pine floor was turning yellow. And, if you look in the can, the polyurethane is actually yellow. So, we went to Sherwin-Williams and asked for other options.
We ended up with a garage floor sealer that was water-based, meant to go over paint on the floor of the garage. It was supposed to be durable enough for a car to drive on it. We forked out beaucoup bucks for it and applied two coats of it. It was way less fume-y than polyurethane if you have kids or pets.
But. It does get a little sticky when water sits on it, as well as when we mop. It dries fine, but I would still rather this not happen. If I had to do it over again, I would get a non-yellowing polyurethane. There are a few options online, and I also saw that there is a difference between water-soluble Polycrylic and solvent-based. I’m wondering if we have the water-based one.
We could have also used porch & floor paint in the first place, which I think doesn’t require a topcoat. If it’s water-based, though, it may have the same problem with water that the water-based topcoat does. All these are talking points to bring to the paint store and ask them. That way, if you used something that didn’t work, they might give you something else for free.
We love it!
Even with the not-perfect finish and the tendency for white to get dirty, I LOVE the checkerboard floor! It makes our kitchen look so much better and brighter. Here’s a before photo:
Then we started cutting in with the primer:
Then, it was all primed and coated with three coats of white paint.
Then came the line drawing and taping. This is where you choose the size and placement of your squares, and there is also a big chance of messing it up. My strategy was to mark out roughly what size I wanted the square to be, how it would be oriented (I liked it to be on the bias (diagonal if you don’t know what that means), and about where I wanted it to be in relation to the cabinets and island. This was actually pretty easy. For our space, 15-inch squares on the bias fit in nicely in the narrow areas without it looking too busy.
Once the lines were drawn, we taped off the squares. Note: you can only tape every other row. Then you paint those squares and move the tape when it’s dry. This is because of the width of the tape. It’s also helpful to mark the squares you have to paint next with a bit of tape, so you don’t accidentally paint the wrong ones.
Then, it was time to take off the tape and give the paint a day or two to dry before putting on the topcoat. If you walk on it at this point, make sure to clean it and sweep it before you put on the topcoat. It’s amazing how much random fuzz and dirt end up on the floor, even when no one goes in there.
Then came the topcoat, and I would still recommend trying to find something oil-based that doesn’t yellow if you’re using it in a wet area:
Since we chose white, we have had to mop it, but I’m hoping that it’ll get pleasantly worn, so it doesn’t look like it needs it so much. We love it with and without a rug (but the kitties prefer the rug):
This next picture is kind of dark (and messy because I didn’t style it first), but it does a good job of stepping back and showing how all the colors work together to create the soft and not-so-dramatic look I was going for. It could have been made more dramatic (and totally cool) by going with a darker color instead of gray squares, a similar dark color on the walls, and a patterned tile backsplash.
Thanks for following along! Feel free to comment here or on Instagram if you decide to try it!