Painting was easily my gateway renovation drug. A mere decade ago, a big project for me was painting a room and hanging some IKEA shelves. I actually called my mom for reinforcement for such a project (in our first apartment, circa 2008). I also asked her to bring all the supplies (I didn’t even own a paintbrush!) and any leftover paint she might have (I couldn’t even bother to choose my own colour!). Since that day, I feel like I’ve painted everything. All the usual stuff like walls and doors and ceilings and woodwork, but also next-level stuff like window screens, IKEA furniture (which requires shellac-based primer, if you’re not looking back into the blog archives but want to save yourself a lot of trouble), window crank operators, stair treads (not well) and I could go on.
But I had never painted a floor. I had heard/read of people doing it — turning dated linoleum into a work of art or refreshing wood floors in poor condition — but I’d never suffered through life with floors that needed painting. Until now.
A big regret of mine (besides saying yes to three different prom dates and then definitely not choosing the right person to go with) is not replacing the ugly floors in our bathroom and kitchen before moving ahead with other projects that now make replacing those floors even more costly and inconvenient. Unless I want to pull out freshly installed baseboards and new appliances and risk damaging a one-of-a-kind vintage toilet (I don’t) then I’m stuck with the VCT in the bathroom and the linoleum in the kitchen.
Or am I?
We recently mostly completed our bathroom renovation after about a year of futzing around in there, changing little things like paint and hardware and big things like the sink/countertop, woodwork and toilet. (I obviously tried to take photos that didn’t show too much of the floor, but you can see slivers of it in these shots.)
Okay, fine. Here’s a full frontal bathroom floor photo as well as a (wide-angle) reminder of what our bathroom looked like before doing all the things. Pretty much the only thing I liked about the Realtor’s photo of the bathroom was that fir bathtub tray, which you can probably guess wasn’t included with the purchase of this house.
Anyways. I was sure that by the time all the changes I wanted to make had been made, I wouldn’t even notice the mottled brown vinyl composite tile. I was semi-right. I could’ve lived with it. It’s a tiny bathroom and the vintage toilet really is a show-stopper. The bathroom functions well (good storage/layout/water pressure) and the flooring was in great shape, easy to clean (no grout, after all), etc.
But I don’t know, guys, SIGH. I just can’t let ugly things lie, especially if they’re lying in an otherwise cute bathroom. So I decided to fix the problem with paint! Ideally with paint that I already had because we are super over spending money on the house in 2018. I didn’t look up any tutorials, mostly because I really just wanted to use what I had and crank this out in two hours and I knew that tutorials would instruct me to purchase a special cleaner or deglosser and they’d probably tell me to sand the vinyl and I just didn’t want to feel guilty about not doing any of that stuff.
If you’re looking for that kind of post, here’s a good one to check out. (Note: you’ll need to buy a deglosser.) But here’s what I did:
- A regular cleaning of the floor (vacuum, wet Swiffer)
- Primed (one coat) using Zinsser’s Cover Stain, which is an oil-based primer that sticks to literally everything. Including VCT, yay!
- Debated what colour topcoat to use. Again, I didn’t want to spend any money so I was limited to leftover paint in my basement i.e. a heck of a lot of mint green, white, off-white and some yellows that we tested on the exterior of the house.
My neighbours convinced me to go with mint green, which at least looked better than the mottled brown. When Frankie saw it in the morning she said, “I hate brown. I love green.” (This from the child who had stepped on the primed floor earlier in the day and said, “Ooh, it’s a little bit sticky. It must be primer.”)
But the latex eggshell paint (which was what the green was, leftover from painting our living room), did not feel great underfoot and I could tell it just wasn’t going to hold up/clean up well. Also, it’s possible that my house is edging close to too much mint green. (I didn’t choose the colour randomly — it’s inspired by our original stained glass windows — but every room contains some little bit of mint green, whether that’s actual paint on the walls or art, a rug, toy, toothbrush holder, pillow, etc. It’s cohesive, but also, just, there’s such a thing as too much. I feared this floor tipped us over into too much.)
I slept on it for one night (the colour, not the floor) before I decided to try the bathroom floor in white instead. This worked out really well because I had leftover white exterior porch paint — so meant to get walked and rained on. I did three coats to cover the green and the paint feels no different than the VCT underfoot. It’s not chalky like the wall paint and I know I can use our broom/Bona on it without issue because that’s how I’ve cleaned the porch, even after events like a giant wet, muddy dog shaking himself off on our front porch.
Finally, I had the idea to order some vinyl decals to use on the floor. Hex tile may not be in my near future in this bathroom, but I thought I might be able to jazz this plain white sheet up with some inexpensive, easy-to-place hex stickers. My go-to for decals is Urban Walls. This is where Frankie’s gorgeous floral wall decals are from. Urban Walls does offer hex decals and they also offer irregular dot decals — an exact match for the pattern on our shower curtain. So I decided to go with those (< $30) in — well — mint green. I considered lilac (there’s a bit of purple in the art piece on the bathroom wall), but ultimately felt like mint was just the best fit for a small space that features just a few colours, black and white being two of them.
Setting aside the fact that this little makeover only cost $30, I love it! I think it would be especially cute if you had a kids-only bathroom, but I like it in our only bathroom just the same.
The only question is how the decals will hold up to water and foot traffic over time. I have a lot of confidence in the paint, but the recommended application for these decals is most definitely walls (as in the company name: Urban Walls), not floors. Worst case scenario I order more to replace any that get damaged (though I held 10 decals back for just that purpose) and then seal with a coat of water-based polyurethane. I’m pretty sure the poly would be very effective at locking everything down for good, but it might make the bathroom floor extra slippery, so I’m holding off to see how things go over the course of a few weeks.
As well as the bathroom floors turned out, I don’t think it’s the right route in the kitchen, which sees considerably more dirty foot traffic via the back and basement doors plus dropped food, spilled coffee and the like. (I mean, sure, I considered this massive tiger decal for the middle of the kitchen floor — who wouldn’t?) Ultimately, I think my plan in the kitchen will be to live with the linoleum until such a time when it becomes convenient to investigate the condition of the original fir floors hiding underneath, with the hopes that we’ll be able to refinish them ourselves, as we did in the nursery.