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I’ve had the painting-checkerboard-floors itch for a long time!  Back in 2012 I was contemplating finishing my dining room and living room in a two-toned stained checkerboard pattern (you can find that post HERE), but Jeff didn’t love the idea and talked me out of it.  I was slightly relieved because the prospect of doing all of that geometry made me nervous.  I just wasn’t sure I had the patience or attention to detail to pull it off well.

When we moved into this house, I knew the studio would be the perfect candidate to finally try a checkerboard floor, but there was just so much to be done that it seemed to be silly to crawl around on the floor taping off squares for an entire day.  I just needed to get paint on the floors and then deal with more elaborate ideas later.

Can you believe this is what the studio looked like??  I sometimes forget how much it’s been transformed.

converting a sunroom into an art studio | miss mustard seed

You can find the post on painting the studio floors the first time HERE.

What I’ve learned in the 2.5 years since I painted that floor is that the original polyurethane layer is unstable.  From being in an uninsulated space and exposed to extreme temperatures for 13 years, it was no longer sticking to the deck boards very well.  So, as I’ve scooted furniture this way and that, the original finish would chip, taking my quality primer and fresh enamel paint along with it.

painted wood floors | miss mustard seed

If I could hit the rewind button in this scenario, I would slow down and take a day to sand down those floors.  My foresight was not that good, though, so I’m in the position where I either need to take everything out of the room, rent the sander, and start fresh OR just put a prettier bandaid on top of the old bandaid.  Since it’s a studio where paint will be dripped and furniture will be scooted, I’m opting for the prettier bandaid of painting checkerboard floors.

Since I have some massive pieces in the studio, I’m going to paint the floor in two stages.  I moved everything over to the right side of the room and taped off a line dividing two boards.  This gives me a place to stop that won’t be visible when the whole floor is complete.

painting checkerboard floors | applying the primer and base coat

I applied a coat of Aqua Lock Primer and two coats of Rust Scat Semi-Gloss Waterborne Enamel over three days, waiting for each coat to dry for 24 hours.  It’s not necessary to let the primer and paint dry that long between coats, but I’ve learned it’s better if you’re patient with paint and give it more time to dry than not enough.

painting checkerboard floors | miss mustard seed

It looked so good with just the fresh coat of paint, but I knew painting a checkerboard pattern would make it really special.  It would be tedious, but I believed it would be worth it.

painting checkerboard floors | miss mustard seed

When the paint was dry and I opened the studio door, everyone wanted to be in the open space!  It was so funny.  At one point, all of the animals and both boys were in there, just sprawled on the floor.

painting checkerboard floors | miss mustard seed

painting checkerboard floors | creating a template & taping the squares

I cleared my schedule on Thursday to work on the checkerboard.  My original idea was to measure, mark, and tape, using the floorboards and a yardstick for reference.  Well, after taping down three squares and pulling them back up twice, I knew that wasn’t going to work.  It was too inconsistent.

(By the way, the cats were fascinated by the whole process and “helped” me or supervised or took a bath in the sun a lot!)

painting checkerboard floors | miss mustard seed

So, I changed my game plan and went to my go-to trick for consistency – making a custom template.  I do that for a lot of things…  hanging a curtain rod, cutting out a new seat for a chair, installing picture frame molding, etc.  I measured and cut a template out of black foam core board and used the lines created by the floorboards as chalk lines.  The key is to make sure the template is square.  In order to do that, I used a T-square.

And then the project was off and running.

I would line up the template with the lines on the floor and the previous squares…

painting checkerboard floors | miss mustard seed

…apply Frog Tape around all sides…

painting checkerboard floors | miss mustard seed

…and would cut the overlapping tape out of the squares I was painting with an Exacto knife.

painting checkerboard floors | miss mustard seed

painting checkerboard floors | miss mustard seed

Here’s what it looks like…

painting checkerboard floors | miss mustard seed

creating checkerboard floors | adjusting the template for the edges

The nice thing about the foam core board is that it’s very easy to cut and relatively inexpensive, so I could make templates that fit specifics areas.  I made one with a corner cut off for the squares along the right wall.

painting checkerboard floors | miss mustard seed

painting checkerboard floors | miss mustard seed

I think the key thing about taping is to envision the finished pattern and think through which squares will be painted.  When it’s taped, it can be a little confusing.  The larger squares are the ones that will be painted and the smaller squares will remain the base color.  When the tape is removed, the squares will be the same size.

It took me about 3-4 hours to tape off the whole room, but that included the time I was trying to figure out the best way to do it!

In part two of painting checkerboard floors, I’ll share about the painting and tape-removal process…you can find that post HERE.

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    1. Renee Cordell

      You are so very patient. Looks like you are going to be so pleased! Thank you again for the hat you made me. I have completed 10 rounds of chemo and only 6 more to go. I am thankful that there are people like you that take notice and do such an act of kindness. We may never meet but you will always hold a special place in my heart. Keep creating so we can all enjoy the fruits of your labor! Love, Renee

    2. Bettsi Ledesma

      You are so brave! I’ve always wanted to try it. I think it’s the perfect treatment for your studio and I’m eager to see what color you choose (but I think I know what it will be- a pretty sage green!) Thanks for sharing your process- you may just inspire me to get mine done!

      • Elizabeth

        How exciting!! I can’t wait to see your finished result!

    3. Kim

      Yes, vivid memories for me of painting my hideous 1970s kitchen vinyl floor a black and white checkerboard! They said it couldn’t be done, but I did it and it held up really well over time. The taping job is the real brain-bender for this project, it is the hardest part. Also, having to go around with a fine paint brush and touch up the edges after removing the tape (because no matter what, even with Frog Tape, it will leak a bit), it takes some time. I have vivid memories of all of us walking across the floor only on black squares while the white ones were drying or vice-versa!! You must be agile! Because we had to use the floor all the time it was being painted, I did it in sections, so we’d go for like 3 weeks with the fridge pulled out, or the stove, while things were curing. It’s really fantastic when you are all done though and it is such an accomplishment!

      • carswell

        I did fake saltillo tiles complete with grey grout on my then kitchen floor back in the late eighties. It looked great and stood up pretty darned well. My gluteal muscles took about a week to recover from all the bending and squatting though. LOL.

    4. Ann

      I have to laugh at the cat!

    5. Janet in Kansas City

      Painting the “large squares” then the squares will be the same size – man that is helpful information to have!!
      Yeah, I would’ve messed that up.

      • Marian Parsons

        Yeah, for some reason, it’s hard to think through!

    6. Brenda

      My hats off to you! I can’t wait to see the finished floor. The math would stump me.

    7. Cheri Dietzman

      Is it weird that now I want to put down planked floors in my studio so I can paint them? 🙂
      K would just shake his head at me, but I know you get it.

    8. Jeanine

      So LOVE this look and looking forward to seeing the final reveal!

    9. Kate

      Just wondering why you are not using milk or chalk paint? How will you make sure that the paint sticks to to the old poly?

      • Marian Parsons

        If the floor was completely raw then I would use milk paint, so it would soak in like a stain. Since I am painting over an existing finish and I want a harder and glossier finish than milk paint, I’m using an enamel. Milk Paint is my favorite paint, but it’s not right for every single project. As far as this paint adhering, there is nothing specific I can do, but be a bit gentler with the floor. The last layer of paint is only as good as the first. If the bottom layer peels up, it’ll take the top layers right along with it.

    10. Karen

      How did you pick where to do your first square?
      Why did you not start in a corner so none of the squares along the wall would be cut? Is it just because it looks better visually in the end? Just wondering how you decided where to start. I feel like I would have started in along the wall…and something tells me it would have been a mistake It looks fabulous by the way. You continue to amaze me!!

      • Marian Parsons

        I started where it was centered on the doorway. I felt like that would look the best when walking in the room and when viewing it from the kitchen.

    11. Marylisa

      It will give the room a completely new look…Can’t wait.

    12. Leslie Collison

      Isn’t wonderful to have your fur helpers to keep you company while working on this big project? It would sure keep me going…..

    13. Kim

      When I did this with a wall, I placed a piece of painter’s tape in the squares not to be painted. I mess up easily, and that helped me to paint the correct squares.

    14. Tammy Phillips Sigman

      Wow! Just Wow!!!
      It took me a few minutes to figure out the small squares verses the little squares. Totally get it now, but so embarrassed it took me that long. Can’t wait to see the reveal… you rock!!

    15. Emily Cleverly

      Thanks for the tips! It is such a beautiful space, and this will be extra! Your cats are going to love it along with the rest of us. My sister’s cat obsessively sits on anything square like a box, computer, post it note, whatever has 90 degree angles. Apparently it’s a cat thing. He would lose his mind with this floor, again, right along with the rest of us.

    16. Karen

      I have wanted to paint a checkerboard floor somewhere in my house so again I’m inspired by you ! Sooooooo excited for your reveal !

    17. Rebecca Green

      I am so excited that you are writing about this! I am finishing my attic and planning on doing this to the floor. I have been trying to think of the best way to do it. Like you, I was thinking about using a template. However, your tip on what to make it out of is helpful. Also, I would have been freaking out over the different sized squares. Thanks for addressing that! I have also been wondering where to start, corner vs. a more obvious centered area. You convinced me to go with the most obvious area and make that centered. Your idea to use the edges of the wood flooring as guides is brilliant! I was also debating between chalk paint and an enamel paint. I love chalk paint, but won’t use it for this job. Your article is a life saver! I can’t wait to read Part 2. Thank you so much for writing this!!

      Maybe you will address this question in Part 2. I was thinking once it is all painted putting a coat of poly on top to protect it. After all, a floor like this involves a lot of work. I don’t want it damaged!


    18. monique odman

      Nice project! I never liked to do floors for my clients, I never was good at measuring even less with inches, so I needed the help of my husband who is clearly is better with numbers, counting. We used the metric system which is what we grew up with. Some patterns were rather elaborate and the floors large and often not perfectly straight.
      Oh did I hate the first part. Painting was fun and fast and the end result beautiful. One small lobby floor ended up on the cover page of ELLE magazine. Aside from using paint, I often had to use several shades of tinted varnish which give the effect of fancy inlaid woods. But I will never paint a floor for us because I so dislike the prep.
      Your floor will be great.

    19. monique odman

      Sorry, I should have said Elle Decor.

    20. Hannah

      This tutorial has come at a good time— I have been wanting to do checkered floors for awhile now too and since we bought a fixer-upper recently, this is a great time to try it out. I think I will start with my upstairs hallway…it isn’t as big as your space and I feel like that’s a good starting point for me. Thanks, Marian!

    21. mary m young

      I did a large canvas area rug. used a large square linoleum vinyl square as a guide. I applied many coats but alas it tracked off, so I will use the products you mentioned as a rerun. mine was black and tan squares with a black border with a red inset border against the desigh and outside border. thank you.

    22. Cynthia Johnson

      I know perfection is not your main game~ however in this project it does look like
      you’ve mastered your floor! It would be a challenge for me and I’d likely get frustrated and ball up my frog tape and call it done. I’m guessing on the color you’ll use 🙂 anyone else?


    23. Lynda Schneider

      Can’t wait to see this finished. I love your supervising team. They are so cute! I have my own so I am familiar with their curiosity and need to be in the middle of everything. 🙂

    24. Julie

      Hi! We are getting ready to do this same thing! Can I ask what size your squares are?

    25. Donna M Solomons

      I’m so excited to try this. Just have one question – Do you have a trick for moving the furniture so it does not scratch the floor? I’m planning to do this in my bedroom and there is a lot of heavy pieces. I would just hate for the floor to get damaged right from the start! Thanks for any help.

    26. Marian Parsons

      We use felt sliders for pieces and you can get those at a local hardware store or on Amazon. They are great for moving heavy pieces without scratching the floor. We’d also slide things around on towels. That works surprisingly well as long as the floor is relatively smooth.

    27. Jon

      Love this idea! What size are your squares?

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