These DIY painted harlequin tile floors almost broke me during our budget kitchen makeover. But after pouring myself into the rest of this space, I wasn’t about to let the floors get in the way of the vision I had. Today, I’m breaking it all down for you and sharing the good, the bad, and the really ugly that led to these beautiful floors we love so much.
Before I get into the details of our painted harlequin tile floors, let’s talk about harlequin versus checkerboard. Checkerboard floors are laid in a straight pattern, like in the game of checkers or chess, and harlequin floors are on the diagonal. Harlequin and checkerboard floors date back as far as ancient Egypt, so even though this style of floor is having a moment right now, it is not a trend that will die out or become dated. They’re classic and always a good idea.
Harlequin | Checkerboard
Fortunately for me, the existing tile floors in our home are set on the diagonal, so achieving a true harlequin pattern was easy. Painting those diagonal tiles was anything but easy though. It didn’t require much skill, but there was a lot of trial and error, which made it a frustrating process. Now that I’ve lived through it, I’m happy to share what I’ve learned for those who want to attempt painted floors.
Supplies and Tools
- Scrub Brush
- Soap and Water
- Towels and/or Paper Towels
- 3 Paint Rollers (I used 3/8″ nap rollers but I wish I would have used foam)
- Paint Tray
- Paint Tray Liners
- 2″ Paint Brush
- Painter’s Tape
- Fusion Mineral Paint (Coal Black, Algonquin, and Raw Silk)
- Floor Sealer
- Knee Pads (I didn’t use them and my knees still hurt.)
- Felt Pads (to protect your floors from furniture marks)
A Note About Paint
For this project, I chose Fusion Mineral Paint because I already had several cans of it, and it’s non-toxic. I’ve worked with Fusion paint a lot, so I was comfortable using it on my floors. I’ll let you in on a little secret though; it doesn’t actually matter what type of paint you use on your floors. What’s important is applying a primer and choosing a durable, non-yellowing top coat. You can use any paint you like, as long as you prepare and seal your tiles correctly. Having said that, I can only speak to the success of the process and products I used, as this is the only floor I’ve painted…so far.
Here’s how it all went down…
Step 1 | Clean the floor. I used a sturdy scrub brush with soap and water and scrubbed each tile very well.
Step 2 | Prep for primer. I then taped off my base boards and cabinetry to prepare for primer. I tried a few different painter’s tapes during this project, and all of them had issues except for this one. It doesn’t stick to tile for very long, as it’s a similar material to electrical tape, but it is the only tape I found that wouldn’t pull up paint when I peeled it off, and it stuck just fine to my cabinetry and base boards the entire time. This tape was my secret to crisp lines.
Step 3 | Prime the floors. You can use a paint brush to cut in around the base boards, but I just pushed my roller up against the painter’s tape to cover the tricky area where the floor meets the wall and cabinetry. Then I rolled the rest of the floor, making sure to apply even pressure so I didn’t have any lines or build up. Fusion’s Ultra Grip primer is clear, so I made sure to cover the entire floor well since I couldn’t see the coverage like I would have been able to with a white primer. Primer needs to dry for 12+ hours.
This is how my floor looked once the Fusion Ultra Grip primer was completely dry and ready for paint.
Step 4 | Tape the tiles. Now it’s time to tape off the tiles and begin painting the harlequin pattern. For this step, you’ll need the Ultra Sharp Lines tape and a pair of scissors because you can’t tear this tape; you have to cut it.
I chose to tape off my grout lines because I wanted to preserve them for a more natural look. This made things more tedious, but I prefer the look of grout lines to just black and white squares with no grout. If you tape off your grout lines, make sure to use your finger to press the tape down into the grout so there’s no paint bleed underneath.
Note: If you have larger grout lines than this, that’s okay. It’ll still look good, and preserving the grout lines makes it look like you have black and white tiles, not just black and white painted floors.
At this point, all of your base boards and cabinets, plus all of your squares for one color should be taped off. But, there were times when I only taped off a few tiles at a time because I was working in a tight spot. This is a perfectly acceptable method.
Be careful with your taping. It can be easy to tape off the wrong squares or lose track of your pattern. Double check all your work before you begin painting the harlequin pattern.
The squares I painted first were the creamy white squares (Raw Silk). They required two coats, and I wanted to get that over with. Before painting each square, I wiped them down with a damp paper towel. This helped clear away any dirt or dust that may have accumulated while taping.
Step 5 | Paint white tiles. Now it’s finally time to get to the fun stuff…painting. The creamy white squares were pretty straightforward. Two coats and I was done. Once they were dry, I peeled up the tape and then started the process over again with the black squares. This is where the special tape really came in clutch. I tried using regular painter’s tape over the freshly painted white squares, and it peeled up the edges on a few squares. When I switched to using this particular tape, it came up with no peeling of the paint.
Step 6 | Paint black squares. Painting the black squares was satisfying because each tile only required one coat. At this point, the painted harlequin floors came together quickly, and I began to see the fruits of my labor. I wanted to achieve a marble effect on the black squares instead of just stark black, so I poured Algonquin into the tray (baking dish) and just swirled it around without mixing it together. Then, I dunked my roller into the paint but didn’t roll off any excess.
I simply smeared the paint around each square in hopes of achieving a marble look, and then I lightly rolled over the entire square to even out the paint.
What I ended up with wasn’t quite a marble effect, but I did like it. It wasn’t straight up black…it had movement and depth.
Once I finished painting the tiles, I let them fully dry overnight.
Step 6 | Seal the floors. My original plan was to use Fusion’s Tough Coat to seal the floors, but at the last minute, I changed my mind and decided to use garage floor sealer. I figured if it was good enough for cars to drive on, it would probably hold up to all the wear and tear a kitchen floor gets. I was right; this stuff is incredible. I laid down two coats with a roller and called it done.
We’ve been enjoying the painted harlequin floors ever since.
The Rest of the Story
We’ve talked about the good (I mean, look at those floors!). Now, let’s talk about the bad. I broke this project up into two sections; the breakfast nook first, then the kitchen. The breakfast nook went off without a hitch. My head was in the game, so the process was smooth. Then Murphy’s Law took effect during the kitchen portion, and everything that could go wrong, absolutely did.
I pulled out the fridge and painted underneath it quickly so we could put that back and move on. I got a little “finish happy” and started painting the rest of the harlequin floor pattern, not realizing I had forgotten to prime! I was also experiencing project fatigue, which factored in. I painted all the white squares and then proceeded to tape them off to paint the black squares. All the paint started peeling up when I removed the tape, and it was at that moment, after all the squares had been improperly painted, that I realized my mistake.
Thankfully, our fridge was leaking at the time (clogged line), and where the water pooled, the paint came right up. So, we determined that if we used soap and water, we could scrub all the paint off and start over. That was almost a breaking point for me, but I pushed through, primed the floors, and got back to painting the next day.
I documented this drama on Instagram stories because, during this process, it was easier to grab my phone than my camera, and most of the work was taking place at night after homeschool and daily obligations were over (aka, bad lighting). I wish I had been able to stop and take more pictures, but when I’m in the zone, stopping for photos is the last thing on my mind. In any case, I finally finished the floors properly, and I’m so happy I persevered because they are a thing of beauty.
My experience with these DIY painted harlequin floors may not have been ideal, but I do hope it helps you understand the process and avoid the pitfalls I faced if you’re considering painting your tile floors. We’ve been enjoying our painted floors for about a month now, and I’m happy to report they are holding up perfectly to spills, shoes, dogs, chairs, and all my decorating shenanigans. We do see dirt a lot easier with these floors, but I’ve always preferred that because when the dirt isn’t visible, I don’t think to clean my floors. I have yet to mop them, but when I do, I’ll be sure to report back about how they held up and what worked best.
Well, that’s a wrap on the DIY painted harlequin tile floors. Have you ever attempted to paint floors? Tell me how it went in the comments below. I need to know I’m not alone in my crazy DIY ways.
Until the next project…
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