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How I’m spending my weekend

Faux tile (painted plywood) in progress

Faux tiling my sun porch.

When I bought the place, the sun porch floor was covered with loose and broken 1950s-vintage linoleum squares.

Sun porch with old broken tiles

I wanted to lay porcelain tile, in which case I’d have covered the old stuff with filler and backer board. (Always the best thing to do with tiles of that vintage, because they may contain asbestos and are best left undisturbed.) But right now a fancy tile job is just not in the card$$$. So I pried up the old tiles, taking reasonable precautions. I dissolved the remaining mastic, then started painting. What you see in the top photo is my proof of concept. Not tile, just painted plywood with various forms of texturing used on the squares. Now that I’ve got the technique down, the remaining work should go faster.

Total cost for the finished flooring job: $40 (including paint tray, roller, and some other permanent supplies). And invaluable sweat equity.


  1. Nelle V.
    Nelle V. March 6, 2011 2:19 pm

    Wow good job, it looks just like the real thing from your picture, you can’t tell it’s not tile.

  2. naturegirl
    naturegirl March 6, 2011 4:11 pm

    That looks awesome, and it’s such a clever idea that looks like it’s expensive…..

    I was wondering if you were going to incorporate some of your art skills into your rehabbing…..that looks so cool it’s almost a shame to walk on it, LOL….

  3. Matt
    Matt March 6, 2011 8:17 pm

    Great work. The coolest floor I ever walked on was cement, painted to look like hand laid mosiac. It was done by the owner and took months to do, but a master piece.

  4. Claire
    Claire March 6, 2011 8:33 pm

    Matt, boy, I’d love to have seen that. I’ve always loved mosaic & have thought of doing a real mosaic tile floor. Never thought of painting one! Makes my little porch look pretty humble. Hmmm … but there is a floor that needs to be redone up in that big garret room …

    naturegirl, thanks. 🙂 I sure hope it’s fit for walking on. I can’t wait until it’s fit for tossing a throw rug over, then finding a couple of wicker chairs and spending lazy afternoons sitting in the sun. Or well, sitting and watching the rain, anyhow.

  5. George Potter
    George Potter March 6, 2011 8:35 pm

    That looks really sweet, sis! Good job (artistically and economically)! 😀

  6. Karen
    Karen March 7, 2011 3:19 am

    Very nice! Thinking outside the box in action.

  7. rustynail
    rustynail March 7, 2011 8:43 am

    Looks good Claire. BTW, don’t get overly excited about asbestos … particularly when it’d bound in mastic and tile. If you encounter any more questionable building materials or situations (read: mold, asbestos, HVAC system contamination, pipe insulation, etc.) feel free to e-mail me for another opinion. I’m an industrial hygienist with 40+ years experience in industry and for the last couple of decades in indoor air quality, including asbestos, water damage assessments, and so forth for both commercial and residential clients. I’d be happy to give you my opinion and guidance. I can probably give you some supplies, since I’m located in The Dalles, OR, and have a stock of Tyvek suits, respirators, glove bags and such.

  8. Claire
    Claire March 7, 2011 9:21 am

    Hey, rustynail — Thank you for the generous offer of both advice and supplies!

    I knew not to be terribly concerned about encapsulated asbestos (and was dismayed, though not surprised, by the downright panic of some folks on ‘net forums who think that they or their children are DOOMED by the mere presence of old asbestos flooring in their homes). My only project glitch was realizing I shouldn’t sand down the plywood floor because might have traces of asbestos the mastic, so I had to work around some unevenness. (Hey, but that meant less labor for me, too. 🙂 ) But I do have a potentially stickier (and larger) project to do in the next few years, and for that I’d love to have your wisdom, and potentially those supplies, as well.

  9. Jake
    Jake March 13, 2011 9:42 pm

    Some floor tiles made that long ago are asbestos. Not saying those are but it is possible.

  10. Claire
    Claire March 13, 2011 10:01 pm

    Jake — yep, thank you. I did note that in the blog entry, and I took precautions when pulling the old tiles up. The mastic might also have had asbestos in it, so I avoided sanding the floor. That left me working with a rough surface, but since I’m using textured materials, it isn’t turning out too bad. I’ll probably have an update in a day or two.

  11. Teresa Sue
    Teresa Sue March 15, 2011 8:18 am

    Hi Claire,

    I would love to know how you did this technique. Did you use painter’s tape to “grid off” the floor and keep your painting square? I have been trying to find a way to paint a troublesome ( read: UGLY ) floor of my own.

  12. Claire
    Claire March 15, 2011 9:20 am

    Teresa Sue — I used plain masking tape to create the grids. Something like FrogTape probably would have done a better job (less bleed), but regular masking tape was the only type available in 1/2-inch width. I didn’t want my “grout” to be any wider than that. Because I used inferior tape, I had to go back and do some touch-up on the “grout” where paint from the “tiles” had bled under the tape.

    I can tell you from what I know right now that the two most important things about painting a floor are good surface prep and sealing the finished floor with multiple coats of water-based, non-yellowing poly sealer. The painting technique itself is very easy. IF this floor lasts a year without getting all scratched up, Dave might let me write an article about how to do it. But really, if you’re after a tiled appearance, just start with a couple of good overall coats that will become your “grout.” Let them cure. Then mask out your grid. Then start applying layers of paint, aiming for different types of textures with each layer.

    The textures can be actual, physical ones (my first and final layers contained finely screened sand). Or you can achieve visual texture by thinning paint to different thicknesses and applying it in different ways (e.g. sponge it on, brush on a watery wash then partly blot it off with a paper towel, splatter it on with a toothbrush, etc.).

    Experiment. It’s fun. And the best thing is it’s almost impossible to get it wrong. If you don’t like what you’ve done, just keep layering.

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