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Neely's Thanksgiving Foray into 'Faultless' Floor Finishing

Over my life, I’ve realized that I’m one of those people who works better under pressure. That has somehow twisted and turned into a borderline unbalanced habit of diving into massive projects at the 11th hour. In-laws coming to our new house for Thanksgiving? Perfect time to dive into our biggest project yet.


The floors in our house are a very nice hardwood, but the color isn’t ideal—it’s a little on the yellowish side. If I could, I’d have had them all sanded and refinished in a pretty chocolate brown. But, it wasn’t a high priority for our first round of improvements, so it got nixed in the budget process. Once that was off the table, I got hooked on the idea of painted floors. After walking through with several specialty painters, this also looked like it was going to fall to the wayside, so pricey! But at 11 at night on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I texted my mom “I think I can paint entry floors myself,” her reply, “I think so too” was all the validation I needed. Off we went. 

I should say that at this point, while a select few (that’s what Moms are for, right?) had faith in my ability to eventually execute this project. Zero people in my life thought this was an appropriate time to begin… I love a challenge. 


Let’s set the stage, shall we? The entry in our house has open doorways to our *tini den* (moody dark greens), dining room (an amazing Lee Jofa paper) and our front door is a beautiful brown wood with just a twinge of red in it. The colors felt obvious: brown, I went for 'Hasbrouck',  Green, a vibrant 'Sweet Basil' and white; Benjamin Moore's 'White Dove'. The only question was whether or not to work in some blue. Ultimately, I decided against it. 

I started the process with a few (read: 107) to-scale print outs of the entry and some magic markers to play with the design. I knew any curved edges would make this complicated and difficult to maintain consistency. So, we went with a diamond pattern—love those right angles!! The final decision was a geomatic diamond repeat with two concentric diamonds in contrasting colors. 

Then it was time to prep. I decided to strip the floors with Citristripper. I had hoped stripping would save me time over sanding. I am now older and many home improvement projects wiser (and a wiz with a drum sander), so would likely go that route. However, stripping does mitigate the dust issue with sanding, likely a blessing in disguise with our house guests arriving in days.


I followed up with a little sanding on anywhere the finish hadn’t come off completely. Then we primed. Throughout this process I made some great new friends, namely the team at my local Benjamin Moore. They helped me through paint and primer selection and also convinced me not to worry about small spaces between the wood—that is a rabbit hole I’m glad I avoided. They have become an amazing resource for me throughout all my home improvement projects.


With the primer down, it was time to stencil. I started in the center of the room (centered on the front door) and used an extra-large carpenter square. This allowed for a ton of checks and balances, ensuring all the diamonds were the same size, all the corners were right angles, etc. I was desperately worried I was going to finish and realize the entire pattern was crooked. After getting about 1/3 of the way done, I assessed and (with a quick text to my moral support (thanks, Mom)) decided the center diamond was too small. Instead of just enlarging it, we decided to add a third tier to the concentric diamonds. Just to align your anxiety levels with everyone buzzing around me, at this point it’s 2:30 PM on Tuesday. Riiiight on schedule to add an additional layer of complexity to the plan.


Headphones in, I believe with the West Wing playing in the background (only the 325th time I’ve watched it start to finish), “we” pressed on. We flew right from stencilling into taping. Oh baby was the taping arduous. But by 8:30 PM we were ready for some color, yea baby!


I used command floor paint (credit to my pals at the paint store). It’s super durable and fast drying (we all know time was of the essence). Dry to the touch within 20 minutes and ready for a second coat within 1.5 to 2 hours. Because the contrasting colors abut one another, we needed to do two full rounds of taping and painting. By the time I’d finished the first coat of the first set, I was able to go right into the second coat. And by 1:17 AM on Wednesday we had ourselves a pattern.


We had an unexpected Wednesday of Thanksgiving detour to my husband’s grandparents in New York, so I didn’t squeeze the second round of painting in before the holiday. But with the white primer showing through where the white paint would eventually go, we had a pretty serviceable product to show off!!


Once our house guests had come and gone, we went back to everyone’s favorite taping activity and wrapped this bad boy up. And, no need for a top coat (TY Benjamin Moore). Over the following weeks, I touched up edges and little mistakes here and there, but tried to hold on to the fact that the little quirks give it character (and no one except me ever noticed). It’s now been four months and I’m happy to say the floors are holding up spectacularly and I’ve forgotten where (almost) all the little mistakes are.

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