Stenciling on Wood: Preparing Your Floor for a Makeover


If you are looking for a unique design change that anyone with some time and patience can do, free stenciling on wooden floors is an economical and lovely way to bring depth and texture to a room design. While not difficult to accomplish, stenciling on a wooden floor is a long-term change. Once it is down, a stencil on a wooden floor can only be removed by sanding and re-finishing the floor area.

Free Stenciling on Wooden Floors

The 'free' in the phrase, 'free stenciling on wooden floors,' actually refers to two things. First, stenciling is a true do-it-yourself project that does not require a great deal of time or special technique to learn. Second, there are free stencils that are available for download from many sites on the Internet. Yes, there are stencils one can purchase. However, for the first time around, choose a stencil that is available free of charge and save some money. If you are a gifted artist, feel free to draw your own stencil design freehand for a truly free stencil on your wooden floors!

Stencils - Which One to Choose

Take a moment and examine the room and the hardwood floor you would like to stencil. For example, a stencil can visually extend the look of an area rug in a living room or formal dining room. It can add a touch of whimsy to a child's bedroom, or even become a specific play area within a room (Hopscotch, anyone?). A properly chosen design can serve as a subtle room divider in the case of overly long or large room. It can also serve as a stand-alone piece of floor art.

Single Overlay vs. Multi-Overlay

If the last time you used a stencil was in grade school, you are going to want to choose a stencil that is a single overlay for your first time at stenciling. A single overlay is simply a stencil, which has a pattern basic enough that one color is used throughout the stencil. A multi-overlay stencil is more complicated and exists in layers of both design elements and color.

Prep First - Stencil Later

You have chosen your space, found your stencil, and are now ready to prepare your canvas. Clean your wood floor with an eye towards dissolving not only dirt, but also any residue from floor polish you may have used. Use a sander and gently rough up the grain of the area so that it will hold paint better. Then take a damp cloth and wipe up any wood dust. Let the floor dry thoroughly.

To Paint or Pounce - That is the Question

While your floor is drying, assemble your other tools. You will need on hand the following:

  1. Pencil
  2. Low tack masking or painter's tape (to hold your stencil in place)
  3. Your stencil
  4. Foam brushes and special stencil brushes (either flat or dome shaped)
  5. Primer
  6. Acrylic or Latex enamel paint
  7. A clear poly top coat especially made for wood
  8. Level, measuring tape, or ruler

There are some darker wooden floors, like walls painted in dark colors, where it is wise to apply a layer of primer first in preparation to lift the color of the stencil and make it more visible.

When it comes to your actual paint make sure you choose the best acrylic or latex enamel paint you can afford. You can also choose and mix in a prepared glaze or add water to the paint to soften the color. What you want to be aware of is using a paint, which is too thinned or watered down. Such a paint type will not adhere properly and wear away faster.


Foam brushes work well for creating a sharp, defined line when painting your stencil. Stencil brushes are good for when you want to pounce the paint on - that is use an up and down hand motion to actually push the paint into the grain of the floor instead of layering color just on the top. To get a similar effect, try using a sea sponge, wadded up plastic wrap, or even crumpled paper towels as alternatives to stencil brushes.

You may also use spray paint. This technique requires more skill then you would think at first. You should not undertake spray painting a stencil without first practicing on blocks of scrap wood somewhere far removed from your actual hardwood floor.

You can choose to seal your design with a top coat of a clear poly glaze or stain made especially for wood if you desire.

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Stenciling on Wood: Preparing Your Floor for a Makeover