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Is it marble? No, a painted floor.

Is it marble? No, a painted floor "Handsome" and "tough" come to mind when you see children, dogs, strollers, and toys on the painted floors in our pictures. But these do-it-yourself surfaces have other benefits. They are inexpensive, easy to change, one-of-a-kind floors; they can be so simple they unify several rooms; or they can be expressions of your special interests or idiosyncrasies.

They're also easy to care for. They don't require waxing, and most dirt and spills can be cleaned up with a damp mop.

And these surfaces can cover nearly any base. Beneath the inventive paint jobs we show here are a 60-year-old concrete floor, an equally old fir floor, and new subfloors of plywood and particle board.

Begin with a plan, then practice

If the look you want includes a pattern (look for pattern books at an art supply store or the library), sketch it out on paper. If you're using a stenciled or traced-on design, cut the stencil or pattern from poster board and experiment with placement and spacing on butcher paper.

When you're satisfied with your design, practice with the paints you plan to use on an area that won't show or a large scrap of plywood--to test your marbling technique and check for paint compatibility.

Selecting the paint

For the do-it-yourselfer, the simplest method with the highest success rate is to use interior oil-base or latex paint in a flat finish, then brush on several coats of mat, satin, or gloss polyurethane.

Professional painters generally recommend oil-base paint for covering wood; it penetrates better, dries to a harder finish, and tends to flex better. Latex is fine for concrete but is not a good primer for particle board. Raw concrete should be cleaned and etched with a solution of muriatic acid, then coated with a concrete primer or sealer; if the floor is moist in wet weather due to hydrostatic pressure, it's not a good candidate for painting.

A full-service paint store can help with colors, amounts, and kinds of paint to buy. Invest in good-quality paints that can be applied atop one another and then covered with polyurethane. You may have to do your own compatibility tests. If you're using dissimilar paints (latex with alkyd), you may need to let them dry longer than prescribed so they can cure.

Most oil-base paints today are alkyd: the resins in the paint are synthetic as opposed to natural (linseed oil, for example). Beware of lacquers: though enticingly vibrant, they are considered "hot--the solvents in them are extremely fast drying and so strong that they could lift off any finish under them.

If you're starting with a natural wood floor and you want some of its grain to show, cover the wood first with a clear sealer so that the paint from the design doesn't bleed into the wood.

You'll want to top your design with at least three coats of polyurethane. Remember that polyurethane has a slight amber tint that intensifies as the layers build up and with exposure to sunlight. It gives white a slightly yellowish look.

Make sure that whatever surface you're covering with the polyurethane is absolutely clean, dust-free, and not glossy. A light sanding with very fine paper will improve adhesion.

Putting on the design

For your own safety and fire safety, keep the work area well ventilated and follow paint manufacturer's directions exactly.

A pencil, ruler, and circles cut from plastic were all the tools artist Dan Bollinger used to produce the kitchen floor and the stairs on page 105. After drawing on the design, he painted it in.

Similarly, the stenciled design in the child's room above was drawn on, painted in, and then sealed. The owners commissioned Portland artist Susan Day to design and paint this floor.

For the branded floor at right, painter Ron Wagner of Portland drew the designs freehand atop the dried, stippled coat. He used chalk to draw light lines, then filled in with a sign-painter's brush. For the concrete floor on page 106, Seattle artist Heidi Rausch arrived when the base coat was dry, painted on the marbling, and then the owner put on the top coats--a good solution for anyone insecure about his own artistic ability.

The marbling effect requires the most practice. The technique we recommend is to work with wet paints (once the base coat is down and dry), covering areas as far as you can reach kneeling over the floor. The photographs at lower left lead you through the basic steps.

Begin by applying the base color and a second, slightly different color, in unequal amounts, brushing and blending so that the surface shows noticeable, but not strong, streaks and blotches.

Atop this damp coat, use a natural sponge to dapple on another tone or color. Next use a fine brush to add the veins in a contrasting color (as shown in the middle of the three photographs). Then feather, or brush, the veins out. A soft old brush with flared bristles works well. Or distress a new brush by wetting it in water, then flip it off with hard, fast jerks and push it into a corner so its bristles dry crooked.

You can stop after you feather the veins. But for a more muted effect, wet the brush a bit in solvent (or water if you're using latex), splatter the surface lightly, let stand 5 to 10 minutes, then gently blot with a soft rag or natural sponge.

Once the marbling (or other designs) steps are complete, let paint dry fully before applying the polyurethane coats.

The top coats take the punishment

When the marbling or design is dry (usually in 24 hours), put down the first coat of polyurethane. To prevent bubbles, don't shake the can. A top-quality brush is best; if you want to use a roller, choose one with a short nap and smooth the applied finish with a brush.

Let each coat dry to manufacturer's recommendations, then add the next. Most manufacturers do not recommend sanding between coats of polyurethane if the next coat is added within a specified time.

Later, if damage occurs, sand the affected area lightly, repaint the design, and cover with top coats. A can of spray polyurethane would be handy for touch ups.

If you want a whole new design, sand the entire surface with a fine sandpaper so that it is rough enough that a new base coat will adhere; clean off all dust, then start the process anew.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Nov 1, 1986
Words:1082
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