...because home doesn't happen overnight.

I’ve been wanting to paint the original ceramic floor tile that lines our entry and a hallway (from the garage to the kitchen) for over two years. I came across this Pinterest image shortly after we moved in and learned that it was achieved by applying chalk paint and lacquer. I thought it might work for our tile and pinned it for future reference. Well, I finally made it happen!

First, feast your eyes on the ’70s reddish-brown goodness I started with…

While I didn’t particularly care for the tile finish (too stripey and unnatural), I did like the placement and herringbone pattern. Hard-wearing tile makes sense in the entry and hallway, but the red-brown finish was generic and the grout lines had seen better days. I think the grout lines were originally light gray but had darkened with dirt and grime over time. (See the lighter grout lines near the staircase?) There were also small, random dark spots on the tile that WOULD NOT come off. Something tracked in from the garage or driveway?

Instead of ripping it all out and installing new tile, I wanted to try painting the existing tile for several reasons: to avoid unnecessary waste, to keep costs down and to hold on to a little bit of that ’70s vibe. By painting the tile and grout, my intent was to give the tile a more natural look and emphasize the pattern. I really wanted it to feel like it could’ve been original to the house. Something like this…

After a ton of online research, I landed on this website dedicated to all things chalk paint. I found a few examples of homeowners using Annie Sloan chalk paint in graphite (on tile) + Annie Sloan chalk paint in french linen (on grout) + Annie Sloan lacquer in a matte finish (as a sealer) to achieve surprisingly realistic slate lookalike results. I’d never used chalk paint before but it sounded promising. No primer or sanding required and, when sealed properly, it’s extremely durable. When I read the fine print that literally states “wait 8-21 days before hosting a party in the room,” I knew it was the perfect quarantine project. To cover the roughly 130 sq ft of flooring with one coat of grout paint, two coats of tile paint and two coats of lacquer, I ordered 1 litre of graphite chalk paint, 120ml sample pot of french linen chalk paint and 750ml pot of chalk paint lacquer in clear matte. With shipping, the total was $106.

FYI: The paint supplies come with extremely detailed instruction sheets. You’ll want to read these before starting your project. Lots of helpful tips!

To start, I thoroughly vacuumed and cleaned the tile. The instructions suggest cleaning with Fabuloso but I didn’t have any on hand so used my go-to: distilled white vinegar + Mrs. Meyer’s basil scent multi-surface cleaner + water mixture. It worked great! Then, using a small art brush from our craft supplies, I painted the grout lines in the french linen chalk paint. I wasn’t super precise since I was going to use a darker paint on the tile. Still, it took FOREVER. Okay, maybe not forever but something like 12 hours on my hands and knees. My back hated me.

I let the grout paint cure overnight (it was dry to the touch in 1-2 hours) and, even with the cats roaming around, it was fine unprotected…probably because it’s somewhat sunken between the tiles.

The next morning I had to re-vacuum (I kept the vacuum and SOFT BRUSH ATTACHMENT nearby throughout this entire project to catch stray hair and dust as needed without marking up the chalk paint) then started on the tile using the graphite chalk paint. I tried using a 4″ foam roller but, sadly, it was a tad too wide and hit my freshly painted grout lines :( I ended up using a 1″ foam brush on the tile because that’s what I had on hand. I think I went through a half-dozen of them before the entire project was over. It was tediously slooooooow but gave good coverage and excellent control. At one point I told Steve, “I’m just going to have to be okay with this taking a long time.” One coat on the tile took 14 hours to complete. (And it needed two coats.) Again, my back hated me. That was my weekend.

I was back to work at the pharmacy during the week so I put down old towels and flat sheets to help protect the first coat of chalk paint somewhat. (The chalk paint isn’t really protected until it’s sealed.) When I pulled back the towels and sheets the following weekend there were a few scuff marks (similar to what you would find on a chalkboard) but no chips. I was pleasantly surprised. Up until this point, I hadn’t been super vigilant about the floor. Kids and cats had been walking on it barefoot for a week with just one coat of grout and tile paint. BUT! (THIS IS IMPORTANT.) Before brushing on the second coat of tile paint, I quarantined the cats upstairs with their litter box and food/water bowls and thoroughly vacuumed with a SOFT BRUSH ATTACHMENT. I also threatened my family to not walk on my progress as I applied the second coat. BECAUSE…it doesn’t really matter what your first coat looks like, but the final product is fully dependent on what the second coat of tile paint looks like! A scuff in the second coat will stay there unless you touch it up before sealing which, trust me, you aren’t going to want to do.

It took me another 14 hours for the second coat of tile paint and another night of curing. (The cats slept upstairs.) Looking ahead to the lacquer, I also turned the unopened pot of matte lacquer upside-down overnight. The instructions advise to do this to prevent settling of the flattening, or “matte-ifying”, agents on the bottom of the can. But! DO NOT SHAKE THE LACQUER. The pictures above show the floor with two coats of tile paint just before I started sealing it with the matte lacquer.

Once again, I carefully vacuumed the tile with a SOFT BRUSH ATTACHMENT. (Even rolling vacuum wheels will leave marks on the second coat!) I thoroughly yet gently stirred the lacquer for 10-15 minutes. You don’t want bubbles to form in the lacquer! For high traffic areas, two coats of lacquer are required for maximum durability. It’s recommended to slightly dilute the first coat of lacquer with 10% water. I poured ~350ml of lacquer into a small paint tray and added 35ml of tap water then stirred well. I used a 4″ multipurpose paint brush to apply the lacquer to the tile and grout lines. The directions caution against “overstroking” the lacquer so I tried to work quickly with long brush strokes, but it was a little difficult not to backstroke because I wanted to make sure I hit the grout lines completely. The lacquer went much more quickly than the chalk paint because I was brushing everything – grout and tile. It maybe took 2 hours to apply the first coat of lacquer. I let it dry for 2 hours then applied the second coat at full strength (no dilution).

Here’s everything after the second coat of lacquer. The second coat of lacquer went on even more quickly than the first because, in effect, the tile was now sealed and not soaking up as much of the lacquer. This is where I could really tell a difference! Before any lacquer, the tile felt like a chalkboard. With the sealer, it felt really smooth like stone. I let the two coats of sealer cure overnight. (The cats slept upstairs again. I think Steve was starting to feel bad for me towards the end when he offered to tape off the baseboards right before I applied the lacquer…after I had already painted everything. Probably wasn’t necessary but was appreciated.)

Side note: The instructions advise applying a gloss (versus matte) lacquer as a first coat on a dark chalk paint color to avoid “clouding” but since I was aiming for a slate lookalike (and slate is naturally cloudy/vein-y) I went with two coats of matte lacquer and no gloss.

And this is how it looked the next morning! I actually love the subtle cloudiness and veining. I think it gives the tile a softer, more natural look which is exactly what I was hoping for. And the herringbone pattern is definitely more noticeable!

I let the cats come downstairs that morning but didn’t replace the rug or furnishings for another three days.

We’ve been living with the newly painted floor for a little over a week now and I’m AMAZED by how well it turned out! We walked sock-footed on it for a few days but are already back to entering/exiting through the front door with shoes on and it’s holding up superbly! Our cats are not declawed. I’ve run the vacuum over it a few times (without the floor brush rotating) and wiped up dirty footprints with a damp soft rag. I have NOT dragged any heavy furniture across it. I haven’t noticed any new marks/scratches other than what was already there before the tile was sealed. The hazy finish is quite forgiving. I expect it to hold up in the long run, especially since it isn’t even fully cured until 14-21 days after application. In fact, the matte lacquer is approved for outdoor use too! It provides UV protection so our floor shouldn’t fade over time from sunlight pouring in through the front door. Another thing I want to mention is that I’ve noticed NO ODOR from the chalk paint or lacquer – now or while painting. NONE. Extremely low VOC for the win!

Was it worth it? Yes! I would absolutely do it again…just not in the next month or so, ha!

If you’re considering this project in your own home, I have a few takeways:

*READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. This wasn’t a difficult project – just tedious. There are no shortcuts. If you follow the directions, you can’t go wrong.

*It would be much less time-consuming in a smaller area.

*Set daily progress goals. With all the steps and curing time needed, this can’t be done in an afternoon. (I may have used PTO – paid time off – at my real job to work on the floor one day.)

*Turn off central heating/air to reduce the amount of dust/hair floating around.

*If your space is a frequently-used area, make arrangements for a temporary detour. Be prepared for extreme ninja moves!

*Fold up a towel under your knees/bum while you’re working. Tile is hard!

*Keep pet paws off from second coat of paint to final coat of lacquer.

*Take short but frequent breaks.


It’s been nearly three years since we sold our previous home, The Underdog. We bought it as a dilapidated estate sale in 2011 in an effort to downsize and simplify – physically and financially. We spent the next six years renovating it and making it into a home for our family. We believed then, and still believe now, that it was the perfect house for us at that stage in our life. It was a time of tremendous personal growth in many ways, and we learned a lot. From home improvement subjects like vaulted ceilings, metal roofing, IKEA kitchens and leaky furnaces to more abstract ideas like living with less and valuing experiences over things, the Underdog taught us so much and we’re forever grateful.

I thought it might be interesting to address some of the more frequently asked questions we’ve received since selling and moving.

the black house

What made you decide to move?

There isn’t really one singular thing that coaxed us into moving. It was more like the stars aligned and things kinda fell into place in a serendipitous way. We were putting the finishing touches on the The Pee House but hadn’t listed it yet. I was researching Realtor and Zillow to come up with an accurate fair market price for our flip when I happened upon a property that caught my eye. It wasn’t that the house was beautiful or anything like that, but I was struck by the setting and location. It was a secluded, wooded acre on a cul-de-sac close to all the places we visit on a weekly basis – the kids’ schools, public library, grocery store, favorite local restaurants, parks, swim club, work, etc. I had no idea a lot like it even existed in our area!

I showed the listing to Steve and suggested we “just look at it”, no strings attached. He was reluctant and rightfully so. Here we were with two houses already, neither one of them even on the market yet. We had spent whatever free time there was over the last several months working on the flip and were looking forward to a break. I believe Steve’s exact words were “I need you to stop.” I’m a persistent little bugger though (sorry!) and eventually he agreed to see the wooded property. We viewed it the next evening with our realtor. We were both pretty quiet during the walk-through. I was less impressed with the house (brown, outdated, weird layout, larger than we needed) but couldn’t get over the lot and location. I couldn’t get a good read on Steve. We got in the car to leave and I thought, “Okay, I saw it, now I can get it out of my head.” Sometimes I just need to see a place in person, then I can let it go. Sort of like adding items to an online shopping cart then never actually purchasing them :)

But then Steve said, “So, what did you think?!” I knew right then and there he was game. We slept on it overnight but made an offer the next morning. We were told there were multiple offers, so we didn’t let our hopes get too high. If we got it, great. If we didn’t, we already had two perfectly fine houses, ha! Our realtor called us that evening after the kids were in bed to let us know our offer had been accepted. We just looked at each other like, “Guess we’re buying another house!”

Turns out, the owners’ need to push closing out a few months was what motivated them to accept our offer. They needed time to prepare for a move to an assisted living facility. We were flexible seeing as how we needed time to unload two houses. An extended “under contract” period was perfect for both parties.

The next day we hastily listed the home we were living in as a “Make Me Move” on Zillow. We hadn’t prepped the house for sale; we hadn’t researched the fair market value. I quickly wrote up a description and uploaded photos that I had taken for the purposes of blogging. That was our listing. We didn’t even stick a “for sale” sign in the front yard. An hour after the listing posted, we had a call from a woman asking if she could come see the house that day. We thought, “Why not?”

She came, she saw and she was verrrrry interested. She told us she was newly divorced and her current home was already pending and scheduled to sell in a few weeks. She was under contract on another house, but the inspection had not gone well. She was still within the time frame allowed to walk away without penalty and was frantically looking for a Plan B. She thought our home was perfect. Her realtor contacted us the following day with an official offer. Steve and I had discussed a price we would be willing to accept and the offer was well above it. We felt we’d be silly not to accept it even though we hadn’t really processed everything that was happening. Within a matter of days, we were suddenly buying a new home and selling our current home. It was dizzying and a bit scary but also exciting! The way things were quickly falling into place, it felt meant to be.

The only hiccup we encountered was the timing of closings. Our buyer was anxious to get in ASAP; the sellers of the home we were buying needed more time. As much as we didn’t want to, we figured we could shack up in the flip house for a few weeks if necessary. (But who wants to move twice within a matter of weeks?!) Luckily, our buyer ultimately agreed to push back closing.

In the meantime, we finished up the Pee House, listed it for sale and accepted an offer. We had three closings on three different houses (selling two, buying one) scheduled within four weeks of each other. Not to mention, we were gradually packing up our belongings to move our family. Steve and I were working full-time day jobs, too. Ahhhhhh! It was insanity. We closed on the wooded property first which meant, for a short period of time, we owned three houses. We used that time to sporadically move our belongings to the new house. After work in the evenings and on weekends, we’d pack up the minivan and drop off items at the new house. Steve scored two hours with legit movers for a steal on Groupon, and we utilized them for larger items like furniture, mattresses and the washer & dryer on the actual moving day (although, in reality, we moved over two weeks). Two days later we closed on The Underdog, and two weeks after that we closed on the Pee House. It was a whirlwind, but it all worked out in the end.

What items, if any, were included in the sale of the your previous house?

Along with all the normal fixtures included in a property sale, we left a few extras. The TV & boob speakers (good riddance!) in the living room, all window treatments, the master bedroom sconces and the fauxdenza & wardrobes in the mudroom / dining area all conveyed. The buyer also requested to purchase several items separately from the sale of the house: living room sisal rug, media cabinet, counter stools, desk stool, bunk beds, shoe cabinet and trampoline. We were more than happy to leave those items with the house – less stuff to move!

Fun fact: We have a set of garage cabinets that have made every move with us over the last 10 years. They’re old chemistry lab wall cabinets that Steve found on Craigslist. He loves them, won’t let them go. So we’ve always been sure to note that they do NOT convey in our house listings.

Do you miss your old house?

With all the work, sweat and tears that went into the Underdog, we fully expected to grieve and miss it. Surprisingly, that didn’t happen. We quickly fell in love with our new place and were super happy to see our old house go to someone so excited about it. That definitely made the transition easier.

There are things we miss though. I miss having a newer refrigerator with a water dispenser. Our current home didn’t come with a refrigerator, so we bought an inexpensive, used one from a local scratch-and-dent appliance store as a placeholder until we renovate the kitchen. It’s an older model with no water dispenser and minimal interior organization. (We use a Brita filter pitcher and have to refill it 3-4 times daily. It’s such a pain.) The door doesn’t shut properly and, just last week, the door handle fell off.

I miss bathrooms with windows. I miss natural light in bathrooms and being able to crack a window after a shower or bath. I miss the two small raised garden beds where we grew veggies, herbs and cutting flowers. The kids miss the trampoline.

But these are all just things that can be replicated to some extent at our current place in good time. We don’t regret moving. In fact, at least once a week, one of us says, “I love it here.” So, nope, absolutely no regrets. It was the right move.