Introduction: Vinyl Floor Decals
Have you ever thought to yourself that your floor needs a smart new business casual look? Did the tooth fairy refuse to collect and pay out for all of those hounds-teeth you've somehow collected? Yes? Me, too!
I decided to combine both of these things into a snappy new home improvement project. Putting down vinyl decals on a painted floor, and epoxy'ing the whole thing in. Yeah. It was an ambitious project.
Step 1: Sand and Paint Your Floor
My house is old. Like long in the hounds' tooth old. Nothing is flat, nothing is square. But then again, flat and square are boring. I have 120 year old Denver Pine floors. They're soft and full of flaws, so I did quite a bit of sanding. Then priming, then painting. I used SW outdoor paint, eggshell, Bosphorous #6503.
Step 2: Befriend a Vinyl Guy
If you have your own vinyl cutter, or can get your hands on one somewhere, by all means craft it up yourself. Otherwise find a vinyl guy. If you don't have a vinyl friend, check sign shops. There are sometimes vinyl cutters lurking in the corners. I had to do quite a bit of shopping around. Some of the prices I got for just running the materials through the machine were outrageous. I finally found a guy to do it for about $25 an hour, as long as I promised he wouldn't have to do any of the weeding. (Sit tight. I'll explain weeding in a second.)
Order the vinyl: I ordered
GreenStar Intermediate Calendered Vinyl 15" x 50 Yard Roll, 3mil (GSSIC1550) - Color: -GSM10 Matte White
GreenStar Layflat Clear Transfer Tape - High Tack - Assorted Widths (B-UCSTAPECLR) - Model: 15in x 100yd roll[36.54]
Create a vector file. I looked around for a free download, but ended up purchasing a vector file for this. The free downloads were just a little bit rough, and I was afraid they wouldn't cut perfectly. So I sucked it up and bought a file. If you don't have the software, your vinyl guy probably does.
I used a 12" X 12" file. If the image had been much larger than that, it would have been harder to manipulate when I was laying it down.
(I'm going to skip the vinyl cutting step, since I didn't do it myself.)
Step 3: Weed Your Vinyl
Unroll the vinyl, cut it into squares. Then start weeding. This particular pattern is a positive/negative repeating shape. In other words, I had to peel off half of the stickers so the painted floor below would show. Peeling off the excess vinyl is called "weeding". A deburring tool is a needle on a wood handle, which can be helpful for this tedious job. Settle in and be patient. There will be lots of weeding involved.
Step 4: Apply the Transfer Tape
Transfer tape comes in rolls, and helps to keep the decals in order when you transfer them to the floor. Cut a piece of transfer tape slightly larger than your design (12X12 in my case) and press it down on the top of the decals. Use a squeegee tool to smooth out any wrinkles, and to make sure the decals adhere to the transfer tape.
Peel the backing off of the stickers. Be careful not to deform the stickers as you're peeling them off.
Step 5: Transfer Decals to the Floor
Make sure the floor is clean! Any amount of dust on the floor will keep the decals from sticking to the floor. I used extra transfer tape to clean the floor just before I put the decals down.
Measure, square up, and begin putting decals down. Use the squegee to rub the decals onto the floor to get them to stick. If you chose the vinyl/transfer tape combination well, the transfer tape should come off fairly easily, letting the decals adhere to the floor. I had the best luck peeling back the transfer tape at a 180º angle from the floor. Some of the "legs" of the houndstooth wanted to peel up. If that happens, stick the transfer tape back down and squeegee again.
Repeat this step again and again and again until you cover the entire floor. It's important to keep measuring and squaring up. Small mistakes will compound by the end of the project.
Step 6: Clean the Floor Again
Clean the floor one more time before you start the epoxy business. Again, I used some extra transfer tape to clean the floors before the final epoxy step. Step carefully on the stickers. Make sure not to dislodge corners of the decals before you epoxy it.
Step 7: Epoxy
I wanted to make sure that the finish was extremely thick and hard, so I chose epoxy. Plus, I was looking for a super glossy coat. I chose to use West Systems marine epoxy for the final coating. This stuff is really hard when it dries. It's normally used to fiberglass and fair boat hulls.
WARNING: Wear a respirator with an organic vapors cartridge! Epoxy is nasty stuff. Don't get it on your skin or in your eyes. Follow directions on the package. Epoxy will not kick if it's mixed poorly, or not within an acceptable temperature range.
I chose to use West Systems 105 with 207 hardner. 207 is the super clear version of the hardner. Other hardners can take on a yellowish hue. Follow West Systems directions for mixing and application. I used a West Systems roller and a foam brush to "roll and tip" the epoxy onto the floor. For best results, lay down many thin coats of epoxy. You won't need to sand between coats if they're all laid down in the same day. Obviously, epoxy is super-gluey, so make sure it's kicked before you set foot on it!
Step 8: Admire Your Work!
My floor was fully cured within 24 hours, and I was able to move my furniture back in. The floor ended up satisfyingly shiny, smooth, and it feels great on my bare feet. I don't expect to have any problems with peeling stickers for the rest of this floors' life.