One noteworthy characteristic of the hardwood flooring industry is the fact that our products have the capacity to take up permanent occupancy in a building once they’ve been installed. The word “temporary” has always been purposely omitted from the industry’s version of “Webster’s Wood Dictionary.”

On the other hand, let’s focus on the fact that one of the key benefits associated with most hardwood flooring products is its capacity for an optional facelift whenever the need arises. Restoring the floor’s cosmetic appearance not only renews but also preserves the hardwood floor’s natural beauty for years to come. Remember, although you can’t change the characteristics of the tree that produced the floor, you can significantly affect the shade that it will cast upon you and your end user.

Today’s hardwood flooring dealer/contractor may be called upon to perform a premature facelift on an existing hardwood floor installation purely for aesthetic or decorating reasons. Due to the longevity of hardwood, many residential wood floor installations become “candidates for adoption” whenever an existing home is sold to a new buyer. No two homeowners are exactly alike, and many choose to personalize the hardwood floors they acquire when they purchase an existing home. As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks.

Creativity in wood floor personalization begins with you and the consumer. Set yourself apart from the competition whenever the opportunity arises. Even architects and specifiers tend to follow trends in design rather than leading them. So, seize the initiative yourself!

If you haven’t learned by now, everything is subject to change — and our industry is not exempt from this fact of life. Unlike people who deal in alternative floor covering materials, we in the hardwood industry can readily take advantage of change and present it as a positive thanks to the wide assortment of “additives” and renewal processes at our disposal.

Considered a new additive by today’s wood floor consumers is a process known as faux/stenciling. The artistry involved in meticulously painting a depiction of an object or scene has now made its way from the traditional but lifeless canvas to the nature-spawned backdrop of a hardwood floor. (In reality, designs created with paint and applied to a wood floor are at least as old as the National Basketball Association. Since the league was established, team symbols and/or logos have been painted onto the home team’s hardwood court where they are preserved for posterity — and as a permanent rallying point for players and fans alike.)

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the National Wood Floor Association’s annual convention in Dallas. As in years past, a wide variety of intricate medallion/border and faux/stenciling installations and demonstrations were performed at the event by an all-star cast drawn from the association membership. Even though it was outnumbered by other types of installation showcased during the convention, the faux/stenciling demonstration maintained its fair share of audience interest. The process is more akin to a post-graduate class than to the paint-by-numbers method children often learn — although one basic principle is common to both: you’re still required to apply the paint within the lines.

The upside of the faux/stenciling process is that it allows the homeowner an opportunity to change floor décor with the times. A stenciled choo-choo train border in the baby’s bedroom will hold the “engineer’s” interest at least until he completes preschool. At that time, the stencil can be replaced, if desired, with a more age-appropriate motif.

The patterns and designs available through the faux/stenciling technique are limited only by the imagination. Pictures can be projected via an overhead projector onto a transparency for transfer to the floor.

To do so, outline and cut away the image within the lines of the transparency, lay it on the floor and apply paint. This method would allow you to create something as simple as a border and/or feature stripe with a painting of a rosette at all four corners of the room (where the stripe create a 90º angle).

I recommend the following guidelines for a successful faux/stenciling application:

1. Do avoid adhesion problems, sanding and refinishing of the existing hardwood floor may be required if potential for finish contamination exists.
2. If the wood is refinished, the faux/stenciling should be applied between the first and final coats of finish. The finish must be screened and/or abraded before and after the whole ostensibly process.
3. Utilize a quality masking tape that can easily be removed in order to avoid damaging the surrounding finish and to reduce the chance of paint bleeding through beneath the tape.
4. Intricate designs require the use of multiple artist’s brushes to compensate for the likelihood of bristle loss during paint application. Utilize compatible paints for proper adhesion.
5. All paints must be thoroughly dried before abrading. A household hairdryer can accelerate the drying process. After abrading, thoroughly vacuum and tack the entire floor before applying the final coast.
6. If ambering is undesirable, utilize a water-based urethane finish in lieu of a solvent-based or polyurethane finish.

Wood or Wood Knot invites you to explore the wonderful world of color that can be yours through the faux/stenciling process. There has never been a better time to “picture” yourself. All smiles will surely follow.