Spruce Up a Cement Floor

Concrete basement floors, porches, patios, even garage floors, can look a little grim. Sure, you can paint a concrete floor a single, uniform color, but how interesting is that? Why not try something a little more attractive? Tromp l’oeil (fool-the-eye) painting techniques are a lot more fun. The details below will show you how to transform a monochromatic concrete slab into a stylish terra-cotta tile floor using water-based paints.

What do you need to create this paint effect?


You need latex floor enamel paints in a few colors. Here are some suggestions from Benjamin Moore Latex Porch and Floor Enamel, the colors: Country Redwood, Adobe Clay, Bisque, Bamboo Beige, Platinum Gray, Blue Quarry, and White. Any durable porch or floor paint would create the same effect. The reason for so many colors is that they need to be mixed as you work to get the kind of realistic variation seen in real terra cotta and grout joints.

Besides the paints, you’ll need these tools:

  • tape measure
  • chalk line tool
  • 1 2x 12-inch square of foam rubber
  • 4-inch square of foam
  • pencil
  • straightedge

We also need a couple of paintbrushes–one about 2 inches wide, and other 1/2-inch artist’s brush–a couple of large, shallow baking dishes, and a precut stencil, no more than 3 1/2 inches square.

So where do you start?


The first step is to find the center of each wall around the perimeter of the floor and mark it on the floor. Then, using the chalk line tool, snap straight lines that meet in the exact center of the room.

When you stretch the chalk line between opposite centerpoints and snap the line, it deposits a temporary mark for your layout so that you’ll end up with equal borders around the edges–just like a professional tiler would create his layout.

Next use the pencil and the straightedge to mark off 12 x12 squares 1/2 inch apart.


How do you apply the paint?


First mix paints for the for the large, 12-inch tiles. Use the 2-inch paintbrush to dab some paint on the bottom of the baking pan. Combine about 4 parts Adobe, one part Redwood, about 1/2 part Beige, and a touch of Bisque. Swirl the colors together but don’t mix them thoroughly.

Then take the 12 x12 square of carpet foam and dip the face in the pan. Use it as a stamp to deposit the paint on the concrete. You work from the centerlines outward in quadrants, stamping the tiles about 1/2 inch apart. Don’t worry if the tiles aren’t perfectly aligned, it’ll enhance the realism. And don’t worry if the stamped-on paint doesn’t cover completely. You can apply more paint to the floor with your brush, swirling the colors in. Remember, a mottled effect is essential for a realism.


The small foam square is used to create accent tiles. Dip it in white paint and stamp at the intersections of four tiles in a random pattern. When the white paint is dry, you can apply a stencil pattern for added decoration.

Eventually, paint in the grout lines with your 1/2-inch brush and the Platinum Gray paint. The latex paint dries quickly. You can walk on it in stocking feet in about an hour. Wait a day or two before walking on it with shoes or placing furniture on it.

Will the paint wear off underfoot?

Eventually, yes. But latex floor paints are formulated to withstand abrasion and last a long time. A pattern like this is also pretty easy to touch up if it should become worn.