Revive Your Floor Without Emptying Your Pockets

Better Farm's library floor, foreground, was badly beat up, weathered, dented, and lifeless. Patching knotholes and applying fresh paint, background, gave the floor a new lease on life for less then $75.
Flooring can be an intimidating project to take on. Nice, durable wood may cost you an arm and a leg (as will many eco-friendly alternatives), laminate flooring leaves much to be desired, and a carpet to cover a badly abused, old wood ground is bound to get stained—but more importantly, carpets trap and hold all kinds of bacteria, dirt, allergens, pollens, dust mites, chemicals, and other contaminants.

We've researched all of the above extensively. And while there's certainly a time and place for luxurious and new wood flooring (natural hardwoods are often worth their price tags, as they'll last forever), bamboo flooring, cement floors, recycled laminate flooring, and even carpet, for our needs and budget we found a nice alternative to all of that other stuff.

First, let's go over the issue at hand: Better Farm's library floor. Here are some pictures of the floor back in 2009:
Duct tape used to cover knot holes had all but worn out.
The famous Sadie dog hangs out amidst a floor covered in duct tape, chipped paint, and loose ends.
The ramp's color is totally worn out.
Here's another shot of the ramp, close-up, that I took last week:

The first thing I did was figure out how to patch those knot holes. This wasn't an easy investigation, as most DIY sites were trying to tell me to use a jigsaw to cut circular pieces of wood to fit the holes—a feat I wasn't sure I was going to be able to accomplish in a safe or timely manner. 

Instead, I picked up some metal screen lath (the mesh or metal patch people use to fix drywall holes) and a quart of Bondo. When we ran out of the screen lath, I cut circles out of plastic recyclables and used those. Here's how we patched:
  1. First we took the duct tape off the knothole, sanded away the old adhesive, and thoroughly swept and mopped the floor.
  2. Then we mixed the Bondo solution together to form the super-strong hole-filler.
  3. With an unfolded paper clip (string or anything else you can think of would also work) attached at one end to the screen (already cut to cover the bottom of the hole), we pushed the screen through the knothole, then pulled up on the paper clip so the screen became flush against the bottom of the hole.
  4. Holding the clip  and screen taut against the bottom of the knothole, we applied the bondo then held the clip in place for several minutes while the adhesive began to take hold:
The Bondo begins to harden. Note the top of the straightened paper clip poking out. That piece came off easily with sandpaper.
Then we sanded the whole thing down, washed the floor again, and painted.

Still rustic farmhouse chic, the floor is one cohesive color without holes. We'll be able to touch the paint up as we need to. And the best part? This whole project cost less than $75—a teeny tiny fraction of what a new floor, or new carpeting, would cost. Here's the price breakdown:
  • Two gallons of paint: $50
  • A bag of four rollers: $6
  • Bondo: $6
  • Screen sheath: $6 (or cut your own with found materials for free)
  • Package of sandpaper: $5
Got a great DIY design tip? E-mail it to us at Many thanks to intern Maylisa Daniels for heading this project!

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.