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How to Paint Plywood Subfloor

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Post Updated: 03/11/2020

If you want new flooring, but can’t afford it, don’t fret. You can still get a new look for the floor when you rip up the carpet and paint the plywood sub-floor. It is a very budget friendly update that will give the room a whole new look for the cost of a few gallons of primer and paint.

How-to-paint-subfloor---Before-photo

Do you remember the BEFORE? I have an AFTER shot to show you now.

If this is the first time you are seeing what I am doing to the room that used to be my oldest daughter’s room – here is what the room looked like after I pulled up the carpet.  I am turning the room into a fitness/exercise room.  You can see my vision for it in this post.  It is a very low budget makeover.

Paint-subfloor-tutorial

Can You Paint Subfloor?

I am saving money by not replacing the flooring. I will eventually add new carpet or hardwood, but for now I am happy with simply painting the subfloor.

Yes, subfloor can be painted successfully and last for years. One of the ways The process was not as hard as you would think, in fact – it was pretty darn easy.

I thought about painting it decoratively using a stencil, but I want the room to be simple and serene just like a yoga studio.

How to Paint Subfloor

supplies needed:

  • Multi-surface primer
  • Floor & Porch paint – I used Behr Porch and Patio Enamel in the color Pools of Blue.  Home Depot has a pamphlet of all the colors in comes in – over 75 colors.
  • Rough surface paint roller
  • Roller handle extension
  • 2″ angled paint brush
  • Paint tray
  • Broom/mop/vacuum
  • Shoe molding/trim color paint/finishing nails/nail punch/hammer/pencil/miter box & saw/measuring tape
  • Carpet trim and hammer

As long as your subfloor is solid it can be painted.

How to Prep the Subfloor for Painting

How-to-make-subflooring-look-good

This is how the floor looked after I removed the carpet. You will need to remove all the carpet, padding and tacks. There was some glue residue that we had to chip off.

How Do You Hide The Seams in the Plywood?

How-to-prepare-subflooring-for-painting

When you paint a plywood subfloor, seeing the seams between the sheets of plywood are part of the look. The primer and paint will settle into the seams a bit, but for the most part they will be visible.

You should however fill in any holes and gaps in the wood with wood filler. After it was dry, I sanded the patches smooth.

What Products To Use to Paint a Plywood Subfloor

Primer-to-use-to-paint-subfloors

The size of the room is: 14′ x 11-4′.

I needed 2 gallons of Behr Multi-Surface Primer Sealer to get full coverage and 2

This primer is the best for rough and porous wood. It sucked right into the wood and helped prepare the surface for paint.  I used a brush around the perimeter of the room and a roller for the rest of the floor.  The first coat of primer was dry in 30 minutes, so I had the two coats on in under 2 hours.

What-is-the-best-primer-for-painting-wood

The most important thing when painting a floor is to work from the farthest corner and then work backwards until you reach the door to exit.  If you did it the other way, you would get stuck and have to walk over wet paint to get out the the room.

The-best-paint-to-use-to-paint-subfloors

Since I primed, I only needed 1 gallon of Behr Porch & Floor Paint Gloss Enamel in the color Pools of Blue PFC-56.  I used this since it is glossy and will be easy to mop clean, plus it is super durable and does not need a polyurethane coat over it since it can be used for exterior applications also.

I used a roller to roll the paint on. I rolled on 2 light coats, letting the first coat dry before applying the second. I didn’t even use the full gallon. There is still  about a 1/4 left in the can.

Do You Need To Use a Sealer Over a Painted Plywood Floor?

There is no need to seal a painted plywood floor if you are using Porch and Floor paint. If you are using any other paint, you may want to seal with a water-based sealer like Minwax Polycrylic that will not yellow over time.

How long does it take a painted plywood subfloor to dry?

I waited a few days to make sure the paint was fully dry before adding the shoe molding along the baseboard. Since there was carpet in the room before, the molding had to be added to hide the gap where the carpet once laid. I bought primed molding since it saves time.

How-to-countersink-a-nail
How-to-patch-holes-in-a-wood-floor

If you do a lot of DIY projects then you know you always get a surprise in the way of something that needs to be done that you didn’t think of.  You have to rethink or make a new plan or come up with a fix for something you did not foresee. This happened after the subfloor was painted.

When I placed the newly spray painted floor heating vents over the ducts, they didn’t cover the saw marks on the subfloor.

I had to fill these cut marks with wood filler. When the filler was dry, I sanded it smooth with my trusty little hand sanding block with 100 grit sandpaper on it and then painted over it and was good to go.

How to Add Finishing Trim

Miter-box

My table saw has seen better days – it is a goner and until I can afford to get a new one, I am cutting the finishing molding that will go along the baseboard the old-fashioned way – with a simple miter box. As much as I love power tools, a miter box is truly a genius invention. Simple, yet effective.

I used finishing nails and a nail punch to counter sink the nails to attach the shoe molding to the baseboard. I filled the nail holes with Spackle and then sanded the areas smooth.

What-is-the-best-caulk-to-use-for-molding

I am no pro when working with molding and always need to use caulk to cover up all my imperfect cuts.  I call this brand of caulk – Cheez-Wiz caulk. No caulk gun is needed. It is my favorite caulk to use. I buy it at Walmart.

How To Deal With Flooring Changes to Other Rooms?

Carpet-transition-strip

To make the transition from the painted plywood floor in the new fitness room to the wall-to-wall carpeting in the hallway, I used these simple carpet trim strips at Lowes.

I bought the carpet strips in the color Pewter, but they also come in wood, gold, and silver finishes. The short side goes against the carpet and the long side onto the wood.  Nails comes with it to attach it to the floor. I needed to cut the length to fit the width of the doorway, but my trusty little miter box and saw has it cut to size in no time flat.

How Long Do Painted Plywood Floors Last?

Paint-subfloor-tutorial

This room has been a bottom up makeover since I started with the floor…it is all up from here. The floor was in perfect condition 3 years after we painted it. We moved from the house after this, but knowing how durable the paint was and the traffic the room got, I would paint a plywood subfloor again in a room where I wanted a simple look or to save money on flooring.

How to Paint Plywood Subflooring

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46 Comments

  1. I love the painted floor. Great color and you got a very clean look to the room. Great job and what a wonderful room to have.

  2. Such a pretty blue. The room looks so calm and serene. I wish one of my children would move out so I could take over their bedroom! Looking forward to seeing what you do next.

  3. I’m loving the painted floor! In fact I’m hoping to do this to our living room…and then maybe add in a couple of gorgeous area rugs. Are you planning to seal with polycrylic or leave ‘as is’ now with the paint?

    Beautiful! Can’t wait now to see the rest of the room’s transformation.

    1. Thanks Connie – Since the paint is Int/Ext porch and floor enamel, it does not need a poly sealer. It is durable just the way it is. If you wanted to poly over paint, especially if you stenciled a design on it I would not use gloss paint, but a flat or satin. I will be using crafts paint and poly to do my mudroom floor. I will be posting it soon.