Amazing Painted Plywood Subfloor: A How-to

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Several months ago I started plotting how to get beautiful floors for not much money.  I was fed up with my nasty, stained carpet but didn’t have the money for the hardwood floors I was dreaming of … or any other decent flooring for that matter.

But that gross carpet had to go, so I decided I was going to paint the plywood subfloor in my living and dining rooms.

Many months later, I am finally done!

painted plywood subfloor

 I think I’m kind of in love with these floors.

This was not a quick or easy project but it was sooo worth the effort.  Here is a quick run-down of how I did it.

Painted Plywood Subfloor

carpet before

1.  Rip out old carpet and carpet padding.  Remove all tack strips and staples from subfloor.

bare floor

2.  Patch the seams and staple holes.  (This is the only part I really wasn’t pleased with.  I used Flexible Floor Patch and Leveler.  This was not the right choice.  It is good because it flexes with the floor and all that stuff.  But it is horrible because you can’t sand it smooth).  *Update – I found a much better product for filling the holes and seams of the subfloor – check it out in this post.*

3.  Sand the floor.  We just used a small palm sander but of course a large floor sander would work much faster.  Just remember that this is plywood – it is not going to be silky smooth.  The point of sanding is to smooth out major rough spots and smooth any filler you used.

4.  Prime the floor with a quality primer.  The quickest way to do this is to use a roller with an extension handle and then get the edges with a brush.  (I used Zinsser Oil-based Primer/Sealer.  I like oil based primer in general because it sticks to anything and is very durable.)

subfloor primed and ready to paint

5.  Paint the base color onto the floor. (I used Valspar latex porch and floor paint in ‘Chimney Smoke’.  Latex paint works just fine over oil based primer; you just can’t do oil based paint over water based primer.  I chose to use latex paint because it is easier to work with and easier to clean.)

6. Paint the border around the room (Valspar latex porch and floor paint in ‘Crucible’). To get nice crisp lines follow these steps.

how to paint a border over your base color

7.  Stencil the design inside the border. (I used the Paisley Allover Stencil from Cutting Edge Stencils.)  I used a small foam roller to paint over the stencil and only needed one coat of paint in each section.  Be sure to only put a small amount of paint on your roller each time.  You only want to paint a thin coat when stenciling – this way the paint won’t smudge when you move the stencil to the next section.

stenciling a plywood subfloor

8.  Seal the floor to protect it.  (I used four coats of Rust-Oleum Varathane Crystal Clear Water-Based Poleurethane in Satin Finish and would highly recommend it.  I also used a Varathane floor finish applicator to apply this.)

painted plywood subfloor

 painted plywood subfloor

LOVE! There will certainly be more painted floors making their way through my house in the not-too-distant future.

Now I need to finish the trim, and then it is on to the total room makeover these floors have jump-started.  I want to make sure the rest of the room is as great as the floor.

If you are thinking about painting some floors of your own or are just wondering if a painted floor can really last, be sure to check out these tips and updates:

Painted Plywood Floors Update: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Stenciled Floors: Tips and Frequently Asked Questions

Painted Plywood Subfloor: Three Years Later, The Final Update


And if you are still nervous about painting your own floors, I’d love to help any way I can.  You can email me with questions at

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  1. says

    Im actually shocked at the final result! WOW… it’s lovely. So much effort and vision. How on earth do you know what to ‘do’ with the floor (sanding, priming, coating etc) You are one clever savvy lady. Im in awe actually.
    Jennie. x

  2. says

    Holy WOW! This looks fantastic! What a surprising project- and totally amazing! Best painted floors I’ve seen, the design you made up is A-Mazing!!

  3. says

    That is amazing! I have a spare room soon to be turned into an office with plywood floors and I think I am going to have to try it. You did an incredible job.

  4. says

    OMG! I found you on A2D and came on over to check out the how to!

    I am so glad I did! My landlord has given me permission to yank out the smelly old carpet. We had hoped that there was hardwood under since the house was built in 1901 and there is hardwood in the hall but Sadly it is just a plywood sub floor. Today I was rather despondent over that fact. Tonight I am elated! My living room is not that large but this would allow me to get rid of the nasty carpet, create something beautiful, which I love doing, and not cost me an arm & leg.

    Thank You for sharing!

    • Jax says

      Crystal, this response is too late for you, but someone else may benefit. My husband and I did one built in 1904. (Everyone who has ever renovated an “old lady” says these words nearly every day: What were they thinking? Why?) The entire house had hardwood floors, except for the tile in the bathrooms, which were in a 1940 addition. There was REAL lino in the kitchen using coal tar as the adhesive OVER the hardwood. That was BAD. But even worse, in the foyer they had installed 3/4″ plywood subfloor OVER the hardwood using ring shank nails. When you pulled them out, they left quarter sized holes in the hardwood. Point is, look under the subfloor if you have reason to think there is hardwood there, like the house was built in 1901. My question, if anyone is still reading this thread, is how do you prep if your subfloor is OSB and not plywood? And like everyone else, I’m totally impressed with the paint job.

  5. says

    Wow, this is absolutely amazing! You started a revolution of how to get around expensive floors! I can’t believe those are stenciled plywood. It is absolutely gorgeous. I would be way in love if those floors were in my home! Visiting from AD2D

  6. says

    First, Donna @ Funky Junk painting her stairs, and now YOU re-doing an entire floor!!!

    That was a LOT of tedious work, but dang it, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do…and it turned out FABULOUS!!! REALLY!!! GREAT JOB!!!

  7. says

    Holy moly! Those floors are gorgeous! How did you get pictures of my carpet for your before picture? Ick. Mine looks just like that. I am praying for hardwoods!

  8. says

    As a long time floor painter ( I painted my first floors over 25 years ago–and have done it in every single house since then) I want to add a couple tips: I had the very best luck when I finally quit adding floor leveler. Just get the biggest baddest floor sander you can, and get it flat with that. Trust me. anything that goes thinly over the floor will ultimately chip away with heavy furniture placed over it. Don’t be afraid to wash the wood well…just let it dry completely before you paint. Also, had the best luck with ‘marine epoxy’ (boat paint) from any high-end paint store because it goes on and stays on…but it only comes in high gloss, a look I happen to love. Good luck!

  9. BRENDA says


  10. Brenda says

    Carrie, I am happily now your latest FOLLOWER and whatsmore this is my very first time doing this! I have had you on my fav bar forever, but now I feel like a real FAN!!!

  11. says

    Carrie, do you think I can you essentially do the same thing on a countertop? I would love to paint my countertops until I can afford to refinish my kitchen!

    Thanks! Teresa

  12. says


    Visiting from the shoutout at Homestories A to Z today—-

    MOUTH GAPING OPEN! (no, I’m not kidding and yes I am SHOUTING!)

    Suzanne in NW Illinois

  13. says

    GORGEOUS, stunning and amazing! I want to run downstairs and rip out my family room carpet right now. I’m going to have to talk my hubby into this. I’m putting your gorgeous floor in the PoPP Spotlight. Thanks for linking up.

  14. says

    It’s gorgeous! I have several painted floors in my house. Even though I originally did it years ago because it was cheap (that was 3 houses ago) I have them now because I love them! I change my bathroom floor fairly often. A whole new floor for the price of a can of paint and a little labor. You can’t beat that! Yours turned out just beautiful! Great job. Lisa~

  15. says

    Your floors are gorgeous!! I have an office floor I painted aqua, but every chunk (literally) out of the plywood shows and catches dirt. Now I think I’ll try your amazing method! I’m not sure a sander would get rid of the problem on my floor, but maybe the leveler…it’s only an office…I’ll let you know how it comes out. (And become a follower! :)

  16. says

    What a great idea! It’s gorgeous! We lived with plywood floors for several years while renovating. Wish I’d seen this then! I landed on the Cutting Edge website a few days ago, and love their landscape mural kit. I think there’s one in my future!

  17. says

    You make me want to rip out my identical ugly carpet and paint my floor! I wouldn’t have much time to get it done though…my business is in my home. I really love how it turned out. Beautiful!

  18. says

    My best friend and I have been contemplating this in our town homes. We’ve never come across someone who had an explanation of how and a show stopping finish like yours did. I am INSPIRED!!! Thanks for all sharing all your hard work.

  19. says

    oHHH my GOSH! these are totally Fabulous!! I have a guest room that i ripped the ugly carpet up and now am left with even ugly plywood floors i never thought it would look so pretty painted~ im so gonna do this! i love everything about yours hope ya dont mind im gonna have to copy it! :) THANK YOU!!!

  20. says

    I’m adoring the Boheme’ Essence of these painted floors! You did a fab job. And thanks for the Tutorial.

    Blessings from the Arizona Desert… Dawn… The Bohemian

  21. says

    I just found you through Dixie who just a comment above.

    You’ve done everything right and ended up with a beautiful result. Taping off and putting a border on the edges was the perfect solution to prevent having to stencil along the walls. Also smart to use two colors that are just a shade or two off. It prevents a busy pattern from getting too loud.

    Perfect job!

  22. says

    You are one amazing lady, and you so deserve to be featured everywhere, This is truly the BEST DIY project I have ever seen…AMAZING take a bow
    Enjoy your new floors and your home


  23. says

    I stumbled upon you from ProjectQueen. Your floors are truly amazing and beautiful. Everyone will want to have these from rich to poor. Wow-weeeee!

  24. says

    Love, love, LOVE these floors! I’m getting ready to pull up old linoleum that was under carpet in a den. There’s hardwood underneath, but I’m not sure what shape it’s in. I may just have to follow your lead! I’m definitely going to follow your blog. :)

  25. says

    Saw your feature on Whisperwood Cottage! The floors are beautiful and way more interesting and unique than hardwood floors. We pulled out the carpet and painted our concrete subfloor which turned out well but the stencil idea is genius. Your patience and idea certainly paid off in a big beautiful way!

  26. says

    I just love what you did. I am saving my money in hopes to tear up my nasty carpet and do this to my floors. Problem is, my floors are a concrete slab, that had at one time, Terrazzo all over floors. But and this is the kicker….. previous owners put junk linoleum tiles over it and that awful, black glue/cement stuff. UGH. I already tore up the carpet in my office and hallway…. huge mess. I popped up the paint splattered tiles and now what the heck to do with that black cement? So very scared to take up the carpet in my bedroom and living room now…. it is a mess. HELP?

    Also, I was curious as to what you were going to use to finish your baseboards? All new or add quarter round?

  27. says

    I just became your follower. I myself have done so many house renovations. The work and man hours put into this floor must have been a true labour of love. You got my vote as soon as I saw the first picture.

    Besides, I am very FOND of that swirvey curvey design.

  28. says

    This is MEGA INSPIRING!!!!!! Holy cow. I’ve painted floors before, but never thought to use such an intricate pattern. I am in love.


    I’m your newest follower :)

  29. says

    Wow…very beautiful. Not sure if I have the patience (or the back) for this kind of project, but I can see why you are happy with the results. Steve from an Urban Cottage sent me over.

  30. says

    I got here from An Urban Cottage too. My teenage daughter was asking me why we couldn’t do this to our sub floors just last week. My fear was the seams and nails. Yours is so lovely I would be happy with just a black painted floor.
    Did you ever discover what the right product is for those seams?

  31. says

    Are. You. Kidding Me???? Holy wow. Unbelieveable. Gorgeous. Insanely beautiful. Have never seen anything so beautifully done as a painted floor!!!!! I just found you through An Urban Cottage and I am so blown away I am sending this link to all my DIY buddies. Really, I just can’t get over it. I am so in love with this idea. So glad I found you and am now off to follow you. If your other posts are even near this great, I’m going to love your blog!

  32. says

    That floor is amazing!! I love the paisley stenciled pattern. You’ve just inspired me to rip up the nasty carpeting on my stairs. Nice job.

  33. says

    I “pinned” your floor a few days ago! LOVE it. (I’m thinking of stenciling my kitchen walls in paisley so I found you in a search) and then TODAY I find you again on one of my FAV blogs! So I’m back again at Steve’s instruction! LOL!
    and I’m Following you now!
    :D – Cindi

  34. Leanne McConnell says

    I would love to do this to my kitchen, but I was wondering if you think that area has too much traffic…or does that really matter. My house is a small 100 year old Bungalow with a cottage feel….so the wear doesn’t bother me that much….as long as it doesn’t just fall apart.

  35. Anonymous says

    Wow – what great timing!! I have been pondering and pondering what to do about my ugly carpet and my gross plywood sub floor. I have asked everyone at work for advice…and then I see this post! Fabulous!


  36. Anonymous says

    Wow! Gorgeous! Do you have any link parties to how to due this type of floor on a cement sub floor?

  37. says

    YAY! YAY! YAY! I’m so excited I stumbled upon this at A2Z today. I am in the middle of this very project at my house for the very same reason – gross carpet out, cheap alternative in!! I’ve been researching this here and there for the past few months and this is by far THE BEST outcome I’ve seen!!! Thanks for the added inspiration to keep me going!

  38. says

    How long did this take you? My BF is HIGHLY allergic to our cat and the carpet has got to go. I would love to do a “transition floor” until we get the laminate budget.

  39. says

    I found you from pinterest. Now a new follower. You are so smart! I am always looking for inexpencive ways to jazz up my home and you have given me great inspiration, Thanks!

  40. says

    Thank you for the idea. I picked up the carpet in my son’s bedroom due to allergies and painted the floor to be able to clean the dust easier. I made the stencil and I had a really hard time keeping it clean. The paint was bleeding under the edges even though I used spray glue on the back of the stencil. The floor board is not perfectly smooth, it is a strip board and I didn’t want it to be perfectly smooth to prevent slipping. That might have been the problem.

  41. says

    This is so beautiful! Great job! I have a question for you. The sealer that you used is water-based and says not to use it on floors. How have you found it to hold up? Has it been a while since you did this floor? I’m just trying to figure out whether or not I could just get away with using the porch and floor paint and not sealing it…. not sure, though! Help!

  42. says

    Hmm – the sealer is water-based but is made for floors. It says so on the label. And it has held up really well – I am going to give an update in the next week or so. I wouldn’t recommend painting the floor and not sealing it. I did that with porch and floor paint on my screened porch and without the sealer, the floor gets dingy/dirty looking really quickly.

  43. says

    Thank you for the inspiration! We just tore out the carpet in our dining area, stairway and bedrooms. We just bought this home last December and the carpets were nasty! I just couldn’t take it anymore! My intention was the paint the sub-floor until we could afford the barn-board flooring we really want. Many websites try to deter us from painting, saying it will look worse than dingy carpets (not likely!). Your floor is absolutely gorgeous, and was happy to see your comment that the floors held up well! Thanks again for sharing!!

  44. says

    me and my husband painted our floors a couple of months ago…i was shocked how well it looks and lasts. we used some stuff to level the floor out- and you’re right- big mistake. it still looks great and i’m planning to do another area of the house. we used black in an interior eggshell with a sealer over it, and it has held up super great! yours our a lot more time consuming though- and it paid off. ours took us a few hours and then over night to dry…i get a ton of compliments.

  45. says

    What an amazing transformation! You absolutely did a great job! Your work is so much like that of a professional! The design choice is so good and the color is perfect as well. Thank you for sharing these steps because several homeowners will learn so much from this. Please keep on sharing!

  46. says

    We were inspired by your lovely floor and are beginning our own project. You mentioned filling the seams with a product you would not recommend. What would the alternative be? I can’t seem to see any seams in any of the flooring pictures I have viewed online, but, apparently, one must leave a small gap between sheets of plywood as they swell and shrink. Any input would be valuable! THANKS!

  47. says

    It takes a huge amount of skill and patience to have done that! I am amazed with your work. You painted it like a professional. An advice I could give is to do research about the materials you want to use and the surface you are using it on. Be prepared so that money and time will not go to waste! Thanks for sharing!

  48. says

    I happen to be in the middle of a low budget kitchen makeover, and I am GOING to do this.

    Problem: I have lots of littles, and will need to set aside a full day, and get child care.

    How long between coats of paint were you able to stencil, and then how long after to apply the sealer, aaannnnd then how long after that before you could move everything back into place and step on it?

    THANKS! It’s beautiful!

  49. Anonymous says

    When doing the border. You said to pull up the tape on the second coat, before it dries. This means the first/base coat that you paint right over the tape on is completely dry when you do the border coat and pull that one up while its still wet? I want to do the border in my room :)

    • Carrie says

      Upkeep is pretty easy – I just sweep and occasionally mop. The sealer keeps it shiny though I imagine after more time has passed, it may need to be resealed. The pattern makes the floor great at hiding dust.

  50. says


    This is the coolest project ever! We are building a house and I will be painting and sealing the concrete floors so that we can save to put bamboo in the entire house (2000sf = $$$$ yikes). I have this stencil. Paisley is my favorite. Check out my blog you will see it everywhere. I would really like to feature this post and your blog on my blog. Let me know what you think. Great job. Now I just have to convince my husband that this design will not look too busy. Thanks again for the great tutorial.

    • Carrie says


      Please feel free to feature my floors and me as long as you link back! Painted concrete floors sound like a lot of fun – there are so many cool things you could do with them. As you can see I love paisley too though I haven’t used it a ton in my house since the floors alone make such a statement. Heading over to check out your blog now!

  51. Janice says

    I have most of my kitchen floor in plain ply wood and this summer i will be trying to do this. How long does it take for the paint to dry because i have 5 small house dogs that are my children. I am going to do this i hope on a very hot day.

    • Carrie says

      It takes several hours for the primer and each coat of paint to dry. You will have to check the directions on the floor sealer to see how long it has to dry – I can’t remember exactly. I think I let it dry twenty-four hours between coats for four coats to be safe. Maybe you could just block off that area while you are working on the floor? That is what I have to do when I paint things to keep my one year old out of the wet paint. :)

  52. Velva says

    Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the issues.

    It was truly informative. Your site is very helpful. Thank you for sharing!
    Velva recently posted…VelvaMy Profile

  53. says

    Hi Carrie,
    This is the most amazing floor transformation and so ingenious! I wanted to let you know that I’ve featured this project (and your second tips post) on my website: It’s a hub for all kinds of fun & creative DIY ideas. The direct link to the featured post is:
    Feel free to let your readers know you’ve been featured and thanks so much for your wonderful creativity!

    • Carrie says

      I don’t know if this is possible in a flat. You would definitely have to talk to your landlord because it involves completely changing the flooring. Good luck!

  54. Vicki says

    The entire time I’m reading this I’m thinking, she’s crazy!! LOL and I mean that in the nicest way!! That floor is gorgeous!!!!

    But, you stenciled it by hand, the entire thing? WOW, you have some patience!!!!

    Wish I could do this…I’m not inclined, not that I “couldn’t”, I don’t have that kind of patience. I think you might need to farm yourself out and make a living out of this.

  55. Cyndy says

    Gorgeous floor! I’m getting ready to paint & stencil my guest bedroom plywood floor. Did you use Zinsser Oil-based Primer/Sealer Cover Stain? It is not labeled for use on floors. I was wondering how it is holding up?

    • Carrie says

      Sorry, I do not have any experience with this. What little I have read implied painting OSB in general is rather difficult though.

  56. says

    This is just beautiful! I am about to pull the trigger and do this to a house we are moving into in 2 weeks. My big question is how do you keep it clean? Mop it? We would be doing it in the kitchen and dining room. Would you recommend this? Thank you so much!!!

    • Carrie says

      Thanks Jenny! Congrats on the new house. The floor is actually super easy to keep clean. I just sweep it and Swiffer/mop it to clean. I think it would work great in a kitchen/dining area.

  57. jo knight says

    Hi, Great effect. Can you elaborate on the step 6 below as i’m wanting to know how to apply the stencil. i see it’s plastic film, but a little confused at this step.

    6. Stencil the design inside the border. (Paisley Allover Stencil from Cutting Edge)

    • Carrie says

      Sure Jo, the stenciling is pretty simple really. Just lay your stencil out starting in one corner of the room. Load up some paint on a small foam roller and roll off the excess on some paper towels. Then roll it over the stencil. Then pick up the stencil and move it to the next spot, making sure to line up the pattern. If you would like to see this in action, there are some great videos showing tips on stenciling at

  58. Janelle says

    Not too sure on how the stenciling worked – do you put it down/paint over/then remove? Would this process work on concrete? My house has a slab (no basement).

  59. says

    OH my gosh – these are spectacular!!!
    I ordered the paisley stencil for a floor I want to paint and then decided to google it to see if anyone else had ever attempted it – I’m completely blown away by this –
    Far exceeds how beautiful I imagined it could be.
    AND I was able to show my better half exactly what I meant ( he kept saying it was a ridiculous idea until I showed him this )
    THANK YOU for sharing –
    Beyond gorgeous – I’m pinning now!
    Have a wonderful day

  60. Clare says

    Your painted sub floor looks nice…. but plywood, (or OSB) sub floors are not meant to be lived on, that’s why it’s called a ‘sub’ floor. While carpeting, padding and laminates don’t add any strength, they do have cushioning and acoustic properties that add to the livability of a space, plus they help cushion any deflection that might be felt with only a sub floor in place.

    A finished wood floor installation will add stiffness and acoustic properties that will make your space infinitely more comfortable and livable. That said, a ‘common’ grade of solid maple, or oak wood strip flooring could be installed somewhat economically and painted, if that was the desired finished look. Plus, you’d still have the option to sand and refinish it naturally, when you grow tired of the painted look. Natural wood never goes out of style and goes with everything.

    • Carrie says

      Very true, but for us this was a great solution. This floor is not meant to be a permanent solution but a temporary fix. We have had these floors for two years and have not been bothered at all by lack of cushioning or acoustics. I certainly would not recommend this type of flooring long term, but it is infinitely better than the nasty carpet we had and incredibly more affordable than even the cheapest hardwoods.

  61. Clare says

    also meant to add: the gaps at the ends of the sheets of plywood sub floor are there for a reason and is the approved method of installation. Filling them in with a floor patching compound is not a good idea.

  62. Joyce says

    I painted my kitchen floor years ago – all has gone well – a couple of seams popped when the washing machine overflowed (and I wasn’t around to shut it off) and saturated the kitchen and adjoining dining room. But I’m the only one who really notices the “ugly” part of that disaster.

    Want to paint the den; a quick peek shows that the subfloor is not plywood, but that ugly ugly OSB stuff. I always called it chipboard but was corrected.

    Do you think this subfloor will can be satisfactorily painted?

    OH, My approach to the kitchen was similar to your’s, but instead of stenciling I sponged on 3 colors.

    • Carrie says

      Joyce, It is always good to hear from others whose painted floors are still going strong! I do not have any personal experience with painting OSB, but have heard from some that it is not ideal. (Although to be fair, plenty of people would also say that painting subfloors in general is not ideal). I did a quick google search and found this article which may be helpful – they certainly make it sound possible!

  63. Lynn says

    Hi, I just came across your blog while googling “painted floors”. I was looking for the “how to”. I want to paint our little boys bedroom floor. Well let me just say FABULOUS !! Fancy and LOVE it !! Brilliant it’s clean & so fresh looking. By far the best I have seen yet !! Very inspirational. I will definitely be a follower now !

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