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

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My painted plywood floors are one of the most beautiful, creative, fantastic projects I have ever done.  And the most popular project I have shared here at Lovely Etc. so far.  (If you missed the post about the floor process, you have got to go check it out immediately!)

Now that we have lived with them for more than half a year, I figured it was time to share a little update on how they are holding up.

painted plywood subfloor update the good, the bad, and the ugly

So here you have it.  The completely honest, unbiased update of the good, the bad, and the ugly of painted plywood subfloors.

The Good

First, I should say that the floors have held up great and continue to be my very favorite thing in our house.  I love, love, love them.  When I walk into other rooms that still have their dreaded dingy carpet, I can’t stand how the carpet seems to just suck all of the light out of the room.  These floors, on the other hand, continue to be just as beautiful and reflective as they were when I first painted them.

The floors have also been quite durable.  I have had almost no problems with the paint getting chipped or scratched.  Some of my furniture has protective pads under it but not everything.  The couch is sitting directly on the floor and has not made even the slightest scratch in the finish – even when we scooted it around to reach things underneath.

couch on painted floor

There is one exception to this.  There is a very small divot in the floor where I dropped something several months ago.  I think it may have been a picture frame, but in any case a sharp corner fell into the floor.  This did not scratch the paint, but it did dent the soft plywood of the floor.  The divot it left was deep enough to show the bare wood beneath the paint.

small divot in painted plywood subfloor

As you can see, it is fairly tiny and not very noticeable at all.  If it really bothered me, I could simply touch up the paint.

As far as cleaning, I have simply swept the floor for the most part.  A few times I have mopped with my Swiffer wet jet which has worked just fine.

The sealer I used has been one of the biggest keys to the durability of this project and has held up great.  I used porch and floor paint followed by Rust-Oleum Varathane Clear Water-Based Poleurethane, Satin Finish.  I also painted the floor of my screened porch several years ago with porch and floor paint but did not use a sealer. Not only does that floor not have the same beautiful sheen, it is very difficult to keep clean. It seems like the dirt just sticks to the paint.

The Bad

I am extremely happy that I stenciled a pattern on the largest area of the floor because it hides dust and dirt so well.  (Using the Paisley Allover Stencil by Cutting Edge)  The solid area around the edges of the room tends to show every speck of dust – mainly because the floor color is so dark.  Also, being a painted surface, it is very uniform and hides nothing.  Even hardwood floors have some wood grain to help camouflage dust.

I still have not gotten around to replacing the shoe molding around the edges of the room. This of course makes the room look less finished but there is actually another side effect as well.  Dust from inside the wall tends to fall and gather in the corners of the room.  This contributes to the difficulty in keeping the solid portion of the floor looking clean.

The other reason the pattern is so key is that it helps hide the seams in the plywood floor.  The floor overall looks completely amazing.  But when the light hits it a certain way, you can see the plywood seams quite clearly.  This doesn’t really bother me, but if you are a perfectionist, it may not be for you.

plywood seams

And the biggest negative of all.  After I posted about my painted subfloors, a fellow blogger let me know that painting subfloors can be a problem from a real estate point of view.  Yes, I already realized that potential buyers may not be pleased with plywood flooring – even if it is very beautiful plywood flooring.  The bigger problem is that in at least one state, you cannot sell a house unless there is some sort of covering over the subfloor – it has to do with not being able to get bank financing.  One of those strange quirks.  That one state is Virginia where I happen to live.  (This may or may not be true for other states – I am not an expert in real estate and have absolutely no idea).

For some people, this could be a major deterrent and it is definitely something you should be aware of before you undertake a project like this.  For me, it is not really a big deal because we are not planning to move anytime soon.

The Ugly

Come on, seriously, there is nothing ugly about this floor.  It is magnificent and it makes the whole room seem so much more amazing.

painted plywood subfloor 2

Okay, so there was one point when it almost took a turn toward ugly.  When I first did this project, I actually sealed the floors two times. The first time I used Varathane Crystal Clear Water-based floor sealer in Gloss Finish. The floor was so shiny and glossy that it looked wet long after it dried. The extreme shininess of it also highlighted every single imperfection in the plywood – not pretty at all. Luckily, I kept my head and went back to the store and bought Rust-Oleum Varathane Clear Water-Based Poleurethane, Satin Finish. I put this right over the finish I had previously used and it turned out perfectly.

So there you have it – the unbiased truth.  They may not be perfect, but I absolutely adore my painted floors.

Has anyone else out there tackle a floor-painting project?  What tips or advice would you add?  Are you as thrilled with your floors as I am with mine?  Anyone have other questions about the process or about how they are holding up?

If you are thinking about painting your own floors, you may want to check out these other related posts for tips and answers to many of your questions:

Amazing Painted Plywood Subfloor: A How To

Stenciled Floors: Tips and Frequently Asked Questions

Painted Plywood Subfloor: Three Years Later, The Final Update


I love to help out fellow DIYers – you can email questions to  or just leave them in the comments.

If you enjoyed this project, there are lots more where that came from!



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  1. says

    So glad for this update! I am planning to paint subfloor in my bathroom (which is in the process of a reno) and am wondering about using the same sealer you did. Do you think it will withstand being wet periodically? (This is the kids bath and I have boys; yes the floor will get wet. :) ) Thanks for sharing your thoughts. ~Rachel

  2. says

    Glad to see the update. I have a plywood floor in my living room, and I have been toying with the idea of painting and stenciling it for a while now. There is a large pool table in the middle of the room, and it has taken a while but we reluctantly have to let it go to clear the room. Times change…it is used less, so its time… I want my room back! Your pros and cons,, and tips are surely going to help.

  3. says

    Rachel – I am not sure how it will withstand water but swiffering hasn’t been a problem. Though that is probably much less wet than a kids bathroom. I am thinking about giving this sealer a try over the painted floor on my screened porch though which does get some rain blowing in. So I say why not give it a try.

  4. says

    Thanks for the update! Your painted subfloor was one of the motivating factors I had to ripping out the carpet and painting the concrete in my dining room! Still a work in progress… but almost done! :) I wish I’d had wood to paint and not concrete!

  5. Priscilla says

    I’ve stained floors before, then sealed them with a couple coats of polyurathane. It provides a waterproof seal that protects the floor against even wet mopping. Can you share your reason for choosing the sealer you used?

  6. says

    Priscilla – I used this sealer instead of polyurathane because I didn’t want the sealer to yellow with time. Since this is a painted floor (even though it isn’t white) I wanted to make sure the color would stay true. Polyurathane tends to yellow but this sealer is called crystal clear because it remains clear.

  7. says

    Stunning and the patience that must’ve taken. WOW.

    I, too, live in VA. The most arbitrary, we own your lives and make ALL the rules kind of states that exists in our country.

    We have the beauty – mountains/beaches, we have the seasons – all four, we even have really nice people living here, BUT I cannot wait until our youngest is on her way to college b/c we are moving faster than you can say “Goodbye”. And it figures that VA is the ONE state that has this law.

    I can guarantee you that no one [real estate agent, bank] is going to realize that is subfloor. Even if you have to disclose it I doubt it would hold up a loan. Then again….it IS VA.

    Enjoy your floors. I am gearing up to paint our basement floors, but nothing as beautiful as yours. :)

  8. says

    Ok..I’m going to do a VERY small flooring area, my daughters walk in closet. I’m concerned about the seams the most therefor I want to make sure that the product I use is flexible enough to not open up / crack down the road.. Any suggestions before I tackle this? I want to make her tiny closet look very hip and cool even if I’m not (according to her) so I’m very excited about this… And since it’s such a small area I don’t think I’ll have a resell problem but if so I can always put carpet back down… thanks for any feedback you can give me! I just LOVE your floors! – Susan

  9. says

    I saw you on Primp and had to read your post since I recently painted the plywood floor in my storage room – not beautifully like yours, just plain old white – but it seems the trick is the sealer, which I didn’t use. Thanks for the useful tips and info.
    I’m your newest follower.

  10. says

    This is by far the most gorgeous painted floor I have seen yet!
    I’m thinking of painting my bedroom floor but don’t think I’d have the patience to pull of anything as ambitious as this!
    I’m in awe
    Definitely your newest follower – would love to have you come be for a visit and follow back when you can!

  11. says

    How cool to get a good update! I always wonder when I see some “amazing” project if it actually held up. Thanks for giving a review and I’m glad yours lived up to what was hoped for.

  12. says

    I was wondering how they are holding up.

    I should probably write and update on my bathroom ‘DECOUPAGED’ floor!
    Your’s is beautiful…I’m thinking of doing the same thing in my kitchen…it will be right onto the sub-floor. But after seeing your lovely PAINTED FLOOR–the wheels are turning!

    …thanks for the update, Pat

  13. says

    I have wanted to do this somewhere in my home. I just moved to Virginia – thanks for the update on how you like the floors after living with them. I have painted wood floors several times – can be a lot of work. Love the look!

  14. says

    I think you found a remarkably clever way to solve a problem. Painted sub flooring is infinitely better than gross carpet and a heck of a lot better than UN painted sub flooring. Glad to read that they are holding up well for you. If you decide to move, just call up one of those carpeting places that does the whole shebang for some ridiculous cheap price and cover them.

  15. says

    I have just sat down after pulling up half our carpet. I am not sure if I am as ambitious as tou, but the level of inspiration is wonderful. We are waiting on the contractor for wood flooring or deciding if we will tile. Seeing this makes me wonder just what I really want to do.

  16. says

    I thought it was magnificently gorgeous when I saw it months ago, and I’m so thrilled it’s still that way! Thanks for the update!!

    Jeannine @ The Concrete Cottage

  17. says

    This is great information! Even though I would not do this in my home, I have been curious about doing it in my cute garden shed. How perfect this would be!

  18. says

    Susan – a closet sounds like the perfect place to try this out. As far as seams, I wouldn’t worry about them in a closet. I have had no problems with the paint cracking, the seams just don’t look perfectly smooth. But that really shouldn’t matter in a closet. Hope you give it a try.

  19. wi.dragonfly says

    We are facing a similar dilemma in our main living and dining area. We have dark orangish carpet and dogs. Need I say more? Anyway, the carpet is so gross I told my Husband I wanted to remove the carpet and paint the sub floor until we can decide on the permanent flooring. I pointed out, though we are not planning on moving any time soon,it really doesn’t matter because we can NOT sell the house with this carpet anyway! So we might as well make it comfortable for us. We will probably install carpeting right before we move because that seems to be what most people want but we think carpet is not very hygienic.

  20. says

    The floors look amazing! If you want to stop the dust from accumulating around the edges you can install quarter rounds with your molding and caulk. It adds a nice effect and dust won’t get through.

  21. Anonymous says

    Actually you did a good thing when you put down a coat of gloss and a coat of satin over it. A flooring guy told me its the best finish because the gloss is the most durable and then you have the nice mellow satin sheen finish. So a serendipity!

  22. Anonymous says

    If you need floor covering, you could see if you can buy remanents in room sizes and go right up to the baseboard and see if that “covers” the VA law on floor coverings before sale.

  23. says

    Love love love these floors. I’m working on doing mine now, but I just had a quick question – do I have to use Floor and Porch paint since I’ll follow your instructions and use the Varathane clear satin water based floor sealer after?

    Thanks for your amazing inspiration!!

  24. says

    Great read! Yes, its true. In order to get financing through FHA you need floor covering. Now that we bought our home through an FHA (nationwide-but I live in FL) loan we are rehabbing the heck outta of our new home. We’ve ripped out the nasty carpet in two rooms so far and have two more to go. We stained the concrete in the living room which we love! And now we have the same problem with the base boards. The (in my mind) huge gap! We’ll be remedying this shorty. I plan on just adding on to it because we have a very tight budget. Also in the other room I’m in the middle if painting and that’s how I found you. I’m looking for a great sealant because I painted a design and I want it to last until I feel like changing it. If you’d like to follow my projects I’ve started a blog as well. You can follow me at I will update ASAP with my current projects. Many many more to come. :-) Thanks for sharing yours-Jessi

  25. Anonymous says

    I would like to know what kind of traffic your floor receives. How many kids, pets – dogs? Is this a main room or a “formal” room that doesn’t get much traffic? I think they are BEAUTIFUL. I am a single mom with one just out of college and one just going into college and with TWO big dogs and two boys there is a lot of traffic in my house and I just don’t have the kind of cash I would need to refloor with hardwood. It needs to be DURABLE!! So interested to hear your response. I am mostly concerned about my dogs’ nails on the soft plywood – that will be a critical part of my decision. BUT THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL – CONGRATULATIONS!

  26. Mindy says

    Just stumbled onto your blog through a google search on painting subfloor. Your floors are amazing! I’ve been thinking about painting mine for awhile but was unsure until now. I have a couple of questions for you though. 1st, you said that it took you several months to finish the stencil. Were you able to use those areas of the house while in progress? If so, did you need to do touch ups before the final sealing? Also, how did you keep your stencil from gumming up? How often and what did you use to clean it? Thanks so much!!

  27. says

    We used deck paint on our sub-floors because it’s thicker and more durable then regular paint (for people who have children and like to drop things on the floor) will alleviate any dents or chips on your floor. We got this deck paint at Home Depot for $25 which comes in a 5-gal bucket. The only downfall is that you are limited in your color selection. I haven’t asked if you could add ‘color’ to it to change the color of the deck paint and if it would change the consistency of it. However, we went with a nice shade of brown and it looks awesome!

  28. Anonymous says

    Wish I had seen this blog a week ago! We ripped out the gross carpet in a 600 sq ft room, discovering 60’s linoleum squares underneath. Prepped to no end (removing old glue, tack strips, so on). Primed with two coats, and began a 18 x 18 checkerboard approach. The light squares were fabulous bone-colored metallic, alternating with a deep grayish (half of those were washed with deep blue metallic). Subtle, fabulous, transcendent…and then we ruined the entire thing. Used Minwax Polyurethane, which turned the whole thing yellow. After spending days on my knees, I’m nauseous at the outcome. The last thing I wanted was a tan and brown floor!!!! We’ll start over, and use the Varathane next time…boo hoo!

  29. Christine says

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful idea. Im in the process of buying a home. I don’t want to put alot if money into it until it is in our name. Also I have a puppy so any accident on an expensive floor will greatly upset my boyfriend. This idea will definitely be an inexpensive way to cover this ugly floor and take the worry out of any loss of investment. Also thank you for covering all aspects of your experience as the negatives are the first thing we think about, it takes the fear out of trying it.

    • Carrie says

      How exciting to be buying a home! I understand about not wanting to invest a lot just yet and I’m glad my update was helpful. Good luck!

  30. brenda boudrow says

    I live in NH . I painted the map of Lake Winnipesaukee on my kitchen and dining floors. It was 25′ by 13′. It was all done to scale with a 8″ border. I only painted in the lake area and the border. The plywood made it look topigraphical with the land and islands being left plain.I used four coats of floor water based clear finish. It took 100 hrs to paint and do all the lettering. Totally worth it. However 2 years later my home burned to the ground. I miss that floor.

    • Carrie says

      WOW!! That sounds amazing! How sad that you lost your home and your beautiful irreplaceable floors. I love using maps on walls and furniture, but never considered painting a map instead of using a paper map of some sort.

  31. Kathy says

    Do you happen to have pictures of the entire room. I love the pics that you took, but have noticed they are of specific areas at a time. I would like to see more of the overall, entire effect. Would like to see more before decide to attempt mine. Thank you!

  32. Carl says

    Hi, thank you very much for sharing this. I think you’ve done a wonderful job and explained the process very well. It looks great and the pattern that you chose for the stenciling is very nice and practical because it’ll help hide some of the daily messes that can accrue along with dust and day to day wear and tear.
    Thank again for sharing it.

    • Carrie says

      Thanks Carl – you are definitely right. The pattern is awesome at hiding crumbs and dust and imperfections.

  33. Penny Clayton says

    Good day to you! Your floor is just beautiful. I do have a question about wear and tear. We live in the country (lists of dust and debris), we have four 150-200 lb dogs and cats. We also have young boys and a teenager. Our floors are beat to death daily. Carpeting is gross and I steam clean ours so much the carpet is getting bald spots and it still looks gross. I want to rip it out and not put in a new flooring until after we finish the remodel. Do you think with the right sealant these will hold up?

    • Carrie says

      Penny, I am with you on carpeting being gross. I have had my painted floors for a little over two years now. They don’t get quite the abuse yours would but we do have a toddler and we had a small dog for the first year. They have held up excellently. I’m really not even careful about scooting furniture around anymore. The only thing that has damaged them in the least is dropping heavy objects with sharp corners on them – this leaves little divots into the wood. Otherwise, they have held up so great.

  34. sara says

    If you’re worried about subfloor laws, then it would be good to find out what your state defines as a ‘subfloo’r and ‘cover’. They may just mean a bare, unfinished piece of wood over the floor joists, and painting or staining that may be fine. My house has a single layer of plywood over the floor joists and is listed as not having a subfloor, rather than having only a subfloor.

  35. Cindy says

    Just like everyone else, I love your floor and would like to attempt to do this on my own living room floor. How do you think this will old up with my 135ib Great Dane? Just curious, do you have any pets? How log did it take you to do the stenciling.
    Thanks for your input and your posts. I’m looking forward to reading more.

    • Carrie says

      Thanks Cindy! I can’t say for sure how it will hold up with your Great Dane, but it has held up really well for us. We had a very small dog for the first year we had these floors and it didn’t cause a problem. We’ve had the floors 2.5 years now and I’ve gotten kind of careless with them. I scoot furniture around on them all the time and it hasn’t damaged the finish at all. And the stenciling did not take nearly as long as you might think. I worked on it for a few hours a night for two or three nights.

  36. says

    Hi Carrie…thank you sooo much for the detailed post….i used it the most when i decided to use my sub-floor as my finished floor. At this point, I have patched, sanded, primed, painted and stenciled the whole floor, and am considering sealing it…only problem is the top coat i used was Behr’s glossy porch and patio paint, and the guys at home depot are telling me that I cant polyurethane over the glossy paint as it wont stick and will probably lift the stenciling as it peels up. Any ideas or thoughts? I would really like the floor to last me a few years, atleast. Thanks, Lisa

    • Carrie says

      Lisa, good question. I don’t have a lot of experience with glossy paint, but I do know that even if you aren’t able to seal it, glossy paint wipes clean and stays looking good way better on its own than other paint finishes. I also painted our porch floor six years ago and was unable to seal it because I couldn’t find an appropriate sealer. Even though it is an indoor/outdoor space the paint hasn’t faded or chipped. Unfortunately, that floor was a satin finish and it has gotten pretty dirty looking over the years. I would also recommend checking the labels of your paint cans to see if they recommend any type of sealer that can be used. Good luck!

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