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 to paint the plywood subfloor in my living and dining rooms.
Many months later, I am finally done and I think I’m kind of in love with these painted floors!
This was not a quick and easy project but it was incredibly inexpensive. And it was sooo worth the effort. Keep reading for the full tutorial and supply list.
This post contains affiliate links and the beautiful stencil I used was provided to me by Cutting Edge Stencils. See my full disclosure here.
Supplies needed to Paint Plywood Subfloors
Porch and Floor Paint in 2 colors (Valspar Porch and Floor Paint in ‘Chimney Smoke’ and ‘Crucible’)
Small foam paint roller (to use with the stencil)
Painted Plywood Subfloor
First step, rip out your old carpet and carpet padding. Remove all of the tack strips using a hammer and pry bar.
There will probably also be hundreds of staples left in the subfloor from the carpet padding. You can remove these with a pair of needle-nose pliers. If there are any staples that are stuck, just pry them up with a flat head screwdriver and then pull them out with the pliers.
Then it’s time to 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.*
Then you can 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 wood filler you used.
Before painting, you need to prime the floor with a quality primer. The quickest way to do this is to use a roller with an extension handle and then cut in around the edges with a brush.
(Quick tip: if you don’t have an extension handle, most broom handles can do the exact same thing. Just unscrew the handle from your broom and screw it into the handle of your paint roller.)
I used Zinsser Oil-based Primer. This is my favorite primer because it sticks to anything and is very durable. Just beware, this is an oil-based product so you definitely want to make your space is well-ventilated because the fumes can be strong.
And finally, it is time to paint the floors! First, paint the background color onto the floor. I used Valspar latex porch and floor paint in ‘Chimney Smoke’. (In case you are wondering 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 instead of oil because it is easier to work with and easier to clean.)
You will probably need to paint a couple of coats to get good coverage.
I chose to paint a double border around the the edges of my room and I am so glad I did. The border really makes the paint job look classy and it also made stenciling the floor much easier because I didn’t have to go all the way to the wall.
To paint the border, use painter’s tape to tape off the area you want to paint. Seal the edges of the the tape by painting over them with your base color. (Yes, first you paint over the tape using the paint color you already painted the floor. This will seal the edges of the painter’s tape so that none of the second color leaks under the tape. This is the secret to getting perfect lines when you use painter’s tape.)
Once that is dry, paint the border using your second paint color. I used Valspar latex porch and floor paint in the color “Crucible”. Finally, carefully remove the tape before the paint fully dries. (Removing the tape before the paint dries will keep the fresh paint from peeling.)
The final step is sealing the floors. This might seem like an afterthought, but sealing the floor is actually one of the most important steps of the whole process. It not only protects all of your hard work, it also gives the painted floor that beautiful shine you expect from a nice floor.
Once the paint is fully dry, carefully remove any dust from the floor surface before sealing. (A microfiber cloth is great for this.) Then carefully apply your floor sealer.
I used Rust-Oleum Varathane Crystal Clear Water-Based Polyurethane in Satin Finish and would highly recommend it. I applied it using a Varathane floor finish applicator to get a really smooth finish. I applied four coats of the sealer to make sure the floor was well protected, waiting the recommended amount of time between coats.
After the final coat, I waited an additional four days before moving my furniture back into the room. That was probably longer than necessary, but I wanted to be extra sure everything was protected!
I painted the floors in my living and dining rooms which combined are around 400 square feet. This process took me many weeks – mostly because it was around the holidays so I had a lot of other things going on and took lots of breaks. I would say you would need at least a two week window though, mostly because of the drying times for the various layers.
My total cost was between $300 and $400. (I already had some materials on hand so it really depends on if you count those.) This total cost includes the filler, tape, sandpaper, primer, paint, and sealer. So in the end these floors cost less than $1 per square foot start to finish.
Now that is a beautiful floor! And not only because it was so inexpensive.
Thinking about painting some floors of your own? Or just wondering if a painted floor can really last? Be sure to check out these tips and updates:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.