How to Paint a Plywood Floor

Painting plywood floor
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Overview
  • Working Time: 6 - 12 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 days
  • Skill Level: Beginner

If you're on a tight budget, why not try plywood floors painted to suit your style? Yes, plywood. With the right paint and perhaps even a fun pattern, high-quality plywood flooring can become a special focal point.

To get started, do your research on the best options for plywood flooring. Plywood is generally considered to be a subflooring wood choice but can be used in top flooring in some situations, especially when painted. You want to install high-quality plywood flooring that won't warp or be easy to damage. Here's how to make your plywood floor look great.

Tip

Remember that plywood floors aren't good options for wet or high traffic areas.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Dust mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Pole sander (for large areas)
  • Wood putty
  • Sander/vacuum machine, or a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter
  • Plastic sheet
  • Paintbrush (suitable for use on plywood)
  • Roller
  • Roller cover (suitable for use on plywood)
  • Paint tray
  • Painter's tape

Materials

  • Primer or self-priming paint
  • Paint of your choice
  • Sealant coat (matte or glossy)
  • Additional paint for pattern (optional)

Instructions

  1. Clean and Sand the Plywood

    Put on your dust mask and safety glasses. Seal off the room you're working in with a plastic sheet to help prevent dust from making its way into other areas of the building. Turn off forced heat and air conditioning, if possible, to help avoid circulation of the dust.

    Using a pole sander or a sander/vacuum machine, sand the plywood to ensure you remove splinters and create a somewhat even surface (plywood will never ben entirely smooth). Remember to sand with the grain of the wood, even if the wood is scruffy.

  2. Fill Indentations With Wood Putty

    Plywood often has dents, dings, indentations and even gouges. Use wood putty to fill those areas. Once the wood putty is dry, sand the plywood again to ensure a smoother surface.

  3. Clean Up for Painting

    Ideally, you should use a sander/vacuum machine that will suck up the dust as you sand. The fine residue can easily spread throughout the ventilation system and into other rooms. If you don't have a sander/vacuum machine, clean up all the sand and dust you created with a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter.

  4. Apply Primer

    When the floor is clean, use painter's tape to protect baseboards and other areas that shouldn't be painted.

    Paint on a coat of primer or use self-priming paint. Start at the far side of the room away from the door and paint the primer on with a paintbrush. Let the primer coat dry.

    Tip

    Always paint in a well-ventilated room. Choose low-VOC paints if possible, as these are not as harmful to you during the painting process and won't off-gas when it's dry. 

  5. Paint the Floor

    Paint the floor using a roller. Again, begin at the corner farthest from the door. Always roll from a dry area to a wet area to minimize marks and leave a smooth coat. Let the paint dry.

  6. Create a Pattern (Optional)

    No matter how careful your paint job, a plywood floor can have unsightly marks. Some choose to create a pattern on their floor to make the finished look more aesthetically pleasing.

    Use your imagination to come up with geometric shapes, flowers, or the look of tile, stone, or even a faux rug. Start by sketching out the pattern in light pencil. This will help you figure out where to start and to make sure your pattern looks exactly as you want it to.

    Freehand or stencil the pattern depending on your ability.

  7. Seal the Floor

    Follow the coats of paint (and your pattern, if desired) with a final sealant coat. This is available in a matte or glossy finish; You may need one to two coats. This will help protect your pattern from scratches, such as those from moving furniture around.

  8. Let the Paint Cure

    Let the paint dry or cure for at least a few days. No one should walk on the floor until it dries—no kids, no pets, and no adults. When the paint is thoroughly dry, remove the painter's tape by pulling upward and away, creating a sharp line.

    To further protect your floors, consider adding felt pads underneath your heavy furniture. This will allow you to easily slide your furniture across the floor without the risk of scratching your paint job.