How to Paint a Plywood Floor

Step-By-Step Painting & Tips to Maintain Your New Floors

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

If you're on a tight budget, why not try painting plywood floors 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 as finish flooring in some situations, especially when painted. You want to install high-quality plywood flooring that won't warp or be easy to damage. Even top-grade, top-quality plywood can be a bit soft so you may ding a painted plywood floor if you drop something heavy on it. Otherwise, you can use plywood as a finish floor wherever you'd use hardwood, and make them look nice with paint and a clear finish. Here's how to make your plywood floor look great.

Tip

Plywood floors aren't good options for wet or high-traffic areas, such as bathrooms, kitchens, wet mudrooms and entryways, and damp basements. However, you could consider more costly marine-grade plywood for flooring in some damp 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
  • Additional paint for pattern (optional)

Instructions

How to Paint a Plywood Floor

  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.

    You'll need to sand a plywood floor before painting it or the irregularities can keep the primer and paint from adhering to the surface. 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 be 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 affected areas again to ensure a smooth 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 and paint roller. 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 paintbrush and 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 carefully you paint a plywood floor, it can have unsightly marks. Some choose to create a pattern on their floor to make the finished look more aesthetically pleasing, while others like the rustic touch of painted plywood floors, flaws, and all.

    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 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.

Cleaning and Maintaining Painted Plywood Floors

Cleaning and maintaining painted plywood floors can take some diligence. Even with a protective coating and high-quality paint, you should discourage ground in dirt and dust with consistent vacuuming, dust mopping, and spot cleaning. Follow these additional tips:

  • Vacuum flooring using the hard-surface setting and disable the beater bar.
  • Avoid steam mopping a painted plywood floor.
  • Spot clean stains with a rag dipped in a bit of warm water and liquid dish soap, a no-wax floor cleaner, or a water-based polish.
FAQ
  • What kind of paint do you use on a plywood floor?

    The best paint to cover plywood floors with the most durable finish is porch and patio floor paint. 

    Use a water-based clear sealant for extra protection. A satin sealant won't likely show every flaw in the painted plywood as might a glossy finish.

  • Do painted wood floors hold up?

    Painted wood floors, whether they are hardwood or plywood, hold up well if a couple of coats of a good sealant are used to extend the life of the paint. Without a sealant, the paint may begin fading and chipping after a few years.

  • Can you mop painted plywood floors?

    Just like with hardwood floors, wet mopping is discouraged, even for painted and sealed plywood floors. Dry or dust mopping is highly recommended.