Saturday, January 3, 2009

Painted Subfloors - Basic Steps

Eventually, all the floors on the first level of our home will be tile. I know just what I want, but it's expensive. The economy is tough and we need to work on our house as money and time allows. We don't mind. Some of our temporary solutions are turning out to be pretty remarkable. The most amazing is our painted subfloors.

Our sub floors are Advantech. It looks pretty much like the standard plywood floors, but it's a bit more durable and resistant to water. After Googling on the internet and seeing that some people have successfully painted their subfloors (and they can look amazingly good) we decided to give it a try. We had nothing to lose. And it sure did help us to put off spending the big bucks on tile for awhile.

Many of my friends have been after me to explain the process and post photos. I did several styles throughout the house, so it will take several posts. I'll start by explaining the basic steps.

The first step is to hammer in all the nails, screw in all the screws, remove any staples that are sticking up, and scrape off any blobs of paint and goop. This step took ages. Subcontracters never worry about the subfloors. They wouldn't dream that someone would come along and try to turn that into their main floor.

Next, patch the holes and gaps. I used Simpleprep Pre-Mixed Floor Patch. I found it helpful to have a little tub of water handy. I'd dip my putty knife in the water periodically to keep the floor patch easy to work with. Tip: Do not goop it on thick over the crack. If you do, you will be sanding forever. I'd smooth it on as well as I could. A little extra time on this step is so worth it!

Next step - sanding. Ugh. Knee pads are helpful. Be sure to wear a mask - dust goes everywhere. You may even want to put on a shower cap. Sand every place you used floor patch. Sand every place that looks rough. Rent a floor sander. That takes care of a good bit. I also used a belt sander. It did a better job than the floor sander but it was tough on my knees and back. I also used a small circular sander to get into awkward spots. Even though it seemed I sanded forever (we did the whole house) I didn't try for perfection. It would have taken forever and just how serious can one really be about a painted subfloor?
Clean. The sanding makes quite a mess. Sweep up as much as you can so you don't overload the shop vac filter. Then vacuum. Then mop or wipe up the residue. You'll need to clean the floors, but don't forget the walls and baseboard and windowsills. The dust goes everywhere.

Prime. I used Kilz2. After this step, you will have hope that you can actually make a sub floor look good. On the other hand, you'll be able to see all the spots you didn't get just right.

Base Coat. Some people use a porch paint which might do OK without a urethane finish. I used an exterior latex satin paint. Even though I did a number of faux finishes throughout the house, I was able to use the same base coat on all my floors. It was a cream color. After this step, let it cure for a day or two. If you try to rush through, adding layer after layer without waiting in between, the finish will not hold up as well.
The next step is the decorative step. Paint a solid color, faux finish, pattern or design of your choice. I plan to show some of mine in upcoming posts. Again, once this step is done, let it cure for a few days.

The final step is the urethane. I preferred to use the urethane finish (rather than porch paint without urethane) because we hope to get by with this floor for a few years. I applied 2 coats of urethane. The instructions on my water based urethane said I could reapply another coat the same day if I did so within 6 hours. It dries quickly, but takes about a week to cure. I waited the full week before putting in furniture.


  1. Hi, I'm thinking of doing my subfloors because I also want tile, but don't have the money right now. From what I can see here, you did a fantastic job. How are the floors holding up since January? Thanks for the walk through on how you did it. I'm hoping to start one room this week!

  2. i just looked through a few of your painted floors. You are amazing! Great job on all of it! I wish I had the type of patience necessary to create such magnificent floors. I'll probably just stick to solid colors, ha ha.

  3. What if you have the "glue" or whatever it is they put down on the subfloor when they put in wall to wall carpet? I only have to do the family room and stairs. Would a sander do??? Thanks MAchelle

  4. I painted the bathroom floors in our old house... to look like brick.... people actually touched it to see if it was the real deal... the total cost was the quart of Varathane Diamond Finish... :-) I used leftover interior paint for the rest... the bonus was we didn't have to pull the potty. Whooopee.... Especially since my Hubby is NOT Mr. Handyman. I also "tiled" the countertops with broken china... post earthquake.... It was a temporary fix, but it's what sold our house! I painted our entry floor in this's been there for eight years and still looks perfect. Eventually I plan to do hardwood floors, but like you, it's just not in the budget right now. :-) I swear, I will never stop being amazed by the difference a bit of paint can make.... Isn't it awesome?

    Warm blessings,

  5. AnonymousMay 08, 2012

    it has been a while since this post. all this time later, are you still happy with it and what would you have done differently?

  6. do you need special kind of paint to paint your floors?



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