Home » DIY Plywood Floors/Part Three/The Floor Color

DIY Plywood Floors/Part Three/The Floor Color

Hello Friends!  If you have been following along with my DIY Plywood Floor series, you already know the cost and install and how to install plywood floors in your bathroom.  Today I am finally getting to Part Three, The Floor Color.

diyplywoodfloorsI will warn you right from the start, this is a lengthy post, almost 40 photos and lots and lots of words. 

When we started this project, one of the things that made me a believer in plywood floors is the complete customization that is available.  You could use stain, or white wash or just slap some floor paint on them and call it a day.  I already have hardwood floors in our great room, which are a light brown, and a pine planked ceiling, which is dark brown, so I was determined to have any other color but brown.  My goal was a gray or driftwood color.  It can go in any room, and is complimentary to the rooms I had already painted.

diyplywoodfloorsI have read multiple variations of this project, and different ways others have finished their plywood floors.  We eventually came to the conclusion that using paint was the best option for us because:

  • I didn’t like the gray stains that were available, they seemed to be flat and muddy, and there are not that many to choose from.
  • The thought of using anything with a strong smell like a stain or polyurethane was not appealing, considering that we had to do approx 1600 square feet of flooring, and we are sleeping right downstairs with no where to escape it.
  • Have you seen all of the paint colors available?  The color possibilities are endless!


Once I settled on the painting approach, I purchased 3 small cans of paint from Sherwin Williams; Tricorn Black, Rhinestone, and Grays Harbor.  I liked these colors as paint chips and they went with the colors I already had on my walls.  I figured I had a pretty good chance of them working on my floors in some form or fashion.

diyplywoodfloorsI used some disposable containers and mixed equal parts paint and water.  (I like the ratio 50/5o because it is just easy to remember.)  Watering down the paint also makes it easy to wipe off, and is transparent enough to let the grain show thru.

I gathered a bunch of scrap plywood from our install and started testing different combinations of the watered down paint.  I wanted to share this part with you because you may like this idea but my color choices do not match what you have in your home.  This process will still work for you, just use colors of your choosing.


I did every possible paint combination I could think off. Layering one color over another, always wiping off the excess before adding anther coat.  Some boards were just one coat of paint, others were three.


I made sure to label each board so once I found my favorite combination, it would be easy to duplicate.

diyplywoodfloorsThe winning combination was the Rhinestone first, then the Tricorn Black on top.  I decided to do a few larger pieces just to be sure and I wanted to test the durability of the paint and to make sure the top coat didn’t affect the color of the planks.

diyplywoodfloorsHere are the unfinished plywood planks, sanded.

diyplywoodfloorsHere is one coat of watered down Rhinestone paint, applied then wiped off, then lightly sanded.  The lighter color helped to eliminate the yellow tint of the pine without hiding the grain.

diyplywoodfloorsHere they are with a coat of the watered down Tricorn black, applied, wiped off, then lightly sanded.  Pretty right? I love how the dark color settles into the wood and gives each plank a nice textured look.

diyplywoodfloorsSo here is my durability test, and this is why we did 4 coats of top coat.  No worries!

diyplywoodfloorsThis is the top coat we used, you can purchase it at Home Depot.  It is very low odor and doesn’t affect the color of your floors.  And if you spill paint on it, it wipes up just fine!

Now that you have picked your paint colors, it is time to gather some supplies. Remember, my floors are already installed at this point.  I recommend doing this even if you are going to stain instead of paint because it is so much faster.  If I painted or stained every plank beforehand, I would still be painting, and only half of our floors would be done.

diyplywoodfloorsYou are going to need to sand your floors first, going in the same direction as the grain. I used a belt sander and medium grit sandpaper.  (Make sure to wear a mask.)  Don’t be afraid to sand those floors! Any small splinters that appear, sand them down or pick them off, or they will catch on something later on and you will have to touch it up.  Trust me…. You will also need a sanding block for in between paint coats, and gloves because your hands will be covered in paint by the time you are done.

After sanding and sweeping, lightly mop with just water.  Let it dry before applying your first coat, approx. one hour depending on your room size.  You will also want a bunch of old towels to wipe up your paint and an extra bucket.


Here are the supplies I purchased from Sherwin Williams. One gallon of each paint color, I had a lot of floor to cover, but when adding water, it really stretches it out, a one gallon bucket to mix it in, and a plastic measuring cup to measure the paint.  You may not need as much paint if you are doing a smaller space.  I also used an old paint brush.

diyplywoodfloorsMeasure your paint, then pour into your bucket.

diyplywoodfloorsThen measure the same amount of water and add to the same bucket.

diyplywoodfloorsNow you are ready to paint.  As you go along, your towels will become saturated with paint, that is why I recommend a second bucket.   That way you can keep your messy towels and brush off of the floor as you work.  Also, keep a paint stir in your bucket of paint because you will want to mix it up occasionally to keep it from separating.

Now that you are ready, I want to explain why I chose to paint one plank at a time, using a brush, on my hands and knees.

  • I have four kids and most of the time while I was working on the floors I would hear “Mommy, I have to go poopie” or “Mom, can I have some more goldfish?” or maybe, “Mom, can you change the channel?”  I needed to be able to stop at anytime and then be able to go back and pick up where I left off without any problems.  Painting plank by plank made that easy.
  • We were doing the whole upstairs, but not all at the same time, so going plank by plank gave a very consistent finish in every single room, every single time.
  • The paint can dry quickly, so if you try to paint a whole  bunch at a time, when you go back to wipe it up, some of it will be dry already.
  • It just looks better, period.

diyplywoodfloorsNow you are ready to go pick a corner and start painting.

diyplywoodfloorsPaint one plank at a time.  What I mean is start at a seam, end at a seam. Brush on your first color, then wipe it off with your towel.  I recommend kneeling on a thick towel or use knee pads during this process, you will thank me later.

diyplywoodfloorsMake your way around the room, focusing on one plank at a time.  When you wipe up your paint, make sure to go in the direction of the grain.  When your towel gets too soggy, just put it in your extra bucket and grab a new one.  The ones that were the size of a dish towel were the easiest to work with.

diyplywoodfloorsHere is the girl’s room with the first coat, their room took me a few hours to do.  I waited until the next day before painting the black for a few reasons, it really needs to be dry,  I had to wash all of my towels to use again, and I needed to cook dinner.

Once your first coat is dry, go over it lightly with a medium grit sanding block.  All you are doing is rubbing it with slight pressure to allow a bit of the pine show thru.  This is also good because you might leave some towel lint behind and you don’t want it to dry on your floors.  Once that is done, sweep up the dust and you are ready for your second color coat.

diyplywoodfloorsI mixed the black the same way with the same bucket, 50/50. I have to admit, brushing on the black was my favorite part.  It will work it’s way into all of the little knots and rough spots and really makes each plank pop.  Don’t forget to stir often, the paint will like to separate and keep your paint bucket on a towel to help with drips.

I made a point to take pictures of the family room to show you how much paint I put on the brush, to really give you a good idea of how this works.

diyplywoodfloorsHere is a plank before I apply the black coat.

diyplywoodfloorsHere it is with the paint on it.  Do not be shy, just be neat, as you can see I started at one edge of the plank and stopped at the other edge of the plank.

diyplywoodfloorsThen just wipe it off.  You will have some overlapping, and when you move on to the next plank, it will just blend right in.

diyplywoodfloorsBack in the boy’s room, you can see the progress.  I didn’t leave the paint on for any certain amount of time.  I just brushed it on, then wiped it off.

diyplywoodfloorsDon’t be afraid to work it into the knots a bit, they look better with more paint in them.

diyplywoodfloorsI did the same process throughout the whole upstairs.

diyplywoodfloorsBecause I was doing such a large amount of flooring all at different times, I had to tape off planks when finishing the rooms to make sure I didn’t get the top coat on an unfinished plank.

diyplywoodfloorsBut because I used the same technique in every room, you can’t tell that I did each room at different times.

diyplywoodfloorsSame thing in the family room.

diyplywoodfloorsThis leads me to the top coat.  When my second color coat was dry, I sanded it lightly with the sanding block again, then swept up afterwards.  What is nice about this step is that if your planks are a little too dark, just sand a little bit harder.  You goal in sanding is to let just a bit of the first color show thru, this really adds depth and character to your floor.

diyplywoodfloorsI mentioned already the top coat we purchased at Home Depot.  It recommends to apply at least 4 coats, and if you start early enough in the morning you could get all of the coats done in the same day.  No sanding needed in between coats if you apply it within 2 hours of each coat.

diyplywoodfloorsI used a floor applicator to apply it and wrapped everything in plastic while waiting for each coat to dry, and I also did this in my bare feet because I didn’t want to get bits of lint in the top coat.  Yes, I know that might be a bit too much info, but I figured this post is long enough so a little bit more wouldn’t hurt.

diyplywoodfloorsI would like to mention one more thing before I wrap up.  Every once and a while, your planks will have either a red stain or a green one.

diyplywoodfloorsOr you may also see some wording.  I want to warn you that they don’t sand off.  Because I used paint, they completely disappeared by the time I was done, but if you are considering staining or using a light color to finish your floors I would just cut these pieces out before install, or flip the board over.

I  realize this is the longest post you have probably ever read, but this is not your everyday DIY project where you put a fresh coat of paint on something and if you don’t like it you just repaint it.  Your time is precious, and it pays to do some homework and some tests before jumping into this project.  I hope it has given you either enough info to duplicate this color on your own floors, or sparked your imagination enough to try something similar that suits your taste and style.

If you have any questions for me about any stage of our plywood floors, please ask!! And if you have done this project already and have any helpful tips, please share.

Thank you for taking the time to visit, don’t forget to Pin and Share.

Part Four – Update and Summary



  1. Brandy says:

    You are the plywood floor champion! I am in love. your tutorial has given me the confidence to try it. My partner and I just purchased our first home – this amazing little 100 year old cottage and are renovating it ourselves little by little. We just found our floors! Just one question. By chance did you save your mixology testers? I saw one in this pic that I’m dying to try!! 🙂 …upcoming curbside gems is a passion of mine too!! 🙂 So happy for your blog!

    • Sarah-Marie says:

      Hi Brandy! Thanks for your kind words, I love my floors and we are still really pleased with the results. I did keep a few of the boards, but not all of the little notes I used to keep track of everything. I will email you the names of the paints I used and hopefully that will get you going in the right direction!

  2. Cori says:

    I love your color. A few years ago I did the same thing but with just white (950 square feet). It looked amazing but the seams between the boards are very noticeable as are any scratches, dents and gouges. I’m looking to re-sand and go darker like yours.

        • Sarah-Marie says:

          We used a belt sander with medium grit before applying the first coat of paint. Then in between the white coat and the black coat I used a fine paper, just enough to allow some of the wood show thru. You will have to sweep up each time.

  3. Suzy says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your floors!! Doing something similar in our home only using 5mm finish plywood and staining it. Question for you…how long did you wait for the final coat of poly to dry/cure before moving furniture into the rooms?

  4. Katrina Hoffman says:

    I am thinking of doing this in our basement. the only issue is that it is concrete so the normal nailing process would not work. have you helped anybody with this issue before? any idea if we could make it work? thanks!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.