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Remodeling 101: Painted Plywood—The Best Budget Wood Floor


Remodeling 101: Painted Plywood—The Best Budget Wood Floor

Christine Chang Hanway March 19, 2015

The natural instinct when remodeling a house with wall-to-wall carpet is to take it up, right? Before you can confirm what’s underneath, you hold high hopes for finding a wood floor that was covered up in a past era (when they didn’t know any better). But it’s best not to set your expectations too high. More likely than not, the carpet was a cheap solution to cover up a floor that was already in poor condition. 

In the minimal remodel of our Connecticut home, we were delighted that the floors were primarily wood and required a mere polish and buff to restore them to their optimum condition. When we lifted the carpet on the stairs, we discovered wood treads in pristine condition and optimistically assumed that we would find the same in the four bathrooms, whose floors had all been either carpeted or covered in vinyl tiles.

And while we weren’t completely wrong, the floors were too far gone to be restored, and here began my dilemma. We did not want to spend any of our already limited budget on floors in bathrooms that were going to eventually require updating anyway, so I asked our builder what he thought the best and least expensive short-term solution would be. Based on his recommendation, we went with painted plywood. 

Unless otherwise noted, photography by Christine Chang Hanway.

Above: A plywood floor that has been painted with a high-gloss white paint. Photograph by Sally Schneider via The Improvised Life

A material more typically associated with subfloor material, plywood was not designed to be used as a finished surface covering. It can, however, be made to look and act like one with a few extra steps outlined here for a mere $1 to $2 a square foot in materials. 

Above: A corner detail in my bathroom with a Cotton Woven Bath Rug from Restoration Hardware; $28 to $169, depending on size.

Above: The painted plywood floors in my bathrooms all have a Restoration Hardware paint Silver Sage trim.

Above: Short-term solution? Maybe not in our case. My hard-to-please mother visited last summer and proclaimed that our bathroom floors were genius. We might just quit while we’re ahead. 

Take a Before & After tour of our house in Minimal Moves for Maximum Impact.

Obsessed with white wood floors? Go to Scandi Whitewashed Floors: Before and After to see the lengths Izabella went to for hers.

This post is an update; it originally ran in September 2013 as part of our Get Organized issue.

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