Want to spruce up your master bedroom without breaking the budget? These DIY painted plywood floors are elegant and one of a kind.

This checkerboard painted floor is budget friendly and easy.

The master bedroom did not always look like this.

Now, I love this room.


But have you ever wondered what was under that rug?

You didn’t?

Oh….my bad.  Well….ummm…I have a whole page of other projects to show you.

But just in case you were curious…..wait until you see this.This chic painted plywood floor compliments the neutral decor and accent pillows.

It’s a painted plywood floor.


I can hear you asking yourself….can you even do that?  Can you paint the plywood floor?


It was one of the best flooring decisions we ever made.  Here are a few of my thoughts on painted plywood floors and the people who love them.

Can you refinish plywood floors?

Yes. Yes, Virginia, you can. Here are the painted plywood floors in our bedroom that have held up for years. Even the most basic of plywood can look like more expensive flooring with a few coats of enamel floor paint and a painted finish on top.

How do you prepare the plywood for painting?

Start by making sure your surface is smooth. You want to make sure to get up any stuck-on blobs of paint or other raised area of the plywood. Next, sand any rough areas smooth. We were super fortunate in that our plywood was relatively new and smooth and we didn’t have to do much sanding.

What is the best type of primer to use on plywood?

A primer is absolutely necessary to prepare your surface for painting. A good, oil-based primer is the best option to make sure your paint adheres properly. Make sure to follow all directions on the can and use only in a well-ventilated area.

Do I need to seal the painted plywood floor once it’s finished?

Use a clear-coat sealer for the final coat on your project. We actually had to paint two coats. I think a satin finish is a better option than a gloss. A glossy finish tends to highlight any imperfections in the floor.

Does the painted plywood subfloor actually hold up?

This is probably the question that we get the most. And the answer is yes. We painted our plywood subfloors over seven years ago and they still look great today. Part of the reason is that we have kept the large seagrass rug over the entire floor, but the edges have held up well and still look like almost new. After about five years we went back and added a second coat of sealer in high-traffic areas, but other than that the floors look almost the same as when we painted them.

This dated bedroom features old wallpaper and carpet.

It can be a daunting task to paint your plywood floors, especially when your flooring starts out like this. But it’s actually so much easier than it looks.

We had vintage (and I use the term very loosely) Berber carpet and I wanted wood. Expensive, wonderful, hand-scraped wood that looked like it had made the journey with the pilgrims over on the Mayflower.

But here’s a little floor math:

New hardwoods = $3500

Painted plywood sub-floor = $120.00.

With math like that and four children to eventually put through college….the pilgrims were going to have to wait.

This checkerboard painted floor is budget friendly and easy.

DIY Painted Plywood Floors

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how we created our budget-friendly painted floor

1. We started by ripping up all the carpet, pad, and tack strips

This took about an afternoon. The hardest part as pulling up the tack strips.

2. Fill in the holes in the floor

You want to make sure to add wood putty to any of the holes left behind by the tack strips or other nails.

3. Prepare surface

You want to make sure to get up any stuck-on blobs of paint or other raised area of the plywood. Next, sand any rough areas smooth. We were super fortunate in that our plywood was relatively new and smooth. There were several small spots that needed to be patched and sanded, but otherwise the sub-floors were in excellent condition.  I would recommend patching the joints in the sub-floor for a more unified look.

We did not.  We were in a hurry, so I told my husband those joints would give the floor character.


Here is a link to a much smarter blogger than I, who actually patched her floor.  She has pictures of her brilliant patching, too.

4. Clean the floor thoroughly

I mean this.  Don’t skimp on the scrubbing.

You don’t want to be painting and find a dust bunny on your brush.

Then, make sure to let the entire floor dry after you clean it.

Don’t get in a hurry and start priming it.

Not that anyone around here would ever do that.

This chic painted plywood floor compliments the neutral decor and accent pillows.

4. Prime the floor

We primed the floor.  Please don’t skip this step, either. It’s important for your floor to have a good foundation to start with for the rest of the painting process.

A primer is absolutely necessary to prepare your surface for painting. A good, oil-based primer is the best option to make sure your paint adheres properly. Make sure to follow all directions on the can and use only in a well-ventilated area.

5. Paint the floors

We painted on the base coat with floor paint in SW Oyster White.

We actually used two different colors of paint to create the checkerboard look. We started with SW Oyster White and painted the lighter color first.

This diagonal painted squares create a checkered pattern on the painted floor.

6. Draw out squares

Measure your squares, mark them with a pencil and then draw the outlines of the squares in pencil placing them on the diagonal.

I really like the look of anything on a diagonal.

It makes squares look like they joined a country club.


This checkered painted plywood floor is charming and unique.

7. Tape off squares

We taped off outside every other pencil-drawn square with painter’s tape.

Each square is 21″ x 21.”

Then we painted every other square with the darker color of floor paint, SW Rice Grain.

8. Seal the floor

After it was dry.  We sealed it all with two coats of water-based polyurethane. I think a satin finish is a better option than a gloss. A glossy finish tends to highlight any imperfections in the floor.

This chic painted plywood floor compliments the neutral decor and accent pillows.

Here’s the finished floor one more time.

$120 later and a lot of elbow grease, we had new painted plywood floors and could still send our children to college.

PS  Disclaimer:  I am not a professional floor painter.  This is how we did it.  I know professional painters everywhere are probably cringing and could give you much better advice.  Please follow directions on all products for drying times, usability and safety precautions. 

PSS If you want to know how the floors held up, you can read the state of the floor address post here.

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  1. Image for Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam)

    I just thought it was tiling, but that looks amazing. Very tempted to do that in my kitchen, since our laminate is ripping everywhere and I need a bit more time till the fancy floors fall our way, but I am thinking that water and five kids worth of food and spilled milk may not stand the wear and tear.

  2. Image for Anne Anne

    Karianne I have seen this done and I really would LOVE to do this! Your floor looks amazing! I am in the same situation.We would love all wood floors but it's not in our budget anytime soon.And I really hate carpet.What a job this will be when we tackle it! Thanks for sharing my sweet savannah's blog! I am now a follower and I shared on my facebook.I have had my blog hacked before too.It is a horrible scary thing too see all of your hard work gone! xx Anne

  3. Image for kim kim

    LOVE your floor. Lots of hard work, but so worth it. Wish we could do this in our master. The carpet we have needs to go this year, I hope.

  4. Image for Lori Lori

    I absolutely LOVE your $120 floors!! They look like a fancy million pilgrim bucks!! Love Love!! and in case you didn't understand I LOVE your floors!!

  5. Image for Karen Karen

    I thought about doing this in my house, I love the look and the price. However, the work involved is beyond my physical abilities (health issues). Your floor looks amazing!

  6. Image for Ashley Johnson Ashley Johnson

    love it sister! i want to see the other side of your bedroom - the side opposite the bed ;) such a FABULOUS room!

  7. Image for Melaine Melaine

    are you kidding? That is gorgeous!!!!! I want to go paint my floor now! Thanks for the shout out Karianne, means more to me than you will ever know! xoxo, Melaine

  8. Image for Karen Etling Karen Etling

    What a lovely room -- was it the original dining or living room of your house? If so, what did you do about closets?

  9. Image for Tausha Tausha

    I just want to move in...ummm k? I have seen painted sub floors, but none were as beautiful as yours. Plus-I think that you really rock because you measured the squares. Not that I wouldn't have measured the squares, I would have just bee way to lazy to even pull out any type of measuring device...cause I am lazy like that. So glad that I know fabulously talented people to live vicariously through! Happy day my friend

  10. Image for Bethanie Bethanie

    Oh my goodness. My daughter and I were JUST talking about painting the floor the other day! Our bonus room is unfinished, and is going to be her room--eventually. We were talking about flooring. She had pinned a bunch of stuff and asked, "can we just paint the plywood subflooring?" Of course my response was, "well, I'd hate to think we couldnt!" But inside I was thinking, "can we?...oh well, if we screw it up, we put carpet down!" I will have to show her how amazing yours turned out! And then....Im going to rip up the living room, and the dining room, and my bedroom!!! :) Girl, you have all the answers. Ok, maybe not the cooking answers, I'll google those! :) JUST kidding!! xoxo

  11. Image for Michele Michele

    You are so clever, that floor looks amazing! I do like your rug, though, too - very cozy and warm. We put in Berber a few years ago and once we move some grates and doors (I know, I keep putting it off because I hate a mess,) we will be putting in wood flooring finally..................but I know I shall have to have rugs because of sound and warmth. I sure love your house, and it is sad about poor Melanie, that is AWFUL.

  12. Image for Doreen Doreen

    I am so showing this to my husband! I want to rip out the carpeting in our bedrooms so badly, but I already have 2 in college and 1 to graduate high school next year, so I know about the lack of funds!!! This is a perfect solution and looks great!

  13. Image for Tammy @ A Walk in the Countryside Tammy @ A Walk in the Countryside

    Fantastic job!!! Does it clean well? We put pine 1X6 tongue and groove down in our house a floor at a time. Pine flooring seems to be popular in our area. The antique heart pine sells from $3.50 (if you're lucky) to $10 a square feet for materials alone. The tongue and groove cost us about $1.00 a square foot. We used a mixture of 2 different stains to get a medium finish...now I wish I had gone slightly darker. We applied 3 coats of poly. Oh, we did rent a sander as well. Total costs was about $1600 for our first floor, which at that time was about $1100 square feet. It has held up extremely well and we are still loving it!

  14. Image for Yvonne @ StoneGable Yvonne @ StoneGable

    Brilliant and beautiful! And now your children will grow up and have a future too! Very smart move! I have a small landing on our back stairs that my husband has never put down hardwood (he love installing hardwood... go figure!) This would be a wonderful project! KariAnn... you are a creative genius!

  15. Image for Anne@DesignDreams Anne@DesignDreams

    Yes professionals would blanch at what you have done. I know this because I painted the subfloors in my last house and had to deal with the "experts" at the paint store as well as the sub-contractors who were working on the rest of the house and heckling me all the way. I caved and used floor paint by Benjamin Moore. You do NOT want to live in the house until the fumes go away and they take 2 weeks to dissipate fully. I lived with them, it's probably why I am the way I am now... half my brain cells died during that experiment. Anyway, I like your way much better. Beautiful job, gorgeous colours. You are my idol. or is it muse? Maybe it's guru! Yes, you are my decorating guru. Definitely. I'd swear to it in court. Cheers!

  16. Image for Karen Karen

    Your floors look amazing! I am into ripping up Berber carpet. We just did this in my office and sealed the concrete floor for an " industrial" look. Our majorly disgusting master bath CARPET!!! How gross is this??? Is next on the list. I would have never guessed those were painted sub floors!

  17. Image for Nana Diana Nana Diana

    Wow-Phenomenal job - I have painted concrete floors but never a plywood floor that was going to be used daily. I love it and you did a terrific job! xo Diana

  18. Image for Melinda@The Refeathered Roost Melinda@The Refeathered Roost

    Holy Cow! I would have never guessed this and I have seen this picture on Pinterest as well! I love that you just did it and did it your way! First time visiting and I think I will stay and look around some more at your beautiful home. Melinda

  19. Image for Gee Gee

    Ohmygoodness!! I am so glad you made me peek under your rug. Beautifully done. Luv the serenity your room imparts. Beautiful!! Hugs, Gee

  20. Image for Pendra Pendra

    My bedroom now would fit inside your fireplace, seriously! What a lovely room!! That floor would be lovely in my kitchen, dining room and living room, not to mention my craft room! My last house I had beautiful farm house kitchen with a black and white floor (on the diagonal) and I loved it so much, it was my favorite room! I think I really like the lighter more neutral color and the larger size squares for the size of your room. It's more beautiful than any carpeting you could have put in, sometimes ingenuity is better than anything money can buy...funny how that works out! Hugs, Pendra

  21. Image for Sheryll & Critters. Sheryll & Critters.

    It is a beautiful floor and a fireplace in your bedroom.... wow. I am in the process of 'trying' to rip out my wall to wall carpeting and that alone is a horrible job or so I think. Then I have those old 9 inch linoleum tiles under the carpet/padding........ then there is the awful black glue that supposedly has asbestos in it..... the floor is or was 'supposed' to be Terrazzo (it is destroyed) and the floor leveler is more than I can afford right now. Eventually I will be painting all of my floors. And that black glue tracks everywhere.. UGH! Wishing, so wishing I had mine painted just half as nice as you did. I found you via "Hometalk".

  22. Image for Jan Jan

    I did wonder what was under the rug!! I am so encouraged that you painted your sub-floor with that result! We have been contemplating a new project in our house which would involve removing walls where there is carpeting, and we have been pondering what our options might be. The rest of the house (old part) is hardwood, and we would love to have hardwood, but again, the cost is prohibitive! I'm glad to have a "sub-floor painting success story" to share with my husband :) Great job!

  23. Image for Jill Flory Jill Flory

    I love this Karianne. LOVE IT. Now to convince my hubby that we can do this in our girls bedroom. Oh I really want to do this. Wonder how I can convince him. And thanks for mentioning Melaine - I hope she gets her followers all back soon.

  24. Image for Debbie Debbie

    You and I are on the same wavelength with our projects! I have the supplies ready to paint my kitchen floor in large diamonds too -and pretty much the same color! This looks fantastic!

  25. Image for HRH Sarah HRH Sarah

    That's incredible, Karianne. I can't wait to move, just so I can try out some of your creative and truly inspiring projects in a new place!

  26. Image for tara tara

    I can't believe you guys did that...I know it was HARD work!!!! LOTS of elbow grease....and why don't we just throw in some blood, sweat and tears while we're at it. :) You're a beautiful homemaker. You have such a gift!

  27. Image for Katie Katie

    Yes!! You just gave me hope for our extremely-small-budget-kitchen-remodel that we want to do. I MUST rid this kitchen of the oak cabinets and gray tile floor ASAP! PS. Did you get sucked into Vanderpump Rules?

  28. Image for sandy sandy

    Wow!! Your floors are wonderful. I have an entire up stairs that has ugly carpeting and the sub floors have been on my mind for quite some time. Do I have the energy to do this? Time will tell! You did a wonderful Job and the cost was amazing! Thanks for sharing Pinning Sandy

  29. Image for Carole Carole

    I need to show this post to hubby. I've been trying to talk him into painting our living room sub-floor, because we're both in complete hate of the carpeting. We installed it new when we moved in ten years ago (the longest I've ever lived anywhere btw), and it looked worn out within five years (so much for extensive research and buying 'the best'). We want to install either bamboo or cork, but in the meantime, I figured we could paint it. And if we love it, we can leave it alone. If not, we can always install the other flooring at some point down the road. Or paint the sub to look like one of those flooring options (decorative painting background). Bookmarking this page!

    1. Image for Chris Chris

      Hi Carole - firstly get as much professional advice because the right floor paint for the surface and the job comes first. Otherwise all your hardwork and money will be wasted. I am like you in that I hate carpets. They are very unhygienic. And like you I have spent thousands on carpets and NONE ever retain their look. I am a painted floor convert. I love new wood floors but I also love old wood floors. You can paint new wood if you wish. We give tons of free advice - so give us a call and let us get you started. Cheers Chris.

  30. Image for Karen Karen

    I sigh every time I see this picture. Guess what. I know you are dying to know.....we are pulling up the carpet in our upstairs hall tomorrow, and painting the subfloor! I just showed this picture to my husband, he said a big "wow"! He was already on board with this project, but I needed a little reassuring pat on my virtual shoulder. A visual to let me know it really can look beautiful. At this point, dumping loose gravel over the carpet would be an improvement.

  31. Image for Denita Denita

    Can you give me an update on how the paint is holding up? I am thinking about staining and sealing my subfloor and I am wondering how long the look will hold up before it starts to look worn or how often I am going to have to clear out furniture and re-seal in order to not damage my subfloor. Do you have an opinion on whether the paint is helping to protect the subfloor more than stain would?

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