How to finish plywood floors

Updated February 21, 2017

Plywood floors are often unappreciated due to their bland, unassuming appearance. Seen primarily as a subfloor for more decorative floor surfaces, plywood can be finished in a way that makes the wood highly attractive. With a bit of paint and some imagination you can turn your plywood floor into a showpiece, laying down a single colour for simplicity, or covering the floor in a colourful pattern that catches the eye.

Sweep the floor with a stiff-bristled broom, and then mop it with a damp cloth and a pH-neutral cleanser. Rinse the cleanser from the floor with clean water and pat dry with a cloth. Take care not to saturate the wood to avoid warping or peeling.

Examine the floor for any nails sticking up from the surface. Hammer the nails down until flush, then countersink the heads slightly with a nail punch.

Use a small putty knife to fill the nail holes with wood filler the same colour as the plywood. Fill the seams between the plywood with the filler, as well. Allow the filler to dry for two hours, and then sand it smooth. Wipe away sanding debris with a damp piece of cloth.

Place a strip of masking tape along the base of the walls to keep paint off the baseboards.

Use a paint roller to apply a layer of wood primer-sealer to the floor. Roll the sealer on in overlapping rows to ensure complete coverage, and then wait overnight for the sealer to dry. Switch to a paintbrush to apply the sealer to the edges of the floor against the walls.

Apply an oil-based topcoat of paint using the same process used with the sealer. Allow the paint to dry overnight then place a second layer of paint. Wait another night for the second coat to dry.

Apply three layers of polyurethane to the paint to create a wear layer. Spread the polyurethane using the paintbrush on the outside edges and the paint roller for the interior. Wait 24 hours between coats, and sand each coat lightly with fine grit sandpaper to remove any imperfections. Wipe with a cloth after sanding as well. Allow 72 hours drying time before using the floor.


Apply a painted pattern to your floor using stencils, or freehand any pattern you like.


Place a ventilation fan in an open window or door when finishing the floor to avoid toxic fumes. Wear a face mask when finishing the floor to avoid inhaling wood dust.

Things You'll Need

  • Stiff-bristled broom
  • Damp cloth mop
  • pH-neutral cleanser
  • Cloth
  • Hammer
  • Nail set punch
  • Wood filler
  • Small putty knife
  • Belt sander
  • Masking tape
  • Paint roller
  • Wood sealer
  • Paintbrush
  • Oil-based topcoat paint
  • Polyurethane finish
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About the Author

Larry Simmons is a freelance writer and expert in the fusion of computer technology and business. He has a B.S. in economics, an M.S. in information systems, an M.S. in communications technology, as well as significant work towards an M.B.A. in finance. He's published several hundred articles with Demand Studios.