Saturday, May 11, 2013

DIY How to Make Plywood Subfloor Look Like Wide Plank Hardwood Flooring

I've known for sometime (literally years). That I would rip up my ugly paint stained Den carpet, and attempt to recreate the plywood sub floor into something special. Thankfully my plywood sub floor, was wood grade, while not perfect by any means; it was stained heavily with both previous owner's pet stains, old paint from years past and a bazillion staples etc. I knew I would take on this project one way or another and love it.

Since my lovely 65 rancher had the a/c unit die last summer and we were hit with a hefty 7k loan for a new one, I knew that new floors would DEFINITELY not be in my budget. So after the old nasty paint stained builder grade carpet was ripped up, it revealed the disastrous gross view below. I knew I had my work cut out for me. 

I didn't have any real plan, just to wing it as I went.

I had seen on google that a few people had used a sharpie marker to draw plank lines on the plywood.

My first task however (and I did many steps backwards, but it worked out in the end), was to remove the staples; all 300 or more of them (blah).

Next I swept and decided to follow the pre existing Vertical lines in the plywood as to not be too off when I drew my new plank lines.  Typically I had a few smaller boards due to original plywood seem lines, and then after that I measured each plank line to be 9 inches wide.

I took on the daunting task of drawing vertical lines down the entire length of the room.

When I had finished, I realized the thin lines just weren't going to cut it for me. I wanted THICK JUICY bulky old barn/farmhouse aged gappy lines. And so I took my yard stick and drew a parallel line beside each thin line, and YES, I seriously had to COLOR in each and every line (even with a bulkier Sharpie) ergh!!

This took forever - so if you take on this task yourself, maybe start with a FAT sharpie and not the thin ones.

Once my vertical sharpie faux plank wood lines were drawn, I decided I would sand it. (typically you can rent a sander and sand the floor before drawing all these lines, however, I am far too broke to even rent a sander, then buy the paper; and so I decided I'd take my handheld sander with the 60 grit sandpaper I had left over and just sit on the floor and painstakingly go up and down each faux plank (avoiding the sharpie lines). On areas with heavy staining I'd go over a little more than others.) I did not remove ALL paint splotches (because I did not realize the stain wouldn't take to them - so if you take on this project, sand them down ALL the way, although it's not bad and gives it character.

Once I sanded down every bit of flooring, it was looking good.

I almost didn't want to stain it.

The week prior I was set on buying minwax stain, but they did not have the paint stain at Lowe's I had wanted. So not wanting to go home empty handed, I chose Rustoleum's Kona wood stain instead.

I was hoping it would be the right shade, and honestly didn't care if it wasn't, because at this point, ANYTHING would have been better than the nasty plywood subfloor that had once spent YEARS under an ugly old carpet with no lovin' :)

That night I drew the horizontal lines, and I staggered them. I didn't want an obvious pattern, so I kind of just drew them randomly about the floor, Not too many, just 3-4 horizontal lines per each plank. I even drew little fake nail head marks.

I waited a week, because to be honest, this is such a time consuming energy sucking project when doing it on a budget.  FINALLY I decided I'd take on the task of sitting on my knees with my Rustoleum wood stain, a varathane paint brush and some old t shirts as rags.  I LITERALLY did a back and forth motion on EACH plank when painting the stain on. I IMMEDIATELY wiped it off right after application with an old t shirt.

Here is a video I took to show how to apply and wipe stain off. Sorry in advance it's shoddy (it's hard to video tape yourself applying stain with a cell phone camera). Link :

I was IMPRESSED. Rustoleum's wood stain is BEYOND amazing. It's RICH in color and dried SUPER fast. WOW! For only $8 a quart sized can, it covered the entire 300 sq. ft. room and I only needed ONE coat. *Rustoleum isn't affiliated with me or my blog in anyway, but if they should so desire to send me some product, in exchange for a blog DIY, I have a few projects up my sleeve - hint, hint * ;))

Anyway, it looked GREAT! And my crummy cellphone photos do it absolutely NO justice.

I waited a couple days (due to my children being rambunctious) and then I purchased Rustoleum's polyurethane in water based semi gloss for $33 at Lowe's. I also purchased a long wood stick applicator and a rectangular application pad (pads were only $5 each, and I did not want to reuse, so I did buy three for all 3 coats of polyurethane).

I'd never used polyurethane in my life (other than on furniture where it was already in the stain).

I was so absolutely nervous. I used an old paint pan, stirred it up and poured it in. I dipped the pad in and went up and down and worked in  sections going vertical.  after each plan was brushed on I'd finish it by going top to bottom ONE STROKE using JUST the weight of the applicator.

I was so nervous at first, it was a milky hazy color (I didn't put it on too thick, but just enough to where it left a haze). After 3 hours I'd say the haze disappeared and it was looking good. (sigh of relief).

I followed it up with a total of 2 more coats for a grand total of 3 coats of polyurethane.

It was beautiful. No photo I can or did attempt to take could ever do this floor justice. It looks so amazing, it has a nice smooth texture, and doesn't even look like plywood at all. It looks like legitimate wide plank hardwood flooring.

(Below: Detailed up close - notice the sharpie lines show up perfectly :)
- This is as close to the real color I could get of the flooring) :)

For less than $65 I have these amazingly beautiful floors that make me smile from ear to ear.

I NEVER in a million years imagined I could take an existing plywood sub floor and make it look the way I have.  Everyone that has come to see it in person has complimented me on how well it looks and how they can't believe it was plywood.

I won't lie to you and say it was easy, because it wasn't. It wasn't SUPER hard. But the only gripe I have is how much time it took to do.

When you're broke, and on a budget, you have to work with what you have. I have never done flooring before and I did a fantastic job, so I am pretty sure ANYONE can do it.

So, Rustoleum, if you're reading or happen upon my blog, I'd love to use your products on a few other projects I have up my sleeve and would love to exchange a photo tutorial type blog in exchange for use of your product. :) (Hey, I had to try) haha.

EDIT: June 2016:  I ended up using the area for my photography and computer.  The floors look just as good as they did when I first did them. I clean them with a little diluted pine sol and a mop, being careful not to over wet the floors. They hold up great to children and pets alike.

The photos are from a cell phone, so I apologize that they are not the best quality.

Feel free to ask any questions ( , dear readers, I'd love to save you all money as well :) God Bless <3>