diy {stencil painted subflooring}

We’ve had carpet in our bedroom since we moved in several years ago. My allergies were not a fan of the carpet. Chris and I had been talking about removing the carpet for a while, so one day I started tearing it out:). I admit I didn’t really have a specific step by step plan when I took my box knife to the carpet. We had talked about putting in hardwoods, but once the carpet was out I found myself really wanting to paint the plywood sub-floor. I figured I’d be out about $45.00 (the cost of porch paint & supplies) and some time if I didn’t like the result. We weren’t really ready to invest in hardwoods, so it seemed worth a shot to me.

Before I go into much detail I feel I need to make a few disclaimers…

1. I am not a professional builder/contractor/whatever. I will share what I did. I am sure there are better ways to do it.

2. I am not going into detail on drying times, safety precautions, etc. Read the product instructions for that information.

3. Painted sub-flooring is not for everyone. I like things that don’t look perfect. I don’t mind dents and bang ups and seams.

4. I needed to get carpet out, but was not ready to invest in hardwoods. This is a perfect fix for now. When I am ready to put in hardwoods I am only out about $45.00 for what I did to the sub-flooring….and time.

5. Since my sub-floor is now my actual floor there is a step down into the room from all the doorways. We will make some custom wood coverings to make it less noticeable. We did drop the baseboards down to the sub-flooring level. When we put in hardwoods we will have to move those baseboards up.


First I removed the carpet, tacking, nasty carpet foam stuff, & baseboards. I used a crowbar to take off the baseboards in case I wanted to use them again. Chris went to get coffee with a friend. When he came home I had torn out carpet. I’m thankful for a husband that isn’t shocked or upset to come home and hear “Babe, I tore out the carpet in our room.”


Tearing out all the carpet meant relocating our bedroom to the living room. This was the worse part of the whole project.


Our sub-flooring was basic plywood sheets. It has several spots where the top layer had bubbled up. I used a box knife to cut out the bubbles and then filled in with bondo (thanks dad for the tips on that). I also used basic wood putty to fill in seams, holes, and other banged up spots. Once all that had dried (according the the product directions) I sanded with coarse grit sandpaper (80 grit) and then again with a fine grit (150-200 grit). I used a palm sander….which is less than ideal. My bedroom isn’t very big. I did use a belt sander (and about ripped off my arm) at the end. That was much faster.


After all that sanding I cleaned the floor, walls & ceiling. Dust gets everywhere! Once every thing was clean I rolled on porch paint (I got mine at Lowe’s, the color was “concrete”). I think I could roll paint on floors all day. It is so gratifying.


After the first coat of paint dried (according to product directions) I used a block sander on the whole floor. Whenever you paint wood you always want to sand it down after the first coat. The first coat will pull up the wood fibers and you won’t get a smooth finish if you don’t sand those fibers down. You can get a finishing block sander at any hardware store. I use it on lots of small projects too.


After sanding the first coat down, I had two little people help me clean the floors again. Once all the dust was removed I added another coat of paint.


The original plan was to stop with the gray floors. The night that the paint was drying I was online and saw these floors. I really wanted to buy the stencil, but it was $159.00….which seems silly to spend when the whole point of painting the sub-floor was to save money. Since I couldn’t buy that one I decided to make my own. I’ll be sharing more details on how to make a stencil from your favorite fabric in the future. I stuck the stencil in the middle of the room and just started rolling the paint on. I used the same paint as the wall color….because I had some left over.  An interior designer would hate working with me.

Designer: “What is your plan or goal for the room?”

Me: “I don’t know. I’ll just start painting in the middle and see what happens. Hopefully I’ll like it.”

Since I started without a grand plan I didn’t realize the stencil would be done on a diagonal. I created the stencil to match horizontally and vertically, but didn’t really think through it before I started painting…mainly because I wasn’t worried about it. Turned out it went on in a beautiful diagonal with open areas in the middle. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the open areas, so I experimented with adding the stencil to the open areas. I did my experimenting where the bed would be. Like I said, it is a small room and there is really only one place to put the bed, so my experimentation would be covered up.


Turns out I liked the open areas. It still wasn’t quite right so I decided to play with adding a bit of wood stain to make it look ‘old’. I liked it without the stain, but it looked more like it belonged in a room with lots of crisp whites and clean lines…not what I had in mind for the room. My mom came over and helped me know that I did want to add the stain. When adding the stain I just rubbed some on and then rubbed it off.

Left side is with stain / right side is without stain


Once the stain was dry I added a layer of water based polyurenthane. The directions recommend doing at least 3 coats, but I only wanted one. Once the poly was dry Chris nailed in new baseboards. You can tell in the picture below I wasn’t worried about hurting the floors. The last thing I need in my house during this phase of life is floors I am stressed out over hurting. These are just painted plywood with a lot of character. A lot of character does well in my house.

After getting it all done I said to Chris at least 20 times, “I sure hope I like these floors.” I’m funny like that. I liked them, but was still a little worried I’d get everything moved back in and then decide they were too much for me. Thankfully, I was wrong.


I am thrilled with how it turned out.  It seems like the floors that were always meant to be in my room. My allergies are big fans of the new floors too! I manned up Chris’ side of the bed by using a tool cabinet for his night stand. I’ll share more on the chickenwire when I finish it.

My side of the bed is pretty girly. Several of you asked about the teal nightstand….my grandpa built it for me several years ago. It has been about 4 different colors – I have no idea the name of the current color. It was a bright teal and then I rubbed wood stain on it to darken it too.

So…that is the story of my painted sub-floors. I know this look is not for everyone….that is what makes homes fun…making them reflective of the ones that live there.

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  • Jackie - About how long did the whole thing take? I’m thinking of doing this to my kids playroom, but I would need to get it done in a day.

  • Alonda - I must say your floor turned out beautiful. I took out my bathroom carpet while hubby was working, he couldnt picture me painting cobblestones on the floor. but once done, he loves it. Now I am doing the kitchen floor.

  • Painted Plywood Sub-Floor - [...] is a link to a much smarter blogger than I, who actually patched her floor.  She has pictures of her [...]

  • maryJean - i LOVE this. I giggled when I read the comment designer: what are your goals for the room?
    Your response is SO me. I just dive in and usually like the results…if not oh well. Most things are “correctable”. I love imperfect. I really like the idea of using the stain to age the look a bit.

    Me, I dislike carpet a lot.

    Budget? not hardwood floors.

    I didn’t even know this was possible.


  • Anne Belley - I have a question about the All-purpose Putty for the joints. Is that flexible to accommodate the wood swelling? We are attempting to start such a flooring project ourselves, but have been told to use silicone in the joints. This, however, takes so long to dry, and we are afraid that chairs might “snag” it, and that it will collect dust. Any thoughts? Thanks!

  • Elizabeth Almond - Thank you so much for sharing this information. I, too, pulled up the carpet but in our living room. I have purchased primer and porch/floor paint from Lowe’s. There are major stains on the subfloor. I did patch the seams but you can still see them. The paint I have chosen is a dark brown to hide the stains and will hopefully make the floor look a little better until we can afford the wood flooring. Again, thanks for sharing your experience with us!

  • Maggie Bathory - AMAZING! I have been looking for ideas for my family room floor, and wanted to paint the floors, but then wasn’t sure what to do. Your blog hit the mark Ashley! Thank you for sharing :)

  • maryJean - I love this. You are very creative. I am so ready to rip up carpet on my stairs and a couple bedrooms. I am so over the
    “wall to wall” icky carpeting look.
    And using the plywood underneath!!!!


  • Kim - I love this! I was looking for ideas to replace my old carpets upstairs but I don’t have the money for hardwood floors. After I read this I went home and immediately pulled up my carpet!

  • Coco - How did you make the stencil? I love this SO MUCH!

  • Lucy - Oh. My. Gosh. My mom & dad had chairs upholstered in the same yellow rose fabric as the one in your photo. I’m destined to stalk your site!

  • Denise - we are doing this to a couple of rooms in our house as well. I’m wondering, did you use a special type of paint or just wall paint, and did you use a primer. We are definitely going to need that before putting on which ever color we choose. Your floors look great.

  • Val P. - I’m obsessed with this stencil. I tried to make my own and it is too fragile. Can I purchase this somewhere. I’m worn out trying… Val

  • carmen - you have inspired me, I have looking at this for a while now and I think I am ready to tackle and paint my sub floor either this summer or in the fall sometime

  • Vicki King - I absolutely love what you have done! I am wanting to do that in my guest bathroom, a much smaller space:)

  • I'm Floored! | Paint+Pattern - […] was actually a great DIY project done recently by fab artist and photographer Ashley Ann of Under the Sycamore that was INSPIRED by the original Skylar’s Lace stencil project that we completed in […]

  • Rachel - Hi-
    So i’m years behind the original post, but your floors are cool. I’m just curious if you can tell me a few things. Did you sand the entirety of the subfloor before painting it, or just your putty lines? I have subflooring that is currently sticky-tiled. I might rip up the sticky tiles or i might just lay new plywood down over them (i have potential ability to make the floors cross the threshold evenly if i add flooring… a total aside). Anyhow, how smooth do you think the floors need to be in order to paint them and get a smooth surface? That is essentially the question. I can buy crazy smooth plywood (more smooth=more money). I’m not looking for perfection (i mean, I am painting subflooring). I’m trying to put a cool/chic/artsy/totally random/original/unique/cheap floor down that I can ride my desk chair all over all the time and it be great! Thoughts? Thanks.

  • Rachel - I love this! Gave me the courage to paint my subfloors. I don’t want to buy an expensive stencil, either…did you ever expand on the DIY stencil from fabric touched on in this post?

  • I’m Floored! - […] was actually a great DIY project done recently by fab artist and photographer Ashley Ann of Under the Sycamore that was INSPIRED by the original Skylar’s Lace stencil project that we completed in […]

  • anaelisa jacobsen - I love these floors! I cant wait to paint my own porch some highly creative pattern over the subfloors! GraCIAS FOR THE INSPIRATION! aNAELISA

  • Emily - Did you use an oil based floor paint or laytex? I’m working on the same project and was wondering! Thanks!

  • Celena green - I truly love this. What color are your walls?

  • my bedroom » - […] floors: see this post; check back tomorrow for tips on making a […]

  • Mara - I know this is an old thread but I’m hoping you get this comment. I am in the process of doing my floors just like you did here. I’m to the point of putting my stain on, but when I put it on it’s super dark and not much is coming up when I wipe it off. The porch paint is absorbing it really quickly. I’m wondering if I’m using too dark of a stain. Can you tell me the color of Minwax stain you are using. Thanks so much. And thanks for the inspiration. Your floor is beautiful.

  • AshleyAnn - Mara – I actually don’t remember the stain color. It was probably an oak or walnut. I rubbed it pretty lightly and then rubbed it off really quick!

  • monica - how have the floors stood up to traffic? they look fantastic!

  • AshleyAnn - Monica – they have stood up GREAT….but it is not a high traffic room, just our bedroom.

  • Lisa - What brand/color stain did you use over the stencils for your bedroom flooring?



  • AshleyAnn - Lisa – I don’t remember…I’m pretty sure it was a walnut stain though

  • Jeannine - Hi! Your floors look so great! Thanks so much for showing a realistic view (kiddos “helping”!) of the project :)

    I have 600 sf I want to do this with (1br apt)–if I’m working alone, how long do you think it would take? I will do the bedroom and closet first (200 sf), so I can move furniture around. I’d love to get it done in a week. Possible?

  • Debbie - You inspired my living rm project. I have 3/4 ” plywood sheets also, and i am not going to paint, i am going to stain it and then polyurethane it. There are some really cool stain colors out now! Wish me luck.. The carpet and tac strips are out, so it should be all down hill from here.

  • Home Office Makeover - […] had never heard of that, but I had seen it here, here and here, so he was game to try. In the end he decided that rather than patching and sanding the subfloor, […]

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