Staining Plywood Subfloors

You might recall that my sister and I recently ripped up the carpet on our first floor.   When my friends left that Thursday night (May 1st), we had torn up all the nails and crap.  We had very dirty plywood subflooring.  At that point, I was starting to get the, “Am I in over my head?” feeling.  The best thing to do when that happens to just keep pushing on and pretend you know what you are doing and hope it turns out ok.

Under the Carpet

So that’s what I did.  What you see above is what we discovered under the carpeting.  Globs of spackle and copious pet stains. Yay! I spent my Friday night and entire day Saturday sanding the floors with my handy dandy palm sander to smooth out and hopefully remove a lot of that.  Real quick, if you are planning on trying this, rent a floor sander. So much saved time.  We also hung some old sheets that Alex’s grandma left in the house to try to block the dust from spreading everywhere.  Guess what?  Painter’s tape doesn’t hold up sheets.  We ended up just covering the electronics with them and hoping for the best.  We are professionals!

Trying to Contain the Dust


One great tool in reducing the dust was this little buddy of mine.  Apparently there are little adapters that let you connect various dust making tools to your shop vac to reduce the layer of dust your life will inevitably be covered in. We didn’t have to buy one.  This is only a 5 gallon shop vac so it’s little hose fit right into my Ryobi sander. It was a huge help and I highly recommend it.

Shop Vac

Here are the floors post-sanding and I think they don’t look too bad.  In person, it was incredibly rustic still, so we decided to press on with the project as planned.

Sanded Subfloor Pug

Saturday night, at about 9:30, I broke out the wood filler and a plastic spoon because that’s what I had and started doing that.  For about 30 minutes.  After a full day on my hands and knees sanding, my patience was gone. 
Wood Filler

I got about this far before calling it a day.  The next morning, basically distraught, I woke up my sister and told her if I didn’t get out of the house for a little I would die.  I went to the grocery store. What a relief that was.

Dining Room Drying Wood Filler

I came home and she had finished doing the wood filler like an angel.  We hung out for about an hour to wait for the wood filler to dry.  It turned a whiter shade of the strange orange beige color it is when wet.

Wood Filler Sanded

After she had sanded the filler, I vacuumed the whole floor thoroughly with our shop vac.  We did not want anything getting in the way our our stain adhesion.

Shop Vac and Sanded Wood Filler

We also wiped the floor down with this Minwax Pre-Stain.  It’s supposed to make sure your stain ends up even and not blotchy.  Why not?  It was really fumey.  Like paint thinner kind of.  We had to open all the windows.  Also, the instructions said to put your stain down within 2 hours of the pre-stain for best results.  We did this for half the floor and I didn’t notice a big difference.  That also could be because we used such a dark stain.

Minwax Pre-stain

Her she is all pre-stained and ready to go.

Sanded with Pre-Stain

I rolled on the stain because ain’t nobody got time to brush it on.  We were actually on our way to my sister’s early birthday party and time was of the essence.  I started staining when we should have been in the car. Oops.  This is as far as I got that day.  The next night just before bed, Becca (my sister) finished up the rest of the floors so they would be dry when we woke up. The stain we used was Minwax PolyShades in Espresso.

Halfway Stained


Some good news:  Our house’s token pee smell is gone as far as we can tell.  Regular guests have hopefully been answering us honestly.  Violet, darling that she is, has reduced her accidents and I’m altogether very happy.  The dark color gives me a good idea of what our real flooring will look like one day when we can afford it. Here are our finished for now floors.

Finished Floors

Somehow our couch ended up way further back than it used to be.  Also, the tv is currently showing my sister’s most recent obsession – Korean culture.  왜?

Finished Floors 2

This shot shoes how the floors look in person.  I think we’ll end up doing another coat of stain + poly in a few weeks.

Finished Floors 3


So that is that.  I am so relieved the carpet is gone.  I can breathe a little easier and tread a lot louder.  Have you tried anything that people gave you the raised eyebrow for?


2 thoughts on “Staining Plywood Subfloors

  1. Oooh my gosh, you are committed. This is just the sort of thing that I would have been kicking myself 1/3 of the way through like “what were you thinking?!” I think it turned out great though!

    1. Lol that was what I was thinking! It had to be done though. If your carpet was that gross, you could do it too. It’s nothing compared to last second Asian vacations.

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