It’s a Brave New Floor

by AliMargo on December 3, 2014

It was love at first sight the first time I walked into our little A-Frame on the Frying Pan–even though it was the only house we looked at, we put in an offer right away. There was only one problem — I didn’t love the floors. It was pretty clear the sage green carpet in the living room, which was separated by sections of Pergo in the front entryway, kitchen and rear sitting room, would have to go.

The "Before" Photo

We knew we wanted to pull that carpet and that we wanted some kind of hard floor that was consistent throughout the space, but there was only one problem: we didn’t have the money. My first choice was beetle kill pine flooring, which at over $6 or even $7/square ft was cost prohibitive in a 1,200 square foot room–with installation it would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $8-10k. We looked at some more affordable wood floors, like the bamboo at Lowe’s but read unfavorable reviews about the lack of quality in the finish that easily scratched and didn’t hold up to heavy traffic. My husband Ryan suggested we just go with a painted plywood floor, with maybe a stain and some heavy polyurethane coats, but I was concerned it would look too cheap.

Then I started doing some research. A friend of mine sent me to, an amazing resource for interior design photos, ideabooks, and product information. I spent a solid 24 hours perusing living room design and found some great painted hardwood floors I liked, in particular a home office that had white walls and gray floors. So I used that for my inspiration. Then it was time to research the materials.

In the meantime, Ryan randomly decided to pull the carpet one day when I was out running errands. This turned out to be a good thing because it got our ass in gear to get the project rolling. Here’s what we found under the carpet…Ryan had to scrape that off (it took forever and there was no easy way to do it but with a chisel and some muscle, first smashing and then scraping, and yes we tried a few different power tools to try to grind it down, but nothing doing).

Yikes! Tile masking where there was once a fireplace or wood burning stove.

Once we got that up, it was pretty clear we had to rebuild the subfloor. The house was built in 1970 and modified so many times that the floor was not even. The point is, the state of your subfloor will determine the materials you’ll need. By rebuilding our entire subfloor with brand new plywood, we were able to get a really clean finish with just one coat of heavy duty oil based porch and floor paint.

30 sheets 4′ x 8′ 1/2″  premium finish pine plywood
1 box of 1/4″ wood screws
1 case Liquid Nails Subfloor glue
KILZ primer
Valspar oil based porch and floor paint


Ryan installs the finished pine plywood subfloors using wood screws instead of nails.

The hardest part of installing the subfloor was custom cutting the pieces to fit the room. We used entire sheets wherever we could. This not only makes for a faster installation, it creates a slick finish on the floor once it’s completed so it looks very contiguous and somewhat industrial, almost like concrete. We wanted that modern look, so we went with full sheets. Some people will cut the plywood down into planks for a more rustic vibe. Still, a lot of pieces had to be cut to fit which meant a lot of measuring and modifying and some frustration (often it took several tries to get the piece to fit in just right).

Otherwise, the installation is fairly straight forward:
Ryan used one tube of subfloor glue for each piece of plywood.
He used wood screws rather than nails because he felt it was secure.
He installed a screw every 6-8″ all around the perimeter of each 4 x 8″ sheet, with a few screws down the middle.

If you’re working with existing subfloor, it’s really important that you clean the floors as best you can before priming
We used one coat of KILZ primer–very easy to apply and dries fast.

In order to get the high gloss finish we wanted, we used Valspar oil-based porch and floor paint. This stuff is gnarly toxic and takes forever to dry, but it is bomber. Just be prepared to evacuate the room for at least 2 days. The fumes are pretty intolerable. It took 24 hours to dry and we left it another 24 before putting the furniture back in. We bought felt adhesive and put it on the bases of all of our furniture to prevent scratching.

The "After" Picture

AT THE TIME OF COMPLETION, we had two dogs (our big German Shepherd George has since passed away) and the floors, at least so far, seem immune to claw marks, heavy traffic, and the weight of the furniture. We are so happy with the high gloss finish and the modern look. The floors also clean beautifully with a wet mop or Swiffer and are perfect for heavy use, children and animals because you’re not worried destroying expensive floors and you can always maintain with another coat if needed.

TOTAL COST: Was just over $1,000.

All in all, an excellent inexpensive DIY solution for those of you who really want a hardwood floor but can’t quite afford it yet. This was our “in between” plan, but who knows? We just might keep it.


We also repainted all the walls and ceilings in Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore. This helped brighten and open the space and make all those crazy angles and rooflines more contiguous. Whites can be tough but this color was recommended to me by an architect from Rowland+Broughton in Aspen who had used it in their own home and we love it. It’s bright but very soft, and being from the gray family it matches the floor beautifully.

Also note in the before and after photos that we changed out the handles on the built-in cabinet below the TV. My friend Susan Redstone taught me about refacing as an inexpensive way to renovate, and this is a perfect example. I think the new handles transform this piece and it cost around $50 for the new handles.

We do need and want area rugs to bring in more color and texture, but are taking our time choosing and purchasing those.

The kitchen is next on our list. We’d love to update the countertops and appliances and put in a nice tiled backsplash for more texture in the room. I want to also put in more modern handles on all the cabinets since they are relatively new and in great condition. There was talk of painting the cabinets white, but we have since thought the natural wood is nice with all the white and gray we have going on. I would love stainless steel appliances when we can afford them and am thinking of doing the countertops in either granite, Silestone or quartz depending on what we can find.

Would love to hear any comments or questions, just to see if anyone is out there reading this! What do you think about painting the spiral staircase white? We also need to tear out that carpeting on the steps and put something else in there. Do we do a cool wood, or just keep the gray plywood for consistency?

Would love to hear your thoughts and comments.



Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: