How to Stain a Plywood Floor that’s Seen Better Days

Ah, the saga of the porch floor! I’m glad to say it’s finally over!

how to stain a plywood floor

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

When we moved in, the porch floor was covered with stinky, gross carpet, in keeping with some previous owner’s tradition of putting carpet in all the most inappropriate locations (like the master bathroom).

It appears that when I took a photo of this, years ago, I decided to do it when the porch was otherwise at the apex of its messiness, too, so as to really emphasize how gross that carpet was:

We ripped the carpet up to reveal a plywood subfloor and things stayed pretty much like that for a long time, and we were so happy the carpet was gone that we maybe didn’t mind as much as we should have:

But then, last spring, we rebuilt the old crappy deck adjacent to the porch, and that made the poor neglected porch look even worse in comparison.

The time had come to take action.

At some point we considered tile out here, but Dave and I both feel very strongly that tiling is The Worst, and we’re working on a very tiny budget out here (the deck rebuild was not cheap, even thought we opted to DIY it)….so stain it was! We’d had a good experience staining our basement floor awhile back, and that’s held up really well, so we felt fairly confident going in….but we hit a few snags along the way. I will take you through it and tell you what we did and what we learned.

Prepping the Floors:

This is definitely the part we were dreading the most. I remember scrubbing the basement floor as the worst part of that whole process, and, while our basement floor was pretty much a mess, it was an inside  mess. This porch floor had been sitting out, exposed to the elements and the bugs and the dogs walking back and forth across it for many years. We bought some TSP , (affiliate link) a cleaner specifically made for cleaning surfaces to prep them for painting and got to scrubbing.

This was all going fine, if very slowly and with frequent changing out of filthy water, when we got to the very large part of the floor where there was still a lot of glue caked on from back when we pulled up that old carpet.


It didn’t seem so noticeable back when it was just another layer of yuck on top of the yucky plywood floor, but now it became clear that there was an awful lot of glue.

“I hate to say it,” I said, “but I think we might need to sand down these floors.”

“Maybe we can just stain right over the glue,” Dave said hopefully.

We opened up the stain and brushed a little of it onto one of the particularly glue-y parts of the floor.

Turns out that what happens if you stain over carpet glue is that the stain will dissolve the glue and you’ll be left with a stained floor covered with little fragments of flaky glue.

Dave went to rent a sander.

So the nice thing about unexpectedly having to rent a sander and sand down your porch floor, is that you end up sanding all that dirt and grime away right along with the carpet glue and suddenly washing the floors is a much less daunting task. We went over it quickly with the scrubber, and we were ready to stain!

Stain, Take One:

I already told you last week how this went. Ugly:

There were two problems with the stain we picked out: we hated the color AND it left all that very ostentatious grain in the plywood looking even more ostentatious. This was a “semi-opaque” stain, which sounded opaque enough. But no.

Stain, Take Two:

So we went back to the store for a solid stain and went with the least orange-y one we could find, which was Behr’s Cordovan Brown.

Much better:

It still had some patchy looking places after one coat, so we did two. And now I’m very happy.

I’m pretty sure we’ve decided not to stain the posts and balusters, since they’re already a pretty dark wood, and I don’t really want them dark brown like the floor. We’ll be doing an opaque stain on the ceiling, but I think we’re going to get a little colorful up there.

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How to Stain a Plywood Floor that’s Seen Better Days — 5 Comments

  1. Oh, yes, that stain is MUCH better.
    Good to know: “if you stain over carpet glue is that the stain will dissolve the glue and you’ll be left with a stained floor covered with little fragments of flaky glue.” Very glad I decided not to mess with the outdoor carpet on the screen porch of the house I lived in very briefly in Raleigh.

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