September 10, 2012

plywood floors - a temporary fix (and tutorial)

We knew, right from the start, that the carpets all over the house would have to be replaced. Once upon a time they were good quality, Berber wool carpets. But for the past few years, while the house was on the market, it was rented, to people with pets who didn't take good care of them. So we knew. But honestly, I thought we could hold out for a while. Especially downstairs where there were no major stains. We rented a steam cleaner before moving in an decided that the floors would be a good "next summer" project.
But then we painted the walls, which necessitated getting down on our knees to paint near the trim, and being that close to the carpet convinced us that it couldn't wait. So, in the living room, up it came. (This week we will do the same with the upstairs rooms)
Shortly after we ripped up the carpet, we discovered that our backup heat source will need to be replaced before next winter (oh the joys of home ownership!) and we'd really like to replace it with radiant flooring, but right now, after, you know, buying a house, is not the time. So. We needed a temporary fix. Like living with what we had.
It took me a little while to convince Will that painting our subflooring was not THAT crazy. Thank goodness for Pinterest, examples always help. But before I get into the how, I should say something about the glaringly obvious craziness here.

Yep, it's white.

I know. I KNOW! White? Really? Two kids? Pets? Snow and Mud? Crazy.

But here's how we came to it. We have, over the course of our marriage, refinished several floors and a few wooden decks and what we've learned, contrary to what seems would be true, is that light floors are easier to clean than dark ones. I had dreams of painting it a beautiful dark grey, but it would have been constantly dusty and dirty. So after looking at A LOT of painted floors, we found that we came back, time and again, to white. It's a good blank canvas. Especially if we want to do something like stencil on a rug - which I do (notice the I, Will isn't super excited about the work involved there).

Having lived with it for a good week now I am pretty happy with the result. Yes, it gets dirty, but strangely, not much. Even hauling in wood and dealing with muddy paws has been pretty easy. In fact, the thing that's made it the dirtiest was moving the piano back in.

And yes, it's a lot of white, but don't worry, there will be color. We've picked out wallpaper for the window wall and have plans to tone down the wide variety of wood we have and add more bright colors - I'm on the hunt for a colorful stripy rug for the livingroom- and we've just finished a nice bright addition to the room that I'll show off tomorrow. I wasn't sure how it would work out, but I love it, which is good because there was no going back on this one.

So, the hows.
When we ripped up the carpet, it was pretty obvious that the subfloor, and hence the living room, was built in stages. Everything beyond the last beam was done later and the plywood was less distressed. And also not painted the same color. We're pretty sure that the previous owners lived with painted plywood themselves as they built the house, most of the living room was dark grey (which helped prove how dirty it would get)
 But it was all pretty rough. So we spent a few days hammering in all the nails and then a few more taking it to the chicken-pox-covered-with-calamine-lotion stage with wood patch.

Holes and seams filled, we rented a sander and spent an evening sanding all those patches smooth. It's not perfect, the plywood is a good 20 years old so the grain shows, but it's much improved from the starting point.

For paint, we used porch and floor paint which is thin and glossy and took three coats before it looked right. We didn't go with oil paint, on the recommendation of the excellent paint guys at the local hardwood store, this was a latex from Benjamin Moore. It took four or five days to really cure before we could move back in. I think that was the hardest part, looking at it but not being able to walk on it. Thankfully we had enough room in the sun room to set up all of our furniture there, but it was hard not to be impatient.

So, there we are. Painted plywood. In white. Crazy but good. More color to come. Now we have to decide what we should do upstairs.