How to Apply a Decorative Finish to Plywood Sub-Floors

Here in the Northwest there are few homes that are built slab on grade, so we are often asked about installing decorative coatings over wood sub-floors. This is definitely something that can be done! And the process has become easier in the last few years as manufacturers have refined flexible epoxies that can be used a base-coats for more traditional coatings to be installed over wood sub-floors. The problem with coating plywood or other wood sub-floors, has always been the fear of damage resulting from movement. If the two materials are expanding and contracting at different rates when temperatures fluctuate, cracks can result. A flexible epoxy base-coat help more traditional coatings bond to wood while helping to eliminating the chance of cracking.

Flake Broadcast over Plywood

Epoxy Flake Broadcast over Plywood Sub-Floor

Typically, flexible epoxy systems utilize a fabric tape that is set in the wet epoxy over the plywood seams. This helps bridge the areas where there is the most movement in wood sub-floors. A full coat of flexible epoxy then is applied to the whole floor. If a concrete floor is being applied, a second full coat of flexible epoxy would be applied and then sand would be broadcast into it until the point of rejection, or when no more sand can be absorbed by the epoxy.

Once the epoxy is dry, the excess sand can be cleaned off leaving an excellent profile for a decorative concrete micro-topping to be installed. This second coat can also be used to broadcast color quartz, or color flakes for epoxy broadcast floors. If an epoxy floor is going to be installed without a broadcast medium, it can usually be put down right over the flexible base coat depending on the particular system you are using.

Commercial Kitchen with Plywood Sub-Floor

Commercial Kitchen with Plywood Sub-Floor After Sanding

We recently did a flake broadcast floor for a restaurant. We coated the kitchen area, the space behind the bar, and a cold storage closet. All three areas had plywood sub-floors. After prepping the plywood by sanding and filling the screw holes and knots, we fabric taped the seams. We then applied two coats of flexible epoxy. We broadcast our 1/8” color flakes into the second coat. All three areas were then sealed with an 85% solids polyaspartic top-coat for a durable yet easy to clean floor system that will hold up well to the demands of a commercial kitchen.

If you would like more information on suitable coatings for plywood, or any of our other services, please give us a call at (425) 586-0706 or fill out the contact form on our website here: Contact Us

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One Response to How to Apply a Decorative Finish to Plywood Sub-Floors

  1. Matthew Brown March 27, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    Hi, I’m looking to replace my exterior deck and was curios if this product and layer-system would be an appropriate choice? I’ve seen what I believe to be the same product in a garage and I think its great but am unsure how it would fair outside with the weather, temperature, UV etc. I live in Abbotsford BC, just north of the border, so the climate is pretty much the same as Seattle. Any thoughts or information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    Matthew Brown

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