Plywood is inexpensive and strong, but it’s usually not very attractive. You may use plywood for subfloor and walls, but you can also use it for many other applications.
Plywood isn’t commonly used for projects where the wood is visible, because it looks like, you guessed it, plywood. If only you could paint the plywood, and give it a beautiful finish.
It turns out that you can paint plywood. You simply need to follow the proper steps.
What is Plywood?
Plywood is made from small layers or plies of wood. These are compressed together using pressure, adhesives, and heat. Plywood is strong and relatively inexpensive, which makes it ideal for many projects.
Types of Plywood
Some types of plywood are designed to be painted. These do not require as many steps to paint as other types of plywood. However, they are also much more expensive than other types.
Plywood is graded A-D. Grade A plywood is sanded, and the surface is free of defects. If you are painting this type of plywood, you shouldn’t need to use joint compound.
Grade B plywood is similar to type A, but it typically has some minor defects. In this case, you may need to use wood filler. However, joint compound may not be necessary.
Grade C plywood has more defects. This type is not intended to be seen, and is often used in subfloor and other construction applications. Grade D is similar to grade C, with more defects. Neither C or D plywood is presanded.
To paint grade C or D plywood, you’ll need to follow all of the steps listed below.
What You Need to Paint Plywood
Before we get into how to paint plywood, it’s a good idea to make sure you have all of the materials on hand.
The basic materials you need are:
- Putty knife
- Tack cloth
- Sander or sandpaper
- Wood filler
- Joint compound
As you can see, painting plywood is very similar to painting other types of wood, with one special step that allows you to get a smooth finish.
Which plywood you choose will depend on how much time and effort you want to put into the project, and your budget.
All grades of plywood can be painted. However, the lower the grade, the more time it will take for you to create a nice painted finish. On the other hand, the lower the grade, the cheaper the sheet of plywood.
You can use many types of paint on plywood. Oil based paints offer durability and longevity. Latex paints are user friendly, and provide easy clean up. Chalk based paint provides a unique finish.
In addition to the type of paint, you’ll need to consider the gloss level. Flat paint has no gloss. If it’s not sealed, it will stain very easily. Satin paint has some gloss, but is still less durable than semi-gloss without a sealant.
Semi-gloss paint has a sheen. It’s very stain resistant and easy to clean. High gloss paint offers a high shine, which can be too much for most projects.
Choosing Painting Materials
A brush is suitable for small projects. Rollers are often used for painting walls or large surfaces like table tops. They offer a smooth finish and quick coverage. A sprayer is ideal for large areas, and can provide a smooth finish as well.
How to Paint Plywood
Now that you’ve chosen your plywood and paint, you are ready to get started. The key to painting plywood is applying joint compound, which provides a smooth surface for the paint.
Step 1: Fill Holes
You’ll need the wood filler for this step. If there are any holes in your plywood, start the project by filing them with wood filler. Allow it to dry overnight.
If the holes are large or deep, you may need to apply a second coat.
If you have grade A plywood, the only holes should be those that occurred during construction. Lower quality plywood may have dents or knots that need to be covered, in addition to holes from construction.
Step 2: Round Edges
You can round the edges on the plywood with a screwdriver. Just run the bar of the screwdriver across the edges to easily round them off. This should be done regardless of the type of plywood used.
Step 3: Apply Joint Compound
Yes, you read that right. Remember that pesky uneven surface that you are trying to cover? This is the way to deal with that, without springing for grade A plywood.
Use a putty knife to apply joint compound to the entire surface that is going to be painted. Take care around the edges of the plywood. Smooth it out as much as possible, and then allow it to dry.
Step 4: Sand
Now, you’ll need to sand the joint compound. You should sand in a well ventilated area. Use safety glasses and a mask to avoid getting joint compound in your eyes or mouth.
This is easiest to do with a power sander, but you can use a sanding block in a pinch. Joint compound is fairly soft, so this step isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Its just messy.
Step 5: Clean and Prime
All grades of plywood will require this step. You are ready to begin the painting process. First, remove all of the dust from the joint compound. You can do this with a tack cloth, or any wet rag.
Be sure to get the surface completely clean. If there are particles left, it will interfere with the finish on your paint.
You’ll need at least two coats of primer. Allow it to dry between coats, which typically takes 3 to 6 hours. Once it’s dry to the touch, you can move on.
After the first coat, sand with a fine grit sandpaper, and remove any dust particles. Sand using the same method after the second coat.
The primer provides a good base for painting, and seals both the plywood and joint compound.
Step 6: Paint
You’ll need to apply at least two coats of paint. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly between coats. Sand lightly between coats.
If you aren’t happy with the results, more coats may be required. This depends on the type of paint, and the color you’ve chosen.
Step 7: Seal
This step is optional. If you use a flat or satin paint, it’s wise to seal it. If you use a semi-gloss, you can likely skip this step. However, you’ll also need to consider how you plan on using the painted plywood.
If it will come into contact with water or experience lots of wear and tear, it’s a great idea to add a few coats of sealer.
Can You Paint Plywood FAQs
Can you paint directly onto plywood?
Yes, you can. However, without sanding and primer, the paint will not adhere properly.
Does painting plywood make it waterproof?
Painting will not completely waterproof the plywood by itself. However, if you’ve used primer, paint, and sealer, your plywood should be waterproof.
Can You Stain Plywood?
Yes, plywood can be stained. Like painting plywood, the higher the grade of the plywood, the easier the plywood is to stain.