Introduction: Painted Plywood Subfloor - Basketball Court

We had our new house built last year, and while it was in the construction process, we decided to save a little money and paint the upstairs subfloor rather than carpet/tile it. It also gave us the chance to do some fun projects together with our kids...and they had a blast.

One of the rooms we did was my daughter's bedroom, a hand-painted basketball court. Read along as I show you the steps we went through. As I describe each step, I'll add links back to our site/blog that will give much more information than the summarized process listed here.

You can also check out more details on the process on our website.

Step 1: The Early Stages

As you can see, we didn't start with much...standard OSB Particleboard plywood. While the house was still under construction, we began the process of preparing the subfloor for painting. We took care of any loose nails that were sticking up, cleaned up any messes the construction crew left behind, and surveyed the plywood for any issues that we may have down the road. Check for gaps in the plywood, loose boards, or holes that may have been incorrectly drilled as these all will need special attention before the real work can begin.

Step 2: Sanding and Filling

Even if you used the highest grade plywood available, you're still likely going to need to perform this step. If nothing else, to get those seams to line up nice and smooth.

Make sure you don't skimp on the tools used. From personal experience, I can tell you that small sanding blocks and hand-held sanders aren't going to give you the results that you want. Find a good belt sander...or better yet, an edger...and go at it.

Take a nice wood filler/leveling compound and start by working it into each seam/nail hole in your wood. It's a little tedious, but you start to get a system down and you can blow through them pretty quickly.

Once you've filled in all the gaps and have given it ample time to dry, bring out the sanders and level it all out. Make sure that you give the rest of the floor a 'once over' after you've sanded the seams, just to remove that rough plywood consistency.

Step 3: Applying the Primer

Sanding is arguably the most important step in this process, as it paves the way for how things will look later on, so be sure to spend a litle extra time before moving onto the primer.

Once you feel you've achieved the smoothness you were looking for, it's time to apply the primer. For this stage, I recommend an oil-based primer because of the durability it offers. Once you get the first coat down, odds are pretty good that you'll begin to see mall inconsistencies that you may have missed before.

Simply take a belt sander and touch up any of those spots, refill as needed, and be sure to clean up well before attempting your second coat. If you STILL think you missed something, take the time to touch it up now. Otherwise, we're ready to start painting our court!

Step 4: Base Coat

Now it's time to work on the court itself. To begin, you need to determine the color of wood you'll be using for your floor. You'll need to find a 'base' color that complements the tones you're hoping to achieve. In our case, my daughter wanted a darker court, so we went with Honey Wheat.

Once you've decided on a color, simply paint on a couple coats. Begin by cutting in along the baseboards and finish it off with a roller. In our room, two coats covered quite nicely, and we were ready to start adding our border.

Step 5: Adding the Border

To give the room a little more feel and to make the court stand out more, we wanted a border around the outside...something using the same color scheme as her walls.

We made several marks 4" in from the baseboards, then taped off the outside of the room. Using a very light blue, we painted in the border...this actually took about 3 coats as the paint was much lighter than the base wood color used previously.

Step 6: Planks!

The next step is to determine how you want your planks to look. For us, we were going to use a 3" wood grain tool to apply the stain, so it only made sense to make each plank 3" wide.

On each side of the room, we made 3" marks along the length of the floor, then ran a strip of tape connecting each of the marks. Using a light pencil, we traced along the tape, then picked up the tape and moved it down to the next set of marks.

Continuing on the entire floor, we ended up with about 40 room-length planks drawn in.

But planks aren't the entire length of the we settled on making each of them approximately 30" long. Starting at a random position along one wall, we broke each long plank up into several 30" shorter planks, then used a right-angle to draw them in.

Before long, our floor was filled with small 3"x30" planks and we were ready to start applying the stains.

Step 7: Applying the Stains

It's now time for the stains. We'll be using two types of stain for this floor, a gel stain to create the wood grain and a wood stain to cover the whole floor. Be sure to use colors that complement each other, or you may end up with a lot more (or not enough) contrast than you had intended.

Using a variety of techniques, begin applying the gel stain, one plank at a time. This is important as it creates a natural separation between the planks and makes each one stand out individually. If you aren't happy with the result, simply go back over it again until you get the board you like! Once you've applied the wood grain, be sure to give the floor plenty of time to dry as the gel is oil-based. We gave ours 48 hours and it was still a little tacky.

For the wood stain, simply use the technique you're the most comfortable with to ensure you get an even distribution across the floor. I stained 2-3 rows of boards at a time, creating subtle variations in contrast along the way. It worked for me, and I'm pleased with the results, but if you have a better way, by all means use that.

Step 8: Creating the Court Lines

Now that your floor has a nice wood grain, it's time to make it look like an actual court! And what says basketball court more than the court lines.

To start, we added a baseline around the room. This created separation from the room border and the planks, and let the court stand on its own. We then began adding the box used for the free throw/key area. It's important to have all your measurements down beforehand, as the last thing you want here is to be off-center or crooked.

Once the box is in place, you have the basis to start taping off the free throw arc and the 3-point lines. It seems intimidating when you first start, but by using small pieces of tape and a lot of patience, it actually comes together pretty easily.

Finish off the court lines by adding the free throw blocks as well as any accent lines you may want.

Step 9: Painting the Court Lines

Be careful as you paint in your court lines. Since we used several small pieces of tape to create the arcs, it's very easy to accidentally 'glob' the paint, causing it to seep into the cracks and bleed. For crisp, rounded edges, very lightly apply your paint to the lines.

Due to the darkness of our floor, this actually took about 4-5 coats for us. But believe me, going slow and adding light coats is much better than addign a couple think coats that you'll have to clean up later.

Step 10: The Little Details

For more dimension, we added a few little details to our court that made it stand out.

Specifically, we painted the key the same blue as the room border. This added a LOT of color to the floor and really made the court stand out against the dark background.

We also added a few decals...'Oklahoma City Thunder' was spelled out along the baseline and an OKC Thunder logo was added at the top of the free throw arc.

All in all, we were very pleased with how it turned out.

Step 11: Seal It

All that was left was to apply our polyeurethane. We topped it all off with 3 coats of Minwax oil-based poly, allowing sufficient drying time between coats.

Hope you enjoyed our little project! You can always read more about our process by clicking here.

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