Once you’ve completed your project made out of plywood, it’s time to apply the finishing touches. Many homeowners wonder if you can stain or paint plywood. The answer is yes!

For the best-looking and longest-lasting finish follow these tips from our experts …

How to Paint Plywood

Your techniques will vary depending on your desired finished results. If you’re painting lower-grade plywood (Grade C or D), you won’t need to be as thorough with the prep steps. These grades of plywood are inherently rough, with voids, knots, and splits, so spending extra time to prep them for paint isn’t usually worth the effort.


The type of paint you use will depend on where the plywood is going to be installed. We recommend water-based latex paint for interior or exterior applications.


Since Grade A plywood is usually sanded, it’s not necessary to sand the surface before painting. If your sheet of Grade B plywood isn’t sanded, you must be very careful not to remove too much material while sanding. Remember that the layer of wood veneer on top is as thin as 1/16 of an inch.

To save time, it’s best to start off with Grade A plywood. If you must sand the plywood, lightly scuff the surface with 120-grit sandpaper. Next, wipe the wood down with a rag soaked in mineral spirits. Once the wood is dry you can apply primer with a brush or roller. Once the primer has cured, apply the paint!

How to Stain Plywood

Staining plywood is a little trickier since plywood tends to soak up stain at different rates, which results in a blotchy appearance. For best results, take your time and be willing to spend some extra money on quality pre- and post-staining products.


You may use oil- or water-based stain. We recommend oil-based stain for any projects that will be outside. Pre-stain conditioner can help prevent a blotchy appearance and is an important step for a better-looking finished product. You can also use a gel stain for a more even-looking finish.


If necessary, follow the sanding instructions we outlined above. Once that’s finished, you’ll need a lint-free cloth or a paintbrush and a pair of rubber gloves to apply the stain. To begin, wipe the wood down with a rag soaked in mineral spirits.

Once the wood is dry, use a lint-free cloth or a paintbrush to apply stain conditioner if necessary. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.


Once the conditioner is dry, apply the stain with a different rag or brush. The longer the stain stays on the wood, the darker the color will be. This could be anywhere from 10 seconds to 15 minutes depending on the stain. Once you’re satisfied with the color, wipe off any excess stain that did not soak into the wood.

Allow the remaining stain to dry, this could take about 12 hours, but always read the manufacturer’s instructions.


Once the stain is dry, you’ll need to cover the wood with polyurethane or lacquer to protect the stain and prevent it from rubbing off. Both products are available in spray cans for smaller projects. They’re also available in different sheens depending on how glossy you want the finished product to look.

Spray on at least three coats of the poly or lacquer in a well-ventilated area according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Professional Help When You Need It

When you need a hand, Mr. Handyman can take on most repair and maintenance tasks around the house, giving you free time to focus on your family or your hobbies! Give us a call at (877) 685-1377 or request a service online.


Mr. Handyman s is a Neighborly Company. Handyman repair services are one of the many home maintenance solutions available to you through Neighborly. At Neighborly, we are committed to being there for all your home service needs.

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