Staining plywood floor after Zinsser Sanding Sealer

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Forum topic by IdeasYouSpark posted 04-25-2020 12:08 AM 1542 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View IdeasYouSpark's profile


16 posts in 598 days

04-25-2020 12:08 AM

Topic tags/keywords: shellac sanding sealer sealers pine zinsser varathane water based oil based general finishes resource question trick sander finishing rustic traditional

From everything I have read, watched and heard I fully anticipate a barrage of opinions on this. I am in such a quandary about this, so hopefully some input of wisdom from the experienced woodworkers can help me come to conclusion before I lose my mind.

I have a SheShack that has plywood flooring and I will be starting to give it a careful sanding sometime over the next couple of weeks, as well as fill the dings and crevices with some Timber-Mate wood filler. My intention is to stain it with a conventional oil stain (Varathane American Walnut), but because it’s pine plywood it’s inevitably going to be blotchy unless I use a medium to even the tone. To help with this, I chose Zinsser’s Bullseye Sanding Sealer – which a 2 lb cut straight out of the can.

Before delving in whole hog, I opted to try things out on a scrap piece of plywood in three sections:

1) Straight stain with no medium
2) Sanding Sealer 2 lb cut followed by stain
3) Sanding Sealer 1 lb cut followed by stain

Now before I get lambasted with comments stating that is what a sealer does… I’m trying to control the blotchiness with a product that will play nice with both oil stain AND water-based floor polyurethane as a top coat. I anticipated the stain to come out lighter with the sanding sealer, but it ended up being a lot lighter than I anticipated. The 1 lb cut wasn’t nearly as bad, but lighter nonetheless. I should add that I would like to have the floor stain color to match my roof trusses as closes as possible (which might be a trick because they’re rough cut white pine). The WoodWhisperer suggests in one of his videos to use a gel stain such as General Finishes since it doesn’t rely on deep penetration. But I’ve heard tell that gel stain shouldn’t be used on pine. Would anyone have some suggestions? And since we’re on the topic of finishes… wood filler before or after a sanding sealer?

-- IdeasYouSpark

8 replies so far

View davezedlee's profile


64 posts in 2109 days

#1 posted 04-25-2020 01:15 AM

I don’t think using shellac, then oil stain, then water-based anything on a FLOOR is a great idea

Pick a brand and solvent, and stay with it, otherwise you’ll end up with adhesion issues later

View LesB's profile


3138 posts in 4728 days

#2 posted 04-25-2020 02:06 AM

The 1# cut of shellac (sanding sealer) will help control the penetration of the stain and reduce some of the blotching. Zinssers is a 2# cut so dilute it 50%.

What are you using for a final finish?
A water based floor grade varathane would work well over the shellac. It will need at least 3 coats with a light sanding between. Water base will expose you to the least amount of VOCs but either type will give off odor for a couple of weeks.

Because pine plywood or even fir plywood can come out so uneven with stain I think I would use a good grade of floor paint. It wears well and can be easily repainted. Some of the new garage floor finishes are also great. With those you can select a nice color to go with your decor and not worry about not liking the stain. Two coats should do it instead of the several coats of, sealer, stain and top coat. Of course if the stain doesn’t work out you can always use the paint anyway.

-- Les B, Oregon

View Aj2's profile


4135 posts in 3083 days

#3 posted 04-25-2020 02:26 AM

I agree with Les look to paint the floor.
Fir plywood isn’t very friendly to stain. If you do go the shellac route be careful filling that space with denatured alcohol fumes they are very bad to breath.
Even water based film finished are bad for your lungs . I bet the wood winer didn’t mention that .

Good Luck

-- Aj

View IdeasYouSpark's profile


16 posts in 598 days

#4 posted 04-25-2020 02:47 AM

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts on the matter. I appreciate the perspective of floor paint, but it doesn’t trip my trigger. Going for the all wood rustic feel and trying to match the stained roof trusses. I will also be making my window casings in another month or so with the same stain color, but with either maple or poplar.

As for the final top coat on the floor, it will be 3 coats of water-based floor grade polyurethane. Started out thinking of using Varathane brand. But I only need a gallon, and most places want to sell it in the case quantity of two gallons. So now I’m rethinking to Rustolem Parks Pro Finish Semi Gloss or Satin finish.

Oh! And as for the fumes… already on top of that. Although I don’t think anything can be quite as bad as Kilz. That stuff’s DEADLY! The shack 12×24 and there are 4 windows that will be open along with the door. Plan on doing it on a windy day.

-- IdeasYouSpark

View Heyoka's profile


63 posts in 1137 days

#5 posted 04-25-2020 01:36 PM

If you want a wood floor put in a real wood floor. Plywood will never look right.

-- Heyoka

View LesB's profile


3138 posts in 4728 days

#6 posted 04-25-2020 04:54 PM

I would suggest you check out how the color of your stain works on the different woods you are using. Maple will take the stain far different than the Pine or Fir plywood and may not match.

also Rustoleum owns Varathane Brand so their products are probably quite similar. I don’t understand not being able to get the floor finish by the gallon. You might check that out again. Home Depot has several types listed on their web site in 1 gallon containers; including an “extra thick” variety. Also I think you calculations on coverage are off a bit. A gallon of most products covers 300 to 400 sq. feet. Your space is just under 300 sq. feet so you will need at least 2 galons if not more…..the 2 and 3rd coat will take less than the first coat.

-- Les B, Oregon

View IdeasYouSpark's profile


16 posts in 598 days

#7 posted 04-25-2020 05:23 PM

My bad. I should’ve explained better. The overall dimensions of the shack are 12×24, but 48 sq ft of that is a small loft space. However that being said, I have decided on using Parks Pro Finish which is a 700 sq ft coverage per gallon. When I asked the company, Rustoleum said it would play nice with other products. I looked up the appearance of my stain on Maple, Poplar and Pine and Poplar shows the closest match. Thank you, LesB!

-- IdeasYouSpark

View Dark_Lightning's profile


4941 posts in 4394 days

#8 posted 04-28-2020 12:32 AM

If you’re set on coloring the plywood, get a small bottle of dye and try it on a sample piece. You won’t see blotching with dye, and you can make it thin, applying coats until you have the proper depth of color. Guess I’m late to the party, though.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

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