Faux-wood flooring finish on MDF

Top view of a taped together General Store

I’ve been doing a taped assembly of a General Store Kit, just checking the parts to make sure everything fits the way it’s supposed to, and, as luck would have it, a builder emailed me to ask how to do faux-wood finishing on MDF (and here I have an MDF floor right in my hand).  What a good subject for a demo! 
The Faux-wood finish has to be applied before assembly of the General Store.  Here’s the process:


Fold the sandpaper to sand the grooves     Sand the surface smooth

Surface preparation:  Sand the grooves and surface with fine sandpaper (320 grit aluminum oxide is perfect)


Flood the surface with the base paint     Wipe off excess paint

Paint (semigloss latex) the base color – tan or light brown (this is “Sands of Time”).  Flood the grooves then wipe the paint off, first across the grooving, then in the direction of the boards.  Let the paint dry.


Scratch a grain-pattern in the basepaint     I am scratching a grain pattern in the base paint with coarse sandpaper (80 grit).  The motion is very straight and parallel with the flooring grooves, every pass the whole length of the floor ene-to-end.


sand the grooves with folded sandpaper     Clean the grooves with a stiff brush

Now a sanding prep with fine sandpaper, the grooves and the surface, and a thorough cleaning with a stiff brush.


\     Wipe off the excess topcoat

I am using Minwax “PolyShades” Burgundy, which is a semi-transparent mix of stain and urethane.  It is a surface stain-plus-finish, not a penetrating stain.  PolyShades Burgundy has a nearly purple tint that is mahogany-like over tan basepaint.  There are many brands and color combinations that will work well for faux-wood flooring; for example, an ivory basecoat and a walnut topcoat can give a pecan wood appearance.  Apply a flooding coat, then wipe it off – first across the grooves, then in the flooring direction.


Shape the grain-look with the wiping motion     This is the step that shapes the grain-look. The topcoat is wiped very thin for transparency and the wiping is in full-length light whisks in the direction of the boards.  The base paint shows through and gives definition to the grain-look.  Let the topcoat dry completely.


final sanding with 320 grit     Paste wax final finish     Brush out the wax for a soft sheen

A final smoothing with fine sandpaper, and a final finish with hard pastewax or satin urethane.  Here I’m using “Butcher’s Bowling Alley” wax, and brushing out the finish for a soft sheen. 


\     Nice!


11 Responses to “Faux-wood flooring finish on MDF”

  1. Jean Says:

    Hi Gary, I cannot tell you how much your expertise is appreciated. I am doing the half scale farmhouse and would love to do a random width floor. Haven’t been able to find any info on line about the wood used for that time period, but, pine might be a possiblity? I have looked at veneers and mini flooring, but wondering, from your tutorials how I can get the deep,used, rich patina for an colonial old floor, perhaps distressed a little using the existing base floor. Have no idea what color stain to use or how to go about doing it. Can I do this with the existing floor? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Jean

  2. gary_r Says:

    Hi Jean
    Faux-wood flooring is dependent on the long-straight wiping motion for the wood look and it’s hard to get inside an already-built house. I think I’d get some pine or basswood stripwood, maybe a mix of 1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″ for a half-scale house, and pre-finish it with a yellow stain like golden oak. If you use pine stripwood, a staining-sealer, then course sandpaper can give an effective look. Play around with a strip or two to find just the appearance you want. Don’t be afraid to try several looks together… you can see how they will look before gluing them down and always go back to the sandpaper to change the appearance you get. http://gr123.powweb.com/Dollhouse%20Workshop/vignettes/vignettes.html This link is to a stripwood floor demo on the dhbuilder.com site

  3. Finishing the Interior of a Dollhouse, part 1 | Building Dollhouses with Real Good Toys' Dollhouse Kits Says:

    […] Plywood Floors – Demo Faux Wood Floor Finish on houses with MDF floors: JM 1065, JM 975,  Demo: Faux Wood Flooring on a General Store Strip Flooring – Demo: Wallpaper and Strip Flooring Baseboard and Crown Molding – part […]

  4. Beverly Selby Says:

    Iam working on the Georgetown dollhouse and the flooring is MDF and I would like to try the faux wood finish. My MDF flooring does not have the grooves that you have shown how to do. Any suggestions.

    Thanak you.

  5. gary_r Says:

    You can make a nice grooved pattern using a heavy yard stick and an awl. Lay out the grooving pattern along each edge, maybe at 1/2″ intervals. Then, with a helper holding the yardstick firmly to keep it from slipping, scribe down it’s length with the awl, scratching a line in the MDF floor. Don’t push too hard on the first pass, just enough to get a scratch without slipping. Do several passes, each time pressing harder now that the scratch is deep enough to help guide your awl and slipping is less of a risk. It may take 10 or 15 passes before you have a deep groove – you’ll know it’s deep enough if you can fold your sandpaper and run the edge down the groove as shown above, and the sandpaper ‘tracks’ in the groove. Now move the yardstick to the next pair of marks and do the grooving process again, etc. until the floor is done.

  6. Beverly Selby Says:

    Hi Gary, Went to Lowe’s and Home Depot and found Minwax Poly Shades but could not find a stain that was not a penetrating stain. The instructions said not to use over paint. The clerks spent quite a bit of time with me trying to find a stain that wasn’t penetrating , finally told them I would contact you for further info.
    Thank you, Beverly

  7. gary_r Says:

    Minwax “Polyshades” is urethane and stain mixed, and as such, it is a non-penetrating stain. It is the product that was used for the demo in the blog. Another brand is “Benwood” which is the same kind of product from Benjamin Moore.

    Making faux-wood flooring is not what the manufacturer envisioned when they developed the product – their instructions won’t be useful for what you are doing. But that product is the one in the blog’s photos, so you can see exactly how it was used for the effect achieved.

    You have brought up an important point, one that I am glad is being clarified. You are being an artist when you sculpt woodgrain with urethane/stain, not a furniture refinisher, so don’t let their directions sidetrack you. Without your artistry, the process of simulating wood grain won’t give the desired effect.

  8. Beverly Selby Says:

    I have a hint for making the grooves in MDF if you are working alone. I cut three pieces of masking tape and folded them to become double sided tape and put them on the back of my heavy yardstick. Then by placing the yard stick on your flooring and use one hand to draw lines with the awl and the other hand on the yard stick. The yard stick does not slip and my grooves came out perfectly on a 28 x 19 floor. Not one slip.

  9. sj ciraulo Says:

    I’m going to try this technique on my bannisters. Your directions are fabulous..let’s just hope it turns out that way! thanks for the detailed how-to’s!

  10. Diane Suppa Says:

    I’m going to try this on the porch floor. I have the farmhouse Jr special addition. I bought oak poly shades. What color do I use for the base coat. I’m using this on MDF

  11. gary_r Says:

    I have been using Minwax “WoodSheen” and Minwax “Express Color” for stain in this process with excellent results. It is what I now recommend.