I love my house. It's a classic New Orleans shotgun. Over 100 years old, it was made by craftsmen who really knew how to build things to last. There was an addition (back bedroom and bathroom) put on when the house was refurbished shortly before Hurricane Katrina. The addition was built competently, but they used pretty cheap materials on things like the doors, trim, bathroom fixtures, etc. In most of the house we have nice, solid hardwood floors. In the back bedroom - carpet. Ugly, dirty, Berber carpet. We hated it.

In a fit of annoyance we decided to ditch it. The problem was we needed to do it on the cheap.

My first thought was to rip out the carpet and sand, then paint the subfloor and leave it like that until we had enough to put in hardwood floors that matched the rest of the house. The downside to this is that there is nothing between you and the ground and without any protection other than the paint you might damage the subfloor and need to replace it (not something I wanted to do).

The other idea I had was to lay down plywood over the subfloor and paint/finish the plywood. I'd seen this in some lofts and thought it looked pretty good. This is what we decided to do.

We had two simple goals - put something in that looked better than the ugly carpet and for as little as possible. I think we definitely achieved this and the total cost around $400.00.

The best thing a about doing your floors like this is that down the road if you want to upgrade and install hardwood floors you don't need to pull up anything - you can install them right on top.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Tools you will need:

• Pry-bar.
• Shop Knife
• Measuring tools -Tape Measure, Steel Square, etc.
• Circular Saw with blade for cutting plywood.
• Hammer.
• Caulk Gun.
• Paint brushes or paint roller.
• Polyurethane applicator.

• Kilz Primer
• Painters tape
• Cabinet Grade Plywood Sheets (we used 4'x8' 5MM hardwood at around $11.00/sheet).
• Oil Based Polyurethane (we used Varathane Clear Oil based Polyurethane).
• Construction adhesive (we used OSI brand that was specifically for subfloors).
• Finishing Nails (long enough to go through the plywood and into the subfloor).

You might also need:
Additional floor molding. When you take up the carpet there might be a space between the floor and the molding. We used quarter round shoe molding which matched the rest of our house.


You don't need a big caulk gun - just use the regular kind or you will wear out your hands.

Make sure you use an oil based polyurethene made specifically for flooring. The oil based poly brings out the color of the wood and the grain and makes the plywood look "warmer". It's almost like putting on a mild stain. 

There are lots of other choices you could make on the plywood. The thing you want to do is make sure it is hardwood and "cabinet grade". We chose the cheapest that fit the criteria but you could spend a bit more and get oak, birch, etc.) It does not need to be thick (we used 5MM). I will say the plywood we got (http://tinyurl.com/77r6rzs) looked as good as the birch and was much cheaper. 
<p>It looks like your stained this plywood so what was the KILZ used for? Can this be paid over cement floor? How would it be secured?</p>
Great looking job. We're doing our bedroom now, only difference is we're going with Bamboo Hardwood. Not knowing the cost of your plywood, our hardwood for a 12X14 room came to $723. with enough left over to do the bathroom if I don't screw up to many pieces.I really like to look of the plywood and may try to convince the wife to go that way in the kitchen, though she has her heart set on cork. Once again I think your job came out looking fantastic.
Thanks!<br><br>The plywood was around just under $11.00/sheet. The total cost of everything was around $400 (and I mean everything). I really liked the bamboo flooring I saw when I was doing research but in the end I went for the cheapest solution(or next to cheapest solution as the cheapest would have been simply sealing and painting the subfloor). <br><br>Good luck with the bamboo and post pictures when you are done as i'm really interested in how it works out.
<p>be glad you didn't try sealing and painting the subfloor... it does NOT work well if you have ANY kind of traffic. We did that when in a fit of allgery-exacerbated frustration I ripped all my carpeting out. (35 year old carpet that was in the house when we bought it... I swear no one living in farm counrty should have carpet lol) I used garage floor paint and sealed it (this was before having three dogs) it's worn horribly.</p>
<p>I have bamboo and I hate it!!! It's pretty as long as you just look at it but don't walk on it! What you did with plywood I think is way better.</p>
<p>723.00 for a 12 x 14 room? YIKES! How is that &quot;saving&quot; anything? That's not a cheaper alternative. </p>
<p>I'm about to do this to my entire house. Everything has been purchased and i'm ready to go...except... I have dogs. Three of them. My home is an open concept floorplan so most of the house is like one big floor... not condusive to keeping dogs from rooms for any real length of time. I plan to cut the sheets of plywood into slats (for a more &quot;hardwood&quot; look and stain before installing... can I do this with the polyurethane also? </p>
thanks to your instructions I completed my own plywood floor this weekend!
<p>Looks great man, what type and thickness of ply wood did you use?</p>
We've done this in our master bedroom, walk-through closet, and sewing room, and it looks great (although I've managed to ding it here and there). Our plan is to cover it with a more permanent flooring this year, but if we can't, it will still look good next year.
That's our plan too. You should put up some pictures!
Hi there. I LOVE RUSTIC..DISTRESSED STUFF this is great. Can I dobthis on my cincrete floor? Im assuming no nails..just glue? And I like dark. Thanks so much. I can show you a picture if my family room. Ive already pulled up carpet..pad..tackboard. I cannot afford much so looking for ways.
<p>How are the floors holding up after all this time?</p>
<p>Hi,</p><p>This looks great, I am thinking of doing this in an empty room I am planning on turning into a small den, but I think I will use a one step polyurethane sealant with stain to save time and money, or I may just go with a clear one. I found some wonderful colors at Home Depot. Did you use nails or screws to put this down with?</p>
Nails, I think screws would have split up the plywood (it was really thin plywood) and they would have also taken forever.
<p>I use ring nails on plywood sub-floors, to ensure that they will stay down. I also stagger the joints longitudinally. These are for floors that are to be covered. I had never thought of staining and/or using a clear polyurethane as an exposed finish -- good idea!</p>
<p>what color is the stain you used??</p>
i like this i wonder if i could use old pallets there a dime a dozen around where i live
You should. And, it will be kinda of a cool look.
<p>Is there a period of time that you would have to evacuate your home due to the odor and fumes from the polyurethane?</p>
Hey, sorry to be so long in getting back to you, I was buried with work. <br> <br>Like you, I was really worried about the edges lining up as I had to make many cuts with the circular saw. I was careful and they lined up very well with no problem. You dont need to use any wood filler between the gaps because you will be then put down the polyurethane. The polyurethane gets into the cracks and, as its liquid, rises to its own level, fills in the gaps and coats the entire floor, sealing it and protecting it (hope that makes sense). <br> <br>I used nails because the hardwood flooring in the rest of the house had nails and I used a nail pattern that was similar to the more traditional hardwood floors in the rest of the house. My thinking was that screws would be overkill, take longer, and might split up the plywood (its very thin plywood). <br> <br>Hope this is helpful to you and feel free to ask me anything else, i'll try to be quicker in responding.
There were no issues with pieces lining up exactly so you don't stub your foot? No gaps in between pieces at all, or did you use a filler? Did you use nails, or screws? I thought screws were the way to go, or is that for decking??? (I'm full of questions). Thanks and I think it looks great.
I know I'm way late to this party, but I was wondering since you can cut them into strips making them look similar to the expensive hardwood flooring, could you even stain it? The darker hardwood is more expensive so I figured unless that would somehow conflict with the sealer?
Absolutely you could do that - both the cutting them into strips and staining them.<br><br>Looking back I probably would have cut them into squares and alternate the grain but I was worried about the straightness of my saw cuts. I should not have worried as my cuts were pretty straight ;-)<br><br>Doing it as you suggest you would have to take care with your cuts but otherwise it would work fine and I think it would look very good.<br><br>The floor has worn very well and it was the cheapest floor we could do next to just painting the subfloor. The nice thing about the thin plywood thatmI used is that later on when I can afford nicer traditional hardwood floors I can put them right over top of these.<br><br>This project worked out great for us! if you decide to droit post here with pictures so I can see and good luck!
I noticed that you said that you used finishing nails to secure the plywood sheets to the sub-floor. Did you use any particular pattern when securing the plywood to the sub-floor, and did you countersink and fill each nail head? If you did countersink and fill each nail head. What kind of filler material did you use, and did you use standard nails or a pnumatic nailer?
The nail pattern I used mimics the pattern that wold have been used if the floors were traditional strip flooring. The nails blend right in to the flooring and when you do see them it's not at all jarring to the eye. <br><br>I did not countersink or fill the nail-heads. I did use a nail set to punch the nails down just below the level of the floor. The floor sealant then covers over the nail (I used four coats). <br><br>To the nail in the nails I used a hammer.
is there a way to get a darker richer color
Yes, absolutely. You could stain the floor before putting on the sealant. If I was not on a tight budget and under tight time contraints I might have done just that.
I don't have much experience with flooring. Were you able to 'get-away' with using 5- mm plywood instead of 1cm ( I defer to your metric dimensions), because you already had a stable subfloor over the flooring joists? ( I read the rest of the blog and I didn't see the issue brought up.)
The answer is yes. The thin plywood we got was only sold in the 5mm thickness (hence the metric measurement instead of something more standard). <br><br>I could have used something thicker but I wanted to be able to install more traditional wood flooring right overtop later on down the road. Plus the 5mm was cheap and looked good ;-)<br>
I always replace the molding after I've finished the floor. I find it a lot easier to touch up the paint on the molding, than to apply the floor finish right up to the edge, cleanly.
You know now that I think about it and look back at the pictures that is the way we did it as well (you can see the shine from the polyurethane in some of the pics. I'll edit the steps to reflect. Thanks for t the comment.
just had to add...great job, great steps too...i di this in my mobile home 12 years ago...still looks and wears great...just every 2 years or so i re-scuff and re-poly a room...and it's great on the feet and the allergies!!!<br>
I was just re-reading through the comments (i'm trying to answer them all) and reread yours again. Awesome point about re-applying the poly every so often. It's a great idea and would obviously really help. I will definitly do this. Great to hear how long this kind of floor can last!
btw...even put it in the bathroom...very durable in there too...even stained it a driftwood color for a different look in there!<br>
Looks good. Always wondered how finished ply would look as flooring. I thought if I were to do this I would cut the sheets in a star design in the center of the room. A lot of extra work though. Not needed in a bedroom, half of the design would be hidden. Nice work.
I would love to see your star design completed one day.

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