Instructables
Picture of DIY PLYWOOD FLOORS
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.


 
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rbwilliams27 months ago

Is there a period of time that you would have to evacuate your home due to the odor and fumes from the polyurethane?

jdfnola (author) 1 year ago
Hey, sorry to be so long in getting back to you, I was buried with work.

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).

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).

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?
jdfnola (author)  joaniestoney1 year ago
Absolutely you could do that - both the cutting them into strips and staining them.

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 ;-)

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.

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.

This project worked out great for us! if you decide to droit post here with pictures so I can see and good luck!
tinker2342 years ago
i like this i wonder if i could use old pallets there a dime a dozen around where i live
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.
jdfnola (author)  MairseyDotes2 years ago
That's our plan too. You should put up some pictures!
Atchljr2 years ago
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?
jdfnola (author)  Atchljr2 years ago
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.

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).

To the nail in the nails I used a hammer.
tinker2342 years ago
is there a way to get a darker richer color
jdfnola (author)  tinker2342 years ago
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.
State502 years ago
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.)
jdfnola (author)  State502 years ago
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).

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 ;-)
jdege2 years ago
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.
jdfnola (author)  jdege2 years ago
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.
sturms1 jdfnola2 years ago
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!!!
jdfnola (author)  sturms12 years ago
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!
sturms1 jdfnola2 years ago
btw...even put it in the bathroom...very durable in there too...even stained it a driftwood color for a different look in there!
thirst4know2 years ago
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.
jdfnola (author)  thirst4know2 years ago
I would love to see your star design completed one day.
jdfnola (author)  thirst4know2 years ago
Thanks!
blkhawk2 years ago
Wow! I am surprised to see how great floors look with plywood. Thank you for posting. Instead of spending a lot of money in expensive flooring anyone can spend much less in plywood and cover a large area. It saves time and money. Kudos!
jdfnola (author)  blkhawk2 years ago
Thanks so much, I have been really happy that this has been so well received.
tadlock752 years ago
I just came across this...and I think it is an awesome idea...I have carpet right now...but under the carpet is concrete..will this process still work?...plz let me know..because I am so ready to pull this carpet up and do this projects. Thxs!
jdfnola (author)  tadlock752 years ago
Read down through the comments - there is a big discussion on this. I don't have concrete so don't have experience but I remember a lot of good comments regarding just this question.
aliberry2 years ago
Hi I'm in London England, so am used to dealing with damp atmosphere! I have a tiny bathroom which had horrible smelly carpet down when I moved in 8 years ago. (Who puts carpet round a toilet for goodness sake!) So I ripped it up (clothes peg on nose) and underneath was a ply floor - these are small 1980s flats and this is normal instead of floorboards.

I deep-cleaned it with a steamer, planning to seal it with varnish when dry and add a small bathrug. I gave it a base coat of white emulsion thinned with water just to lighten the colour first. However it dried a lovely soft grey, like driftwood, so I just rubbed it with 2 coats of clear furniture wax - not shiny, just a subtle satin-type finish. And added a litle blue/grey striped cotton rug to echo a seaside beach-hut feel.

I've never had any problems with water from the bath or sink on it, and only rewaxed it once to maintain the waterproofing. Whats even nicer is that the darker grain has stayed at the same level (being the harder part of the wood) while the pale background wood has compacted slightly underfoot, to give a wonderful sea-washed, smooth, ripple texture.

I have now ripped up all the carpet through the rest of the flat and hope to carry the theme through. On the larger areas I will probably rout grooves to mimic floorboards and whitewash the whole floor as the joins between the ply sheets are quite visible, they'll be visually reduced if I add 'fake' gaps. Thank you for the useful info and pics as I may change my mind having seen them!
jdfnola (author)  aliberry2 years ago
That was pretty much my plan until I saw the very cheap plywood at the store. Nice to hear that it worked out well. Either way you decide to do it put up pics to show how it works out, I would love to see them.
Good morning, I will see if I can borrow a camera when I return home in 2 weeks (working away) and post the bathroom floor (pics!), for BigBloke ....

and Jdfnola, I agree the cheap stuff (softwood, probably pine) looks quite ugly when 'raw'. It does have very defined light/dark grain and knots and is not as smooth as the better grades.

It needs a colourwash to reduce the harsh yellow colour when fresh, and I expect if you bought it new you'd have to run a sander over it lightly - I was lucky it was already laid and smooth... a tip - colourwash the sheet before cutting so it can dry outside. I wish I'd had the option!
Hi I'm from Canada. I am interested in the affect of you floor could you post a picture? Sounds like you are on to something quite different.
weeniewawa2 years ago
you could also rip them in strips and then use a tongue and grove shaper bit to make them almost like laminate flooring that would require fewer or almost no exposed nails. this would require using thicker plywood also. and you can find different types of hardwood plywood such as cherry or oak that is used to build cabinets that is meant to be exposed and has a good grain structure and no knots.

great idea on this. it is a lot cheaper than buying pre-finished flooring
jdfnola (author)  weeniewawa2 years ago
One other thing- about the nails, they blend into the floor amazing well. I nailed them in vertical columns running the long length of the sheet. Kinda mimicing the way you would have nailed them if they were hardwood strips. It looks pretty good and does not detract from the floor.
jdfnola (author)  weeniewawa2 years ago
Lots of folks have had similar suggestions and they are good ideas.
pchyland2 years ago
Very nice job. The only thing I' d have done differently is to stagger the panel (like what done with bricks). Also, was there any sorting and matching of pieces or did random layout seem best?
jdfnola (author)  pchyland2 years ago
At the store I went through a lot of plywood trying to get the best, most damage free sheets. I also tried to get sheets with the same kind of grain but in the end had some that looked different. We placed the different looking sheets in the closet and when you first entered the room.
I live right outside NOLA and I think these floors fit in very well. My husband and I have been trying to find an inexpensive floor worthy of South LA. It seems now we have found it. We hope to use oak and a dark stain under the polyurethane. Thanks so much for this simple instructable!
jdfnola (author)  Pink&BlueDesigns2 years ago
I saw the oak plywood in the store when I bought mine, it looks really nice. You floor will look great!
tagyerit2 years ago
Looks great. Word of caution for folks though is that a standard subfloor application advises a space between each board for expansion / contraction. Hopefully this won't cause an issue for you later.
jdfnola (author)  tagyerit2 years ago
Hope it won't either ;-)

I think the 5MM plywood is flexible enough so that any expansion/contraction will not be an issue. Plus we don't really get below freezing in New Orleans so we might not have the same issues as someone in colder climates. Still it's just speculation at this point.

One of the other commenters Brian Jewett did something similar and did not mention any issues with expansion/contraction so hopefully it will not be an issue.
Plywood shouldn't really have any expansion/contraction issues - though flexibility isn't the main reason.

It is, after all, a (fairly basic) laminate, with the grain of each layer at 90 degrees, so everything cancels everything else out.

Generally speaking, expansion/contraction tends only to be an issue with solid woods - and the thickness at which things become so depends on the specifics of the actual timber.

That's not to rubbish tagyerit's point or the 'standard advice' noted - it's basically a good idea, just not necessary in this case.
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