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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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?

jdfnola (author)  karen.akers.58323 days ago
Nails, I think screws would have split up the plywood (it was really thin plywood) and they would have also taken forever.
warrior5552 months ago

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!

what color is the stain you used??

tinker2343 years ago
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.
mkeith543 years ago
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.
SusanA3 mkeith544 months ago

723.00 for a 12 x 14 room? YIKES! How is that "saving" anything? That's not a cheaper alternative.

jdfnola (author)  mkeith543 years ago

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).

Good luck with the bamboo and post pictures when you are done as i'm really interested in how it works out.

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.

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!
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)  MairseyDotes3 years ago
That's our plan too. You should put up some pictures!
Atchljr3 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)  Atchljr3 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.
tinker2343 years ago
is there a way to get a darker richer color
jdfnola (author)  tinker2343 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.
State503 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)  State503 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 ;-)
jdege3 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)  jdege3 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 jdfnola3 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)  sturms13 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 jdfnola3 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!
thirst4know3 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)  thirst4know3 years ago
I would love to see your star design completed one day.
jdfnola (author)  thirst4know3 years ago
blkhawk3 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)  blkhawk3 years ago
Thanks so much, I have been really happy that this has been so well received.
tadlock753 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)  tadlock753 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.
aliberry3 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)  aliberry3 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.
weeniewawa3 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
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