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 ( looked as good as the birch and was much cheaper. 

Step 2: Rip Out the Old Carpet

First thing you will need to do is move everything out of the room. This project takes some time, you can't do it in a day. You need to allow for drying time in your planning. We were out of this room for around 3 weeks.

To rip up the carpet just cut into it with a shop knife and start pulling. The carpet will come up and underneath will be a carpet pad which is glued on and also must be ripped out. 

Once the carpet and the carpet pad are up you will be left the wood and nails that the carpet was attached to. This will be ringed around the entire room. It's a pain to pull up. You will need to use the pry-bar and be careful not to damage the molding. 

Step 3: Clean the Subfloor

There will be lot's of dust and debis left over from tearing up the carpet. You will need to sweep and vacuum it up. The carpet pad that was glued on might have left some patches on the floor which you will need to scape off. 

Once it's all swept up and vacuumed, mop the subfloor to clean it and let it dry.

Step 4: Apply Kilz to Seal and Protect the Sub-Floor

Apply the Kilz sealant to the subfloor. The Kilz will help protect the subfloor and help seal in any odors that have made it on to the subfloor. 

Step 5: Install the Plywood Floor

We started in the closet s a test. If you need to cut the plywood to fit the space, place the edges you cut towards the edge of the wall as the cuts you make will not be as straight and clean as the factory edges. 

Once you have made your cuts lay down the plywood sheets the way you want them as a test. If everything looks right you are ready to attach the plywood to the subfloor.

Use the construction adhesive on the liberally on the "bad" side of the plywood (the side without the nice woodgrain). Once glued set the plywood on the subfloor and nail it down. I used a lot of nails as I wanted it to be solidly affixed and I did not want to have to wait for the glue to dry to lay down more sheets.

First I nailed down the corners and placed a nail in the middle.Then I placed the nails in columns that ran down the lenght of the sheet, each collumn of nails abound 4-6 in from the next. I did not measure, I just eyeballed it.

I put down the plywood in sheets running longwise next to each other. There was a small strip on one side of one wall that required me to cut lengths of plywood (about 4 in" wide stops of 8').

At the end of the room I had to cut the plywood to fit.  The pictures show all of this.

Step 6: Doorways

The gap where the doorway is between the rooms is tricky. The floors between the rooms may not be level or made out of the same material and the gap will probably not be square.

Lay down strips of plywood to build up the gap in the doorway. Once it is relatively level you can put a "cap" strip that bridges the two floors.

The most important thing I can say here is that you will need to improvise. It took me a while to get these to my liking and I ripped up my work and started from scratch on one of them. 

Step 7: Apply Polyurethane

To seal the floors follow the directions on the polyurethane. I purchased an applicator so I could do it faster - definitely recommended.

We used four coats and it took a day between each coat.

Step 8: Add Molding (If Needed)

Now that the floor is down, you can add any trim molding that is needed. I used 1/4 round shoe molding.

This filled the gap between the rest of the molding and the wall. I used the same finishing nails I used on the floor. Then I taped up the floor and painted the molding.

Step 9: Finished Product

After the floors dry and the molding put on and painted (if needed) you can bring your stuff back in and your done.