How to Install an Inexpensive Wood Floor

About: There is nothing I love more then making something new and usable again that someone else would have thrown out or torn down!

In a past life I had thought of the idea of buying solid oak plywood, cutting it into strips and using it as inexpensive solid oak flooring and I was told that I was an idiot and carpet was chosen instead (a far more expensive option when we had already exhausted our budget). As it turns out I was very right and cutting plywood into strips for flooring has been done and it can be gorgeous. And (just for the record) you can put whatever you want under foot, if its wood, then you have wood floors! It does not need to come out of a box that says “flooring” on it, nope, what makes a floor a floor is the fact that you walk on it. The only reason we did not opt for the plywood-cut-into-strips-option was because we do not own a table saw to cut it ourselves and it still would have been about twice the cost of what we ended up paying. This inexpensive wood floor cost us less then $300.

Step 1: Using 1x4s for a Floor

The idea to just use basic pine 1x4s for the floors in our Dining Room/Entry and Dakota’s Room came about when I found out I could buy what they call “furring strips” from a local lumber yard for less then $1 a board. Note: Furring strips are generally made of very rough material, its not pretty wood, it is the roughest pine that you can buy and its usually only used on something where it will be covered up. However, I have a very old farm house and only about 500 square feet to cover and an extraordinarily limited budget. During the renovation, when we finally got to putting in our new floors my local lumber yard was completely out of the furring strips I wanted to buy so, after many calls, we ended up buying 1x4s (of the cheapest pine available) somewhere else for $1.80 a board. Not as cheap as I had thought we would get however, it is much higher quality then it would have been had we went with the furring strips. So this floor cost us less then $300 for 500 square feet and that makes me very happy.

Step 2: Careful Cuts

You don’t need much for this installation but there are some things you can do that we did not do. Squeaks fit right in around here and we wanted no gaps between the boards because the original floor boards had no space between them. To eliminate squeaks and groans you can put down a pad/underlayment between the sub floor and your new wood floor, you can also glue the floor down as well and you can also use some kind of spacer between your boards. These are all things that we chose to skip and all things that would eliminate the squeaking, groaning and shifting. For us having the floors look like they’ve been here for 100 years was more important to us then living with squeaks.

Step 3: Lots and Lots of Wood

Question I will undoubtedly be asked: Aren’t you supposed to run your new floor the opposite direction the sub floor is run? Yes, that is how you are supposed to do it and no that is not how we did it. In only about 1/4 of the flooring the old sub floor for the screened in porch remained, the rest was plywood so we just went ahead and did wrong. We regret nothing.

Step 4: Start in the Middle

We used a brad nailer and two inch long brad nails for this job. Joe nailed the boards down while I cut them with the miter saw outside. He did two brads every few feet in a line down every board so it looks very consistent but you have to look close to see them as brads are very tiny. We bought 12 foot long 1x4s so they spanned the distance of the entire room – 8 foot long 1x4s would have been cheaper and would have made little to no waste but would have created lots of seams and our original wood floors have no seams. This is one of those jobs that one person can do but is so much quicker and easier with two people that you really should have two people. With me cutting the boards and Joe nailing them down we laid all of the floor in under 3 hours. Other tools we used were a jigsaw and a skill saw for the tedious cuts. We started in the center of the room and worked our way out so either tool was an absolute must because in three instances we had to rip the 1×4 down lengthwise something that we could not have done that long of a distance with our miter saw and we still do not own a table saw.

Step 5: Covering the Threshold Between the New and the Old

We used a pine 1×8 to cover the uneven threshold between our dining room and our kitchen, I did not want the two floors butting up to each other to be compared as they are very different types of wood as well as slightly different in size. The threshold creates the stopping point that makes the two different woods/floors make a lot more sense to the eye. We sanded the floors together, using a far rougher grit sandpaper (35) on the original floors then we used out here (60). From there I applied one coat of stain to all of it by hand with a paint brush, laid it on there thick, let the floor soak up as much as it wanted and then, after about twenty minutes, wiped up the excess with old t shirts. From there we did two coats of a poly acrylic floor finish with no sanding between coats, letting it be as rough as we could so they would look like they’ve been here forever. We love them!

Step 6: Getting the Floor Finished!

All in this project of 500 square foot of wood flooring cost us less then $300. To see more projects check out GrandmasHouseDIY on facebook or see the main blog here:



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    3 years ago

    Looks like it turned out great! I'm certain that these pics don't really do justice to the work involved.

    1 reply

    Thank you! Yeah, it was a whole lot of work, the sanding and staining and finishing afterward was incredibly labor intensive.