Our Plywood Pretty week is coming to a close and there’s one topic we haven’t covered yet… plywood flooring. While we love our hardwood floors, we know that not every DIYer has the budget, and, if we’re keeping it real, not every project is worth the splurge for higher end flooring. We’ve talked about and heard from our readers over on Facebook about plywood plank flooring, too — see the posts here (1, 2, 3, 4, 5,) — including some awesome pictures of their floors. From natural sealed plywood, to stained, to painted, to even TORCHED plywood floors to bring out the grain, and mixed plywood types for an interesting flooring pattern — we really do have amazingly talented readers! (Click on each picture to go to the photo/thread on Facebook for more info.)
Everyday DIY: Readers’ DIY Plywood Flooring
Since this is a popular idea that we haven’t personally tried, we reached out to some fellow DIYers about their experiences with their DIY plywood flooring installation and durability, and we’re compiling their answers into an informative post today.
DIY Plywood Flooring FAQs
We asked each blogger these 4 questions:
1) Why did you choose plywood plank flooring over other more traditional flooring types?
2) How has your plywood flooring held up to regular use and cleaning?
3) Would you install plywood plank floors again, or recommend them to a friend? Why or why not?
4) What is one think that surprised you about the plywood plank floors, or that you wished you had known before you started?
Their answers are below. Be sure to pay them each a visit to see the specific tutorial details of how they installed their plank plywood floor and if you have any specific questions for them — plus, check out their other projects while you’re there — beautiful homes and amazing projects!
Have you ever considered installing a plywood plank floor? If you have DIYed it, we’d love to hear your experience and add it to our post, too — leave us a comment below and send us a pic here.
Shannon installed her plank-look plywood flooring in her bonus room above the garage over 6 years ago (at the end of 2010) using 6 inch planks of 15/32″ plywood. She originally shared the tutorial with us here on Remodelaholic, and we get a lot of questions about her floors, so here is her update:
1) We chose plywood floors because of cost. We needed to redo this room which meant pulling up the carpet. When we did that, it was only subfloor below. We didn’t want to spend a lot on this floor and it is a large room. This was more of an experiment, to be honest!! We weren’t sure how it would go.
2) The floors have held up really well! Since installing them, we have had 2 children and now have 3 indoor/outdoor cats. We also had an indoor beagle for the first few years after doing the floors. We chose a cheaper plywood so it is a bit softer. However, they have held up very well. There are a few “dents” in high traffic areas due to the kids riding cars on them. However, I don’t know that anyone other than us would even really notice. People are still shocked to learn it is plywood!
3) Yes, I would recommend plywood flooring to others and I have. I would be hesitant to install them in areas that may get wet though. It is still only plywood. I would worry about this in a kitchen or bathroom. I’m a messy cook and spill and drop things. I would worry about liquid getting under the boards. In our room, we used Liquid Nail to adhere them to the floor AND did cut nails, only for appearance. So, we have had a few small spills on ours but nothing like a kitchen would see.
4) We wish we would have known how beautiful they would be! Our plan was to install and then paint them. We left an intentional gap between the boards so that the paint wouldn’t just fill it in and make it look solid. However, once we cut them and had the entire room laid, we were shocked! Everyone who came to see them also commented on how beautiful the grain was. Since they were cut into strips and laid in planks, it didn’t looks like plywood. So, we stained it instead. Had we knows that, we wouldn’t have left that gap. It isn’t a huge gap or problem, but you feel it when walking barefoot. I also have to use a vacuum attachment in some places to vacuum between them.
Jenny was one of the first DIY bloggers I saw do plywood flooring, way back in 2013, and her painted wide plank floors (using 8 inch planks of 15/32″ sheathing plywood) in her beautiful studio are still holding up well today!
1) We went with plywood floors in my studio because I wanted something easy to install ourselves and, most of all, super affordable. I really wanted to paint the floors white and I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of painting new, expensive flooring. The plywood ended up costing about $1 per square foot, which is pretty unheard of for wideplank wood flooring especially!
I needed about 800 sq ft of flooring for the studio and with all the materials (plywood, saw blades, glue, new nail gun, etc) we came in at about $1000. Installation could not have been easier, too! We had one person cutting and gluing and two people laying and nailing the planks and we finished installing everything in one day! It was incredibly satisfying.
2) I think the plywood flooring has held up well! It’s hard to tell if it’s the oil-based enamel paint helping out, but I would give the floors an 8/10 score for durability. We chose a pine plywood for cost and convenience, and the softer material definitely shows more of the typical wear and tear from my projects and our dog, but I honestly don’t really notice it. I think if someone was worried about living with a more worn-in look, they could always opt for a harder plywood, like birch.
3) I would definitely recommend plywood flooring to a friend under the right circumstances. Because the planks have flat edges, with no tongue and groove notches, there will be a little bit of movement with the planks over time. Some of the planks will sit up a tiny bit higher than surrounding planks. The overall look ends up leaning a little more country and less polished (think an Anthropologie store), but it’s completely charming in the right house!
4) I’ve been surprised at how well these floors have held up! We installed my studio flooring more than four years ago and it looks practically the same today as it did a few months after installing them and breaking them in a little. I think at the five year mark I’ll probably want to do a fresh coat of white paint, but overall I’m so happy with these floors!
Jenny’s top plywood floor tips:
Order your plywood from the contractor desk at your hardware store a week in advance. I ordered mine from Home Depot and there was a nominal fee to rip down all the planks to size. If you have the planks cut to be a little under 8″ each (since the plywood sheets are just under 48″) , you’ll have six planks of equal width and no waste.
This is true with any wood flooring install, but be sure to really stagger those planks so there is not an obvious pattern that emerges with the seams!
You’ll recognize Allison as one of our awesome contributors (and if you don’t, check out her latest projects here and here!). She installed her 3/8″ plywood flooring in 8-inch planks in her master bedroom a year ago, in April 2016, and her tutorial is so comprehensive and detailed! She also has three dogs, so her floors have seen some real life use. Read her full 1-year update here.
1) Plywood was certainly not our first choice but it honestly ended up being a very happy surprise. We were desperate to get rid of the carpet in our bedroom (we have three dogs) and originally wanted hardwood. A little math later put that dream to bed real quick — it was way outside of our budget! Laminate wasn’t really an option because aesthetically it wasn’t our favorite, and the ones we did end up liking were not exactly cheap. So I started researching “alternative” flooring — and I stumbled on some examples of people using plywood planks that didn’t look too bad. As a matter of fact, they looked pretty fantastic! Plus, the price tag was just right at $1/sqft. It ticked two of my major boxes (look, price) and the third (durability) we decided to take a chance on.
2) Honestly, our plywood floors have held up amazingly well. As mentioned, we have three very active dogs and these floors take a beating on the regular. There is an area of the floor where they jump on and off the bed that has some scratches but you honestly cannot notice them either by feel or sight (unless you are getting right down on all fours). I should note that we stained our floors with a really light shade, which I think helps camouflage any dings/scratches. I can’t speak to how these would look if you used a darker stain. If you don’t have pets, scratches will not be an issue for you, unless of course you’re in the habit of tap dancing in spike heels, dragging grand pianos across the floor, etc.
3) Yes yes, and yes. If budget were no option (one can dream) I obviously would opt for hardwood floors every time, but for the cost, feel, and look you cannot go wrong with these and I am so happy we decided to take the plunge and give them a try. I am actually thinking about installing these plywood floors in my foyer/kitchen area, except painting them instead of staining.
4 ) I wish instead of cutting the sheets down into planks myself, I’d had Home Depot make the cuts for me. It would have been worth the extra $25 or whatever it was to have them do it and they be perfectly straight/square. My cuts were as straight as i could possibly get them, but they aren’t perfect and because of that the gaps in my floors are inconsistent.
Allison’s last word on plywood floors: If you hate the floors you have now, but are still on the fence about this project, DO IT! You won’t regret it!
Brooke installed her plank plywood floor in a back room that functions as a sort of mudroom for her 3 large dogs. She laid the floor last August (of 2016) and made it amazing by not just painting it but by stenciling it for a cement tile look that has me swooning! Brooke used 1/2″ plywood in both 6- and 8-inch planks for variety.
1) I chose plywood flooring for several reasons. First – it was cheap and I was looking for a cheap fix. Second, I love the look of painted wood floors, but I would never be able to bring myself to paint real wood floors. I love old houses (mine was built in 1908) and I can’t even paint the wood trim. So painting regular old (or new in this case) plywood appealed to me. I really wanted to do cement tiles, but that was a bit too pricey for me.
The actual installation of the plywood was super easy. I had the store cut it into 6″ and 8″ widths to vary the look in the room. A penny for spacers and my crown stapler made it go super quick. The room I used was rather small and also the original floor was sloping pretty bad in the back corner. I used a few shims to do my best to make it level….result, eh, not so level. But since I was using plywood, I wasn’t too worried about movement (even thougth I had a foundation guy look at it and he said it probably wouldn’t move much more since it was sooo old.). That’s one reason I decided not to tile, I was affraid the tile or grout would crack if it did end up settling more. Since this floor was for a doggie room, I was concerned about durability, but I figured with enough layers of primer, paint and finish coating, it ‘should’ be good.
Plywood – $71
Primer – $23 (Oil Based Floor Primer in White)
Base Paint – $30 (Valspar Porch and Floor Latex Paint
Stencil Paint – $30 (Same as above)
Sealer – $50 (Verathane Heavy Use Formula and true to name – super low odor!)
Total $204 – of course my project would have been cheaper is I hadn’t wanted to stencil a pattern.
2) Considering all things, and all things mostly being it is a room for the dogs, and we have 3 big dogs – doberman pinscher, boxer/pit bull mix and a black labrador, it’s done very well. Since there was a high possibility that the dogs would get the floor wet, I made every attempt to protect the plywood as much as I could. I used an oil based floor primer in white that was supposed to protect the wood from water. The base coat and stencil colors I used Valspar Porch and Floor Latex Paint, another type of paint that should be super protective. And then for the protective coat (sealer) I used Verathane Heavy Use Formula Poly, and I did a couple of coats of that just to be on the safe side. With all the ‘extra’ measures I took, I hoped it would be enough to keep the plywood looking good. It has now been about 8 months since I finished the project and I have to say the floors still look great. There are 3 scratches in the floors where you can see the raw plywood, I am not sure who’s fault that is (ours or the dogs? we also use that room for storage sometimes and our dobie is a bit on the hyper side….)But as soon as I saw the scratches, I put another coat of poly on them to prevent any further damage.
For cleaning, I’ve used a Bissell Steam mop and a swifter wet jet mop. The dogs track in a lot of dirt and mud and the floors always look great after a vacuum and mopping. I have not noticed any other issues, no swelling, no chipping besides the scratches mentioned above.
these floors do get used and dirty…
…but they clean up really well!
3) I would absolutely recommend plywood floors!! Super easy to install and even if someone didn’t have saw to cut them or a nailer to install, they could easily rent the tools or even use a hammer and nail. I’m not sure I would attempt the same stencil again, that took a lot longer than I had anticipated and was a lot more involved. I love the look and might try to a find an easier way to get the pattern or do a larger stencil. But the actual plywood installation was super easy and I am still very happy about it, plus it’s less $$ commitment and an easy fix for a tight budget. We do plan on finishing some attic space in the future and we want to use plywood plank floors again, I think I’ll just have one solid color or a larger pattern. I did really like the all white of the floor primer I used before the base coat of blue.
4) I am surprised about how it has held up to the dogs. We have heart pine floors throughout our house and you can easily see the scratches from their claws (and we just had them refinished a year ago), and with the plywood floors, it’s harder to see the small scratches (minus the larger ones I mentioned earlier). After I was finished, I really thought I had wasted a bunch of time making the floor so pretty only to have the dogs destroy it in a few months, but it still looks great (IMO *:) happy ) I ended up needing more plywood and had to make a store run near the end, I’m not sure how I messed that one up.
I do live in Georgia and I was afraid the temperature changes might cause the wood to pop up from the floor or pull away from the walls. The room where the floor is installed, is not insulated very well and is always a few degrees warmer in the summer and a few degrees colder in the winter.
Brooke’s plywood floor tips:
Buy high grade plywood (sanded)
Have the store cut it for your (easy to transport! and saves time)
Leen recently (early 2017) installed plywood floor in the bonus room above her garage, which serves are her art studio. She used 1/4″ plywood cut into 8 inch planks and finished with a variety of stains for a more rustic multi-color style.
1) I chose plywood floors because of cost definitely! Also, I wanted flooring that looked rustic and custom, not the same as everyone else has.
2) So far so great. It’s not in a high traffic area so I can’t attest to how it would hold up in an entry way or somewhere like that. I use a barely damp mop when cleaning it only because that is what I use for our hardwood floors in the house.
3) I would [install plywood floors again]! It was much easier than I expected it to be and I love the way it looks.
4) I wish I had known about the no sanding floor finish sooner, I wouldn’t have dragged my feet so long. I was worried that it was going to be more work than it actually was. I am surprised at how good it looks. I was expecting it to look nice but kinda felt like I was settling because of my budget. It’s much nicer looking than I expected it to be!
Leen’s final tip: Make sure your sub floor is level and clean, and hammer down any raised nails in the sub floor before starting to lay the planks down.
Rustic Barnwood Style Plywood Plank Flooring | House Seven
Anissa has a gorgeous farmhouse vibe in her home, where she installed her 8″ plank barnwood style plywood floors in her home’s bedrooms and hall over 2 years ago (June 2015) using 15/32″ plywood. Anissa says, “We sold that home last summer and have moved into a new home. But I will say that the plywood floors were a huge selling point for the house. People just loved them!”
1. We went with the planked plywood because we wanted large (8″ wide) floors that felt like barn wood but the cost of buying traditional engineered or hardwoods was way out of our budget. The plywood floors achieved the look we wanted for far less.
2. The durability is incredible. I like to move furniture and we have 3 kids and a dog, all of that combined can kill the floors and these held up to all of it!
3. We initially installed the floors in our master and we loved the look and durability so much that we went ahead and installed them in our daughters room and the upstairs landing and hallway.
4. The one thing that we realized was we needed to use far less polyurethane than we did in our first try. It made the floors far too yellow, even with using the clear floor type. Do not roll on the poly but instead brush light strokes until you have the achieved amount.
Anissa’s #1 tip: Sanding is key here! The more you sand the better the floor will look and we also sanded a beveled edge to each plank to give them more of a custom look.
Maureen laid her plywood floors in her living room in April 2014. The 6-inch planks look wonderful!
1) Our main reason for choosing the plywood plank floors was definitely cost. We had received an estimate from a local flooring company to provide engineered wood floors for $4000.00. Choosing the plywood planks was roughly 10% of that estimate!
2) We are very happy with how the floors have held up. Going into this project we knew that pine is a relatively soft wood, and with two dogs and lots of foot traffic it would definitely not remain pristine. While there are some scratches, really just add to the patina we were going for and actually add to the overall appeal of this flooring choice. I clean them weekly with a damp mop and Method wood floor cleaner, and they have not dulled or lost their finish at all.
3) I wouldn’t hesitate to install the plywood planks again or to recommend them to anyone who is looking for an inexpensive wood flooring option.
4) We did a lot of research before taking on this project, so not a lot surprised me. What did surprise me though was that it was a bit longer process than I was expecting given the drying time and required number of coats of poly. The actual planks went down in no time at all, but finishing it took a couple of day.
Ask your local lumber store if they would be willing to cut the plywood to size for you. Some big box stores will do 3 free cuts and then 1 a cut after that, but some will do it for free on a day that isn’t too bus! It is well worth it to ensure straight, even cuts.
Before applying the stain and again before the poly ENSURE THE SURFACE IS DUST FREE!
Allow for about a week from start to finish depending on the size of the space.
Keep in mind that the furniture has to be completely removed from the room. Since we live in a small home and through our living room is the only route to our bedroom and bathroom we did arrange to stay away for 2 nights when we applied the poly.
We featured Christine’s home here a few years back, and we still love it and love her painted plank floors! She laid her floors in a guest room nearly two years ago, back in May 2015, using thin 4-5 mm plywood so that the floor level wouldn’t be dramatically different than the existing flooring in the rest of her beautiful Edwardian home.
1) We love wooden floors and have original floorboards throughout the rest of the house. The guest bedroom floorboards were however in a really bad condition with large gaps between them which is why we decided to install a plywood floor.
Because we were installing the new floorcovering over the existing floorboards we wanted to use a material that was as thin as possible. The plywood we used is only 4mm thick which means there’s almost no visible threshold and height difference as you step into the room.
We also wanted flooring that was quick and easy to install and laying the plywood floor ticked all the boxes.
2) The floor has held up really well. We primed and painted it with white floor paint and up till now haven’t had an chips, dents or marks. We only occasionally use the bedroom so it doesn’t get a huge amount of wear.
3) We’d definitely install plywood floors again. It was easy to do and you can achieve a totally bespoke finish to perfectly fit your space.
4) I thought the floor would have to be painted to look good but i was really surprised at how beautiful the plywood looked in its raw state before we applied the paint finish. The pattern in the timber was beautiful and we we’re really tempted to leave it natural and just seal it with varnish.
Christine’s tips for a great plank floor:
Plan, measure and then plan & measure some more. We planned our floor so that the room was perfectly devices into equal planks. This not only makes everything look high quality as there are no thinner or cut pieces at the edges it also makes installing it quicker as you have almost no cutting to do.
If you’re installing planks have them cut and don’t bother doing it yourself. Having long strips of plywood ready to lay saves so much time and costs almost nothing.
If you paint the floor wait as long as you can before putting any furniture back in the room. We marked the paint when we put back the bed. We’d recommend waiting at least a week if you can!
Cristina installed her beautiful 8-inch plank dark plywood flooring in a bedroom in her home almost 2 years ago (2015) and plans to install it in more locations in her home soon.
1) The main reason for using wide plank plywood flooring in my home was cost and design. You can’t find 8” wide plank, 3/4in. floors that are easy on your wallet.
2) The plywood flooring has held up wonderfully. Now, I installed this kind of flooring in a bedroom, more specifically my son’s bedroom, which has very little traffic, there’s no consumption of food in there, and there’s a rug covering more than 50% of the planks.
There are some grooves in between the planks that people are always asking me if they get filled with dirt. Well, a simple vacuum cleans whatever gets in there, but I’m happy to report that after almost two years of having the floors, there’s no accumulation of dirt.
3) Yes, I want to continue installing the same kind of planks on the entire second level of my home – the bedrooms and hallways.
I recommend this type of flooring for spaces with light traffic. However, if you don’t mind dents and scratches at all, you can have them all around your home.
4) I was greatly surprised at how beautiful and smooth the planks look and feel once they’re installed, having in mind the ugly product at the beginning of the process. Also, the room I covered was small, but the amount of planks seemed huge while doing all the sanding, staining and polyurethane protecting.
Cristina’s tips for a beautiful floor:
I wouldn’t go with the lowest grade of plywood. I did so the first time, but the amount of sanding was something that was I really didn’t enjoy.
The whole process is quite a lot of work, but it’s something that’s very DIY friendly. You get the savings and the beautiful floors by doing it yourself!
Michelle laid plywood plank floors in her living room way back in 2012, and they’re still looking great, even in a home with six children and plenty of projects. She used 6″ planks of 11/32″ plywood.
1. I chose plywood flooring mostly because of the savings over commercial wood floors. But we also picked this option because we knew we wanted to redo several of the floors in our house over a few years. We couldn’t be sure that the commercial floor we chose would still be available years ahead. We wanted our floors to match so we did it ourselves.
2. We have six boys who are not easy on the house, but our plywood floors still look excellent. The wood itself and the finish have both held up really well. They are scratched and dinged on some places, but since we expect a rustic look to the floors this didn’t bother us.
The difference in color is mostly due to lighting, not an actual difference in color, though they do not look as shiny as they did at first.
3. I would definitely install these floors again. In fact we did finish the bedrooms with plywood floors several years after the original living room install. I would recommend these floors to others provided they were fine with a rustic, lived-in look.
4. I was surprised at how easy they are to clean and how they never look filthy like the old press board floors we had originally in the house. I just sweep or vacuum on a regular basis and then mop with a well-wrung out wet mop about once a month.
Andrew and his family first installed their plywood flooring about 4 years ago (2013) in their foyer and since then have also laid plywood flooring in their living room and dining room — and have inspired many other DIYers with their tutorial! They used 5/8″ sheathing cut into 8″ planks.
1) The price was the main factor [in choosing our flooring] and after research I found out the plywood flooring (like we did) and engineered wood floor are the same but our floors were done for a fraction of the price. Install was super easy and they have lasted for years and only look better with time.
2) The floors have held up GREAT. With 3 kids, 18 year old cat and 85 pound greyhound rescue…they are strong. Cleaning and care are the same as another hardwood flooring.
3) Yes and we actually have already done it again. We tested it in our foyer several years back and now have done the living room, dinning room, and study is going to be done in the next few weeks. I would recommend these to anyone wanting a strong, good looking, very inexpensive alternative to other flooring options.
4) [It surprised us] that we love them SO MUCH and wished we had done it sooner and in previous houses we have owned.
Andrew’s encouragement: Don’t be scared! Try it in a small room and see what you think. Remember that these ARE hardwood floors and can be treated and installed in the very same way. Just do it!
So. there you have it — all your burning questions answered about if plywood floors are actually as durable and dreamy affordable as they seem!
If you still have questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer, or click over to one of the featured blogger’s tutorials where you can ask them more specific questions about their flooring, too.
And don’t forget to check out all the other plywood projects and inspiration we’ve shared for our Plywood Pretty week: