Friday, March 13, 2015

Good Idea Friday - Plywood Floors

We've spent the past year overhauling our attic into a bedroom. Our house, built in 1909, has amazing hardwood floors in most rooms and we were trying to figure out how we could install new flooring--on a budget--that wouldn't clash too terribly with the original flooring. After spending countless searches on pinterest trying to come up with a solution within our budget, I came across this blog post from the infamous Centsational Girl about plywood floors.

Now, I was skeptical. Really skeptical. But after crunching the numbers we realized with $80 worth of plywood, we could install flooring not just in the new bedroom, but also in the hallway leading out to the upstairs landing, So we decided to give it a try. If it didn't work out we weren't out that much money, and hey, nothing a couple area rugs couldn't cover right?

We went about it slightly different that the above post, we had the hardware store cut the wood for us, in the same width as our hardwood floors, and in various lengths. Stores generally charge for this, but for us this was still better than trying to use our extremely old and fairly scary table saw.

First to go down was the sub floor chipboard, screwed to the floor joists, then plastic foam sheeting designed to go under flooring. We laid out the planks, lined them up to our liking, and nailed them down using a brad nailer. Once in position, we used dark caulk to fill in any gaps. This is a great trick, by the way, for hard wood floors; plaster, putty, and glue-sawdust mixture tends to dry and can crack apart and/or pop out over time. Silicone caulk on the other hand, does not. You can find it in various different colors too, so get one that matches the stain you plan to use. (I got the idea from a great friend who also blogs about home remodeling and projects - Us Versus The House

After the caulk set we sanded, gently. Plywood is thin sheets of wood glued together, sand too hard or deeply and it gets funky looking, as some colored inner layers will start to show. Just be careful when sanding. We then applied 3 coats of a dark brown stain (Jacobean by Minwax), the same we used on the original floors, and then finished the whole floors with 3 coats of water based polyurethane.

And the final product! 

There's a few things we would have done differently with our flooring though: don't skimp on the wood. We went with a thinner (cheaper) 1/4" plywood, where as the original blog post suggests 1/2", and though it was fine for the room it's in, in a much higher traffic area we would really recommend going with thicker plywood. It LOOKS great, and nearly matches the original wood floors for us, but the sound is off. I know that sounds silly, but it actually sounds more like a laminate flooring instead of actual wood.

All in all I'm extremely pleased with the floors, and for the price (roughly $160 for all the supplies), you really couldn't get a cheaper flooring option than this. This might SOUND like a large undertaking, and something out of the reach of most people, but it really was one of the easiest projects I've done. To summarize, you basically get plywood, cut into planks, lay down subfloor and subfloor sheets, nail planks down. sand, stain, poly. Done. Something like this could easily be done in a week or less (have to let that stain and polyurethane dry!) and is a great floor option for anyone looking for something new on a tight budget. 

Oh, and because I just can't NOT post before and after photos of the attic turned bedroom, here you go if your curious. It was originally lined with wood planks and covered with newspaper from 1918. We KNOW wood plank rooms are en vogue on pinterest, but if you saw the amount of dust and heaven knows what else that fell along with the planks.. you wouldn't want that in your bedroom. Ever.

Before Remodel

After Remodel


  1. We put plywood in a bedroom (we didn't cut it into planks) and finished it with poly floor finish (I'd have to look for the can, I forget exactly what it was, other than it was meant for floors). The only trouble is, it's really really slippery. It's a rarely used room, so it's not a big deal, and maybe one day I'll try lightly sanding it to see if that helps, but it's a dangerous place to be with just socks on as it is now. We won't let the old dog in there at all, even the younger lab crashed on the floor when he jumped off the bed.

    1. I don't know if it's because we sanded them, or because they are planks instead of large pieces, but they aren't as slippery as other flooring I've encountered. They aren't entirely flush/flat, but our house is very old and has been through some earthquakes so I don't think there is a flat part of any flooring in our house.


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