We installed DIY plywood floors almost 3 years ago. When I tell you I have been shocked by the results: I am Floored!
We wanted to avoid putting in carpet again, but needed to keep it affordable. I started to see Pinterest pictures about plywood floors. There weren’t many tutorials, so we pieced together a plan and went with it. My husband and I had never used power tools before, so this was our first step into an area of DIY that would change our lives.
- 1/2 in Birch Plywood
- 1 1/4 in Spax screws
- Pole Sander
- Bona Mega Clear Satin
- Bona ClassicSeal
- Underlayment Quiet Walk
- Tool Bundle (what we bought for this project, and everything you need and more for cutting the plywood and raising the door trim, and securing the floor)
- Floor Seal Small Applicator
- DuraFoam T- Bar Applicator Refill 18”
- T-Bar Coater Plastic 18-Inch
I chose birch plywood because I loved the look of it without stain. Plywood doesn’t tend to take stain evenly, and I didn’t want to add another step in the process. Natural birch has a very pretty finish that is warm and doesn’t have orange tones. I also used Purebond Birch because they are formaldehyde-free. The quality was also great with not much splintering when cutting it.
Our subfloor had so many squeaks under the carpet, so this project was a great opportunity to re-secure the subfloor into the joists with subfloor screws. It made such a difference in the amount of squeaks.
Step 1: Pick your Plywood
Have the hardware store cut them down for you. We chose 1/2″ plywood, but some people choose 3/4 in. We have had no issues with the 1/2″ thickness. We had the hardware store cut down the 4×8 ft sheets of plywood down to a little bit less than 12 in strips, so the width would account for the amount the saw cuts off.
Step 2: Choose Underlayment
When you screw the floors into the plywood, you go through the subfloor. So underlayment works less well for sound dampening, but I still think it adds some cushion and slight sound dampening for downstairs.
Step 3: Plan Layout
I knew very little about how to lay out wood patterns at the time. Going back I’m sure I would research more and either chose a random pattern or possibly even an H- pattern over what I chose (stairstep). But I am still very happy with the result. DIY is all about the process and journey of learning.
H-Pattern & Stairstep Layouts
Step 4: Make your Cuts
For the board ends we used a circular saw. We needed to keep the cost low, so we bought a tool starter kit. Going back, a miter saw would have made 95% of the cuts easier. The most difficult cuts were the long ends. We left 3/8″ of space on the sides for expansion and contraction. But from my research plywood does not expand and contract like hardwood, so you can make your own decision on that. In three years I’ve seen no shifting or buckling at all, and we have have had very extreme temperature changes.
Step 5: Secure the Boards
Once we had the layout figured out, I began securing the boards through the underlayment and into the subfloor. I chose t-star self drilling screws to avoid stripped screws and give ease , and I made sure my screw length would not go through the bottom side of the subfloor.
I put a screw in every 1 foot to 1.5 feet around the plank. They have stayed very secure. So much so that I’m sure I could have done a wider spacing. Every now and then, I hit an existing nail or screw in the subfloor. So I would have to choose a different spot, and wood fill the hole. I countersunk each screw so no one’s feet would catch walking across it. An impact driver drill helps so much with getting it in straight and quickly.
Step 6: Seal the Floors
Once all the boards are secure, it’s time to seal the floors. I researched this step a lot because I wanted to do a good durable finish. This step was expensive but I think the amazing hold up 3 years later has a lot to do with the sealer. I also chose this option because it’s a high quality water based sealer. So it’s less toxic than oil based, and it will not make the plywood orange or yellow overtime. I first used the Bona ClassicSeal which is a sanding sealer. I followed all of the manufacture’s steps. I bought a pole sander to make the sanding easier. I then used BonaMega which is fit for residential and commercial floors. The tools in the supplies for the application helped so much in covering big areas.
Step 7: Wood Fill
To give a natural look to the wood filler, I mixed the wood shavings from the power saw with the BonaMega. Some boards were close enough together for me to not need to fill them, but the bigger gaps I filled with the solution and they look amazing!
Price Break Down:
The upstairs area was about 350 s.q. feet with 10% overage.
We bought 12 boards which at the time came out to $600. With inflation the boards are a little more expensive now.
So it came out to $1.70 per square ft for the actual plywood.
Weighing the Choice
- Surprisingly beautiful hold up! Seriously have been so impressed over these 3 years.
- I think they look and feel more like wood floors than LVP or laminate.
- Cost effective “hard” floor choice.
- They are pretty loud from underneath downstairs, and I’m unsure how we could have changed that.
- Since plywood does not accept stain well, you are kind of stuck with one wood tone.
- I’m unsure of the durability if you have pets or put them in a high traffic area of a home like a living room or playroom.
Overall, I could not be more pleased with the flooring almost 3 years later! A lot of research, hard work, and learning went into the process over 2 months of completing the flooring, and it really has given us flooring that is unique and fit the criteria that we were hoping for. Please let me know if have questions or if you complete this project! Y’all be sure to Dwell Aware out there!
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12 thoughts on “DIY Plywood Floors”
You did an amazing job! I love the way it looks and I think I like it better than a lot of other wood flooring options. Great job! We may try this in our bonus room.
Thank you so much Megan! It worked out really. Please let me know if you try it!!
Thank you so much Kelly!
First-time homeowner (3/11/22), long-time DIYer and I’m infatuated.
Thank you and congrats on becoming a homeowner!
Can you tell me what dimensions the individual planks are after being cut?
I had our hardware store rip-cut 8×4 plywood sheets into 1×4. Since the saw blade takes a little off of each cut, the fourth plank was close to 11 inches by 4 feet.
I have been wanting to do this for a while, thank you for the clear steps and materials.
You are welcome!!
I have worked as a set designer and have used plywood for everything under the sun….You put to test an idea I have had stored up for a long time. Looking at your success with using plywood is like a dream coming true thank you…I will be using this to restore the floor in the home I have inherited
That sounds amazing!