It’s Easy to Bite Off More Than You Can Chew {installing plywood flooring on our own}


So those of you who have been with  me since the beginning will remember that way, way back when this whole adventure started, we had FLEAS.  Not fleas, mind you, but FLEAS.  EVERYWHERE.  FLEAS.  It was a horrific experience and still gives me nightmares.  The actual point is, though, that at that time we were forced to pull up every scrap of carpet in this house.  That had always been the long-term plan, but we were initially planning to just live with the old carpet until we decided what to do with the floors later.  The FLEAS meant that we had to move flooring up the list.

We took up all the carpeting and painted the entire subfloor with white primer paint – just like we were already painting on the ceilings and walls.  The whole house was white for a bit.  Later, we put down carpet in the lower room and also in the bedroom.  However, on the whole, Tom and I both prefer hardwood floors (or wood laminate), so we decided to hold off on the rest of the house.

Throughout many of our projects, having just the subfloor was actually great.  It made it super easy to work on all kinds of painting projects, to drag furniture across the floor, and to housebreak Waylon without a lot of stress.  Along the way, I did paint it all again, this time with high-gloss deck paint, which helped make it easier to clean.  (Although I will say that that paint didn’t hold up super well.)

So all of this background brings us up to last fall, when we were once again talking about various options for flooring this place.  We had a lot of challenges.  The three biggest?

  • The floor is quite uneven
  • There are actual hinges in the floor because this house arrived folded up
  • The floor was rather spongy in spots

Because of these things, we didn’t feel like we could go with our top choice of throwing down laminate.


We started kicking around other possibilities, and somehow stumbled upon some YouTube videos of people installing floor made out of plywood, which they cut into planks, sanded, stained, and polyed.  And we began to think that maybe this could be a cost-effective way of doing what we wanted to do.

Menard’s periodically (but randomly) has 11% off rebate weeks, where you can get 11% back on all purchases.  One of those weeks came up in late October, and we decided that we would take the opportunity to go ahead and purchase all the plywood.  Then we could work on the project throughout the winter, taking our time to plank, sand, and stain.

The stack of plywood was rather staggering.  Just looking at the sheer amount of wood it was going to take made me worry that we were making a mistake – because it was going to be a lot of effort to get that wood smooth enough to use as a floor!

Now, Tom’s dad has been an invaluable aid to our whole life here, and we have depended on him heavily for advice, assistance, and insight, but every once in a while he turns into the catalyst that sets us off on a whole adventure that we were planning to do eventually but not right now.  Once Tom started cutting the plywood into planks… the whole project spiraled rapidly out of control, per usual.


Pretty much the first project was to build a nice sturdy table with one sheet of plywood for its top.  (We’ve actually kept that table in the barn and it’s fantastic.)

Next, Pop rounded up a long piece of straight metal from somewhere or other.  He and Tom clamped it down and used it as a guide to cut the plywood sheets into 8″ planks.  This meant we had one narrow board left from each sheet, but we worked those into spots against the wall.

It was AMAZING how fast the pile of planks grew!


Meanwhile, I was outside the barn doing my usual thing – sanding.  (Seriously, our little orbital sander is my best friend.)  As you can see, the planks were pretty rough.  Plus, plywood tends to have a LOT of writing on it.  It was a seriously challenging sanding project.


But, as you can see from the before and after pics, I was able (for the most part) to get them sanded down.

However, that process was super, super slow, and the pile of planks looked virtually endless.  This was the point in the process when we began to realize that this was a cheap way to do the floors… as long as you consider your own labor to be valueless!


Luckily, Pop stepped in to save the day as usual.  He spent almost two full days sanding on these planks!  Ridiculous.

Meantime, I was wrestling with a big decision – what color to stain the planks??  We tried several different options, and honestly never came up with one that made my heart sing.  In retrospect, the whole project would have probably made more sense if we had used a higher-grade plywood…except that would have made the whole thing more expensive and kind of defeated the purpose.  So who knows?  All I know is that the grey stain that I really, really liked did not look right with the wide grain of this plywood.  (We’ve used it other places and it looks fabulous on narrow grain so.)

In the end, we went with a very dark grey, almost black, stain called called cinder.


We spent the entire weekend before Thanksgiving staining planks in the upstairs of the barn.  It was one of those endless tasks where you just crank up the music and go on forever.  The planks had to be stained on the top, and then on all of the edges, because we knew that there would be small gaps between the boards at times.


As we finished staining them, we laid the boards out in the upstairs of the barn to dry.  The boards actually looked pretty good stained, although it took a lot more stain than we initially thought it would, and I had to make an emergency run to Menard’s!

By this time we were two weekends in, and were planning the big installation for Thanksgiving weekend… to be covered in the next post!


2 responses »

  1. Plywood flooring is an interesting idea, I’d never thought of that before. I know the surface is treated, but are there any concerns about the layers delaminating if moisture accidentally gets on them one too many times?


    • So hopefully I will get into more specifics on how we finished the floor – and how it’s held up! – whenever I get around to doing another post, but so far we haven’t really had any trouble with moisture. We put down four coats of polyurethane, and it has overall held up well, even with our border collie scrambling all over it. While it’s sustained plenty of digs from his claws, none of them have gone all the way through to the wood. In the kitchen and under the bar counter – where it seemed like we were mostly likely to deal with a lot of spills – we actually put down tile instead.

      In theory, as long as the poly is put down right and given time to cure, the floor should tolerate getting wet just as well as hardwood or laminate.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your interest! Hopefully I’ll get that next post on this floor out soon! 🙂


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