Last Updated: February 22, 2023, by: Jamie Sandford
We first became aware of plywood flooring back in December of 2012, not long after we launched Home Flooring Pros, when we read a post by Jordan Crompton on her blog Picklee.com (see link below). Jordan was using plywood as flooring in her design and furniture store. We thought at the time that it was a great quirky and low cost flooring idea, especially for a shop interior, but didn’t really pay much more attention as we weren’t convinced it had much of a place in the home.
Well, having discovered many more plywood flooring ideas over the intervening months we have to hold up our hands and say…”Hey, plywood plank floors are a legitimate, low cost, hard wearing (with caveats) DIY project for your home!”…there we said it. And if unusual flooring is your thing take a look at our penny flooring post.
Before we get going with a roundup of the best plywood floor ideas and projects from around the web let’s just take a moment to recap what we know about using and installing plywood as a cheap flooring idea.
PROS AND CONS OF PLYWOOD FLOORING
DIY Installation – This is definitely a great DIY project! We will point you towards some of the best plywood installation blog posts and videos, but all you really need is the ability to get your plywood sheets cut into planks and correctly laid out on your sub floor. After that it’s all about sanding, gluing, nailing and adding several coats of Polyurethane finish for protection. All a lot simpler than solid hardwood floor installation.
Wear and Tear – No matter which plywood sheets you buy, whether pine, birch or oak, or how many protective finishing coats you apply, they are never going to be as durable or as aesthetically perfect as expensive solid or engineered hardwood flooring. A DIY plywood floor is specifically suited to those looking for a more “rough and ready” finish. Think rustic Wild West or urban industrial chic rather than old world grandeur!
Adaptability – Like any wood flooring product you should let plywood sheets/planks acclimatize in your home for a day or two, but plywood does not present the same problems as solid hardwood when it comes to hot and cold climates. For a start most of the projects we feature use ¾ inch ply… by the time you’ve glued and nailed that down it won’t be going anywhere. Even for thicker five ply plywood the very nature of its construction means that it’s a much more stable product and therefore safe to use in both hot/humid and cold/dry conditions.
Low Cost – No surprise that the number 1 benefit of plywood flooring is the price. Many of the projects we have seen use pine plywood sheets with prices between $15 and $25 per sheet, and with each sheet covering 32 square feet you quickly see that it’s very easy to end up with a new floor, self-installed for around $1 per square foot! Compare that to solid hardwood or engineered wood prices to get a very clear idea of the savings!
Plywood sheets are available from all the usual big box home improvement stores and if you want delivery to your door take a look at the selection of plywood from Amazon.
So let’s take a look at the eleven best plywood flooring pages from around the web…
BEST STEP BY STEP PLYWOOD FLOOR INSTALLATION INSTRUCTIONS
Let’s face it, using plywood planks for your floors is not something you’re going to ask a professional to install, kind of defeats the purpose of choosing a low cost flooring material in the first place! So the main thing you’re going to want to know is how to install plywood flooring. Let’s take a look at some of the pages that we think explain the process the best:
Picklee.Com – For us, this was the first and simplest guide to DIY wide plank plywood flooring. Jordan shows how she created a great looking floor and how, if you play your cards right, you can get most of the hard work done for you! Home Depot cut her boards into planks and her fiancé Brett glued and nailed the boards down…result! Only joking Jordan, we know you did your fair share and most impressively of all you got the job done for just $300.
Quarry Orchard – We also really like Shannon’s installation guide over at her Quarry Orchard blog. For those looking to install plywood in a typical square room at home we think this guide gives a really good feel for what’s involved and also includes instructions for staining your plywood. A clear and concise guide for a floor that we think ends up looking great!
DIY Dork – If you want the plywood diy installation guide to end all diy guides then head on over and visit Kevin at DIYDork.com (great name!). He has two excellent articles, start here, outlining the process he used for the large downstairs area of his home, and more importantly five accompanying YouTube Videos that take you from start to finish. In fact there’s a sixth video showing how well the floor is holding up after a year.
WHAT ABOUT PAINTING YOUR PLYWOOD FLOORS
The projects above are focused on those DIYers who are looking to recreate a hardwood plank look in their homes, but what about painting plywood sheets or an existing plywood sub floor? Here are some of the best painted plywood floors we could find…
Remodelista – When a flooring trend gets a mention on a site as cool as Remodelista you know it’s time to take it seriously. Christine Chang Hanway is Remodelista’s UK editor and if a painted plywood floor is good enough for her bathroom its good enough for mine! Like a few projects we’ve seen, Christine’s painted bathroom plywood subfloor started off as a short term remodelling solution, but with results like these it’s easy to see why DIY’ers are seeing plywood as a longer term answer.
Fieldstone Hill Design – It took us a while to find it but we’re glad we made the effort to track down Darlene Weir’s guide to painting the plywood floor of her boys’ bedroom. Like the project from Remodelista above, this floor was created by painting directly onto the plywood subfloor. If you are looking for a guide on how to paint a beautiful pattern onto plywood then this post is for you. We think the floor makes this room, which is really saying something as the overall design is superb, and that it was achieved on a budget is doubly impressive.
Door Sixteen – Our next project was chosen both for the detailed instructions for painting plywood flooring and also for the bold design choice. Black is not a floor color for the faint of heart! All credit to Anna, the black floor works really well in this Victorian kitchen space especially against the white wall tiles. This post is the second of two and Anna’s initial plywood installation post is well worth a read as well, click here.
Centsational Girl – Whenever we research a flooring trend we always pop over to Centsational Girl to see if Kate’s got anything to say about it! And sure enough we found this wonderful plywood floor project sent in by one of her readers. Gray wood flooring is very in vogue this year, and has been for a while now, so it’s great to see what it looks like on plywood. Again great step by step painting instructions make this another essential plywood flooring article.
PROFESSIONALS USING PLYWOOD
It’s not just budget conscious DIYers who are turning to plywood. Canny designers and architects also realize that used in the right way and in the right location plywood can work wonders. So lets take a look at some inspirational plywood flooring ideas from the pros:
Parallel Lines Studio – Most of the featured projects that we’ve looked at are looking to cut costs by working with plywood, but there are also ways to turn plywood into a classy upmarket flooring option. This bedroom remodel from designers Parallel Lines shows what can be achieved with plywood if used sensibly. They have used a high quality 5 ply birch plywood and, while you still wouldn’t want to lay any type of plywood in a high traffic area, it works really well in a bedroom. What works especially well here is keeping the plywood in sheets rather than cutting it into planks. Lots of sanding and three coast of polyurethane make for a beautifully finished plywood flooring.
Conquest – Although plywood isn’t a material we usually think to put on show, there are exceptions. As discussed, plywood flooring is perfect if you’re looking for a rough and ready look and that is a perfect match for this unique modular house designed by house builders Conquest. Plywood feels and looks just right for this Crowsnest Pass project. The soft and beautiful furnishings contrast nicely with the starker floors, walls, ceilings and exterior.
Home Adore – Although most plywood flooring projects concentrate on disguising the look of plywood by transforming it into something different, in the design of this unique house, by architects Agruppo, they have gone out of their way to promote the natural look of plywood. There’s no mistaking what these floors are made from and we think they look fantastic. The effect works well thanks in large part to the vast amount of natural light coming in through the many large windows.
Envi Design – We had intended to only bring you only the top ten plywood floors but we had to bump our list up to eleven to accommodate this fabulous example of plywood flooring. Interior designer Susan Hoffman has created a totally unique look with this apartment floor in Montana. The effect was created using a grey water based stain and the result is very cool and contemporary…we love it.
So we hope you can see from this special selection of resources that plywood can be used as flooring in many different and imaginative ways. Please let us know if you have experience of using plywood this way and what tips you might have.
Do you really want to get to know plywood? Then take your knowledge to the next level at the Decorative Hardwoods website.
About the Author: Jamie Sandford
Jamie Sandford is the Owner and Chief Editor of Home Flooring Pros (find out more). After 12 years’ experience in screen and stage set construction, followed by a further 15 years working in the home renovation/remodeling business, he now writes and curates online home improvement advice.
“Buying and installing home flooring should be a fairly straightforward process, but often it isn’t. After more than 15 years experience in home flooring and remodeling, I started Home Flooring Pros in 2013 to help homeowners navigate the often-over complicated process of choosing, buying and installing a home floor. The aim is to save you time and money by helping you to make better floor buying decisions.”