DIY Dork's Plywood Plank Floors

Alright, so if you remember in Part 1 of my plywood plank floors post, I mentioned how we were renovating the entire interior of our barn house and were looking for a interesting floor that was both low cost and durable. Searching around the interwebz… I found 2 examples of plywood floors that I liked… one from the Hindsvik blog and one from the Picklee blog. We decided to go with the more rustic-relaxed Picklee style, but the interior of the house would look more like Hindsvik’s modern Scandinavian style. And it turned out great!

In Part 1, I showed you where to start by figuring out how much wood to buy, how we sanded & cut our planks, how we white washed them, and how we made repairs to the floors to prep them for install. The post got kind of long, so I split it off into two parts. Now I’ll show you how to install and finish the floors. I think you’re gonna like how they turned out!

Damp mopped the dirty floors before installing the planks

Before we even thought about installing the first row a planks, we had to clean the floors. They were covered in a bunch of drywall dust and just general renovation gunk. They were bad! We went through the house and vacuumed & damp mopped all the floors that were going to be covered, so that the glue on the bottom of the planks would actually stick to the floor and not just a layer of dust.

Measuring and marking the first layout lines for the new flooring

To begin the install, the first thing we did was find an area with a long run that stretched between a couple of rooms for the first row of planks. We started upstairs, and both rooms up there are joined by a little hallway, so that was the perfect spot.

We took a square, lined it up to the wall (it actually slid under the drywall a bit & butted up to a 2×4 underneath the drywall as you can see in the picture), and measured out the width of two planks (8″ each) and then came back in 1/2″… so a total of 15-1/2″. We made some marks along that wall in both rooms, and then used a chalk line to mark our layout line. That chalk line would then be used as a guide for the first row of planks we’d install.

The reason we went out 15-1/2″ was so that we could line up and install the second row of planks first, and build out from there into the rest of the room. Then when the rest of the planks were down, we’d come back and lay in the planks that butt up against the wall. Remember how I told you in Part 1 that when you slice your plywood sheets, the last plank would be narrower than the others? Well, we used those narrower planks up against the wall and were able to custom slice them down even narrower if the wall happened to have a slight bow to it or whatever.

We also made sure to keep about a 1/4″ – 1/2″ of wiggle room between the edge of those planks and the 2×4 boards that were just peeking underneath the drywall just in case the planks wanted to move as the seasons changed. Once installed, they were tucked under the bottom edge of the drywall a bit and were totally covered up by trim later.

Putting flooring adhesive on the bottom of the plywood plank

Once the chalk line was marked, it was time to start installing the planks. We flipped over the plank and added a good squiggle of flooring adhesive to the bottom side like this. I’d recommend adding a bit more than I show in this picture, but you don’t have to go crazy. Maybe just add some globs in between the curves and you should be good to go.

Face nailing the wide plank boards to the floor

We butted the end of the first plank against the far wall (with the long side lined up to the chalk line) and I face nailed it down using 4 nails across the plank about every foot or so. I shot them in at a slight angle (2 towards the right, 2 towards the left) to help them stay in place just in case the planks tried to lift at some point. This pic shows how I did the very first plank with 2 nails sort of on each side… but I realized I liked the look of the 4 nails spread evenly across when I installed the second plank, so that’s how I did the rest of the planks.

Also, I should mention that I was using a 16 gauge air finish nailer with 1-1/2″ finish nails. The reason I used 1-1/2″ nails was because our subfloor was 3/4″ thick, and the plywood planks were 1/2″ thick. Add in the fact that I shot them in at a slight angle, and the 1-1/2″ nails were about all I really needed. 2″ nails would have been fine too, but anything bigger or smaller wouldn’t have been too good.

Oh, and also… I used a bunch of nails. Like a WHOLE bunch. I bought nails in boxes of 2000, and I burned through more than 4 boxes. I estimated that I used around 8500 nails for the entire 1500 sq. ft., and I only screwed up and had to pull out & re-shoot about 5 or 6 nails. Not bad! 😉

Spacing the planks during install

We used Picklee’s idea to use the metal square as a spacer in between the planks as were installing them. It helped put about 1/8″ of gap in between the planks just in case they wanted to move as the seasons changes.

Now that we’ve had the floors down for a while and have seen how little the planks moved (if any), you could probably get away without it if you wanted, but we wanted to play it safe. Plus, we really like the looks of the slight gaps. They definitely have a very old school, wild west, general store’s floor look going on. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but we really like the look.

Zig zag pattern of installing the plank flooring

I wanted to throw in this picture to show you the zig-zag pattern we used to install the planks.  We basically just went back & forth from the first room’s far wall … through the hallway … over to the second room’s far wall. When we got to the planks that would touch the walls, we measured and cut them to fit.

Then we started the next row with the cut off piece left over from that last plank we just installed. We made sure that the cut off end of the plank faced the wall, so that it would be covered by trim later and the sanded & slightly rounded off end butted up against the next plank to prevent snags, splinters, etc.

If the cut off piece was less than 12″ long, we started with a fresh plank … and if the piece was really close to the same length as the installed plank, we chopped it down a bit. We tried to not have any plank end seams too close together to keep them all random.

First room's floor almost installed all the way

When the first room was just about complete, all we had left was the planks that we had to slice down to custom fit against the walls or cut to fit around door & closet frames, etc. This was the first look at how the floors were going to turn out …. and we LOVED it!

Big gap in between two planks

Now, one thing I wasn’t able to show in the video was how to fix gaps caused by the planks that ended up having a slight bow to them (whether it was from being accidentally cut with a slight curve or just naturally springing into a bowed shape when sliced down).

You can see here how the plank starts to bow out a bit about 12″ from the end. To take care of it, first we nailed it down like normal all the way to the section where it started to bow…

Screwing down a wedge to fix the plank bow

… then we screwed down a block of wood a couple inches out from the plank, so we could start to wedge it into place…

Hammering the wedge to straighten out the bowed plank

… and then we hammered a wedge to squeeze the plank in place. Once the gap looked even, I nailed that puppy in place and it looked great. I was slightly worried that maybe the planks would try to bow back into original shape after a few weeks or months, wreaking havoc to the floors… but it’s been a year already, and I haven’t noticed anything like that. I think maybe 2 or 3 planks did slightly bow back to touch the plank next to them, but the abundance of glue & nails held everything in place really well, and there was no cracking or lifting going on.

Just about finished with the plywood plank floors down stairs

We installed the floors the same way downstairs. We started in the little hallway in between the front & rear rooms (you can just see it in the top left corner) and worked out from there. The only other challenge downstairs was the weird, round, air vents in the floors. When it came time to install the planks in those areas, I just had to measure the vent holes really well and mark them on the planks to cut out. They ended up not being a big deal at all.

Unfinished plywood floors with board and batten ceilings

Once all the plywood planks were installed on the floor, we stopped for the day and took it all in. We really liked how they were turning out. We wanted that relaxed-modern Scandinavian look, and we really got it. The wide planks were looking awesome with the board & batten ceilings, the simple wall lights, and the wood trimmed windows.

Freshly installed plywood floors in the living room

Do you remember how messy and cramped the living room looked with all the junk in Part 1? Well… these floors REALLY opened up the place. You may not be able to tell in this picture, but between the last pic and this one, I went through the house and added a little more white wash to some of the planks to lighten them even more. We wanted to make sure the floors were not going to turn out too golden yellow once the poly was down.

This was our first look at the sea of bright, open space we had created after months of renovations. It was really coming along. Now that the floors were down, we still had to top them with polyurethane, add wall trim, and paint the window trim to really finish everything out.

The plywood floors with a fresh coat of polyurethane

We let the floors dry after adding the extra white wash, and then we swept & vacuumed them again before adding the polyurethane. We made sure to buy high traffic poly in a semi gloss, so that it would be durable and not too glossy.

I applied 3 coats with a full 24 hours of drying time between coats 1 & 2 … and about 12 hours or so between coats 2 & 3. If I had to do it again, I’d consider applying the poly with a roller instead of the pad like I used, but I would test it to make sure it didn’t leave any bubbles. I bet the roller would help speed up the application and maybe even help put the poly on a little thicker too.

DIY Dork's plywood plank floors finished and trimmed out

The floors did darken up a bit once the polyurethane dried, but we still really love the look! We love the varied wood grain & texture of the plywood, the different tones of white we got by white washing some planks more than others, and the old school look of the 8″ width of the planks with the slight gaps in between.

The floors turned out very fitting for our barn house and look & perform even better than we hoped. They “popped” even more once the rest of the house was finished and trimmed out. I really love how they look up against the black & white checkered VCT floors we did in the kitchen and dining room. It has that sort of a vintage modern Scandinavian look that will always look great.

Alright… so there you have it!

That’s how we made and installed the wide-plank, plywood floors in our house. Yes, there was some hard work to get them ready, but the actual install was just as easy, if not easier, than installing any other wood flooring. Plus the cost was a BIG bonus. They were probably a bit cheaper than putting carpet in, but these should last much better than carpeting ever would.

I’ll post an update of how they’ve held up after a year, and I’ll also put together an estimated pricing guide to help give you an idea of about how much they really cost …blood, sweat, & tears not included 😉

If you want to try these floors for yourself, I’d love to see how they turn out. And if you have any questions, I’ll try to help you out with everything we learned while doing it ourselves.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen Part 1, make sure to check it out as well.

Also, I just recently did an interview with DIY April about how I made these floors. Go check that out, too!