DIY Dork's Plywood Plank Floors

Probably… no wait…. definitely one of the best changes we made to our house during renovations was getting rid of the uber gross, stained, sea of cat hair (umm… carpet I mean) and replacing it with wood floors.

We were keeping things as low cost as possible and were willing to do as much work as it took to put down new floors that we both loved and, let’s be honest, wouldn’t care about too much in the near future when the “new” has worn off & bangs & scratches happen here and there. This whole barn house was (and still kinda is) rough around the edges, so we wanted floors that matched and could take a pounding while still looking cool.

Alright.. so, since I practically live on the internet, during my travels across the webz window shopping for renovation ideas, I came across both Hindsvik’s modern plywood floors in their bedroom and Picklee’s rustic farmhouse plywood plank floors she put in her shop. I loved the super wide, raw planks & built in headboard from Hindsvik, and I also loved the worn look & durability from Picklee’s floor.

Hindsvik and Picklee's DIY Floors

I’ve always loved raw plywood & building projects that could be disassembled, but in the end, I went with the more permanent installation method I learned from Picklee. It also didn’t hurt that we were working on a barn house, so, no doy! (early 90s reference)… the choice was pretty obvious. We decided to go for Picklee’s style floors … and in the end, I think they turned out like a great happy medium between the two. They’re rustic & barn-like, but still look clean and modern with all the other things we did to the house. So how about I quit talking, and start showing you how we did them!


Truck loaded with sheets of cheap plywood for the floors

Of course, the first thing I had to do was go buy a bunch of plywood. I ended up buying the cheap stuff with built in texture. It was 1/2″ x 4′ x 8′ sheets of 3-ply sheathing CDX plywood. (The rough looking stuff they use when building exterior house walls and roofs). I bought them at Menards during one of their store-wide 11% off rebates they do about every 2-3 months. If I remember right, we ended up getting them for about $16 per sheet after the rebate. I made sure to pick through the pile at the store and avoid grabbing ones with huge cracks, big knot holes, chunks missing, etc. I tried to get the ones in the best shape with good texture, but not too “trashy” of a texture if you know what I mean.

Oh, and by the way, I figured out how many sheets I needed by using some simple math. We measured the rooms we were going to cover (all rooms minus baths & kitchen/dining) and estimated it to around 1500 sqft. Each sheet of plywood is 32 sqft (4×8 = 32) … so we divided 1500 by 32 and got roughly 47 sheets. I figured we might need to buy a few extra just in case we needed to cut away knots or I screwed up some cuts or whatever, so we brought home ~ 50 sheets.

Wood pile waiting to be worked on.

We stacked the plywood into 2 piles downstairs and continued working on other parts of the house first. We had to replace a lot of water damaged drywall & paneling, install board & batten on our ceilings, gut the kitchen & bathroom, & work on some other big, messy projects like that before moving on to the floors.

Carpet ripped up and wall paper removed.

Things were finally starting to shape up downstairs. Once all the drywall was fixed, so we were able to rip out all the carpeting around the piles & start removing staples to get the floors ready. It’s hard to see, but to the right of the picture, there was still a big square of vinyl flooring that had to come up as well.

Ripping up old, pine floor boards in the bedroom.

The downstairs bedroom (soon to be my DIY workroom) had these old pine plank floors that came up pretty easy. They were just nailed down with a few nails and were still in great shape, so we removed all the nails, and stored them down in the basement for future projects.

Sanding plywood sheets with Menard's rental flooring sander.

I was trying to figure out how I wanted to sand the plywood sheets. I could either cut them down, install them, and then sand them down like a normal wood floor…. or I could rent this big flooring sander, knock each sheet out about a minute or two, and then cut them down into planks and install. That thing was a heavy beast, but it worked great. And it was only about $50 bucks for a 3 hour rental from Menards. I decided to go this route, because I also wanted to slightly round off the plank edges with my palm sander before installing them to prevent splinters & snags later on.

Ripping the plywood floor planks with the table saw.

Once the all the sheets were sanded, we spent an afternoon slicing them down into 8″ wide planks with the table saw. It took several hours, and it was loud & messy (wear protection)… but we got it done. We could have had a store cut them down for us, but I have a couple reasons why we didn’t.

First off, when we bought the plywood, I asked some of the Menards employees if they would cut the wood down for me, and they said that they don’t cut wood at the store. I know I’ve had Lowes cut wood for me before, and I think Home Depot does too… but apparently not Menards. And if they did, I would have felt bad to ask them to slice 50 sheets of plywood into 8″ wide planks (that’s 5 cuts per sheet by the way). It would have been a loud, messy, couple of hours in the store. They probably would have asked me to never come back again! lol.

The other thing was that we already had a table saw and figured we could easily do it ourselves.  I ended up building a quick, little table extension made out of 2×4 boards and some thin luan we had left over from other projects. You can see it in the picture. It helped us keep the sheets level as we cut. The one thing to keep in mind when cutting the planks by hand like this is that it’s easy to accidentally cut them with a slight curve if you’re not careful to keep them lined up to the fence. A few of our planks ended up slightly curved and we had to put them in a separate pile.

Also, when you slice a sheet into six 8″ wide planks, the last one will be closer to 7-1/2″ wide due to the waste cut away by the thickness of the saw blade. We also put those narrower planks in their own pile. We used them for the planks mounted against the walls that would probably have to be cut narrower anyway. (You’ll see what I mean later.)

Once all the planks were cut, we spent a few more hours the next afternoon slightly rounding off the top facing edges with palm sanders to make the planks look a little more old & worn and to prevent sock snags or foot splinters when walking across the floors later.

Cleaning up the giant saw dust pile.

As you can see, it produced a ginormous saw dust pile that practically filled up a trash bag once I swept it all up. Also, everything else is the house was coated in a soft layer of plywood saw dust. If you’re planning to try making these floors for yourself, I’d recommend cutting them outside or in a shop if your house isn’t a giant construction zone already like ours was.

Finally cleaned up the floors to get them ready for the floor installation.

We moved the cut planks into the gutted kitchen/dining area, so that we could finish putting up the board & batten ceiling and paint everything from the bottom of the walls up. This was also the first taste of how open the downstairs was going to be once everything was finished and cleared out. We could see that it was going to be awesome!

The walls and board & batten ceilings freshly painted.

And… boom! By the magic of blog post editing, all the walls & ceilings are now primed & painted. The walls and ceiling boards (the flat parts) were painted semi-gloss white, the ceiling batten trim was painted flat white, and the big floor to ceiling posts were painted gloss white. All that over head painting was messy, and we didn’t want to drip or spatter all over the new floors, so that’s why we painted everything before installing the floors. The subfloors looked like a giant flock of birds were getting over a stomach virus, but that’s ok… they were gonna get covered anyway. 😉

Tearing out the old vinyl floor coving an old parquet floor.

It was finally time to start clearing out the rest of the floor and making some repairs. That big square of vinyl flooring next to the front door was actually hiding a secret. Old, busted up, parquet flooring underneath! Man, it was a hard, sweaty job tearing all that crap up.

The vinyl floor peeled up without too much hassle, but that glued down parquet floor took some real muscle. I used that roofing-shingle-shovel-thing to get under it and pop it up … both in chunks and little pieces. I also discovered 2 holes cut in the subfloor that I had to make patches for. I’m not sure why they were there, but they’re gone now!

Rotten subflooring from our old leaky windows.

The house also had really old, leaky windows that rotted out big hunks of the subfloor underneath. We wanted to get rid of them, so we had to cut them out and make patches for them.

Subfloor patches under the old leaking windows.

The subfloors were just 3/4″ inch plywood, so we cut patches out of new 3/4″ ply to fit up to the floor joists, built some extra blocking underneath, and screwed them down. Some of the gaps were a tad big on our slightly guestimated-measured & hand-cut patches (oops), so I filled them in with some caulk just in case.

If your floors have any holes or rotten spots, I highly recommend making patches for them before installing flooring. I can only imagine how soft & creaky those spots would get over time if you just left them alone.


Making white wash for wide plank floors.

Now, since we wanted that relaxed-rustic-modern look to our floors, we made some white wash. It really helped keep the floors from turning super golden “country pine cabin in the woods” yellow once the polyurethane was applied later. Of course, you don’t have to white wash yours if you don’t want. You could just leave them alone and stain or just clear them later after they’re installed.

I messed with different ratios of paint to water… but once it was all said & done, it was roughly a 2 or 2.5 to 1 ratio of water to paint. To make it, I just poured a gallon can of left over flat white wall paint in an old 5 gallon bucket and then dumped in a little more than 2 cans full of water. I used a paint mixing bit in my drill to blend it into a milk consistency, and it was ready to go.

White washing plywood plank flooring.

We decided to go ahead and white wash the planks before installing, so that we could wash some out more than others and have a variety of colors to pick from as we were installing them. We sat some old 2×4 boards on the floor and then laid the planks across them to keep them off the floor. Then we just dipped the paint roller in the white wash and rolled it on. They didn’t really look much different when it was first applied and still wet…

White washed pine floor planks versus unfinsihed pine plank.

… but once they dried… whoa! … big difference. You can see how much lighter they turned out compared to a raw plank here. We laid out and white washed as many boards as we could fit on the open spaces of our floor… and had to repeat a couple of times to do them all. This was our first glimpse at how the floors were going to look… and we liked where things were headed!

Alright, so that’s it for this post.  I didn’t want to make this plywood floor post too huge, so I broke it down into 2 parts.

>> Read part 2 HERE <<