DIY Plywood Plank Floors
February 27, 2014
One of the many things I love about blogging is connecting with people from all across the globe, and I really love hearing from those knee deep in their own renovations and reading about their innovative home improvement solutions. Last week, Courtney from New Zealand sent me pictures of her DIY plywood floors and I was so impressed with her resourceful approach I asked that she share the details of how she achieved this look on a budget so I could share it with you!
First, here is a little background on the project from Courtney:
“I am a full-time mother of one (currently), wife, and homemaker. My husband, son, and I live on a farmlet in the foothills of the Southern Alps near Christchurch in New Zealand, complete with animals and an ever-expanding potager garden.
In addition to living a semi-rural lifestyle, we are in the process of updating our home, a grand circa-1905 Edwardian villa. We’re no strangers to DIY; however, most of our projects here have been borne out of necessity because of the unique proportions (8-foot windows, arched windows, high ceilings, lack of closets, etc.) throughout. As we are starting family life and live in the country, an easy-living and "not-too-precious" attitude toward our furnishings sees me sewing curtains and blinds, painting secondhand furniture, and curating an eclectic collection of home goods compatible with dirt, little hands, and the occasional spill.
The "craft room" (as it’s known) inspiration came as a result of all of these things: we wanted a space for sewing, painting, and letting the littlies experiment without worry. I loved the driftwood look, and the vinyl equivalent in my area was around $140.00/square meter, or nearly $13 per square foot – definitely out of the budget.
The beautiful plywood floors I saw on Pinterest and beyond convinced me this was the flooring solution for us, and after searching for a tutorial on how to DIY the driftwood look, I found none. So, I gave it a go with some paints I had on hand, and even surprised myself with how well it turned out!”
Materials: C/D grade ½” pine plywood (we looked for sheets that had lots of knots, minor cracks and other “character” on the D side); 16-gauge 2” nails; 100-grit sandpaper and cork sanding block; 2:2:1 wash with white or off-white chalk paint, water, and light grey paint (optional); large paint brush; black oil-based enamel paint; turpentine; foam brush; flooring top coat (wax, polyurethane, etc.); face mask for dust and fumes; knee pads.
Tools: 16-gauge finish nailer; table saw; circular saw; random orbital sander (with 240-grit pads); mitre saw for cutting planks to length/angle cuts (optional).
Note: There are many tutorials about how to install a plywood plank floor; however, I
thought I’d include how we did it since it’s different than many I looked at online.
1. Make the planks: Start off by cutting a sheet of plywood in half width-wise. To do this, either set the sheet down on top of some 2×4’s or on saw horses. Measure a line down the middle of the sheet. Then, with a circular saw, cut the sheet in half. You now have two 4×4 foot squares. To cut your planks, set the blade height on the table saw to just above ½” and set the fence to 6½” (or your chosen plank width. With the 6½” setting, you can get fourteen 4-foot long planks per sheet). Starting with the factory cut edge along the rip fence, carefully feed the half-sheet through. Continue feeding the remaining half-sheet through until you are left with a small waste strip (save this to stir paint!).
2. Installation: After all the planks are cut to width, inspect each one on both sides and select the side that has the most character. Mark the other side with a pencil to make installation easier later. It is important to distribute those planks with character across the floor to balance the clear planks. Keep “unusable” ones like those with stamps or other defects to use when you need to cut a short piece at the walls. Prior to nailing down the planks, to make the plywood look more like solid wood, you will need to bevel-sand the top edges of each plank. You want to put a small 45-degree chamfer on the top edge on all four sides. This sounds complicated and time-consuming, and though it does takes a little extra time (about 15 seconds per plank), it makes a huge difference in the look and feel of the floor. To do it, use a cork sanding block and 100-grit sandpaper to swipe each edge a few times. Your planks are ready!
3. Prepare the subfloor: We installed this over a subfloor consisting of particle board over 1” tongue and groove. Since the planks are only ½” thick, they need to be nailed to, at minimum, a 3/4” plywood/strand board subfloor. If your subfloor is concrete, you can use a suitable adhesive compound. (Many tutorials recommend using an adhesive in addition to nails; we have not found this to be necessary).
To start, we stapled bitumen building paper (tar paper) over the entire subfloor. Once
the bitumen paper is down, measure up a reference line somewhere in the middle of
the room; it should be parallel to both opposing walls. Load your 16-gauge nail gun
with 2” nails. Take a plank and align it somewhere along the reference line. Now,
face-nail the plank to the subfloor. We put a nail in each corner plus five nails down
each long side (fourteen nails per plank) equidistant from each other.
You may need a few extra nails to hold down a stubborn plank. In terms of spacing, you can choose to install the planks tightly butted against each other (which is what we did) or insert a small spacer, such as a brad nail, metal shim, or even pennies, between the planks. Continue nailing planks along the long edges until you reach the end of the row.
For subsequent rows, stagger the planks by one-third the length (16 inches). It’s
best to not have more than two unfinished rows going at a time. Remember to save
all the offcuts, because they will likely be used to start or finish the upcoming rows.
When you install the last rows, you may have to measure and cut-to-fit each plank.
Use a table saw to rip planks down to width, and a hand or miter saw to cut planks to
length; bevel-sand newly-cut edges. Once the floor is completely nailed down, you can finish the edges with quarter-round trim or decorative floor skirting.
4. Painting Preparation: Finish-sand the floor with a random orbital sander using 240-grit paper. Ensure the planks are as smooth as possible, especially where they meet up with each other.
5. Painting, Part One: Mix floor paint using two parts white or off-white chalk paint, two parts water, and one part light grey paint (optional) and paint it on the floor with a brush, stirring frequently. Let it dry completely (usually an hour or two). The grain of the plywood will likely rise a bit and the floor may become rough again. Go over the floor with a cork sanding block and 100-grit sandpaper. This will smooth out the raised parts and simulate the grain of hardwood. If it distresses or wood shows through, that’s okay! The idea is to create some grooves for the black stain to settle into. (After doing this, I recommend going in the direction of the grain. I did not because I thought it might create some “wear” on the new planks. Though my husband thought parts looked like rough-sawn boards, I did not prefer the effect it created in most spots.) Experiment with using different amounts of pressure and don’t be surprised if this step goes quickly (it only took me 20 minutes). Thoroughly vacuum up any dust.
Painting Part Two: Mix oil-based black paint with turpentine in a 6:1 ratio. It will be very watery. Use a foam brush to apply this in the direction of the grain, taking special care to apply in the knots/splits, nail holes, and in between the planks. Let this dry overnight. Use sanding block and 100-grit sandpaper (with the grain) to lightly sand through the black wash until the desired colour is achieved. If desired, finish sand with a sanding block and 240-grit sandpaper with the grain; however, I preferred the slight wood grain effect I had by leaving it at 100-grit smoothness. Thoroughly vacuum up any dust. Apply three coats of your choice of top coat (polyurethane, floor wax, etc.) as
directed, and you’re done!
Amazing job Courtney! It’s a lot of work but they saved so much and created their own beautiful flooring with an innovative approach and a driftwood graywash finish, bravo!
If you have any questions for Courtney, be sure to leave them in the comments and she can respond with more detail. Who’s tempted to try this clever approach to affordable plank flooring in your home?
Tags: plywood floors