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DIY: Making and Installing Plywood Plank Floors


Do you want to know how I saved thousands of $$$ for flooring in my 400 SQ FT office?!?!?

Quick answer – I bought the materials, made, and installed them myself.

Long, overly-detailed answer – read below!



While renovating my office space above the garage, I knew I would be ripping out the decades-old green carpet (yikes) and replacing the flooring with something that could withstand major temperature fluctuations.  The space is NOT climate controlled meaning that there is no HVAC, no heat, no air conditioning and not much ventilation.  Sounds like a miserable place to put my new “boutique studio” and it looked pretty miserable when I first started (did you see those before pics?!?) but now it’s a design sample wonderland!

Anyway, I had a few quotes based on the square footage at a few local flooring installation places.  I knew that laminate flooring would probably buckle with the hot and cold temps so I wanted to see how much hardwood, tile, a carpet would cost.  Generally, the quotes for old carpet removal and disposal, new materials and installation came out to approximately the following:

Hardwood = $3,000-$3,700

Tile = $2,500-$3,000

Carpet = $1,200-$1,500

This is all way more than I wanted to spend.  I already knew carpet would be the least expensive but did I really want carpet?  Heck NO!  It’s fine for some applications but coming up from the dusty dirty garage into my office would not be ideal.  And I already know that having a “boutique studio” to show clients samples is NOT ideal either, but I need to make the best out of what I have!

I really only wanted to spend $500 max on this flooring project, because let’s be realistic, it’s only a garage loft, BUT I need it to look nice for the occasional kitchen and bath client.  When my husband and ripped the carpet from the subfloor (also a fun endeavor), we discovered that it was glued down to the plywood and the plywood was in good shape.  The plywood sheets were large but not nice enough to sand down and use as flooring.  That’s when an idea hit me!


Plywood is durable and inexpensive, so why can’t I use it as flooring?

Plywood sheets are approximately 4′-0″ by 8′-0″ which is 32 square feet.  If I needed approximately 400 square feet, then I would need 12 1/2 sheets.  I figured a quantity of 15 would be great because it is always nice to have extra just in case.  Walking through the selections at Lowe’s , I wanted a nice grain on the plywood and there was only one that I thought would work.  It was a 3/8″ pine sheathing with a good grain and the occasional wood knot.  So I loaded up 15 sheets x $16.93 = about $250 (excluding sales tax).  And who says you don’t use math after high school…I use it all the time!



There were a few more expenses to add to that cost and not to mention the laborious task of making them look finished and installing them.  I recruited my husband who has a full-time job and had no interest in making floors BUT he agreed and actually enjoyed himself much more than we both thought he would.  We made a our To-Do list and came up with the following:

 1. Cut into planks

2. Sand

3. Paint or stain

4. Fit into place

5. Secure

6. Protect

7. Trim out

Number 1 was super easy…we had the good people at Lowe’s make the cuts.  The math worked out to 6 planks sized 8″ wide x 96″ long so I would get 90 planks total (15 sheets x 6 planks each).  The cuts cost $0.25 and each sheet had five cuts (5 x 15 x $0.25 is less than $20) = TOTALLY WORTH IT!  It took a day or so to pick up the cut planks.  Once we loaded them all in the truck, the adventure truly began…



Number 2 (sanding) and 3 (painting) on our list took f…o…r…e…v…e…r!  We bought an orbital hand sander with a medium grit sandpaper and got to work.  The full length of one side was sanded and were slightly rounded the two long edges to make the planks look old and not freshly cut.  The short ends we left straight so they could fit end to end with the other planks nicely.  Times that by 90!  Two weeks and four numb hands later, we were ready to treat them.  I hadn’t quite figured it out whether to stain or paint them but I wanted it to look like old wood.  There were a few DIY sites with tutorials for steel wood in vinegar mixtures but I opted for a diluted tinted primer.

What does that mean, you ask?

I had my buddy at Sherwin Williams take a basic multipurpose latex primer and put some tint in it to muddy the color.  It turned out to be a bluish gray.  I diluted the mix with 2 parts water and 1 part paint and started on the next two weeks of hand brushing each plank.  I did this one little cup at a time so every 10 planks had a different mix.  I thought it would be cool to have some variation and mix the planks throughout the room.  In retrospect, I SHOULD have fit and secured all the floors FIRST and THEN applied the finish.  My husband told me to do it this way but I am stubborn sometimes (all the time, really).  The whole process probably wouldn’t have taken as long if I just listened to him.  I should listen to him more for alot of things…




Once the sanding and painting was all done, the rest of the project was pretty simple.  We laid out all the planks and fit them into place.  I wanted to stagger them to make it look like hardwood so we had alot of cuts to make ourselves.  Once we had the full pieces in place, we took the measured the space for the boards that needed to be cut.  We used our 15 amp 10″ table saw by Ryobi  and purchased some safety goggles to protect our eyes and put on some gloves (please use safety gear at all times). My husband read all the directions and safety requirements first. When we were ready to begin, he made the cuts while I held the long end of the plank so it stayed straight.  We sanded the edge of each cut board lightly and fit them all into place. Number 4 on our list…done!





With all the planks fit into place, the finish line was in sight. Number 5 (securing the planks) was the most fun! It may have been overkill but we both decided that gluing AND nailing each plank to the subfloor would last longer over time. We bought 10 tubes of the Liquid Nails adhesive to glue down the planks.  At about $2.50 a tube, we were just another $20 in for materials.  We already had a caulk gun laying around the garage so I popped it in and hit the floors.

As soon as I applied the glue, we flipped the plank and my husband followed along with the brad nails.  He used a newly purchased oil-free air compressor nail gun by Bostitch along with 1-1/2″ nails (less than $175 excluding tax).  Before beginning this task, my husband read all the directions and safety requirements first.  He had protective eye, hand, and foot gear on for the installation.  I stayed out of the way…always ahead of him two planks.

We started in the far right corner because I knew we’d need to make lengthwise cuts against the wall so I wanted those cuts to be out of the natural eye direction upon entering the room.  I also left a gap between each of the planks lengthwise.  I thought it would cool to leave a 1/8″ gap and allow for contraction and expansion with the temperature flux.  In hindsight, I would have made the gap slightly less, say 1/16″ because the unsightly subfloor is ever so slightly visible if you look very closely.  My husband said not to perseverate about it and I tried very hard to listen to him.



Well, finally the floors were in and looked GREAT!  I was ready to move all my samples in, BUT we still had two last steps to complete.  At that point, I was running out of steam and just wanted to be finished.  My husband assured me that protecting the floors was a MUST and I agreed.  I purchased a gallon of Varathane’s polyurethane floor finish in Crystal Clear Matte.  It needed to Crystal Clear (not Clear) and it needed to be Matte (not Gloss or Satin).  Matte. Period.



This sucker was not easy to find on the shelves so I ordered it from Amazon.  Crazy thing to order from online, right?  I received it in two days and bought a good 4″ all-purpose brush.  I started in the corner farthest from the door so I could work my way out.  I only did half of the room because I applied four coats (which made my poor back ache).  The can does not lie.  It is fast-drying.  I applied one coat and gave it an hour, then I applied another and gave it an hour, and so on and so forth.  Until I used half the gallon. As you can see, the left side was untreated and the right was finished.  The next day I worked on the other half, leaving a space open to hop out the door.



FINALLY the day had come for the last step (trim work)! I measured the perimeter of the room which is about 15′ x 25′, I figured I needed ten 8′ sticks of shoe molding.  There were 12′ sticks available but the lengths and cuts I’d have to make didn’t make sense.  Also, the smaller size fit in the truck more easily.  A quantity of 10 x $5.52 = about $55 (without tax).  We made the 45º angle cuts for the ends and fit each piece into place.  We just nailed in the pieces (no glue used) and I bought a Minwax Blend-Fil pencil in white to putty the nail holes once we punched them in.  And just like that the floors were done!





Whoa, when we first started we thought, “This is going to take us a month!”  And guess what?  It did.  No joke, between work and kids and mid-summer adventures, the project took us an entire month.  So for all of you DIYers out there please consider how valuable your time is and look again at those other material costs because $1,000 for carpet may be worth to you to have new flooring in ONE day.  Anyway, we didn’t mind the time it took us and had alot of fun together.  When it was all said and done, we were very proud of what we accomplished!

Here’s a look at our costs for 400 square feet.  All numbers are rounded up and are approximate:

Cut plywood sheets + $275

Sandpaper + $15

Primer and paintbrush + $40

Adhesive + $25

Air Compressor and nails + $180

Safety gear + $25

Polyurethane and brush + $55

Trim and pencil + $65


Wow!  The total price was right on target (if you subtract the cost of the air compressor gun from the grand total).  So $500 comes out to about $0.55 cents a square foot (uninstalled) and a little more than $1.25 (installed).  Now that is just the flooring costs…I could write a whole other post about my savings finding used furniture and decor at area thrift shops to accessorize the office!  Or check out my post about how I display and decorate the showroom with my samples.

What do you think?




Disclaimer: All opinions are our own and not sponsored by any other company nor website. All products and prices are not guaranteed and are only used as a guideline.  This website and the material covered is for informational purposes only. By taking any information or education material from this post, you assume all risks for the material covered. You agree to indemnify, hold harmless, and defend Kitchen Vitality Design LLC from any and all claims and damages as a result of any and all of the information covered. We take no responsibility for what you do with this knowledge. We can not be held responsible for any property or medical damages caused by items you read about on our website. We also would advise you to always read directions, wear safety gear, check local codes, and consult professionals before doing any type of home project.