Plywood as Flooring

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Blog entry by John Steffen posted 01-31-2010 04:59 PM 57610 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve been weighing plywood floor as an option for the main floor of my home (and possibly the second floor and even attic when I finish it). And I was even more inspired by AllorNoThumbs project here:

The first problem I run into is that I have just over 1000 square foot per floor. I’m not sure I can handle ripping 35 pieces of plywood and running over 200 pieces through the tongue and groove process. Let’s not forget finishing 1000 square foot of plywood seems like a daunting task.

My second problem is the cost of plywood. Even on a recent sale (todays Menard’s ad HAR HAR) A1 Maple was $70 a sheet which works it’s way to just over $2.33 a square foot (since you lose 2 square foot per sheet in tongue material if you’re getting 6 8” strips and making 1/2” tongues). Even the B1 grade at $47 works it’s way to $1.56 per square foot. And don’t get my started on Cherry ($3.33 sqft) and Walnut ($3.67 sqft). And even after ripping and tongue and grooving all of the material it will still need finishing!

I’m just wondering if it’s a worthwhile project, or if I would be better off getting pre-finished hardwood flooring at Lumber Liquidators for $3.00-4.00 a square foot.

Even after all of the things telling me to not do it, I’m still considering it. Not to be cheap, but more to have my hand in the house and have more impressive stories to tell about it (I’m a bit of a showoff when it comes to my handywork).

What do you guys think about using plywood as flooring?

Is it economical or worthwhile?

Are there any benefits other than being able to say you did it yourself?

What grade would you suggest using to keep it looking nice but bring the cost down to make it more economical?

-- Big John's Woodshed - Farmington, IL

11 comments so far

View Rileysdad's profile


110 posts in 4741 days

#1 posted 01-31-2010 05:24 PM

I’ve seen plywood used in full sheets in a restaurant. I didn’t think it was very attractive. If you rip it into planks, you are essentially making engineered flooring. If I were considering your idea, I’d get the answers to two questions:

Can I put a finnish on this flooring that is as tough as that on engineered flooring?

Is the veneer of the plywood thick enough to sand off the first finnish and refinish?

I don’t know the answers. Hopefully the people here can help.

-- Measure twice, cut once, buy extra stock.

View Jimthecarver's profile


1124 posts in 5248 days

#2 posted 01-31-2010 05:41 PM

Being a guy that has installed thousands of BF of hardwood flooring, with and w/o the finish on it. In my opinion and using many products from Lumber liquidators I found the flooring from them to be exceptional and easy to install. Like you and most of us LJ’s, we like to show off our work and be proud of our labors. Good luck on your efforts no matter what you decide to go with.

-- Can't never could do anything, to try is to advance.

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 5175 days

#3 posted 01-31-2010 05:48 PM

When computing cost you have to figure your time and cost of finish. I think I would be looking at good grade flooring and might even consider mixing a couple of different but similar woods the achieve more modenr, and handmade look.

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View flyingoak's profile


68 posts in 4570 days

#4 posted 01-31-2010 06:52 PM

The only advantage i can see would be the ability to buy over time. you could buy as you can aford it and not really be as worried about getting the same lot.

As an afterthougt, you might be able to pre-finish the pieces before yoiu place it.

-- where is the duct tape.....

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 4831 days

#5 posted 01-31-2010 07:06 PM

Quality plywood has really thin outer veneer, any scratch will be through the veneer and your floor would be ruined. Use engineered flooring and you wont have any problems in the future.

View a1Jim's profile


118321 posts in 5039 days

#6 posted 01-31-2010 07:08 PM

I don’t think Plywood as a finished floor is very durable. If you want inexpensive and a unique look, go with
1 1/8” osb t & g. then put a finish on it. Not any thing I would do. When your building a home You have to think of it’s resale, people always think they will live in the homes they build forever but the national average is
6 – 7 years. Find the money and go with hardwood it’s more money and work but worth it. Sometimes shortcuts don’t pay the cost John.


View jlsmith5963's profile


297 posts in 4810 days

#7 posted 01-31-2010 07:21 PM

There are important differences between engineered hardwood flooring (let alone true hardwood flooring) and plywood. While AllorNoThumbs kitchen looks well done, I would be very concerned about the life cycle of the plywood. Floors receive a lot of abuse that the thinness of a plywood veneer will have trouble standing up to over time. The thinness of the plywood veneer will make it impossible to fix any damage that might occur. Think of it this way, if plywood was a ‘good’ flooring material there would be a plywood flooring products and in reality there are there are call engineered hardwood flooring. There is a reason that those products don’t have as thin of veneers as plywood, because the manufacturer know they won’t hold up.

I would suggest the above is reason enough not to use plywood as flooring but there is also the whole issue of the finish. I would recommend you do some research regarding prefinished flooring so you can understand how a factory finish is much more durable then anything that can be applied in the field.

While the desire to be able to say ‘I did it myself’ is powerful, you don’t want that desire to override the importance of investing (your money and your time) in a project that will stand the test of time. Installing a hardwood floor is a feat that most people will be impressed by and if you install the right product it will look good for years which means you will be able to brag about the install (and how great it continues to look) for years as well.

-- criticism: the art of analyzing and evaluating the quality of an artistic work...

View ZachM's profile


83 posts in 5167 days

#8 posted 01-31-2010 07:41 PM

plywood isn’t going to have a thick enough veneer layer, so you won’t ever be able to refinish it, I don’t see how it could be any cheaper in the long run or the short run. using plywood might be cheaper than solid hardwood, but you can get engineered flooring that is basically plywood anyway pretty cheap when it is on sale or some place like Sam’s club.

if you want to make it yourself, just to have done it, you could always buy some hardwood planks and tongue and groove them yourself.

View Ger21's profile


1100 posts in 4593 days

#9 posted 01-31-2010 07:42 PM

The only hardwood plywood with a thick enough face veneer for flooring is baltic birch, which is about $3 sq/ft.

Finishing a floor is easy once it’s down.

-- Gerry,

View John Steffen's profile

John Steffen

218 posts in 4518 days

#10 posted 01-31-2010 07:47 PM

Thanks everyone for all of the input. Now I know a lot more about plywood, so thinking about this wasn’t a complete waste of my time. And it’s always better to ask than make the mistake of putting the floor down and realizing it’s not what I want.

I’ll be keeping my eyes open for hardwood sales.

-- Big John's Woodshed - Farmington, IL

View crossedout's profile


6 posts in 4515 days

#11 posted 02-17-2010 06:03 AM

I’ve been researching the idea too. Take a look in the forums. There are many examples of them using mdf for finished flooring. Takes some finishing, but could work. One tip I picked up from them is instead of routing T&G, just rough a groove all the way around. Then you can use hardboard strips to Tongue them together.

Do a search for Plywood flooring and MDF flooring there and you’ll get quite a bit of info.

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