protection for plywood shop floor?

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Forum topic by BlasterStumps posted 02-19-2020 09:46 PM 1597 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2012 posts in 1555 days

02-19-2020 09:46 PM

Sorry if I am posting this is in the wrong forum. Didn’t really know where it fits.

I am just about to the point in my new workshop of putting down the plywood flooring. Actually it will just be finished one side plywood from the big box store which, I will put over the cdx plywood subfloor.. However, I am unsure about whether to put a protective coating on it or just leave it as is. I am mostly concerned about protecting the sanded plywood from snow or otherwise wet shoes coming in, or the occasional spill. I have read different recommendations online but, the question I have is what product is safe for inside use and what about off gassing or oily vapors, etc. I’m hoping someone on the forums here will have had experience on this that they would share. Thanks in advance to anyone who would offer some info on this.

I just finished texturing the walls, now on to paint then the plywood flooring:

-- "I build for function first, looks second. Most times I never get around to looks." MIke in CO

23 replies so far

View CWWoodworking's profile


1873 posts in 1295 days

#1 posted 02-19-2020 10:53 PM

I would use commercial carpet squares, with a section left plywood for finishing.

When they wear out or get stained, just take up that square and replace. Comfy on the feet.

View pottz's profile


17509 posts in 2100 days

#2 posted 02-19-2020 11:03 PM

textured walls wow,elegance! if your concerned about wet conditions id just seal the floor with something like thompsons water seal,that should protect it mentions carpet squares which i used to find totally impractical but after talking to a few guys here that have done it they say it works great and it’s easy on the feet.something to consider? hey anything is better than the hard concrete i walk on all day.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View BlasterStumps's profile


2012 posts in 1555 days

#3 posted 02-19-2020 11:14 PM

Thanks guys for the info on carpet squares. Had not thought of that.

I had to texture the walls to try to hide my crappy taping job : )

-- "I build for function first, looks second. Most times I never get around to looks." MIke in CO

View clin's profile


1128 posts in 2112 days

#4 posted 02-19-2020 11:33 PM

Carpet of any sort may be a dust issue. Even if kept vacuumed, I suspect a lot of fine dust would get stuck in it and kicked up when you walk around and present a possible health risk. Also might create problems when applying finishes to projects. That would be a concern for me and I would look into that.

I would look to finish the plywood as you might a hardwood floor. Maybe not as many coats and attention to detail. I’d also pay some attention to the final finish. You don’t want anything too smooth that would get slippery with saw dust on it.

Aside from protecting the floor, it will be easier to clean up spills and sweep up saw dust if it has some sort of finish on it.

I just took a quick look, and Lowes carries a Minwax product called Ultimate Floor Finish that is a water based poly finish. That’s the type of thing I would look to use.

Apparently you have outside access and have concerns about tracking in mud and such. Like any room, I’d put an entry mat down for wiping your feet. Then it shouldn’t be a big deal. And heck, if after a few years some of it gets ruined, pull it up and throw a new piece of ply down.

-- Clin

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2012 posts in 1555 days

#5 posted 02-20-2020 12:00 AM

Thanks Clin. Some good thoughts for sure. My wife and I were just discussing the dust issue with carpet. Not sure if it would vacuum out enough. Never tried it so don’t really know.

I like the poly finish idea. Might look into that more. I built a little porch/step/landing just outside the single door and it will have a mat but also have a mat for just inside. Snow still gets tracked in however, May need a brush type mat.

Anyway, some good thoughts. Thank you.

-- "I build for function first, looks second. Most times I never get around to looks." MIke in CO

View LesB's profile


3010 posts in 4559 days

#6 posted 02-20-2020 12:16 AM

A good quality floor paint would do the job and could be recoated as needed. Thompson’s water seal is about as good as Psssss on the floor; it doesn’t really seal well and provides no wear protection. If you want to keep the wood look try some varathane floor finish. Water based will have fewer odors and fumes. It seals and wears quite well. Two or three coats suggested. Final though is a exterior deck sealer. It too comes in water base, seals well, can be colored (clear or opaque) and on the interior it will last for many years…..outside about 2 years.

-- Les B, Oregon

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Craftsman on the lake

3864 posts in 4553 days

#7 posted 02-20-2020 12:21 AM

My shop has had a coating of light grey water based porch and deck paint. It’s not like the oil based stuff we used to use years ago that used to lift and we’d have to scrape it off to refinish it. This stuff sticks and doesn’t separate from the floor. I’ve had mine on for 15 yrs and it’s banged up a bit but has held up amazingly well. When I scrap stuff across it it doesn’t scratch. It’s over a double layer of particle board.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View TravisH's profile


772 posts in 3051 days

#8 posted 02-20-2020 12:36 AM

Going on 20 years with 3/4 ply slapped down on floor joists in my shop. Has held up just fine and in an less than ideal situation in my non climate controlled shop (sub zero to above 100).

Whoever built the shop did a really poor job in many aspects. It sits in lower area of the yard, they sloped the runoff towards the shop doors, used 4×4 set on the ground as footers, and initially laid the floor joists directly on the ground (untreated). When we moved in the first summer I ripped what was left of the floor out and used joist hangers to get a some clearance from the soil. I had portions the shop flood during heavy rains every other year or so initially because water flowed under the doors due to how they had sloped everything to drain to the front of the shop. I actually drilled 1/4 inch holes in the floor to get water to drain out of the shop. Re did the drainage and have had no issues in the past 15 years. So not the greatest situation or care was taken.

I have a few areas near the door where the a layer of the ply delaminated (but was soaked multiple times). I ended up just knocking using a hammer and pry bar and peeling those areas out. Other than that still flat and sound. I routinely track snow and some dirt into the shop and just sweep it back out once I get in there. So overall wasn’t built right and has had its issues. Pics show damage near door then overall condition of the floor. I am sure if I had water sealed it would be basically as good as new.

View mike02719's profile


303 posts in 4902 days

#9 posted 02-20-2020 12:57 AM

In 1995 I put 3/4” ply over 2×3’s laid on their side. 1” foam insulation. Two coats of good floor paint and it was repainted in 2019. My shop is used almost daily and has withstood spills, engine overhauls, minor flooding, lathe gyrations from unbalanced blanks and still is in great condition. I see no need for a subfloor. I do think using construction adhesive is a good idea on the 2×3’s. My location is in New England and the shop endures severe temperature swings. The walls are waferboard, painted two coats and are also in perfect condition. My advice is do it and go to work.

-- Mike, Massachusetts

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3008 posts in 2092 days

#10 posted 02-20-2020 01:03 AM

How about some of that inexpensive laminate flooring? Easy to clean up and gives a little cushion.

View Mr_Pink's profile


197 posts in 1487 days

#11 posted 02-20-2020 01:32 AM

Horse stall mats are another option. They are durable, provide a nice surface to work on and are designed to deal with frequent “spills”.

View BlasterStumps's profile


2012 posts in 1555 days

#12 posted 02-20-2020 04:09 AM

Really good comments guys, thank you all. Gives me a lot to think about.

LesB, I’m going to look into the varathane. Seems a good product.

Craftsman, I had thought about porch paint but need to put some better ply down or it would look not too good.

TravisH, thanks for sharing the shop pictures and experiences you have had there. Nice post and nice looking shop. By the looks of things, you are man after my own heart.
Can’t wait until I can start to spread out a few things in this new building. Still quite a bit to do yet between now and then.

Mike, I appreciate your sharing the history on your shop and the advice. I have been putting one foot in front of the other practically every day with the idea in mind to get this project to advance a little every day. All the little steps are starting to look like I might just get there soon.

corelZ125, We have actually looked at a lot of laminate and Vinyl plank. It comes to a little more money than what I have in mind to spend on the floor. Still could be an option though. Dang, if the builder of the building would have just used a little better ply I wouldn’t even be looking at a different surface but it is not good stuff on there.

Mr-Pink, cool idea on the mats. I’ll have to check them out. Not sure what they look like or what they are made of. All ideas are worth considering though so I will do some searches.

Thanks again all. I very much appreciate the suggestions, comments and advice.

-- "I build for function first, looks second. Most times I never get around to looks." MIke in CO

View WoodenDreams's profile


1315 posts in 1027 days

#13 posted 02-20-2020 04:19 AM

I have some conveyor belting on two sides of my work bench they’re available up to 6’ wide and they cut to any length you need. But not cheap unless you can get some discarded one’s replaced from coal mines, steel mines or business plants that use conveyor belt system. The one I got new is 1/2” thick, cut to 24” wide in a 30’ length roll. Cost me wholesale $230 20 years ago. I cut them to length and put them under two 24×48 work benches to protect the floor from the metal legs. lined my pick-up bed floor with them, and remainder on two sides of a work bench. drop and chisel, knife or metal object on it and you don’t have to worry about a damaged floor or tool tip. rest of the shop has the 2’ square foam mats in the standing work areas.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17360 posts in 3734 days

#14 posted 02-20-2020 04:30 AM

I second (third?) the suggestion of varathane coating.

Wears great, looks great. And that’s on soft pine in my shop; much softer than plywood.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

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2012 posts in 1555 days

#15 posted 02-20-2020 08:54 PM

Great picture of your work area Smitty_,

yes, I am thinking the Varathane is a good choice, especially since it looks like plywood will be what I go with.

-- "I build for function first, looks second. Most times I never get around to looks." MIke in CO

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