Plywood gets a bad rap. Today you’re going to learn how we took some plywood from Home Depot and turned it into beautiful, durable, and affordable flooring.
We recently built a new studio for me (woohoo!) in our backyard, and I’ve been so excited to get to add floors, paint the walls, and decorate. I knew I needed durable floors because I have 2 wonderful little girls and 2 dogs (one is still a puppy!), so these floors were going to be tested. I also wanted something that looked amazing. Since this workshop is where I’ll be creating signs and working on my orders for y’all, it was super important to me that the space was conducive to creativity. What I did not want, however, was to spend a fortune on these floors. So we came up with an idea: plywood floors coated with Fusion Mineral Paint’s Gel Stain! It’s durable, much cheaper, and would look fantastic! I’m excited to show y’all how we accomplished my dream floors. Let’s get started!
What You’ll Need
- Hearing Protection
- Eye Protection
- Liquid Nails Subfloor & Deck Construction Adhesive
- Caulk Gun
- Black or Dark Color Paint (this will show through the wood plank spacing, choose wisely!)
- Installation Spacers (You can purchase spacers or use what you have on-hand! We used paint sticks for the edges and quarters between planks)
- Craftsman Orbital Sander
- 220 Grit Sandpaper
- Ryobi Brad Nailer
- Grip-Rite 1in 18-gauge finish brad nail
- Fusion Mineral Paint Gel Stain & Topcoat in Double Espresso and Patina
- Linzer 5″ brush
- Mineral Spirits
Please make sure to use proper hearing and eye protection when working on this project! Safety glasses and earplugs will help keep you safe.
Getting the Wood Ready
So we took our wood home, and David used the table saw to cut our plywood strips into 6″. We were covering 288 sq ft of space, so this part took quite a while to complete!
After cutting the planks into thinner pieces, we needed to determine how long we wanted the wood planks to be. Since we wanted the plywood to look as close to real wood as possible, we didn’t want the seams to line up. We decided to cut our pieces into three sizes: 4’9″, 2’9.”‘, and 3’9.5″ in length. Since the three boards put together with spacers in-between equaled the exact width of our room, we cut an equal number of each size. The length of the pieces of wood were the dimensions that worked for our 12’ wide space, you will want to make sure you cut your pieces into a size that will fit the width of your room.
Once all the cuts were done, it was time to sand each piece of plywood individually. We wanted a lot of character in the wood (think old house wood flooring), so we choose the side with the most knots and most character. We sanded with our Craftsman Orbital Sander using 220 Grit Sandpaper. Every board was sanded until it was smooth to the touch. We also made sure to bevel the edges and sand down any knots to be sure we wouldn’t stub our toes walking on this floor!
Prepping the Sub-Floor
The subfloor was placed before we started this project. However, we knew our subfloor color would be slightly visible through the spaces between the planks of plywood, and we didn’t want to have to worry about staining in all the little grooves, so we decided to paint the subfloor. It needed to be a dark enough color, almost shadow-like, so we chose black. Since we knew we would be placing trim on the floors once we were completely done, we were able to paint the entire subfloor right up to the edges of the wall with a paint roller without having to worry too much. We waited for the paint to dry overnight before laying the plywood planks.
Laying the Floor Down
Since we had three different sizes that equaled the exact width of our floor (I highly recommend this as it made install super easy and no need for additional cuts), that gave us three different rows before repeating the pattern. We laid them out like this:
First row: a medium (3 ft 9.5 inches), a large (4 ft 9 inches), and a small (2 ft 9 inches) piece.
Second row: a large, a small, and a medium piece.
Third row: a small, a medium, and a large piece.
We installed the planks in this repeated pattern until the entire room was covered!
We used paint sticks as spacers between the plywood planks and the wall. In between the pieces of wood, we used quarters to ensure none of the wood touched. Each row was laid out one at a time to make sure the spacing was right before attaching the row of planks.
To attach each plank, we used a squiggly line of Liquid Nails. Then we secured each plank with 1″ brad nails in each corner, and one in the middle (depending on the size of the plank, you might need a second nail in the middle of the plank). Again, it is super important to do this one plank at a time and start on one side of the room and work your way to the other to make sure that the next plank’s edges line up before gluing and nailing.
Cleaning & Staining the Floor
Once the floor was all placed, we swept…and swept again! You want a dust-free clean environment when applying gel stain, so don’t be shy with your broom! Our shop vac has seen better days and we were not able to use it, but if we could have, we would have used that as well for added measure.
We used mineral spirits to dilute the first coat of Fusion Mineral Paint’s Gel Stain and Topcoat in the Double Espresso by 20%, so 1-part mineral spirits and 4-parts Gel Stain. We did this because Gel Stain is very thick, and for our first coat we wanted it to not clump and act more as a stain.
Make sure your dilution is measured. The first time I diluted the Gel Stain, I eyeballed it. When it was time to mix more, my ratio was not the same, which resulted in a lighter stain. I had to go over those lighter parts twice to darken those areas so they would blend in. Learn from my mistake and measure for consistency.
We worked in rows staining one plywood plank at a time with Fusion Mineral Paint’s Gel Stain and Topcoat. Unlike other gel stains that you wipe on, Fusion’s Gel Stain is brushed on. And there is no need to remove the excess! Instead, you even it out with the brush. We used a 5″ brush to apply it, and it was super easy. When you apply pressure to the brush, it covers an entire 6″ plank in one swoop. This brush was a lifesaver! Having the right tools for the job is so crucial. When you’re using Gel Stain, don’t go back and forth a lot as this will cause it to clump up. You want to start on one side of the plywood and gently brush the Gel Stain on across the entire plank. You will need to be sure to mix it periodically.
If you’re going to stop to take a break (or if you are staining strategically to “work your way out of the room”), make sure you finish staining the entire row you’re currently working on. We stopped halfway through a row several times and when we went back to continue staining the row, it wasn’t easy to blend where we had left off.
We waited until the next day before doing the second coat. For the second coat, we used 100% Gel Stain (NOT diluted with mineral spirits) in Patina, a clear gel stain, for added durability to our plywood floors. If you want your floors darker, you can always do a second coat of the Double Espresso, but we were pleased with the color after one diluted coat.
That’s it! Now we have gorgeous plywood floors. We are three weeks in (with furniture, two dogs, and two kids who think the floor is a drum), and the new floor is holding up wonderfully. I am so pleased with the results. The last thing you want after so much work is to have a scuffed up floor. I would have had to use half a dozen coats of a standard floor sealer to get the durability that Fusion’s Gel Stain and Topcoat achieved in 2 coats!
It was a labor of love but not nearly as bad as we expected and well worth the money that we saved! We spent a little less than $300, which is barely over $1.00 per sq ft. I would say that’s winning! And everyone is always so surprised when I tell them it’s plywood which is a nice bonus!
Let us know if you try these DIY plywood floors, and make sure to tag us in your photos for a chance to be featured on our social media pages. Until next time y’all!
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