DIY Wide-Plank Floors (Made from Plywood!)

I really wanted old-looking white floors for our new studio space. I actually saw some interesting, beat-up knotty oak at Lumber Liquidators for a little more than a dollar per square foot, which is practically highway robbery when it comes to wood flooring prices. But it was only about 2" wide and after laying all that tongue-and-groove flooring on the other side of our house this year, I decided to think outside the box and figure out a way to get wide-plank wood flooring to go in the studio for way, way less.

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Then I did the thing that I sometimes do, where I'm convinced I just invented some incredible new DIY and then I google the idea and there are already a dozen tutorials up on the interwebs for my idea that felt so original and unique only five seconds before! (Sadness ensues). Seriously though, are there any new ideas in the universe? Maybe one day I will finally come up with something revolutionary, but for today, here's my version of plywood wide-plank floors.
So there's this really cool event space in Manhattan called Gary's Loft that companies love to host parties at. One of the spaces is big and open and all white, with gorgeous, gappy wide-plank white wood floors. I loved going to parties at Gary's.

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When I was planning my approach to the DIY, I had those gorgeous floors in mind. They were perfectly imperfect and all worn and full of character. I had the thought that cutting down and using plywood as the planks could achieve a similar, and even more rustic (in a good way) look. So I headed to the lumber section at my local Home Depot and found just the right plywood. It's almost a half-inch thick and one side is more finished than the other.

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Plywood sheets are 4x8', which is 32 square feet. We needed to install about 800 square feet of flooring up in the studio space with the attached bedroom and balcony. Which meant we needed about 25 sheets of plywood. At less than $18 per sheet, my price per square foot came in at about 50 cents, which is complete insanity!

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So, I found the plywood I wanted, took a photo of the price tag, and walked up to the customer service desk. I placed an order for 25 sheets and I asked for each sheet to be cut down into 8" planks, lengthwise (which meant there was no waste - exactly six planks from each sheet). I'll admit that I did get a few funny looks, but for the most part everyone at Home Depot was incredibly nice and accomodating, given the huge ask. I was more than prepared to pay 10 or even 25 cents per cut, like one of the guys in the lumber department suggested they might charge me at the order desk. I think I paid for cuts when I did the wall planking project in our mudroom, but this time there was no charge for all those cuts! I'm pretty sure it was because I was really flexible on timing and let them take as long as they wanted to get the order finished. And even then, it was less than 24 hours before they called to tell me my planks were ready to be picked up.

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We borrowed a truck from my kind brother in law and he and the Home Depot guys helped us load up the 25 sheets of cut wood. The tricky part was then getting all the wood upstairs! These amazing gloves practically never left my hands during the two or so days I was installing the planks and moving them around. The gloves are thin, but really durable and they grip so well that you almost forget you're wearing gloves at all. They're my favorite brand I've used so far.

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Once we had all the carpet removed and all the wood planks upstairs to the back porch, it was time to start the only tedious part of this project: all the sanding. It was actually pretty easy work, but it just took some time (actually about a minute and a half or two per plank, which really adds up). I asked Heather to sand while I was installing the planks, and usually the timing worked out well and we were able to keep a good pace.

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This new orbital sander has changed my LIFE. You guys, what have I been doing with my dorky little Mouse sander for all these years?! Orbital is where it's at. Worth every last penny.

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I bought a couple packages of the bulk 50-count course/removal sanding pads and they really worked fast on any rough parts or spray painted markings or splinters on the plywood planks. It worked out best to change the sanding pad every three or four planks. And I didn't worry about getting every imperfection off - you're just going for the obvious parts that look bad or like they could hurt a bare foot. We also sanded down the perimeter of every plank so that the edges were sort of beveled. I think this step made a huge difference in helping the planks look like they're not just cut down plywood pieces.

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The installing part was so easy, especially when there weren't additional cuts needed. You'll want to start on the longest, straightest wall you have. Don't start on a wall that requires a lot of cuts and notching out - your lines will get messy and crooked really fast. If you start your installation on a long, straight wall and just focus on maintaining even spacing, the planks will look great. You can use a ruler or t-square to help with spacing, but I felt comfortable eyeing it.

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To lay the wood down, I first squiggled on to the back side of the planks a line of Subfloor Liquid Nails (in the big contractor size, using the oversized caulking gun). I went through at least a dozen of these tubes of glue - you'll need a lot of it!

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Then you place the plank down and step on it to help spread the glue before nailing it in place. I have this angled finish nailer (which is also great for installing moulding) and I really, really love it. I have a battery-operated brad gun too and there is just no comparison to the pneumatic nailers. It's so worth buying an air compressor, or even just renting one and a nailer for the day from Home Depot or Lowes.

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I nailed a brad in every 8-10 inches along both sides of every plank. I didn't fill the nail holes either in the end to help the wood look more like old planks.

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You'll want a couple of different saws on hand to help with the cutting. I found a miter saw was the easiest and most exact way to cut down the planks shorter. My saw isn't big enough to cut through a whole plank clean, so I had to cut and then flip the board and cut again. My saw has a laser though, so it was easy to line things up and get an exactly flush cut the second time. It goes faster than you'd guess.

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I love an excuse to use my Dremel Saw-Max and it worked SO well with this project. Any time I needed to notch out part of a plank, I could just zip around with this little guy.

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If you don't have a Dremel, a regular old circular saw and a coping saw will work really well. I ended up using all of these saws at different points. The closets and our spiral stairs made for some tricky angles.

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The floor went down really fast though, especially when we got past all the cuts and on to the straight laying. Just like with other flooring, you'll want to stagger the seams and throw in some shortened planks for every two or three full-length planks, just for variation.

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You'll find that not all the planks will be exactly 8" wide, which isn't a big deal if you are going for a sort of gappy look like I was. I shot for a gap of between 1/32" and 1/8", though there are some full 1/4" gaps in some places. I ended up really loving the variation there. It gives the floor a lot of character.

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When the wood was all installed, I wanted to get everything painted and sealed asap, so the raw, freshly sanded plywood wouldn't get dingy. I painted a few sample planks and I decided I wanted to be able to see a lot of the graining and knots in the planks, so I went for a more white-washed look over an opaque, painted look. I mixed one part water-based primer with two parts water in a big bucket - and it was pretty watery, but I knew it would look right in the end. I used primer because I wanted a chalky, limed look underneath the sealer.

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Heather and Ali and I rolled on the first coat together in about 15 minutes. Painting floors goes so fast for some reason! You can be really sloppy with this first coat, too, so that the paint drips down the sides of the planks.

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The second coat smoothed out the color a lot. I tried to paint plank by plank to minimize roller marks (the roller was about the same width as the wood). 

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The extension poles make it a super fast and easy job.

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This was just after rolling on the second coat of the primer mixture. It looked pretty pink to me, but I think a lot of that was the khaki wall color reflecting down.

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The poly I used to seal the planks ended up changing the color a little too, even though it said it was a clear formula. It has some brown to it, which I ended up actually really loving. It made the floors a really pretty, creamy ivory color with gray undertones.

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Once the walls were painted bright white, the more muted floor color was exactly perfect. I don't think a pure white would have been right for the floors in here. I love the tone-on-tone look so much more.

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The semi-gloss sheen of the poly is really pretty and it's holding up really well so far. There are a few places I missed and need to touch up, but that's an easy fix.

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We haven't even started decorating in here yet, but I LOVE how bright the space feels now! Remember how dark it was just a few short weeks ago?

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The floors have completely changed the way I feel about this space! Instant character!

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And at only 50 cents a square foot for the plywood, it's hard to find things to complain about. It's a great look, especially for the price.

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The studio is becoming a really lovely place to get work done and I know it will be perfect for photographing projects for the blog and book. We get great light in here all hours of the day and all the shades of white make the room just glow. :)

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Now, on to the decorating!

117 comments:

piia said...

such a happy working space. and all the sunlight and green outside. but we're getting there. spring has almost arrived in germany. you and your sister did a wounderful job!

Unknown said...

Wow! You are a super woman. I honestly feel there is nothing that you couldn't do. Good on you. L from Sydney

Claire said...

Stunning!

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. Readable instructions that aren't too technical and don't blather on, and there are plenty of high quality pics. I wish every diy post was exactly like this.

Catherine said...

You constantly amaze me with all that you can do! It looks AMAZING!

Dana Frieling said...

I bet you intimidate most men with your tool talk! ha! They turned out great, Jenny.

Sarahmia said...

I think these look great! :) What happens if you decide down the line that you want to change them tho?

Would you be able to get them up since they're now glued down or would you just put another floor on top? :)

Nancy {at} powellbrower at home said...

Home Run, huge, home run Jenny! It is insane how great these look. I love your bright sunny space.
xo Nancy

Kathie said...

Your floor is wonderful. I did something similar several years ago except we used 5/8 inch MDF with champfered the edges in my 1860s farm house living room. I also painted my floor with a polyurethane paint that Benjamin Moore used to make, but it's on longer available in my state. It could be colored to match any of BMs colors and I chose a shade of white slightly different from my trim color. It has held up well to dogs and furniture moving and day-to-day living.
Congratulations on a beautiful job.

Ashley@Biggerthanthethreeofus said...

This looks amazing! I'm constantly wowed by what you do!

the surznick common room said...

This looks so good! Your projects make me long for the days when I'm no longer a renter!

Thanks so much for sharing.

Sarah
thesurznickcommonroom.blogspot.com

Sarah said...

Amazing! I can't wait to own a house someday so I can try all of these wonderful projects! Excited to see it all decorated!

Annie E. said...

Your 'can-do' attitude is inspiring. Teaches me not to fret the small things! This turned out just lovely, so fresh and unique.

Anne Marie's mommy said...

WOW!!! What a transformation. Your studio space is going to be amazing - and how nice that it is somewhat separated from the main part of the house. I would love to be able to keep all of my in-progress projects out to work on, instead of having to put them away or let visitors be appalled at my mess. :)

Denise Greenwood said...

Love this so much, and you make it look so easy!! Thanks for sharing :)

Tyesha Turner said...

I love this so much! I never thought of using plywood for this...it's perfect! I may use this technique in my master bedroom makeover.

Shell said...

Looks sooo good!!!! Excellent idea Jenny!

kate@willowinteriors said...

I can't get over how bright it is!! Love these floors!

Kelli @ Life at 818 said...

wow. you blow me away! this is completely awesome. that space is insane. can't wait to see the rest of the decorating..

Jennifer @ Dimples and Tangles said...

Those are really, really pretty! We just finished a wood plank wall, and it was so much easier than I expected, so I'm sure this process would be very doable, once you work around the cut-outs like you said. One question, what would you recommend if our floors are concrete? Can't nail into that... ;) Just gluing them down?

Kim said...

This looks so amazing! It makes me wish I had my own place to try this DIY on!

Luisa said...

I am in utter awe of you!

G said...

Any idea how to attach these same planks to concrete floors? This is so fantastic that I just can't even!

Kimberly Hannon said...

Oh my gosh jenny, this is absolutely beautiful!!!! I am in love with the look and the ease of execution. Its a job you can do without a man (I love those :)Thank you so much for the inspiration. I also love seeing your desk, and old dinning chairs together. plus those couches really are a show stopper. This is going to be one of your best spaces, and that is saying a lot!

Kara said...

Jenny. Real talk. This is the third time you've made my jaw drop since you moved to AZ. (1. Laundry room, 2. staircase paint job) It's completely gorgeous and refreshing, but also an absolutely Herculean effort.

Also, I love the sofas so, so much.

Elizabeth said...

Jenny,
The floors look fabulous! Great tutorial. Your office is such a fantastic space that will be a great place of inspiration for all your projects!
Can't wait to see how you decorate it!

Betsy
West of the Square Designs

christa said...

Jenny, I am totally in love with your brain. Hope that only registers like a 2 on the creepy scale. You just have the most wonderful ideas. Is there any way you would consider doing this in a house with a pool? I am so tired of the builder grade tile everywhere. I wonder how protective the poly would be against little chlorine drips here and there.

christa said...

Jenny, I am totally in love with your brain. Hope that only registers like a 2 on the creepy scale. You just have the most wonderful ideas. Is there any way you would consider doing this in a house with a pool? I am so tired of the builder grade tile everywhere. I wonder how protective the poly would be against little chlorine drips here and there.

christa said...

Jenny, I am totally in love with your brain. Hope that only registers like a 2 on the creepy scale. You just have the most wonderful ideas. Is there any way you would consider doing this in a house with a pool? I am so tired of the builder grade tile everywhere. I wonder how protective the poly would be against little chlorine drips here and there.

My Interior Life said...

Looks amazing already even without your decorating in full force. The finished space will be off the charts. This is quite ambitious, and while you make it sound easy, I know it was a labor of love. Bravo!

Laney Reusch / Reusch Interior Design said...

Wow! So great!!!! I would love that space to work in!

Kackie said...

In awe! Sooooo great, Jenny!!!

AviLynn said...

Wow! This space is huge, but it looks so much bigger now. I'm in love with it! You're amazing!

Suzanne Tate said...

Simply gorgeous!!!!
Suzanne @Sprinkled Nest

Molly Reese-Lerner said...

This looks SO great! I love reading about your meatier DIY projects; what a lovely way to start my Thursday morning! I'll probably be back to read this four or five more times. Ha!

Stephanie said...

Wow that does look good! I too wonder if there is an original idea out there any more. I think you have the best original ideas than most though. Love how this room is coming together. Your tutorial is amazingly easy to follow, maybe some day I will do this or encourage someone else to!

Jane Durham said...

you are just the best!

Mrs. Ward said...

You are the bomb! What a great idea. I will still credit you with the plywood floor idea. you did it with your own flair - that's what folks will really remember!

Kelsey said...

I shoot my show at Gary's Loft on the 3rd floor! Such a cool spot and the floors look great!!!

HannahJ said...

Brilliant Inspiring Fresh Perfection- you are fabulous, as is this floor!!

angela | the painted house said...

Turned out perfect! And those sofas...sigh.

Amber said...

It looks awesome!

Sarah said...

I don't care if yours weren't the first plywood floor, your floor looks GORGEOUS! I'm loving it and can't wait to see what else you will come up with in there.

Sarah Cannon said...

You are back with a vengeance, Jenny! I love this. You just make everything seem so do-able. I'm so happy that you have you own space now. That will make such a huge difference!
Also, thank you so much for sending me the link for the Minerva Teichert painting! The colors and everything about it really are fantastic.

Sarah-Marie said...

love, love, love!! My hubby and I were just discussing this option for our family/play room...now I have pics to show him how AWESOME it will turn out! thanks, love your blog!!

Camila said...

Love them! Still crazy jealous over those amazing sofa's you got for a steal. Can't wait to see it all finished!

Sarah said...

p.s. Could you PLEASE do a follow up post on how they hold up? (In 6, 12, 18 months, whatever.) I just think they look so great and the price is amazing, I just worry that plywood punctures and dents so much more easily than hard wood it makes me hesitant to go for it, although the area I'm considering is a much higher traffic than your studio will probably be.

Celeste said...

This space is going to be amazing to work in!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

These look great. I have painted floors in my upstairs, but I like these so much better! Great job!

xo

Sheila

4monkeys said...

wow! what an amazing space!! Love the floors who would have thought, you make it look so easy!

4monkeys said...

wow! what an amazing space!! Love the floors who would have thought, you make it look so easy!

Sarah said...

LOVE it.

Mariana said...

Beautiful!! Love all the tonal and textural variations.

How does the plywood feel to walk on? Do you notice a difference compared to hardwood or pine floors?

Jen @ RamblingRenovators said...

There might be other tutorials out there Jenny, but nobody does it with your panache and style. The room looks fantastic. You ladies did an incredible job - again!

Erin said...

It's SO good. SO GOOD!!

Erin said...

You are such an inspiration! It looks great. Thank you for sharing. I also love seeing your furniture looking amazing in different homes. I live in a rental and it makes me feel better about buying nice furniture!

alexis said...

Totally in awe. I can't wait for you book!

Unknown said...

wow. the floors look amazing! question, i recently moved into a place with unfinished pine tongue and groove on all the walls! i can't wait to paint it and originally i was going to do a white opaque look but i am loving the white wash look here. would you recommend that on a wall or would it be too busy?

TheresaG said...

I am IN LOVE with this floor! Only wish I had a space like yours to do the same thing. Fabulous job!!!

Stacy Buckeye said...

I too am wondering how this would hold up in a higher traffic area such as a living room. This is a brilliant idea! I would have never had the nerve to go for it. Also..... should one change their mind would it be a nightmare to floor over or un-install!

You are brilliant and the space is stunning even without decorations!

House of Pemberley said...

WOW! It looks outstanding. Great job, as always!

Brittany Cramer said...

obsessed with how these floors turned out! you really have an eye my friend :) i'd love to hear about what you did for the moulding/trim, since you obviously upgraded/fixed it since the installation of the plywood floors. any go-to suggestions?

Jen@roadtripcreative.com said...

Very cool! I live in AZ as well and have a quick question. Did you or would you need to let these planks "breathe" or get acclimated in the space before laying? Or no. I know I've always heard this with wood floors so I thought I'd ask. Thanks!!

Ceci Bean said...

I never knew I could be envious of someone's plywood floors! These a beautiful and the price is so right!

Sarah @ 702 Park Project said...

This is genius!! Why don't more of us do this? It looks amazing! I'm so impressed.

Zoe Royall said...

I meeeaaaaannnnnnn......amazing! And you know what else is amazing? Those Brunschwig/Henredon settees with the Scalamandre le tigre Eames office chairs. It's like my head exploded a little when I saw those in the same room. With wide plank white washed floors. Just get. out. of. town!!!!!

Brett and Sydnie said...

Amazing! You have such great ideas (even if you feel like they aren't original) and you execute everything flawlessly. Glad to see you back in the swing of things and killing it!

Holly said...

Amen.

BARBARA :D said...

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Nailed it!

Christa Tubach said...

Gorgeous! This came out beautifully, can't wait to see it decorated!

xo
Christa
www.gardeniasandmint.wordpress.com

Angela said...

perfect restraint in the finish. you have such class! I want to move in there!

Sweet tooth said...

I am just astounded with how unconventional your design ideas are and the outcomes are spectacular. If I told someone I was going to put plywood flooring in my house I feel like I would get crazy looks. You do it and it looks stunning. I can't wait to see how you arrange finish designing the room. Great job! xoxo

Anne {Almost Home} said...

So impressed! This looks great!! And I sure do love that pair of sofas...

Sara Lorton said...

It looks amazing! And I think you may be right about the orbital sander...I need to upgrade :)

Chrissy said...

LOVE IT ALL! & super love that pic of Gary's, what a great space. what a great transformation & inspiring office space, Jenny!

Janet said...

This is such a serendipitous post! I was thinking just today of doing this version of a 'cheaper' floor in our main living space and wondered about cost and how to do it - and here we have it! I discovered your blog just last month and wish I'd been tuned in a little sooner(especially back in '09 when Domino left us). It's been so inspirational to go through your archives and see all the incredible things you've done! Now I just have to get up and DO!

Janet said...
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Janet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janet said...
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Janet said...

Sorry, my comments posted multiple times, so I deleted them!

Arielle Prangner said...

Jenny, this is incredible, as always. I have 4 sisters, and I always enlist them in my projects, so I love hearing about you and your sisters working together to do these fantastic things. Beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Floors are gorgeous! Great idea. Would you mind sharing the WALL paint color? Finding a great white is tricky!

Amy Davis said...

Looks great.
I am wondering how you will clean these floors?

Anonymous said...

Do you worry about mold or warping , since you did not use a vapor barrier? Hope no coffee gets spilled or doggie accident happen.

Ann + Robert said...

Looks great!! So fresh and bright!

Lauren Elizabeth Dougherty said...

Wow! This is LEGIT DIY. I feel like I am a pretty capable do it yourselfer until I hear you talk about all the different power tools with such familiarity. And then I realize I know nothing :). I know there is more decorating to be done, but I really like the starkness of it. It looks intentional, very cool, and really compliments the ruggedness of the floors!

JTay said...

I love this. That is all.

Kyla said...

This is just incredible. It's a room full of sunshine and rainbows! It's wonderful even in this simple state, but I am so excited to see how you will decorate it.

jennifer said...

Your floors look great. I love the matching sofas in the room too. Since you have started out with painted floors, I think they will last. It seems that when you have stained flooring and then try to paint them, the paint doesn't adhere. I am a huge fan of renting the Home Depot truck for my Craigslist runs. For $19.95, you can't beat it!

Lauren Jackson said...

This is beautiful! Do you think this application would be appropriate for a kitchen? Do you know of a paint that would also be water resistant in such a space?

Melissa@TheChicDream said...

I can't tell you how much I look forward to your posts. I always play it safe with my design but I am trying to add a some spunk to our home this time around. You have been a great inspiration. The floors look amazing and the room is spectacular. What a wonderful space to work.

Blair Wilson said...

ah-mah-zing job jenny. thanks for such an inspiring post. good luck on your book! i look forward to buying my own copy!

ADJerkins said...

You did it again! The floors look amazing but I still can't get over those sofas. So beautiful. That fabric is to die for. Can't wait to see the studio come together. Wonderful work!

Preparing for Peanut said...

Wow, what an amazing look you've got going on! Love it. I actually just finished a plank wall in our master bath and had the same width variance issue so our gaps aren't all even either. No one else has really mentioned this problem (I'll be addressing it on my blog Monday) so I thought it was just me! Nice to know I'm not the only one. We actually really like the more random feel to the planks. More rustic!
Thanks for sharing!

Robyn said...

You actually make this sound so uncomplicated and doable!!! And I cannot believe the price! I wonder if I can convince my husband that we can do this.

Nine Red said...

Absolutely stunning!

Angie said...

It looks amazing all done! You're amazing.

Bonnie said...

I want to do this so badly but can't get hubby on board yet. Maybe this will convince him.

nicole said...

You. Are. Crazy. AMAZING! I'm not sure if you'll get around to reading this comment, but do you have any tips on how to have patience in these kind of projects? Though I have the time and energy, I have such a hard time not getting distracted/bored/frustrated!!! You are a wonder woman, girl. Such an inspiration!

Aimee said...

I would also love to know the wall color! Is it chantilly lace like the rest of the trim in your house?

Anonymous said...

this one really blew me away (into outer space). i can't believe how much you can carry such a vision and do it yourself from scratch. and i love how dorky excited you get about your tools. instead of gushing about spending extra money on a shu umera lash curler you endorse power tool. i love coming here and reading your latest reno. you totally rule!

becca said...

Completely amazing!!! I love the way this turned out. I hope one day to have the guts to try some of the cool things you do!

Caroline Nolazco said...

Holy craziness! I've seen it on pinterest before but I didn't realize it could look so good! Love that you didn't go all white either. It keeps more character.

Noelle said...

You may not be the first, but you always do it best!!!

Anonymous said...

Your floor look beautiful. But I'm curious. It doesn't look like you used any underlay. Won't it be very noisy?

L Anderson said...

I am so excited to try this in a beach house. Perfect solution to replace uuuuuggggly carpet and even uglier vinyl! Thanks for the easy to follow directions! I'm guessing your subfloors were in pretty good shape?

L Anderson said...

I am so excited to try this in a beach house. Perfect solution to replace uuuuuggggly carpet and even uglier vinyl! Thanks for the easy to follow directions! I'm guessing your subfloors were in pretty good shape?

Yuko Jones said...

Wow, this looks AMAZING! I LOVE the rustic modern tone-on-tone look! You are very creative, Jenny. You may not be the first one who came up with this idea. But it's important you put your own spin on the idea and share it here, so a reader like me can benefit form your creativity. Thanks for sharing! ox
Yuko @ northfield gate

Melea Moore said...

Fabulous. Elbow grease pays big.

Jane said...
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nestandnestability said...

The difference is pretty astonishing! A fair bit of elbow grease but an incredible result. Well done :)

Tracy Laverty said...

This room is simply amazing! Great job on the floors. What an inspiration.

Andrew Smith said...

Your floor is really wonderful .I love it.
OSR GROUP

Stephanie said...

I actually have three bedrooms that need the carpeting replaced and I'd much rather have wood flooring. It looks like this would be a cheaper option (even if I'm pulling up existing hardwood flooring so that it all matches). My house is on concrete, though, no subfloor. How would you suggest doing this? Would just lots of glue be OK?

RETROSMITH. said...

Oh my goodness Jenny, this looks fantastic! We have been doing a couple of projects with ply that we're about to stain dark for the same grain effect, but now you've got me looking for something we can do with white! Absolutely love the grey tones that come through. Next house perhaps we may be laying plywood floors throughout! You're an inspiration, as always :)

thehappycasa said...

I am soo impressed with this I will be studying it again to get cracking on a couple of floors we need replacing in our house!! well done you!! amazing work!

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