Thursday, July 23, 2015

Plywood Floor Experiment

Plywood Floor Experiment - deeAuvil Blog

When I decided to put a new floor in the first thing I did was to go to a hardware store and get samples of flooring. I was really shocked. There was one group of samples that were true hardwood and that was obvious and expensive (7.19 a square foot) and then there is a whole other group of flooring that is called "hardwood" but is actually a very thin veneer of wood over something that looks like MDF to me. It is probably not MDF and it may be more water-proof than MDF, but I am sure none of these so-called hardwoods would ever be able to be refinished. The small veneer would be removed and all you would have is the MDF-like middle section. Even the cork flooring was a tiny layer of cork and then the MDF-like stuff. Don't take my word for it go get samples yourself. As you can see from the picture below, one layer of plywood is thicker than the veneer on the mid-priced "hardwood".

Plywood Floor Experiment - deeAuvil Blog
From top to bottom: Hardwood flooring sample ($7.19 sq. ft.), cork flooring sample, mid-priced "hardwood" flooring sample, 1/2 inch plywood.

Plywood Floor Experiment - deeAuvil Blog

Plywood Floor Experiment - deeAuvil Blog

Plywood Floor Experiment - deeAuvil Blog

I needed 400 square feet of new flooring. I got estimates for wood floors from several places and for what I wanted it was going to be 4 or 5 thousand dollars. I absolutely hate carpet. There is some vinyl sheeting that looks just like wood floors and I like it but I wanted something a step up from that because I will probably Airbnb this place at least a few weeks in the summer. I decided to try plywood flooring.

A price break-down
Plywood: .75 cents a square foot - $300 for 400 square feet
Real Hardwood: $7.19 a sq. ft. = $2,876 for 400 sq. ft.
"Hardwood" veneer at $2.99 a sq. ft. = $1200
"$0.99 sq. ft." Internet bargains would be great but every place I looked wanted 6-700 dollars shipping

This will be the tenth floor that I have taken down to the subfloor and re-built. So I feel like I know what I'm doing at this point. That's why I decided to buy cheap vinyl flooring to use as a vapor barrier. And also to stabilize the whole thing. I could tell that the subfloor was made out of different grades of plywood. It was kind of a mish-mash of someone's old collection of wood. My idea was to use the vinyl flooring to tie everything together and make it all more stable. I was right. It does seem really stable. (As apposed to just laying the plywood planks onto the subfloor.) It cushions the planks and makes them quieter to walk on.

I bought the vinyl from Griffin's Furniture in Newport.

Now to buy the planks. I bought the planks from Albeni Falls Building Supply in Newport. I chose 1/2 inch plywood and I asked them if they could cut it in 6 8" planks 8' long. I drew a picture that i left with them just to be sure. They asked if they could do it the next day when they had time and I said I was in no hurry. They charged me a small fee per board to cut it. I was fine with that. They explained that it wouldn't be possible to make every cut EXACT. I said I was fine with that. There were just a few boards that were just slightly off and that's OK because it just adds character. In fact, when the floors were done I took a box cutter knife and trimmed a couple of boards that were so close together they looked like one board. I wanted to have some gap between boards. I did push all the boards right next to each other because although a large gap would have looked cool and farmhouse, I can't figure out how you would keep that clean. And I am all about low maintenance. Between a couple of planks there are huge gaps and I am going to put something artistic in there and then seal it (beads? sand?). 

Now to lay the boards down. I hired someone to nail the boards down because I knew that I had to rent an air compressor and rent a nail gun and I don't know how to use them and I don't want to learn. I rented all that for $90. Then I went to Home Depot to buy the nails. The guy at Home Depot said I had the wrong kind of nail gun for the job and that they had a CORDLESS stapler by Ryobi on the close-out shelf for $75! I returned the nail gun and compressor and bought the Ryobi. I had to buy a battery and charger for the Ryobi but now I am all over the One + bandwagon and I now have a One + Ryobi weed wacker and a One + camping lantern. Love them. I have used the nail gun for all sorts of things after using it for the floors. I did still have to pay my friend Christopher to nail the floors down because I had already arranged it with him but I could have done it myself with a cordless Ryobi.

Plywood Floor Experiment - deeAuvil Blog
Ryobi P360 18-Volt Airstrike Crown Stapler

Nails. The guys at Home Depot told me instead of finish nails (which is what I read on other plywood floor blog tutorials) I should use crown staples. That seemed odd to me but they have never steered me wrong at the Sandpoint Home Depot so I bought 1-1/4" "Narrow Crown Staples". They were easy to load in the Ryobi, they seem to really hold the planks down fine, and you really can't even see them. And I notice EVERYTHING.

Next I gave a light stain to the plywood, trying to make it look more Scandinavian because Mike loves Scandinavian style. I did this by mixing one gallon of Kilz water based primer with four gallons of water. First I just used one gallon of water that covered too much then I kept adding water because it was very difficult to see what I was doing. I wanted to get just a light stain. And I didn't know how it would dry. I probably could have gone with 3 gallons of water. It is not as white as I would like. This was the hardest part of the project - getting the right amount of white-washing. But in the end I was too tired to change it so I just went with it. The beauty of these wide plank plywood floors is if you don't like the look you could always paint them. Painted floors look great. Lots of Scandinavian painted-white wide-plank floors on Pinterest. I would use porch paint if I did that.

Then I sealed everything with Varathane Floor Finish High Traffic Satin Finish. At first I thought I would need to wear a gas mask and keep everyone out for 24 hours because of the fumes. But I guess that is for the old oil-based finish and these new water-based finishes are not so fume-y. First coat (which took one gallon for 400 square feet) I was fine until the end when I got my face up close to some plywood to see if I was getting in the cracks and some fumes got in my eyes and they were watery and a little sore for a couple hours. For the second coat I kept my eyes away from the floor and I was fine. I opened all the windows for air circulation. I ended up using two gallons - two coats and I have already spilled a latte on it and it cleaned up fine. I think I will put another coat or two on it in time because I want the floor to be very durable.

I plan to update this post in about a year to let you know how everything wears. Thanks for stopping by!

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