Still the size, the price, and the location were all perfect. We knew this was the Lord at work, and we jumped in!
As the last couple of years have passed, we’ve slowly been working one project after another.
The floors, in particular, have been one of our favorite projects.
Aside from being quite affordable, our plywood to plank flooring results speak for themselves!
So, now that we’ve completed our third floor, we decided it was time to share our experience and our results with those of you who might want to try this project for yourselves!
I know this might look intimidating, but if you take one step at a time, it’s really very easy and the next floor you complete will be a breeze!
These are the materials you will need:
- 1/2″ plywood
- table saw
- liquid nails (buy the “caulk” tubes and use a caulk gun!)
- belt sander (believe it or not, we did this with a Black & Decker Dragster
– that thing is a power horse!– with coarse sanding belts- we used about 5 for this bedroom)
- stain (we always use Minwax…and no, I’m not getting paid to mention brands. We have just found these products are our favorite and provide the most consistent results. Our color is Provincial.
- brush (we used a wide, standard paint brush for staining)
- shop rags…or old washcloths, or old baby diapers, or whatever you have to wipe excess stain from the floor
- a fan (helpful, but not absolutely necessary)
- palm sander (with lots of fine-grit sand paper)
- polyurethane (we use the gloss, silver can, Minwax— I was surprised to see this product is almost $10/gallon cheaper at Walmart than our local hardware store!)
- sponge brushes (save yourself some money by spending a little more in the beginning to buy the sponge brushes with plastic handles)
- quart-size ziplocks
- dust mask
- rubber gloves
- putty knife
- STAINABLE wood putty
- nail sets
Start by cutting all your plywood into planks. (Well, start with removing all the carpet!)
We would normally begin a room in the middle, but we wanted a “seamless” entry to this bedroom from the hall we installed over the summer.
Run a bead of liquid nails down the back of each board and then nail in place. We found we needed nails on each side beginning about an inch from the end and about 10″ apart. If you see you have creaking in the floor, you can always come back and add more nails.
We tried to make the nails as uniformly placed, as possible. You may not care… honestly, because we chose dark stain, you would have to be on your hands and knees, looking, to find a nail. It’s one of those things that if we had not taken the time to do, would have driven me crazy in the coming years. OCD? Quite possibly.
Lay the boards, as you go across the floor, in complete rows. (One of our earlier lessons was jumping around the room thinking we could come back and fit boards into the gaps…that DID NOT work. It’s best (and a lot less work!), to lay the boards as you go across in complete rows.
Go back over each board and set the nails just below the surface of the wood. (If you skip this step, you may risk catching sandpaper on nails or, chances are, over time the nails will work their way above the surface of the floor which will NOT feel very good on a bare foot!)
This doesn’t take very long, and is really worth it, in the end.
Now look at the floor for any unusually large gaps between boards. Fill these holes with putty and smooth off the surface, as much as possible.
If you are happy with the floor installation, you can begin sanding. To me, this is the messiest part of the job.
With your coarse belt on the sander, the entire floor must be sanded, all in one direction, until it is smooth and soft.
There will be a LOT of sawdust. We swept most of it up and added it to the garden compost. It did make a mess, but it’s really important for a good, final result.
(I was ready for a shower after I finished this job on the first floor!)
Look at your floor….some of the tutorials we read told us to set dimes between the boards so they would look more like hardwood boards– we found this left a gap that was far too wide. In fact, we decided to putty between some of our boards to eliminate the problem of dirt and debris falling between the cracks.
Trust me, there is still plenty of gap for the floor to still look just like a hardwood floor.
(This is a pic of the floor after the stain has been applied….notice the spacing between boards.)
Also pay attention to markings on the plywood…these will need to be sanded off completely.
Once finished sanding, sweep your floor, VERY WELL. Then, vacuum your floor, VERY WELL. Then, mop the floor with a slightly damp mop to clean up any remaining dust.
When you are sure your floor is completely dry, you can begin to apply color.
We only applied one coat of stain, but if you wanted a darker, deeper shade, you could return and apply a second coat. Just be sure to wipe the floor down really well and allow the stain to dry completely before you begin the poly process.
The stain should be started in one corner with a regular bristled paint brush. We used a rather large brush just to make the process faster. We painted on the stain one reachable section at a time (reachable meaning the area you can reach comfortably while you are on your hands and knees). After you have painted that section, wipe back over it with a dry shop cloth to remove excess stain. Continue to the next area.
This particular part of the job took me about half an hour.
Eight hours after the stain is down, you can start the polyurethane.
Our bedroom floor took three gallon cans to complete. Apply in fairly thin coats, again beginning in one corner and working your way across the floor.
Between each coat, you need to lightly sand with fine grit sand paper (with the grain of the wood), sweep, and damp mop.
A quick note, just to save a little more money, we re-used our sponge brushes by sealing them in a ziplock bag between coats. We found during the first flooring project when we used the wooden- handled (cheapest) brushes the sponge end fell off of the handle within a few coats. Using the plastic handled brushes meant we didn’t have to keep replacing our brushes!
Once dry, you can apply another coat of poly. The dry time was usually right around 4 hours (again depending on the humidity!), between coats.
In all, we applied 1 coat of stain and 9 coats of polyurethane. I know this sounds like a lot, but in the end, it produces a floor that will be durable and last for years.
You can see your reflection in our floor (it is in terrible need of a mop!) 🙂
This whole project took a week and a half.
We did stain and poly the existing wood flooring in our living room to match:
Because we obviously need the space, during these projects, I’ve been known to set the timer so that we’re coating the floor at 6, 10, 2, 6, and 10– obviously, this shortens the project time, but life does take over and we missed a few of these times which stretched our work time.
Also, the weather greatly changes dry times for poly. Having a fan blowing on the floor helps, but on one particular day, the humidity was 62% and it took a few additional hours for the floor to be completely dry and not “tacky” when touched.
My family is always excited to try something new, but we are in no way “home experts”….just folks learning, as we go along. This is however, one project, that we’re completely thrilled over! It has turned out perfectly and worn with no issues at all!
(*I probably do enjoy the floor a little too much! As much as I enjoy watching the children “skating” (sliding), down the hall in their socks, it is almost too much to watch the cats chasing something and try to stop at the end of the hall. It took them more than a couple of days to realize that they would have to be a little more careful when they are running across these floors!*)
We’re planning on tackling the library next. Until then, learning to drywall the pantry ceiling (in my opinion, much less fun than flooring!), is taking our time.
If you decided to try this project, I would LOVE to see your results. Send me your pictures!
Probably one of the most frequent emails I receive is in regards to our flooring.
Folks want to know if we still like them and if we would do anything differently.
Of all the projects we’ve done to this house, it’s still one of my favorites! In fact, when we re-work our family room, we’re going to plank it and Paul’s office. I also have plans for my own bedroom (but that one will be many years down the road!).
Yes! We still love our wood floors. The only problem I’ve seen is we had water pool in one area (thank you, Lambert toddlers!) on one of the floors. The floor did bubble. We allowed it to dry and nailed it back in place. That was all it took to repair.
Now, three years have passed since we installed our newest floor. It still looks great.
The one thing I would change is I would certainly go back to the MinWax Poly. I am apparently a MinWax girl. We tried a “contractor” something or another on our floor to finish them last time and it has not stayed shiny like the other floors.
Another little tip..make sure you cut the wood with the grain, instead of against (unless you purposely want the floor to look striped).
I thought I might be able to live with this pattern when we first realized what we had done. I know now it is going to drive me crazy so we have plans to change it when this room gets dry wall.
I hope this tutorial is helpful! It has turned out to be wildly popular on Pinterest (howdy to you folks!!). I have a constant stream of visitors from that link and have been asked about it again and again.
If you have questions, please do feel free to ask. I try and answer quickly knowing at least some of you are probably in the middle of your project.
I would also love to see your pics! This was a fun project for me. I would love to see how your rooms turn out.