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Can You Use Plywood For Flooring? (How To)

It’s great to exercise your creativity when doing any home DIY project. This is especially true of the flooring. Can plywood be used on the floor?

Plywood flooring is becoming popular and works well when you take the necessary steps. It is affordable and offers a long-lasting solution when you need a floor down quickly but don’t want to opt for hardwood.

Man working on the plywood flooring

One thing that needs to be kept in mind when working with plywood is the quality of the product. Plywood is graded according to its quality level, which can make a difference in the quality of the floor.

The following is a brief overview of available plywood grades:

Grade A: This is the best plywood on the market. It is free of defects and will not need much work after you install it.

Grade B: Some minor repairs may be necessary for this grade of plywood. You can expect to see a few knots or minor flaws but nothing serious.

Grade C: The knots and other defects in this grade of plywood are larger. Generally speaking, you can see knots up to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

Grade D: This is the least expensive option, but it also can have some serious flaws. Large knots make it challenging to use as flooring, as they can easily pop out over time.

Exterior: It is not recommended to use exterior plywood for interior products. Exterior plywood is treated with chemicals that will off-gas in the home for a very long time. Choose another grade of plywood and give attention to the finish.

Along with selecting the grade of plywood, you also need to choose a thickness. Whenever I installed a plywood floor, I used at least three-quarter inch plywood.

Depending upon the circumstances, you can use thinner plywood, and there may be benefits. However, going with thicker plywood provides a sturdy surface that feels solid under your feet.

As you will see in this article, both benefits and problems are associated with using plywood for flooring. It can last a long time if you choose it for the right room and care for it properly.

Should You Use Plywood For Flooring?

Man working on the plywood flooring

We have already established that it is possible to use plywood for flooring, but what are some concerns when doing so? Knowing the problems in advance can help you to avoid them to the extent possible.

Softness: One of the most significant issues with using plywood is the softness of the surface. You can overcome this to a certain extent by upgrading to hardwood plywood, but most people will want to save money and use standard plywood.

If you use plywood for flooring in an area of the home where the flaws are easy to spot, you will not likely be happy with the result. It will look good when you put it down, but it won’t take long before scratches and scrapes begin to appear.

Knots: This is another issue in almost all types of plywood. There will be knots in the plywood, and they can easily pop out, leaving a glaring hole behind.

You can avoid knots for the most part by purchasing higher-quality plywood. It will cost more, but it may be worth the money.

In addition, you can carefully inspect the plywood to avoid too many knots. More than likely, you will be cutting the plywood in strips, so fewer knots or knots that are near the edges can be avoided.

Moisture: There will always be a problem in getting any wood floor wet. Hardwood floors, laminate floors, and other types of flooring should be dry as a bone.

The same is also true of plywood flooring. Plywood will soak in water readily, and it will swell. Any swelling could cause the floor to buckle.

The water will eventually release from the plywood, and the wood will return to its original shape and size. However, you will still be left with the buckling and separating if it is allowed to get overly wet.

Splintering: If you’ve never cut plywood, you might be surprised by how much it splinters. Splintering can make it difficult to cut the floor and install it.

You can overcome splintering by cutting the planks on a table saw with the finished side upward. A fine tooth saw blade is also best to create less splintering.

You may still have some splintering, but most of it will be confined to the underside of the board. It will not be visible, and with a bit of sanding, the splintering will not affect the installation.

Off-gassing: In many cases, you will get some off-gassing from plywood. The fumes can be a problem if you install the floor in a well-sealed home. Venting the area for a while may be necessary as the off-gassing occurs.

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Resale: One other possible issue with plywood flooring is the impact it will have on the resale value of your home. In most cases, it will not raise the resale value and may even hurt it, depending upon who is purchasing the house and why.

If you are redoing a home to sell, it is better to go with another type of flooring. Even low-grade carpeting is a better option, and the prices are comparable.

What Preparations Do You Need To Use Plywood For Flooring?

Man working on the plywood flooring

If you decide to proceed with the plywood flooring project, preparation is the most crucial part. You want to prepare properly in advance so that everything goes off without a hitch.

Here are a few things to consider when preparing for your new plywood flooring.

1. Make Your Calculations: The old axiom, measure twice, cut once, certainly applies to plywood flooring. You want to measure everything in advance and purchase enough plywood so you can get through the project without delay.

When calculating how much plywood you need, consider some overage. Buying 20% or 30% more plywood than is necessary allows you to have it acclimated and ready to install.

Most hardware stores will allow you to return the leftover plywood if it is in good condition. Make sure you check with them in advance.

PRO TIP: Have the plywood stored inside the area of the home where the floor is to be installed for at least 48 hours. This will keep the plywood dry and allow it to acclimate, minimizing swelling and contracting.

2. Prepare the Room: Everything in the room should be ready for the flooring installation. This would include having the room thoroughly cleaned and taking care of any high or low points.

Keep in mind that any flaws below the plywood flooring are going to show up above the plywood flooring. Underlying problems could be as small as a pebble or a nail head sticking up.

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You should also take care of any squeaks or loose spots now. If they exist now, they will exist once the floor is installed, but they will be much harder to fix.

3. Cut the Plywood: Choose the shape you want for the plywood. This could be geometric shapes or long strips for a hardwood floor finish look.

Cut the plywood on a table saw with the finished side up. Use a fine-toothed saw blade. You might also put painter’s tape over where the cut will take place to minimize splintering.

How To Use Plywood For Flooring

Man working on the plywood flooring

You can use plywood flooring in the home similarly to any other type of flooring. The real difference is you are getting an affordable flooring option compared to hardwood.

It is good to allow your creativity to flow during this process. You may want to cut long strips to make it look like hardwood but feel free to make shapes or cut the plywood in any other way.

One of the benefits of using plywood for flooring is the fact that it is so affordable. It won’t likely be down for decades, so you can swap it out when necessary. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Once the plywood is cut into the appropriate shapes, you can begin the installation. It is best to use wood glue along with nails or screws to hold the floor down.

Some people install plywood in two layers. They screw the first layer down, typically a thinner layer of plywood, then glue the thicker layer on top. Doing so makes a nice, seamless look, but you need to run the top layer perpendicular to the bottom layer.

After installing the plywood floor, it is time to finish the project. You can do so using polyurethane or any other type of sealer.

Apply more than one coat of sealer on the floor to give it a deep look and to help protect the soft surface from damage.

You can install plywood for flooring if you want to save money. Plywood can be cut into strips or geometric shapes for installation. Once it is installed, finish the plywood by sealing it, and you will have a nice-looking floor to show for your hard work.

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ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on May 12, 2023.

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