maple plywood planked floor process

Yesterday was another b.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l. Spring day.
We took little Grey on his first fishing trip!
We didn’t catch anything,
but he was just as happy to have a pole with a worm on the end of it.

Have I ever told you that I love to fish?
Get me on a boat in the middle of a lake and I’m a happy girl.
I could sit there all day.
I grew up in a family of fishermen and lake lovers, and I guess it stuck with me.

(I can’t think of a creative way to segue from fishing to a floor tutorial.)

Before I write anything else, let me just say that I am not a flooring professional.
I’m just a little fearless and thrifty…
…and I’d much rather live with real maple veneered plywood floors
vs. a printed photograph of maple wood on inexpensive laminate
in a similar price range.

My maple plywood planked floor was the first floor that I’ve ever installed
besides some peel n’ stick tile in my mom’s kitchen when I was 16.

Now that I have that out of the way…

Our supply list:
6-inch wide maple hardwood plywood planks
nail gun
2-inch nails
clear coat (Varathane) and applicator
paint tray liner (for the clear coat)
mitre saw
tape measure
jig saw

Wood selection:
I chose finish-grade 1/4″ maple hardwood plywood,
purchased at Lowe’s for $26.97 per sheet.
(One 4′ x 8′ sheet covers 32 sq. ft.)
Our Lowe’s guy cut each sheet into eight 6-inch wide planks for us on the panel saw.

Choose each sheet carefully.
Look for sheets without flaws and with a grain pattern that you love.
Keep in mind that when you finish with a clear coat, everything will be enhanced.
My husband and I went through an entire stack to find the 8 sheets we wanted.

Step 1:
Sand both long sides of each plank with a sanding sponge.
I used a 220-grit.

Step 2:
We installed our planks over a wood subfloor and
chose to use an underlayment for moisture protection and noise reduction.

If you use an underlayment,
roll out your underlayment in the opposite direction of your planks.
(Make sure the subfloor is clean first.)

Step 3:
I started my planks from the left corner of the room and used a level to make sure the first plank was straight.
After the first plank was nailed down, I just used quarters to space the other planks.
(Whatever works.)

I recommend renting or buying a nail gun for this project.
There are at least 1,000 nails in my floor.
A finish nailer is the best option.
Last year, the folks at Rockler sent me the Dewalt Heavy Duty Cordless Brad Nailer,
so I used what I already had on hand.
I poured over several online flooring forums where the pros get together
to flex their flooring muscles.
Nearly all of them recommend a finish nailer for flooring,
but one guy had used brad nails spaced 4 to 6 inches apart with success.
That was my green light, loves.

A finish nailer uses a 16-guage nail vs. a thinner 18-guage brad nail.
Also, the magazine of a finish nailer is already angled at 20 degrees.

Brad nailer…

Finish nailer…
(You can see how the magazine is already angled.)

The brad nails worked just fine for me though.
Each plank is tight to floor, no shifting, no lifting, etc.

Stagger the planks.
This is where the mitre saw was needed.
I forgot to take an earlier shot to demonstrate this,
but you can see the staggering here…

To stagger them, we installed the first row and used the leftover piece of the plank that was trimmed to start the second row. The plank that needed to be trimmed for the second row was used to start the third row, etc. Once you get going, you’ll get a feel for it. You just don’t want all of your planks ends to line up or be too close together.

You’ll also need the mitre saw to trim off the splintered edges of the short ends of any full planks.

I forgot to mention that we went with 6-inch wide planks because that was the maximum width that our mitre saw would cut in one cut.

The process was quite simple.
We just continued to nail each plank, using our quarters to space,
working an entire row from left to right, until the floor was complete.

Step 4:
After all of our planks were down,
I pounded down a few nails that didn’t go all the way through with the gun.

Then, I vacuumed the entire floor (including the gaps between planks) with a shop vac to prepare for the clear coat.

Step 5:
I applied the recommended 4 coats of Varathane,
waiting 4-6 hours between each coat.
I did it over the course of 2 days.
You don’t need to sand unless you wait more than 24 hours between coats.
I originally planned to just use satin, but the same floor pros mentioned above recommended 2 coats of semi-gloss followed by 2 coats of satin.

It was easier to finish them that I thought it would be.
I was so afraid I’d end up with lap lines, but the Varathane spreads pretty thin.
(It has a watery consistency.)
I watched a few YouTube videos and followed the directions on the back of the applicator (you have to hold it at an angle and then flat).
If you’re really fussy and look closely in some spots, I’m sure you can tell that I’m not a professional floor finisher, but overall, it looks pretty lovely!

My only complaint would be that the Varathane didn’t completely fill in the gaps between each plank like I thought it would.
I expected everything to sort of level out with a clear coat.
I just have to sweep the floors daily
to make sure nothing (dirt, etc.) gets permanently trapped.

 (By the way, I’ve used my steam mop to clean them a few times already.)

I hope that helps.
If you have any more questions about my floors, let me know!



  1. jodi says:

    What a fabulous idea! I love the look of planked floors! I wouldn’t worry about the slight imperfections, you will probably be the only one that will ever notice them.

  2. Miranda says:

    Jami, it looks beautiful!! I love the grain showing through. Thanks for the great tutorial. I’d really like to tackle a project like this one day.
    Miranda recently posted..Easter Sunday – new beginningsMy Profile

  3. Deborah says:

    Absolutely gorgeous! I have a two story house. First floor is concrete and second floor has plywood subfloor. Any guidance on how to install the plywood planks over concrete? I am definitely going to do the second floor according to your guidance but would love to have the same plank flooring on the first floor. I have been considering painting the concrete 1st floor with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint if I can’t figure out how to to lay wood planks on concrete.

    • Jami says:

      Thank you so much, Deborah! Is the first (concrete) floor below grade or above ground? I’m not 100% on how to install them over concrete as I’ve never done it, but I can tell you that a friend of ours loved ours so much that he is doing it in his below grade basement level. He is going to waterlock/seal the floor and use construction adhesive to put them down. I’ll let you know how it goes, although it could be a long while before he does it. I’d love to install planks over the ceramic tile in our kitchen. Liquid Nails came to mind, but I’m wondering if there is a more cost-effective construction adhesive that can be rolled on in sections. I’d look into that. If you think you’ll have any sort of moisture issue with the concrete, I wouldn’t recommend the plywood planks. Are your concrete floors smooth or textured? I LOVE the look of gray concrete floors with a clear sealer.

      • Jessica says:

        You will have problems if you lay your flooring directly on concrete…the plywood will deteriorate. There is a way to do it, though. You can lay down a moisture barrier fabric and then use lumber to create framing (basically you are creating floor joists) on top of the concrete and moisture barrier. Ideally you would fix the framing to the concrete with concrete screws, (right through the barrier fabric) to avoid shifting and creaking. Optionally, you can add sheet insulation to fill the space between the moisture barrier and the top of the framing. This will keep the room a lot warmer. Then you nail plywood sheet subfloor to the framing.

        After you have this wooden false floor in place on top of the concrete, you can nail on your plywood planks. If you don’t want the expense of two layers of plywood, you can stain or paint and finish the plywood subfloor sheets, but of course you will not have the look of planks. It could still look very cool, though. The added bonus of framing and installing a plywood subfloor is the room will stay warmer and the floor will be softer and more forgiving underoot than if you had laid it directly on the concrete. And it will last a lot longer.

  4. Jan says:

    Do you have a picture of your floor after applying the Varathane? Would love to see one please :)

    • Jan says:

      Thanks for adding the “after” picture Jami. It’s gorgeous and I’m sure was quite economical to do it this way. Love the blogs and all who share their skill, talent and ideas. So much DIY info at our fingertips! :) Have a great day.

  5. laurie says:

    Looks so pretty, Jami! What a huge project to tackle, but you did it with finesse once again! :) Can hardly wait to see the finished room!! :)

    xoxo laurie

  6. Marian says:

    Amazing! That is one crazy involved project girl. You go! I really do love the way it looks. Natural maple is my all time favorite. And clever to have the store rip the wood for you. Those huge saws are the coolest. And where do I sign up to have people give me power tools? Keep going lady. I am super impressed.
    The other Marian
    Marian recently posted..How to Build a Planter out of Pressure Treated 2×4′sMy Profile

    • Jami says:

      Thank you, Marian! Yes, I love those big panel saws. It’s on my someday list. I wouldn’t dare have that thing in a house with little ones though. For now, I’ll just give the Lowe’s workers my puppy dog eyes when I need a cut. As for the nail gun, I’m a resident blogger for the DIY Club so I get to try different products every few months. I feel the same way when I see a blogger get furniture or fancy washers & dryers to try! ;) Love how you signed your name “The other Marian.” ha!

  7. Catherine says:

    Looks really fabulous Jami!

  8. Deborah says:

    My first floor is above ground. I live in Houston Texas so we don’t have basements (darn it I could use a basement to store too much stuff LOL) anyway yes it is above ground and I don’t have a moisture problem at all. Keep me in mind when your friend does his basement and hopefully share with me, or us I mean, his plan. Maybe lots of us have concrete first floor subfloors and loads of us would love to replicate your budget friendly gorgeous floors. I can start upstairs and follow your plan. Maybe by the time I am done upstairs he will be doing his basement. Thanks so much for your reply. Just love your blog. I watch like a hawk for new posts from you.

  9. Wow, beautiful job, it looks terrific. xo P.S. my husband is a very dedicated fisherman too ;-)
    Katherines Corner recently posted..Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop 83My Profile

  10. Bristol says:

    Oh that was an awesome post. I have thought about attempting that never braves that project!!
    Bristol recently posted..SpringMy Profile

  11. M says:

    It looks beautiful! Great tutorial. ~M.

  12. WOW!!!!

    I can’t believe you did that yourself, oh my goodness is that impressive and looks AWESOME!

    Well done~!

  13. Toni says:

    The floors turned out great!!! Maybe we’ll stop by tonight and see them in person.

  14. Cheri says:

    Jami– I love them!!! GORGEOUS!!!

  15. alima says:

    Wow Jami! The floor looks beautiful! I want to go rip out my carpet right now!! We’ve been saving for wood floors but this seems like such a nice, affordable option. Great job!

  16. Colleen says:

    I’m curious if you left the plywood in the room for a few days to acclimate. I know when we got hardwood floors the flooring was delivered several days in advance to help it acclimate. Do you think you will have any problems with shrinking and expanding with the plywood? Neat idea!

    • Jami says:

      Hi Colleen. Thank you! Yes…we let the plywood acclimate for four days. I forgot to mention that in my post, so thank you for asking…I’ll add it in because it’s important. Supposedly, plywood doesn’t shrink and expand like wood, but we still let it acclimate to be on the safe side. (Well, all but 3 planks that we needed cut after-the-fact to finish. I’m not worried about those pieces because they edge the wall and there is at least a 1/2″ gap between the planks & wall.) Also, with 1/16″ gaps between every board, shrinking and expanding shouldn’t be an issue if the plywood DOES expand. I wanted a planked look so the gap serves to achieve that aesthetic and work with any shrinking/expanding that may occur. Thank you again for asking. Happy Tuesday!

  17. Bryan says:

    Hi Jami,

    I am interested to learn how these floors are holding up. This is something we’re considering for our 10 year old daughter’s bedroom and I know the veneer layer of the plywood is pretty thin. Have you had any issues with damage or wear since you did the install? By the way they look great!

    • Jami says:

      Thank you! They are holding up quite well. I did have one issue with damage when I dropped a large picture frame and the corner hit the floor, causing a dent….but that would have happened with my oak floors too. I get compliments on the maple plywood whenever someone sees them in my home for the first time. I’m so happy with how they’re holding up…I wasn’t sure what to expect with three little ones running around. The Varathayne that I used is awesome. (They aren’t a sponsor…I just truly love the finish and durability. I can’t slide things around on my oak floors without scratches like I can on the maple floors.) I’m considering doing the maple plywood throughout the entire house. The only thing that bothers me a bit is the tiny, intentional space between the boards…I have to vacuum daily, otherwise dirt gets trapped. And, if your little one spills a cup of juice, you’ll be sitting there for a bit trying to meticulously clean it out of the gaps. Other than that, I love the floors and so far, no durability complaints. I hope that helps. Good luck with your project if you choose to go with the maple veneer.
      Jami recently posted..change & FREE printable nautical photosMy Profile

      • Bryan says:

        We ended up going with the sanded pine 1/2″ plywood. I cut it into 8″ wide strips and did 2 rooms and a hallway. In between the planks at the end and sides we inserted construction grade brown underlayment paper and doubled it over to fill the gaps. I also ran a bead of glue down the center of each board.

        We whitewashed the flooring then went over it with the floor sander before applying 5 coats of satin finish water based urethane. The floors came out amazing. I will see if I can get a link to a picture here so you can check them out.

        • Kris says:

          Bryan, I’d love to see how your whitewashed floor came out. It sounds beautiful. Please link up so we can check out your handiwork. I’ve got about 1200 sq feet of open space upstairs that is in need a new floor. I’m think this just might be the answer.

  18. Sue says:

    Well, it’s been a couple of months since you posted this entry. Has your neighbor completed his below grade floor yet? I’m really curious as to what he has discovered. Thanks!

  19. Christine Lanteigne says:

    Just curious as to why you left a gap between the pieces of plywood? We are thinking of doing this in our home and have read a few people that have left spaces and were just wondering why?

    • Jami says:

      Hi Christine. I left a gap because wood expands and contracts in the heat and cold and I didn’t want to end up with warped boards. Supposedly, plywood doesn’t expand and contract like solid wood, but with the real wood veneer, I didn’t want to take any chances. Hope that helps!

  20. Christy says:

    Your floors look great! I think this is what I’m going to do after weeks of research. Could you answer a few questions for me? How is the noise level? Does it sound like laminate? I don’t anyone to think it is after putting in all the hard work. How are they holding up? I have 3 large dogs, 24 paws running around here. Thanks for posting this… I would never have thought of it on my own!

  21. Meegan says:

    Hi, I was wondering if you’ve had any problems with the nails popping up / working loose?

  22. Rosie says:

    Hi, your floor is frickin awesome!!!!! Just wondering why did you sand both sides of planks front and back or just the actual sides of the plank?

  23. Sasha says:

    Hi, I love your floors!! I have been researching flooring and saw this and will give it a try. I have two questions, how long did it take to do and how is it holding up a year later?

    Sasha :)

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