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In week two of the One Room Challenge, we’re showing you how to install plywood flooring.

How to easily install plywood flooring

Hello, friends and welcome to week two of the One Room Challenge!

We are so excited to share with you today all the fun details of how to install plywood flooring.

As I mentioned in week one, we are trying to do this room on a pretty strict budget because we’re hoping to finish the garage in the spring/summer.

I knew I wanted to put down flooring but everything seemed to be more than what we wanted to spend. After scouring Pinterest, I ran across this post on plywood flooring and I immediately was hooked.

I wish I had a video of Brett’s face after I told him I wanted to lay down plywood for floors – he was not impressed and pretty skeptical. I showed him a few pictures of what it could look like and finally won him over – we were ready to dive in!


[affiliate links used for your convenience.]

How to Install Plywood Flooring

First, story time ๐Ÿ™‚

In all the tutorias that I read, people mentioned going to Home Depot or Lowe’s and having the nice workers cut the plywood for you right then and there. The weekend before Brett left for Wyoming, he agreed to make the trip with me and help pick out the right wood.

On a Saturday morning, we headed to Home Depot and wandered up and down the aisles until we found what we wanted. After loading six pieces onto the cart and slowly maneuvering it around the aisles, we finally made it over to the cutting machine and asked the worker (Worker One) if he could cut it into eight inch pieces for us.

He seemed a little frazzled which should have been our first clue that this may not go as well as planned. Then he started talking about how all these other people were coming in to do the same thing and he was told to not make these kinds of cuts anymore but he’d do it for us today, if we really needed it.

Prior to stopping at Home Depot, we picked up a four wheeler from Brett’s friend for his trip to Wyoming and that was currently taking up a majority of space in the tailgate…Needles to say we needed the plywood cut in order to fit it all in the truck.

So Worker One starts up the machine and he slides the first piece in. It comes out okay and he proceeds to cut the rest of the strips. Except on the last one, the top of the piece is about four inches wider than the bottom. We measure the other pieces and sure enough, they’re not straight.

Oh, boy. This is going to be fun.

Worker One, clearly distraught and confused as to why this happened, calls over someone else (Worker Two) and they try the next sheet of plywood. Everthing seems to be working okay and the pieces are even enough.

Worker One says he can handle the rest by himself and tells Worker Two to leave. He then grabs the third sheet of plywood and slides it through. It looks even, but we don’t measure it. He finishes up the sheet and what do you know? The top of the piece is about five inches wider than the bottom of the piece.

He looks at us with sorry eyes and says something along the lines of, “You’re on your own. I’m sorry, I can’t figure this out.”

Slightly frustrated and not sure how we were going to fit everything in the tailgate, we quickly grab the rest of our supplies and head out the door.

Fortunately, we were able to slide three pieces on either side of the four wheeler and had a few extra straps to hold them in securely.

We ended up cutting the strips at home but (unfortunately) figured out during the installation that we didn’t have the lines perfectly straight. If you’re stuck in the same boat, we learned it’s best to sort the pieces out by size and the ones that are a similar width should be installed in the same row.

Now for the actual tutorial on how to install plywood flooring…

Once that entire debacle was done and we had eight inch strips of plywood, it was time to install.

marking stud lines to install plywood flooring

Similar to what we did when we installed the barn wood wall in the entryway, we marked out the studs with a pencil and used that as a guide for where to nail.

Starting from one side, we layed out the plywood in random sizes, making sure the vertical lines didn’t match up in each row.

using an air gun to install plywood flooring

Because the plywood pieces weren’t exactly straight, there were some areas that had gaps between the rows.

After all the wood was down, I went back and filled in the bigger gaps with wood putty. I think this might be a personal preference but I left some smaller gaps alone because I liked the imperfect look ๐Ÿ™‚

cracks in plywood flooring

using wood putty to fill the cracks in plywood flooring

Once the putty was dry, it was time to get messy. I closed off the room with some plastic and went to town with the orbital sander.

The first pass through was with the 80 grit and the second time around I used the 120 grit paper. Depending on the level of smoothness you’re going for, you could probably do a third round with 220 but I opted for a more rough surface.

pre-stained plywood flooring, bare wood plywood flooring

After wiping down all the surfaces in the room, including the walls, it was time to stain.

different wood stain colors for plywood flooring

I had absolutely NO idea what color to use so I bought three – weathered oak, driftwood and special walnut – and tested them out on scrap pieces.

The winner? Special Walnut and Driftwood (bottom right in the picture above).

To apply the stain, I used a roller to spread it out and a cotton cloth to wipe away the excess. The whole process took maybe 45 minutes? It was definitely the easiest part thus far.

how to install plywood flooring

I waited overnight for the stain to dry and began the varnish marathon early the next morning. They recommend that you put on at least four coats, but you have to wait two hours in between each one. So it’s not that varnishing is hard to do, it’s just time consuming.

how to install plywood flooring

I used a roller to apply the varnish and started in the corner farthest from the door so I wouldn’t box myself into the wrong spot.

I applied five coats and used up about 3/4 of the gallon. I probably could have done a few more because… Moxie and Gunner. We’ve had the floors finished for a week and there are already a few doggy nail marks on the floor. But don’t worry, they have successfully thwarted off two menacing squirrels and a shady looking bunny rabbit so all is well. ๐Ÿ˜‰

how to install plywood flooring with special walnut wood stain

Once the floors were done, it was time to paint the walls! I threw on two coats of Burnished Clay by Behr. It was left over from last month when I had ambition to repaint the cabinets and thought I wanted to go with a taupey color – I wasn’t a fan of it on the cabinets but I LOVE it against the wood and window trim.

how to install plywood flooring stained with special walnut wood stain

Phew, that’s it!

For more inspiration, check out the other ORC participants by clicking here.

Up next? Install the bed, find some night stands and put up the curtains!

All our best.

In case you missed it…



  1. Jillian

    I love the floor color! Nice job and good luck with the rest of the challenge!

  2. Tee @ Beauteeful Living

    This looks like so much work but you guys really rolled with the punches! I can’t wait to see the bed as well as what curtains you go with. Good luck!

    • North Country Nest

      Surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad! Thanks for stopping by, Tee!

  3. Susie

    Miss Kelly,
    You are rockin the floor world with this awesome post! How smart you are!!
    Genius, I tell you. Genius. Can’t wait to see more.
    Susie from The Chelsea Project

    • North Country Nest

      Oh, Susie, you’re way too sweet! Flattery will get your everywhere ;-D Good luck with week three!!

  4. Jenny

    The floors and walls look awesome!! Such a funny story from Home Depot! I was told the same thing by an HD employee, I think because so many people are installing plank walls! Anyway, I can’t wait to see the room unfold.

    • North Country Nest

      Well, I am glad to hear it wasn’t just us that had a ‘no’ from Home Depot – it’s funny because there were signs everywhere that said they would help us cut! They just need to be a little more prepared for us DIY-ers ๐Ÿ˜€

  5. Tina Bousu

    Very cool! We actually ripped out our old carpet and painted the subfloor last year. Holding up perfectly! Perfect budget friendly flooring and I LOVE the color stain you chose, it looks amazing with the wall color!

    • North Country Nest

      Oh what a great idea to paint the floor! I am sure it turned out amazing ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Sherry Cole

    Your HD story sounds like something that would happen to us. I just stained our diy kitchen table Special Walnut and it is so pretty. I am going to love these floors.

    • North Country Nest

      Hahha glad to hear we’re not the only ones who have adventures in DIY shopping ๐Ÿ™‚ My brother did they kitchen table in Special Walnut, too and the way it ages and fades over time is absolutely lovely!

  7. Michelle James

    Kelly, this looks amazing!! I never would have thought to use plywood! This room is going to be so,pretty!

  8. Susie

    These floors look great, and the paint with the stain seems perfect for the room! You’ve got me thinking about this plywood flooring…..

  9. Jessica

    I never would have thought to use plywood for flooring! It looks so great though, and I love the color

    • North Country Nest

      Thank you so much, Jessica! It definitel was a nice surprise for us, too ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Stacy G.

    I love the floor. It looks terrific! We are putting a plywood floor in the breakfast room, so this was a timely post.

    • North Country Nest

      Thank you, Stacy! Good luck with the breakfast room – I’m sure it’ll be fantastic!

  11. Vickie Westcamp

    What a great idea! The floor turned out great! Nice color. I’m glad I found you at the “this is how we roll” linky party.

    • North Country Nest

      Thanks for stopping by from the link party, Vickie, and for the kind words!

  12. Sarah

    My in-laws installed plywood flooring and it actually turned out really good! I’m excited to see how the room comes together.

    • North Country Nest

      Oh, I’m so glad to hear theirs turned out well too! Looks like ours isn’t a fluke then ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

  13. Susanne

    Oh my goodness, you would think they would be able to cut a straight line! I love your floor and I like the little imperfections, gives it even more character!! I went to Lowe’s today to get wood, it was strapped together and when I asked a guy if he could cut the band for me, he asked “you didn’t bring your knife with you today?” HA! Needless to say I will never go without my box cutter again ๐Ÿ˜‰ Can’t wait to see your progress next week!!

    • North Country Nest

      Oh my gosh! So glad to hear it’s not just us that have “adventures ” at the home improvement stores ๐Ÿ˜‚thank you for stopping by!

  14. Diane Rath

    Reading about the Home Depot debacle was pretty comical and dare I say not surprising- Iโ€™m sorry that happened to you but in the end it looks like it turned out great!

    • North Country Nest

      It definitely turned out in the end and the story gives a little added entertainment ๐Ÿ˜€ Thanks for stopping by, Diane!

  15. Jessica

    Very cool! love the stain you chose

  16. Iris Nacole

    I’ve never seen this technique before, but I think it looks great! Can’t wait to see more!

  17. Casey

    Wow! That flooring looks really cool – great job!

  18. Amanda

    That’s brilliant! I’d never guess it was just plywood at a glance. Beautiful!!

  19. Colette

    What a diy to tackle! The stain looks perfect for the space!

    • North Country Nest

      Thank you so much, Colette! The color really makes the flooring ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Nicki Parrish

    What a great and thrifty idea. They turned out so good!

  21. Ariel

    I feel like this is going to be super useful at a later date, so I’m gonna pin the heck out of it! Thanks for the tutorial ๐Ÿ™‚

    • North Country Nest

      Oh, you’re too sweet, Ariel! Thank you – I hope it helps if you decide to lay your own floors down ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Laura

    Wow – the flooring turned out great. What a great idea – I would have never guessed it was plywood.

    • North Country Nest

      Thanks, Laura! It was a nice surprise for us, too ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Megan

    This looks so nice! How much was the project overall? and how much time did it take?

    • North Country Nest

      Hi Megan! Thank you for the sweet words ๐Ÿ™‚
      The project overall probably cost about $150-$175, just for supplies. We already had the big stuff on hand (nailer, air compressor, saw, etc.) So, the stain, wood and polyurethane were the only things we had to purchase.
      In terms of time, it took us 1/2 a day to lay the floor and then 1/2 a day to putty, sand and clean. Then an entire day for the stain and poly coats, only because you need to wait a few hours in between each coat of poly.
      Let us know if you have any more questions!

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  26. David Blake

    Wow the flooring turned out great. What a great idea I would have never guessed it was plywood. I feel like this is going to be super useful at a later date, so Iโ€™m gonna pin the heck out of it. Can you tell me how much was the project overall? Thanks in advance for giving me the clarification also for your great article.


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