Plywood Flooring


DIY Girl
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     Hi!  I am considering using either plywood or 1x6 pine boards as an inexpensive alternative to hard floors.  But as I read about it, I have a few questions that I haven't been able to find answers to.  I just found this website in my search and I'm really excited to pick the brains of experts!  Anyway, here are my questions:

  • Not wood, but related to the project:  I need a barrier between the subfloor and planks.  I've seen where people have used exterior primer/paint for the barrier.  Others have used roofing/tar paper under the flooring.  Which would be better?  If I were to use roofing/tar paper, is it safe for interior use?
  • About the wood:  If I use plywood, I've read that you're supposed to leave a gap between the boards to allow for expansion.  But I've seen where people using pine boards don't leave a gap.  They say that pine boards shrink over time.  Is that true?  Should I leave a gap or not?  And wouldn't plywood shrink over time as well?    
  • Do pine boards get harder with age?  Does plywood get harder with age?
  • When protecting the boards, I've seen where some stain/poly the planks individually before installing them; others install the planks first, then stain/poly the whole floor at one time?  Which would be better for a longer-lasting floor?   I'm thinking about the expanding/contracting of wood and whether or not it would affect the finish.  
  • And lastly, should I nail the boards down or use screws?  I'm hoping this alternative flooring will be durable enough to last at least 10 years.  

     Any information you can share will be much appreciated.  Thank you!   

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Are you thinking as the flooring for your house? Shop? Shed?

Cost: Have you run the actual numbers for your local suppliers? Around me, click-down Bamboo flooring is cheaper per square foot than sanded plywood (and not even the really good stuff). It comes finished and ready for use as well, no staining or poly necessary, and will probably last longer under foot traffic. Cheap plywood is going to look horrible pretty quickly, as that super-thin veneer is just waiting to catch on something and chip off.

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Avoid plywood like the plague. If you get something that looks decent, it will cost too much AND, as has already been pointed out, the thin top layer will wear through and even if it starts out looking decent, it won't last that way.

All woods shrink AND swell as the ambient moisture changes (humid days / dry days)

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My first question is where is this floor going? Are we talking residential interior flooring? If that's the case plywood is goign to be rough, by the time you get a grade that isn't rough of has defects it's not really goign to be inexpensive. ACX in my market is $1.97 / sq ft, and i wouldn't want to walk on it without plenty of sanding, ever had splinters in your feet? Pine boards are also not really inexpensive. My market a 1x6 8 foot pine board is $7 which comes out to $2 a square foot. At that price it's not much more for utility grade oak hardwood, which is goign to be far better. Once you consider sanding and finishing it makes a lot of sense cost wise to go other directions. Engineered hardwood flooring is basically plywood that has a thick hardwood layer. It's possible to get cheap engineered flooring for $2-$3 / sq ft. It'll come stained and finished and in the long run will be cheaper. Finishing for floors is not free and it takes a lot of work to do it right. Poly rated for foot traffic is $75/gallon and covers 200 sq ft after 2-3 coats are applied. In my experience finishing cost around $1-$1.50 /sq ft for a DIY solution.

If your talking a utility space. Buy some BCX or ACX rip it into strips and nail it down. I would worry about gaps plywood doesn't expand and contract a significant amount. It's still going to run $2 / sq ft for just material not including waste. In the end I'll echo the bamboo or engineered flooring recommendation. If you search you can probably find a sale and get a prefinished flooring for cheaper than $2 / sq ft

3 hours ago, DIY Girl said:

Not wood, but related to the project:  I need a barrier between the subfloor and planks.  I've seen where people have used exterior primer/paint for the barrier.  Others have used roofing/tar paper under the flooring.  Which would be better?  If I were to use roofing/tar paper, is it safe for interior use?

The paper your looking for is called rosin paper. https://www.homedepot.com/p/TRIMACO-Trimaco-Easy-Mask-3-ft-x-166-ft-Heavyweight-Red-Rosin-Paper-36099/202040752 15lb roofing felt would also work. It's just asphalt and cellulose so probably indoor safe?

3 hours ago, DIY Girl said:
  •  
  • Do pine boards get harder with age?  Does plywood get harder with age?

Not significantly enough to matter. It's going to be soft whcih will dent and scratch easily.

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"Where" is the valid question.  But I do have some experience with this:

The sail loft where I worked the summer after university had exactly this.  4X8 sheets of ply screwed into the "rafters" below.  The ply was not construction grade CDX but rather some very nice version of mahogany, or something similar.  ¾ inch.  It was finished in a floor poly, but we were always careful to walk over it shoeless, mainly to keep off dirt and grit that would find its way into the sails.  If I remember, expansion wasn't really a concern, there was no more than enough space between the full size sheets to slide a credit card, if that.  I don't know how to define "durable", but we spent our days either tacking down sails with push pins, or banging in awls to stretch the corners of the sails.  I always liked the sewing machine set on the floor with the "well" next to it for the operator so you could drag the sails right through.  I had a lot of fun that summer!

Somewhere in my files I have notes on a "new" MDO type product that would be paint grade and meant to be used as either a sub floor or actually a final floor for use in a shop.  Where are my notes on that?

 

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  • 1 month later...

Plywood floors are suitable for any room where you'd otherwise install hardwood, though kitchens and bathrooms are less desirable since frequent water spills are likely. Hardwood and osb board are best suitable for Plywood flooring as i think

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