The Pros and Cons of Plywood Floors
I put my plywood floor down in the kitchen about 2 months ago. Since then, I've installed cabinets, appliances, and a new tile backsplash in the kitchen, so the floors have seen some action. I would love to tell you I love them, and I do, a little bit. But not enough to start covering my whole house in plywood. I have very mixed feelings, and I thought my opinions could be useful to those of you trying to decide if this is a project worth tackling.
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I planned for around 192 square feet of flooring (my kitchen is small!!) Knowing that, here's how my kitchen priced out compared to other options. Note that in the table below, I compare my actual cost (the Plywood column) to the lowest laminate and hardwood costs I could find (between Home Depot, Lowes, and Menards) at posting. Menards had sales going on for both laminate and hardwood flooring, making them the easy winner.
Some things to note from the table above: the very cheapest laminate flooring still prices out below the plywood. Now, I hate laminate flooring, so I didn't even consider it an option, but if you're less opposed to laminate, price-wise you're not saving money by going with the plywood.
The other takeaway here is that plywood is almost $200 cheaper than the cheapest hardwood. So if you're like me and hate laminate with a passion, plywood floors are a good way to get the hardwood look for less.
2. Ease of Installation
I called the Home Depot pro desk in advance and asked if they were able to rip 4'x8' pieces of plywood into strips for me; they said yes, had me order the plywood online, and had the planks ready for me in a few hours. It was fantastically easy, and meant that the hardest part of DIY plywood floors (cutting down the plywood) was taken care of for me.
As a result, my job was just to sand the boards, place them on the floor, glue/nail them down, and stain/finish the floor. While it took me two days to lay out all the boards and cut the small pieces to size, there was absolutely nothing difficult about it. Every part of the installation was something I was familiar with already as a DIY-er (sand, cut, glue, nail, stain+finish, done.) While I've never installed laminate or hardwood floors, the process looks at least a little more complicated.
You can do literally anything you can imagine with plywood floors. Want to paint them? Go for it! Stain? Yep. Stencil? Sure. Want squares instead of planks? Totally do-able. Don't like what you did in two years? No biggie, you can put another floor type on top of it. Plywood has the ultimate flexibility, which is part of what makes it a great budget floor type.
This is the number one biggest con, and despite what all of the bloggers of the world say, it is an issue to be concerned about. My floors have been in place for two months. Admittedly, I've been a little rough; I've installed cabinets, appliances, and tile backsplash in that time. However, there are already visible scratches on the floor. Here's the most obvious one:
There are other scratches as well; this one is particularly obvious because it's filled with some sort of black mark. I'm pretty sure I can get the mark out if I scrub enough (I intentionally left it so you could see the scratch,) but the dent is there to stay. Next summer, when both me and the cat are leaving for a couple days, I plan to put another layer of finish on, which might fill in the scratches. Regardless, my floors are proof that durability is a concern with plywood flooring.
If you're researching plywood floors, you're probably aware that plywood is made up of many thin layers of wood. The top layer is intentionally made pretty so that it can be displayed. You might also know that knots are the weakest point of wood; sometimes, depending on the wood, if you cut through a knot, the remainder of the knot just falls out.
In the case of plywood, any knots in the surface are less stable than the surrounding wood. On a number of my pieces, the center of knots would fall off the plywood, leaving a less-attractive center behind. See the picture:
You think your plywood floors are cool. And admittedly, future home-buyers are unlikely to identify your floors as plywood unless they're real flooring experts. However, home inspectors could very well identify the floors as plywood. I have heard rumors that this is not an approved floor type, and could hold up the sale of your house. Now, these are rumors; this hasn't happened to me or anyone I know. But when I was researching plywood floors, I made a note of this possibility and know in my mind that I may have to cover the floor with laminate before I sell.
Do you have plywood floors? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!