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The Pros and Cons of Plywood Floors

I’ve had my new DIY Plywood Floors for a couple months now… and they’re not perfect. Learn all the pros and cons of plywood floors in this detailed post!

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.

Don't put down DIY plywood floors without reading this! All the good and bad things after two months of plywood floors in my kitchen! #DIY #HomeImprovement #PlywoodFloors #Plywood #AButterflyHouse

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The Pros of Plywood Floors

1) Price

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.

PlywoodLaminateHardwood
Floor Material$167.52$109.28$351.12
Adhesive​$13.95$44.90$27.98
Stai​n$15.96N/AN/A
Finish$65.99N/AN/A*
Installation Kit​N/A$22.99N/A
Total$263.42$177.17$379.10

* The hardwood floor I linked to is an engineered hardwood, and comes prefinished. Many hardwoods come unfinished, so check the description carefully to determine if you’ll need to finish the floor after purchase.

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 a full $100 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.

*Note – Not sure about finishing? Grab my Fabulously Finished Reference Bundle for $29, which will walk you through all the finishes available, and when to use each one!

3. Flexibility

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.

The Cons of Plywood Floors

1) Durability

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:

Don't put down DIY plywood floors without reading this! All the good and bad things after two months of plywood floors in my kitchen! #DIY #HomeImprovement #PlywoodFloors #Plywood #AButterflyHouse

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.

2) Knots

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:

Don't put down DIY plywood floors without reading this! All the good and bad things after two months of plywood floors in my kitchen! #DIY #HomeImprovement #PlywoodFloors #Plywood #AButterflyHouse
3) Sellability

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.

If you’d rather not worry about this, grab our free list of 12 Floors Cheaper Than Plywood, so you know exactly what to get instead!

Final Thoughts

While I definitely have mixed feelings about my plywood floors, I can’t complain about how they look in my new kitchen (check out the full reveal!

Do you have plywood floors? Did I miss any pros or cons? Let me know in the comments below! 

And if you think these floors might not be for you, check out our FREE list of 12 Floors Cheaper Than Plywood!

Finally, if you found this post helpful, please save this post to Pinterest so others can find it too!

Don't put down DIY plywood floors without reading this! All the good and bad things after two months of plywood floors in my kitchen! #DIY #HomeImprovement #PlywoodFloors #Plywood #AButterflyHouse

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Patrick

Monday 23rd of December 2019

Hi there. I was curious, have you had any issue with warpage and shrinkage with your floor?

My father put down pine planks for his floor when he built it, but the wood was not cured completely and so it shrank a lot, leaving some ugly gaps in places. I wondered if plywood would not have this issue being an engineered product.

Very informative post. My wife and I will be building a home soon and these plywood floors are neat but I knew it couldn’t be all sunshine and rainbows!

MissLindsayFay

Thursday 2nd of January 2020

I haven't had any issues with warpage or shrinkage - I agree with you that as an engineered product, it's less susceptible to it.

Glad you found this helpful!

Cid

Thursday 5th of December 2019

So.... here's my 2 cents worth. Choosing to put plywood floors in a super high traffic area, particularly before the area is finished so lots of heavy stuff going across that floor, of course comes with added wear and tear, so no surprise there. Knowing that the knots are not a stable part of the plank probably requires some forethought in securing those knots so they don't fall out. So putting some kind of thin backing behind the knot and then gluing them in place so they are stable, would most likely serve to eliminate some of the problems associated with knots. As far as scratches go.... wood filler is a wonderful thing, and you can color it or get it in the color you need. On the other hand, scratches dents and the like all add character to your floor, so you may not want to do anything at all. It seems to me that these cons are fairly manageable, except the resale portion of this article. It would probably be a really good idea if your planning on selling your home in the near future, to just check in with your realtor to find out the real scoop on this one.

MissLindsayFay

Saturday 7th of December 2019

Thanks for your thoughts! These are definitely great ways to manage some of the downsides of plywood floors!

Barb Moriarty

Saturday 26th of October 2019

Floors look beautiful...Good job! I'm curious how many coats of varathane (?) You applied and was it specifically for floors?

MissLindsayFay

Monday 28th of October 2019

Unfortunately, I did this awhile ago, and don't remember exactly how many coats I used. It was definitely at least two coats, maybe three. And I did use floor-specific finish, specifically Bona-Mega Floor Finish in Semi-Gloss. It's a pro-grade finish that I've never seen in stores. I had to order it off Amazon.

Joan

Tuesday 25th of June 2019

I have plywood floors in a bedroom, hallway, living room, dining room, and kitchen. We are completely remodeling our home and those are the rooms that are finished. We plan on having it in every room once our renovations are done. We absolutely love our floors! They look beautiful and we get so many compliments on them. We did buy a higher grade of plywood and maybe that was the problem with the fallen out holes you were talking about. We did 4 coats of polyurethane and let them completely dry between each coat. We ripped up hardwood (builder grade) flooring for wide planked plywood and I would do it again without a second thought; matter of fact we are this weekend! I would definitely try to add a coat or two more of polyurethane and I do really believe it will help with the scratches you showed. We have pretty high traffic on our floors at times with kids, a dog, my husband and myself and they look just as good if not better than the hardwood that is left in our other rooms. Thanks and take care!

Sara

Tuesday 2nd of July 2019

So are you doing your whole house room by room? We want to do this but I was thinking we would have to do the whole first first at the same time to make it look right. If we can do room by room, that would be awesome!

MissLindsayFay

Tuesday 25th of June 2019

I'm so glad to hear plywood floors worked out for you! I definitely think the higher grade plywood helped; if there aren't any knots, the centers can't fall out! And did you have the floors installed professionally, or was it a DIY job? I suspect professionals have access to higher quality polyurethanes than DIY-ers, which definitely helps the durability aspect.

Stephanie Mayer

Sunday 23rd of June 2019

Your floors look great. Just an FYI, any natural wood floor is going to scratch and dent with rough use. My boyfriend has maple flooring and all it took was one tipped over chair to leave a gouge. Needless to say, with the price he paid for the flooring and install, he was horrified when it happened. I am going the plywood route myself because of his experience.

MissLindsayFay

Tuesday 25th of June 2019

Oh gosh, your boyfriend's experience sounds terrible - I would be so upset!

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