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plywood floors?

by Rob Batey last modified Feb 29, 2012 01:17 PM
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plywood floors?

Posted by Rob Batey at May 28. 2005

Hi all,

I was just perusing Allison Arieff's PREFAB book, and ran across a picture of birch plywood floors. I've been debating flooring choices during a remodel and love the look of these. Does anyone have any experience with such a floor? I'm specifically interested in construction finish techniques, and durability - I'm considering this for dining room kitchen...

Thanks!
Rob

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Kent Coston at May 29. 2005

I used them in our bedroom. We cut 4x8x1/2 sheets to 4x4 and screwed them down with 8 screws per board (each corner and each side). I installed them over a wood subfloor with a standard underlayment used for laminate flooring. They were finished with four coats of Varathane (water based). If we weren't living in the house already I probably would have used something nastier to finish them.

They have been in for two years now and have less wear than the crappy laminate flooring we put in elsewere.

As long as your cuts are straight and square the floor will look great and will be simple to install.

Good Luck

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Rob Batey at May 29. 2005

Thanks for the info! A couple more questions... did you sand them after installing? And did you hide the screws, or leave them exposed? I've been thinking of routing a TG on the panels, and then nailing as you would a standard wood plank floor...

Rob

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Kent Coston at May 29. 2005

If I remember right, I did sand them a bit after installing.

I countersunk the screws and used filler. The holes pretty much disappear.

Kent

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Rob Batey at May 29. 2005

Kent,

Thanks so much! I appreciate the insight. Care to share any inspiring photos of the finished floor??

Rob

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Ryan Kellough at May 30. 2005

Hi Rob,

I too, have used 4x8- 1/2 birch ply cut 4x4, i stained it almost black, and it looks fantastic. I wouldn't sand it too much as the birch veneer is usually less than a millimetre thick. Also... I won't discourage you from trying the tongue and groove thing, but, you will find when your plywood is delivered, that not all of the sheets will be the same thickness, not all of the sheets will be perfectly square, and even 1/2 plywood can get a bow in it. So although the results can be great, you have to be prepared to have a few boards that aren't perfect!

humuhumuhumu

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Rob Batey at June 01. 2005

Humu(etc)...

Thanks for the tips. I'm thinking that if I TG it from the top, then that might mitigate the variances in thickness.

After staining, did you seal it or otherwise finish it? Also, how did you afix the flooring to the subfloor? Did you use any underlayment as well?

Rob

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Gregory La Vardera at June 01. 2005

Invest in (or rent) a biscuit joiner to do the edges. You will get the same advantage of aligning the faces without having to mill the entire edge. Plus once you get all those sheets glued together they won't go anywhere.

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Kevin Dickson at June 03. 2005

><br>

If you go this way, PLEASE remember that the entire assembly must float like a laminate floor. That means 1/4 gaps at the walls (cover w/base shoe) and absolutely no fasteners into the subfloor. That will prevent a disastrous hump (been there done that).

All in all, I'd attach to the subfloor by gluing or screwing or gluing and pinning. In that case, an 1/8 gap between all pieces is required. That can be caulked or even covered with iron-on edgebanding. That approach will allow thinner plywood as well (down to 1/4 min.) which saves $.


><br>

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Jennifer Watson at June 03. 2005

arby,

My husband, Barry installed 4'x8'x3/4 birch plywood in our LV Home. He installed as whole sheets with stainless steel screws (countersunk)
and kept the screws exposed. Then he put 3 coats of MoistureCure Non-Yellowing poly. We wanted an industrial look. The floors are absolutely
beautiful. Check out our website (www.luminhaus.com)....there are several photos listed that include the flooring. Our birch plywood flooring
cost $1,500 total ($1,000/plywood, $200/screws, $300/poly applicators ....and that's for 1,152sq.ft.

Good luck!!
Jennifer

 
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Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Rob Batey at June 03. 2005

You folks are AWESOME. Thanks for the ideas (hadn't thought of the biscuit joiner, thanks Greg!), and the pictures are stellar. They've definitely pushed the idea further into the forefront for a flooring choice. Jennifer, your house came out beautiful (as are all the photos!). Kevin - is that the edge banding you mention in the picture?

THANK YOU ALL!
Rob

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by David Friedman at June 07. 2005

We put birch plywood in our home office to get an industrial look (also installed a hanging fluorescent officey light fixture) - contract. Looks good but beware that at least the product we used is SIGNIFICANTLY softer than hardwood floors. We have a rolling office chair on casters that puts indentations in the surface whenever you roll - and I'm not that fat! Just a warning - it will get scuffed.

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Erik Gustke at June 07. 2005

The edge banding looks interesting I am a little confused though. Did you recess the top edge of the plywood to put the edge banding into or is it just on the surface and therefore have a small ridge?

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Kevin Dickson at June 07. 2005

Routing a recess for the edgebanding is impractical because of the splintering problem. So it sits proud maybe 1/32 after poly. MDF (hardboard) could be recessed easily. Good point about chairs with wheels. My wife caused a lot of damage scooting around the house in office chair. She had broken her foot playing soccer
On the other hand, repairs are easy compared to conventional hardwood.

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Michael O'Neal at June 22. 2005

Hi Everyone. This is my first posting here.

I have just gone under contract on my first house...an 1800 sq. foot townhome in Boulder, CO. I have been looking at flooring options, and this birch plywood flooring looks perfect for me. Any other pics of installs would be great. I emailed jennifer to see some close ups from the joints of the flooring of Luminhaus, but I haven't heard back from her yet.

At any rate, I'm excited to join the community and reap some of the vast knowledge you all have!

Thanks!

Michael O'Neal

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Jennifer Watson at June 22. 2005

Greetings Michael,

I didn't receive an email from you or I would have definately responded...please email again so I can send you some pics.

Jennifer

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Jennifer Watson at June 22. 2005

Whoops!!!

Just saw your post on my livemodern blog...will read it respond.

Jennifer

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Rob Batey at June 23. 2005

Hi Jennifer,

When you respond to Michael, and especially if it's with pics of a plywood floor installation, would you please link to those pics here? I'm psyched about this thread I started, and still love the idea, but am started to get worried about resale value (things change, and I may be selling). The more case studies I see of this flooring option, the more I have to base my decisions on.

I'd sincerely appreciate it!
Rob

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by matt schoenholz at July 25. 2005

Jennifer,

I was looking at your site, and the info on the Rocio Romero site. You mentioned in one of the pages in the blog that you would try to post information here in realation to the budget details for your project. I am in the process of purchaseing land for an LVL or an LV, and would like see the actual budget/details if possible. You can email me or post them here.

Thanks,
Matt

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Chris at July 30. 2005

><br>

An potential option for securing the flooring to the sub-floor and hiding the eyesores that screws can be is to purchase a plug cutter, available in various diameters, and simply plug the holes with a matching or exotic hardwood.


1. Choose, say, a 3/8th inch drill bit.
2. Drill 1/4 into plywood in desired screw loactions
3. Screw plywood to sub-floor through 3/8th holes
4. With matching or contrasting hardwood (maple, birch, oak...zebrawood??) drill 3/8 plugs to fill the holes and plug them.
5. Shear and level-match the plug with either a plug cutter saw, or a very sharp chisel and sand lightly.

This is a fantastic, no shortcut, option that I would recommend.
Reply in this thread if you have questions.

Chris


><br>

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Michael Morrison at July 31. 2005

We used 2'x2' biscuit-joined birch plywood for our basement floor. Here's a picture of it.

 
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Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Michael O'Neal at August 01. 2005

Hi all,

Ok...here's the update. I have, sitting in my driveway, 20 sheets of 4 X 8 X 1/2 Baltic Birch plywood. They look beautiful. My entire floor is empty, and the subfloor is waiting. Now I'm stuck on HOW to attach the floors. I've read the thread (and others) and haven't seen a frontrunner as far as attaching. My goal is to have as little gap as is possible between sheets, and I would love to be able to put down some thin foam (a la laminate flooring) to cut down on reverberation. My contractor wants to glue the floor to the subfloor. I had suggested doing biscuits. I don't really know what pins are in this case...anyone care to elaborate?

It looks like these are my options:

1. Glue to subfloor
2. Biscuits/Pins, boards glued to each other, floating floor
3. Screwed to subfloor
4. Funky fastener thingie in Chris' post.

I am not completely opposed to screws with filler, and part of me thinks it might be the best option.

Also, if someone can recommend a good Polyurethane that a normal person can buy at any home store, let me know.

I'll post pics of the entire modern transformation of my mundane condo.

Mike in Boulder.

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Rob Fagan at August 01. 2005

New to this forum… but have similar concerns re: gap minimization.

Instead of plywood, I had planned to use 4x8’ OSB sheets over an existing subfloor for a 14x14’ room. However, OSB manufacturers recommend an 1/8th inch gap between adjacent sheets.

I would hate to ruin the mosaic-like quality OSB would produce by calling out every seam/gap with caulk.

Any (low tech) insights or advice? I live in a high humidity state…do I ignore the 1/8” mandate at my own peril?

Thanks for all the great tips -

RFH

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Steve Schafer at August 01. 2005

[strong]Plywood[/strong]

The first decision you have to make is floating vs. fastened down.

In principle, you can achieve tighter joints if you float the floor, because you don't have to worry about differential expansion between the floor and the subfloor. On the other hand, the performance of the floor becomes much more dependent on how good a job you do in joining the panels to each other. Biscuit joinery is probably the best way to go, but you'll need to clamp the panels tightly together while the glue sets to prevent the joints from cracking over time. Also, don't do any sanding of the floor until after the glue has had a few days to dry. The plywood will swell in the vicinity of the biscuits as it absorbs moisture from the glue; if you sand the floor while it's in that swelled state, you'll end up with visible depressions at each biscuit once the moisture has fully evaporated.

With a fastened-down floor, the joints are never going to be as tight, because of the inevitable expansion and contraction of the panels. (This isn't as visible in a hardwood floor, for example, because the overall expansion is spread out over so many more individual gaps.) If you do fasten down the plywood, you have no choice but to drive fasteners through the face; fastening just around the edges is going to lead to a buckled floor. I think 16 on center is the minimum fastener spacing you can get away with, and 12 is probably better.

[strong]OSB[/strong]

Even though you'd have to float it to avoid the gaps between panels, I wouldn't recommend trying to float an OSB floor. I don't think you can get a strong enough glue joint, even using biscuits.

[strong]Polyurethane[/strong]

The Minwax line of polyurethane varnishes has gotten good reviews. If you want to try a water-based product, I recommend Safecoat Polyureseal BP. You can get it from [url href=http://envronmentalhomecenter.com/]Environmental Home Center[/url]. I haven't tried it on a floor, but I've used it on some woodworking projects, and it seems to perform well. It's important to allow each coat to fully cure before applying the next coat.

-Steve

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Rob Batey at August 01. 2005

Halocrime - that came out GREAT! Thanks for sharing!

What did you use to finish the floor, if you don't mind elaborating?

Rob

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Jeffrey Rous at August 02. 2005

I have an additional question. It seems to me that gluing the sheets to the sub-floor could cause big headaches in the future. At some point over the next 20 years I expect that there will be a reason to replace at least one sheet (water damage, dog pee, wear, etc.). How in the heck do you do that without destroying the sub-floor when the sheets are glued down? I guess there is a similar problem if you join all the sheets in that replacing one sheet is not feasible, but at least you won't completely destroy the sub-floor when the plywood is removed.

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Steve Schafer at August 02. 2005

Dog pee stains are known as character. ;)

I wouldn't glue down full sheets of plywood, for the reasons mentioned. I would use screws instead. (But then again, I don't think I'd ever install a plywood floor....) Also note that a screwed-down floor is likely to be somewhat noisier than a glued-down floor.

Replacing a single sheet of a floating plywood floor is going to be a pain, just like replacing a single plank of a floating hardwood floor is a pain. With a hardwood floor, you at least have the option of removing several planks, and kind of springing the replacement planks into place, but it's hard to imagine getting that to work when your planks are four feet wide. I think with plywood you're better off inserting a localized patch that doesn't extend through the full thickness (for example, if you used 1/2 plywood, you'd rout out a recess for the patch 1/4 deep, and then fill it with 1/4 plywood).

You mention water damage--that's another reason to avoid OSB. Unless you use something like Advantech OSB, which is very water resistant but also has lots of stuff printed on it (kind of ruins the aesthetic), any water that gets through the finish to the panel will cause it to swell significantly, and it will stay swollen even after the panel dries out. In the rental I'm living in right now (I'm moving in two weeks), there is a distinct hump in the floor (sheet vinyl over OSB) in the vicinity of the refrigerator, the result of a microscopic pinhole leak in the plastic supply line to the icemaker. Because the leak was so small, it was there for a long time (weeks or months), slowly soaking the subfloor, before anyone noticed.

-Steve

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Rob Fagan at August 02. 2005

Good points re:OSB.

Oddly enough, I do like the look of OSB and had hoped to minimize potential swelling problems through the liberal use of polyurethane, especially at board edges. But you never know. At $11 a sheet, I figure I can experiment a little. And about anything would be better than what I am living with now.

Will screw into sub floor at 12-16” oc with 1/8th gaps for expansion.

Any recommendations for accessible products (beside caulk) that could be used in combination with the 1/8” gaps? If gaps are a reality, perhaps I can still use exposed hardware and ‘gap inserts’ to the design’s advantage.

RFH

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Steve Schafer at August 02. 2005

How about routing a shallow recess along the joints and inlaying a 3/4-wide strip of something (aluminum strip, maybe?). If you fasten it with a flexible adhesive, like silicone caulk, it should stay in place reasonably well.

-Steve

Re: plywood floors?

Posted by Michael O'Neal at August 02. 2005

Ok...more updates.

Place is coming along great! Here are some pics of the before and during. 1st steps are to remove the existing carpeting/flooring. Then remove both walls and build out the cabinets. Then the birch/stainless countertops, and finally the birch floors.

http://whirledmedia.com/firstfloorremodel/firstfloorremodel.html

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