How to Create a Beautiful Wood Floor With Plywood

Naima Manal

Plywood is rarely the first material that comes to mind when choosing a finished flooring material. A long way from just being the sub-floor material, plywood interjects its own "wow-factor" character when its large, 4- by 8-foot sheets of real wood are finished into a shiny, new floor.

Imagine the beauty of a finished plywood floor.

Tongue-and-groove plywood sheets work best in this project since it locks the meeting sides of the plywood sheets together without screws. In a fraction of the time it takes to install a hardwood floor, the plywood sheets cover more floor area with less pieces. To transform plywood-in-the-rough into beautiful wood floors, use a floor sander, stain or paint and several layers of a clear-coat finish to protect the floor from damage. The plywood flooring installation must have a sound sub-floor beneath it, and this project assumes that one is in place already.

Install the Plywood

  1. Remove any peeling, cracked or missing pieces of the old flooring with a chisel and hammer, or a sledge hammer to break up hard tile material.

  2. Fill in any unleveled areas from removing the old floor pieces with a self-leveling, concrete floor compound. Allow it time to set and dry completely before proceeding.

  3. Align a full plywood panel to the starting corner and to the floor joists through the sub-floor. Make the long sides of the plywood parallel to the floor joists, and make the edges of the long sides land halfway over the parallel floor joist to leave enough room for the next plywood sheet's edge to also land on the floor joist.

  4. Screw the 3 1/2-inch deck screws through the plywood and into the floor joists, spacing the screws every 6 inches along the floor joists.

  5. Apply wood glue into the grooves of the already-installed sheet of plywood; then insert the next sheet's edge into the groove and lay it in place over the sub-floor.

  6. Continue installing the plywood sheets and screwing them in place with the deck screws until the entire floor is covered.

  7. Cut the plywood down to size where a full sheet cannot fit. Use a tape measure, straight edge and circular or table saw to cut the wood pieces; then install them to finish the floor.

A Finished Plywood Floor

  1. Sand the plywood floor surface with a wood floor sander to remove rough points and even out the seams. Vacuum the floor to remove the sawdust from the sanding using a wet-dry shop vacuum. Vacuuming is more effective at controlling the dust than sweeping the small particles with a broom.

  2. Apply the floor stain with a stain applicator or the floor paint with a floor paint applicator. Use even strokes of the applicator in the same direction as the wood grain to camouflage any stroke imperfections. Allow the stain or paint time to dry then assess the floor to see if it needs a second coat.

  3. Apply polyurethane over the floor with a polyurethane applicator to seal its surface. Use even strokes that also go in the direction of the floor's wood grain. After allowing the floor to dry, apply another coat of polyurethane. Apply another two to three layers in the same manner for a durable floor surface.


Some polyurethane formulas require a light sanding in between coats. Renew the floor's finish with a coat of polyurethane every other year.


Work in a well-ventilated space. Use protective gear: goggles, gloves, ear plugs and face mask.