The first farmhouse wide plank flooring made from plywood project we did was in the dining room earlier in the year.
Well, we loved it so much we did the same wide plank flooring in the living room.
For the most part, both the floors were done the same way, with a couple of exceptions. In this article, we’ll go over the differences between the two floors.
Check out the dining room plywood floor article to see more of the step by step details.
As far as time goes, the dining room’s wide plank flooring took about a week to finish and the living room took a lot longer.
The living room is a bit bigger, but what really added time to the project were the shimming and the end grain flooring inlay.
From start to finish, it took a little over two weeks to finish the living room floor.
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What We Did Different With This Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring
The methods we used for the flooring in the dining room and the living room were pretty much the same.
In the living room, we pulled up the old carpet, removed staples, painted the sub-floor a dark color and put down the floor the same way it was done in the dining room.
The width, length and thickness of the plywood planks was the same, and we cut, sanded, distressed, stained and added 3 coats of polyurethane to the flooring in almost the same way.
There were some small changes we made that saved us a little time and may have added some more character to the plywood plank floor.
Here are the things we did a bit differently this go around.
We Didn’t Sand Between Polyurethane Coats
When we did the dining room floor, we lightly sanded the bumps out of the coat of polyurethane with 120 grit sandpaper.
With the living room floors, we figured that the bumps on the plywood planks would even out a little after multiple coats of poly were applied.
Besides, the bumps would add a bit more texture making the floors less slippery. Not that the dining room floors are slippery – it was just a way of justifying it in my head. 😉
The only concern I had was how it would feel walking barefoot on the floor with more texture.
Turns out, despite clearly feeling the additional texture when running your hand on the plank, it was barely noticeable when walking on it barefoot.
The Shopping List
Affiliate links below may be to similar items when exact items couldn’t be found online.
Extra Battery For Finish Nailer
These are the supplies used on this project.
Affiliate links below may be to similar items when exact items couldn’t be found online.
Varathane Cherrywood Gel Stain – we used about 7 quarts
Water Based Oil-Modified Poluyrathane – we used 2 gallons
3″ Natural Bristle brush – 6 brushes to apply the stain
4″ Polyester Synthetic Brush – 4 brushes to apply the poly
Masking Paper – We used the masking paper to protect the deck when applying the stain and poly
A New Character Builder Was Used
The same original cast of character builders was used with the plywood planks in the living room. A hammer, pliers, and a propane torch… and this time we added a utility knife to the arsenal.
For the dining room, we would dig into cracks in the wood using the sanders to open the cracks up and soften the edges.
This time we used a utility knife to lengthen and widen the cracks in the wood.
Then we softened the edges of the cracks with the sander.
The result was even better than we imagined.
The deep cracks we made with the utility knife gave us the aged, farmhouse wide plank flooring look we were going for.
You wouldn’t even guess that it was plywood.
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We Added Shims
The living room floors were much more uneven than the floors in the dining room.
To the point where we needed to add shims in the low spots to try and level things off a little.
I went around the floor with a straight edge, and where ever there was a dip, I added shims.
Since I knew I needed a good amount of shims, I made them out of a sheet of 1/4″ plywood. I ripped the sheet into 1″ strips using the table saw.
Once the floor was shimmed, we painted the floor a dark brown color, just like we did in the dining room.
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The Living Room Plywood Floor Is Finished!
Like I said, the living room floor took much longer to do than the dining room floor did. It took a little over two weeks to finish, had I not messed up with the wood slice accent flooring, we would have finished in about 2 weeks.
Check out the wood slice accent flooring project here
We love the farmhouse wide plank flooring in both the dining room and the living room. This style was the perfect fit for this house, we couldn’t have imagined a better fit.
Between the two floors, I’d say I’d stick to the steps used on the living room floor.
Sanding between poly coats seems to have been unnecessary, and using the utility knife to expand on the cracks in the wood added sooo much more character to the living room floor – LOVE IT!
Here are a few more pictures of the stained plywood floors on the living room floor.
Let me know what you think, is there something you would have done differently?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!
What color and brand of stain did you use?
We used cherrywood gel stain from Varathane, you can find it at Home Depot.
Beautiful floors. I was wondering how much space is between the planks and how you managed to keep the distance uniformly. I have seen other posts where they have used pennies but yours look wider.
Thanks so much! 🙂
The gaps are kinda sorta uniform – they definitely aren’t perfect. Since our floors were so warped it would have been difficult to get the spacing to be the same everywhere. We were going for a rustic look anyway, so the spaces didn’t need to be THAT uniform. 🙂
We did something similar for our spacings, we used quarters to do the spacing.
Hope that helps!
What type of poly, did you use?
We used Minwax Water-based oil-modified Polyurethane with a clear satin finish. Here’s the link to the poly I used on Amazon
It worked out really well for this project for a few reasons:
It doesn’t have an odor
It is a clear finish, with no yellowing
It’s designed for flooring, so it’s very durable
They were all important to us, but the most important for us was that it was orderless. If you’ve ever done a project with regular polyurethane there’s a super-strong smell that lingers for weeks! This had no smell at all.
Hope that helps.
We did these floors in our old house and found they were easy to scratch. And not in the cool worn character of use but like scratchy looking. How did you get around this? Thank you!
Well so far so good. The floors in the dining room and kitchen are about a year old and there aren’t any scratches – yet. 🙂
Not sure if it’s something we did that made a difference with the scratch resistance. Maybe the poly we used, maybe the number of coats we put on. But I’m sure a scratch will come along someday.
Like I wrote in the post about the dining room floors, the old me would have never made floors with this much character.
The old me would have made perfectly smooth flooring with as little imperfection as possible and I would have done everything possible to avoid scratches. The thing is the more perfect your floors are, the easier it is to have a noticeable scratch.
The new me made these floors with tons of imperfections, on purpose! There are so many I can’t imagine a scratch that I wouldn’t welcome and chalk up to additional character.
If there are scratches that come along which are downright unsightly, here’s a list of what I think I would do:
Scratches in the poly
If the scratches are only in the poly and haven’t reached the wood, then I can add a coat of the water-based poly on the pieces that need it. That’s something that’s great about the water-based poly we used, you can apply a coat on top of an existing coat. You don’t have to sand down to the wood to refresh the finish.
Scratches in the wood
If a scratch makes it into the wood, meaning that naked wood shows in the scratch, I would try my best to incorporate the scratch into the character.
Maybe I’d use a sharp to make the scratch dark and apply a couple of coats of water-based poly on that board to protect the wood again.
I could also apply more stain into the scratch to hide the wood color then apply a couple of coats of water-based poly on that board to protect the wood again.
Scratches That are So Ugly I Can’t Stand It
Another option if the scratches are really nasty looking, then I could remove the boards that were scratched up and make new boards to replace them. Honestly, the scratches would have to be realllly bad for that to happen.
I hope that answers your question. If not lemme know and I’ll do my best to answer you. 🙂
Have you had any problems with dirt/junk getting into the cracks or did you do something to prevent that.
It’s kind of surprising but no. I expected that I’d need to dig some dust bunnies out of there every once and a while but we haven’t had that happen.
I think it may have to do with the thickness of the plywood we chose. Because it’s only 1/2″ thick, the vacuum may be close enough to the bottom of the cracks to suck the dust and stuff out. Just a guess.
Maybe if something gooey or pasty fell into the cracks, like cake batter. That would probably need more cleaning, but so far so good, no cake baking accidents. 🙂
I am considering a similar distressed floor in a lake cabin, probably painted with a thin white wash of some type.
1) I worry about dirt, bugs, etc collecting in cracks. Has it been a problem?
2) How thick must the plywood be if it is going over a preexisting linoleum?
David – Dallas
We used 1/2″ plywood for our floors. The main reason I used 1/2″ instead of 3/4″ was because our floors were so uneven. The house is made entirely of rough-cut lumber, which has a really unique feel that we love – but the unevenness of it is a pain when you try to lay flooring down. The 1/2″ plywood had the perfect amount of give for our project, not to mention it was also cheaper than 3/4″ plywood.
The flooring under our plywood planks is light-colored plywood. To prevent that subfloor from showing between the plank spaces we painted it with a really dark brown paint that had an eggshell finish. The eggshell minimizes the shine if the sunlight happened to hit it.
We haven’t had any problems with stuff collecting in the spaces between the planks. I think because we used 1/2″ instead of 3/4″ plywood, the vacuum is able to suck out anything that may have otherwise been trapped in the spaces of 3/4″ plywood. Just a theory.
It could also be the smooth finish on the sides of the planks that prevent dust bunnies from clinging to the sides of the planks. Had we finished the floor while it was down instead of pre-finishing each board individually (like we did), the sides of the wood would have been very rough and I think it would have been much harder to get the dust out of there.
If I were to put this floor down over linoleum I’d use 1/2″, 3/4″ costs more and honestly I can’t think of what benefit it would have over the 1/2″. If the linoleum had lost its sheen and was a darker color, I may install the planks directly over it.
If it was still shiny, had a heavy pattern, or was a really light color then I would put a coat of paint on it. The linoleum may need to be scuffed up with sandpaper to give the paint something to hold on to if the linoleum is still in good shape.
I hope that helps and best of luck with your plank project!!
Hi Steve, thank you so much for this post. I swear your floors make me bite the side of my index finger… Lol. But seriously, I’ve read both if your post several times and I’ve just about built up enough courage to get started however, I would like stain the wood planks and grout them, do you think I could use grout and if so what type of grout would you recommend. I noticed that you used sawdust grout for the end grain wood slice floor, which would also be an option if I can paint/ whitewash the end grain slices. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again for your post.
That’s great! I’m glad these posts are helping you create your own version of these plywood plank floors.
It sounds like you want to do the same flooring, but add grout between the planks. And you’re also doing your version of the end grain wood slice floor with whitewash.
I think it’s gonna look awesome!
Yeah, you can definitely use grout. I came across a couple of other methods to fill the spaces, but personally, I like the organic-ness of the sawdust grout.
To fill the spaces between the planks, I think I’d tweak the sawdust grout recipe a little.
With the end grain wood slices, I used 2 parts sawdust to 1 part poly. It’s what I found online as the ratios, so that’s what I used.
That created a pretty thick grout (kinda like really thick oatmeal), which was ok in my application because the gaps between the slices were pretty wide. Grabbing a chunk of sawdust grout and mashing it between the wood slices wasn’t a big deal.
I think to fill the gaps between the planks – I’d want a more liquid grout.
I’d probably still do a 2 to 1 mixture – then mix in more poly, little by little, until it was more like a pancake batter.
That would make it easier to fill the spaces.
Applying the grout
When applying the grout, make sure to wipe off as much of the grout from the face of the planks while it’s still fresh.
This isn’t the same as regular grout – you want to wipe the sawdust grout off as soon as you apply it.
Use a rag to wipe it off the plank face right after you filled the space for that plank.
These are the steps I’d do (I think you’re on the same page – but just in case):
If there are spots where the grout didn’t completely wipe off the face of the planks you can sand it off. Then reapply poly if needed.
I hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions.
I’d love to see how your floors come out. Mark the pics with #opifloors so we can find them!
Thanks and best of luck with your flooring!
Hey Steve! LOVE LOVW LOVE THE FLOORS! I apologize if you’ve already said this but could you share what color stain you used?
Hi Wendy! Thank you so much! 🙂
Sure not a problem at all, the stain color we used is Cherrywood from Varathane.
There are other brands that have a Cherrywood color, but they aren’t all the same.
The Varathane Cherrywood stain has a darker color. The darker color gave a more pronounced “wood grain” finish than the other brands.
This is a link to the same stain we used:
Hello! Your floors are absolutely gorgeous! I would love to come as close as possible to yours. With me wanting to be a copycat, I have a couple questions.
Is this just regular 4×8 sheets of PINE plywood?
Also, did you use a brush (technique?) for applying the stain?
Thank you in advance!
Hi Tifani! Thank you so much!
That’s right, the 1/2″ cheap 4 x 8 pine plywood sheets. Because the cracks and knots add character to the boards, you don’t need to be careful about selecting boards that are pristine. In fact, choosing boards with imperfections will give you more character in your floor boards.
I did use a brush technique. I was trying to prevent, or at least mimimize that zebra pattern that plywood has when you stain it. So, I used the gel stain in stead of regular stain, and by using a dry brush technique the gel stain went on in a wood pattern hiding that zebra pattern I was avoiding.
The technique was pretty easy. I go over the technique here https://ourprojectideas.com/diy-rustic-wide-plank-plywood-flooring/#staining-the-planks
It’s just a matter of having two brushes, one to apply the stain (the wet brush) and the other to remove excess stain and apply a wood grain type pattern (the dry brush).
I’m not sure if I answered your brush technique, let me know if you need more clarification. 🙂
Best of luck with your floors!!
The floors look wonderful! Just wondering did you tongue and groove the planks or just put them down next to each other not connected?
Hi Cherie, thank you so much.
We wanted a farmhouse look with spaces between each plank so we didn’t do tongue and groove. Each board is face nailed into the subfloor.
Hello. Thank you so much for the post. Your floors are beautiful! We put this type of flooring in two of our bedrooms. We’ve found that the plywood is soft, and that it’s very easy to put divots in the floor. Have you found this to be an issue?
So far we haven’t had any divots that we have noticed, but we are expecting that we’ll get some with time. That’s why we added a boat-load of wear and tear on the boards when we finished them.
If the boards had no imperfections it would be easy to spot a divot in the floor. With all the imperfections that we intentionally put on the boards it makes it very difficult to notice a new imperfection.
We just see any future divots as added character. It will just add to the beauty of the floors.
Wow, this is beautiful, looks like the floor has been there forever. This has me thinking…
Thank you for sharing your project with us!
I’m glad you liked it Karen.
We really appreciate your willingness to share your expertise with us. Your floors look great. What was the total cost (plywood and all other materials) per square foot to install this flooring?
Thank you so much.
Great question. I never broke it down into the price per sq foot… until now. 🙂
Here are my rough numbers It’s rough numbers because I did the calculations now based on the current prices and the numbers of items I purchased. It also doesn’t take into account the cost of things like paintbrushes, nails, and the rolls of paper we put down under the boards while we stained and polyed.
No matter how you put it, the cost is dirt cheap! lol
Thanks for asking the question. I didn’t realize how cost-effective this was until now.
22 sheets of plywood @ $32/sheet = $704
17 quarts of stain @16.30/quart = $276
5 gallons of Poly @ $12/gallon = $60
TOTAL = $1040
22 Sheets * 32sq. ft./sheet = 704 sq. ft.
$1040 / 704 sq. ft. = $1.47 per sq. ft.
Your floor came out amazing! I did my 8 year old son’s room floor the same way but painted it. I’m doing the same in mine but i love the stain color you went with. I was gonna do a dark greyish wall color but now that i want your color stain on the floor what do you think is a good color choice to go with that?
Thank you so much Michael!
Hmm, I am by no means a color expert but it seems grey is the ‘it’ color because it goes with everything.
Actually, here’s a picture of the carpet that was originally in the living room next to the finished dining room floor:
If you imagine that color on the wall, it looks pretty snazzy!
You may also want to take a look at greige colors, which is a mix between grey and beige. In your case, I’d look for a grey that has a tiny hint of beige in it.
I think it would look really classy. The great thing with wood floors is they go with a ton of different colors.
People that are more adventurous with their color palette would probably not agree with me, but in your shoes, I’d look for earth colors to put on the walls… although the grey does go nicely with it.
I love this. How has this held up?
Hi Carol, thank you so much!
It’s held up really well. Far better than I had even expected!
Thanks for all the time you’ve put into these projects, sharing them with us and answering our questions. I’m a professional floor installer, and this floor is an absolute winner. My dad owns a flooring business, and I’m not sure if he would go for this, but I know I love it. I personally don’t like conventional floors: either they’re very durable, but fake like laminate and lvp (and look AWFUL when they do get damged), or damage very easily, like all prefinished wood floors. Don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful hardwood floors out there, but the price tags! And like you said, they don’t wear well – 90% of the time all you can see are the flaws because they try too hard to be perfect.
I know its too soon to tell, but I imagine these are floors you will still love in 25 years. They seem to hit the perfect balance between functionality, cost, and aesthetics. That being said, if I had a million bucks to throw at a floor, I think I would still do this, and make them myself! They’re something to be proud of for sure.
I do have some questions though:
1) When you want to touch up some dings or scratches, do you normally have to hit it with a stain marker (or something of the like) to recolor the wood, or does the gel stain penetrate deep enough to hide most surface damage?
2) Do the floors pop or squeak? Painting the subfloor was clever, but I was curious if the plywood planks crackle or pop wherever you step. I could see foot pressure creating funny sounds when the boards contact, and release from the paint.
3) In your dining room (or kitchen?), where you didn’t need to shim the floor, how does the floor feel underfoot? Does it flex a little? Wood floors typically have a little give, but I’m curious how it compares to standard 3/4 inch, tongue and groove floors. When you see someone walking on them, can you see the boards bending (you’d have to be looking at the floor from a distance to catch the light)?
4) Do the floors expand and contract a lot between summer and winter? I don’t imagine they do since engineered wood generally doesn’t move as much, but its worth knowing what my expansion gaps should be.
5) Have you noticed any cupping or curling on the long edges of the boards?
6) And lastly, when you touch up some damage with a coat or two of water-based poly, is it clear that there was a repair done? When you stand back and look at the floor from a distance, can you see a contrast in the repaired sheen and the surrounding floor?
I think that’s it for now, but I’m sure another question will pop into my head when I send this lol. Thanks for listening, and thanks again for sharing.
Wow Rick, what a thorough comment! I’ll try to be as thorough with my answers! 🙂
1) I don’t think the gel stain goes that deep into the wood, although there haven’t been many dings/scratches that needed to be touched up. I have noticed a few areas where the wood have an indentation scratch which probably happens because the wood is softer than normal flooring. Not sure if I’m describing it accurately but there are places where the wood has an indentation but the stain color is still there. I don’t think it’s because the stain penetrated that deeply, but more because the wood was pushed in. They basically look like more of the scratches I intentionally put on the wood when I was finishing it.
There was a board in the kitchen that had a couple of splinters break off at one of the ends of the board. Instead of using a stain color, I chose to use a black sharpy to color it in like it was an old burned-off end. It worked great. I sanded off the sharp edges of the splinter hold, sharpied (I just made up a word lol) the naked wood, and applied some water-based poly into the crack to protect the wood again it was good as new.
2) The floors actually pop and squeak less than the original floor did! Definitely not something I planned or expected to happen but yeah, they don’t squeak.
Shortly after I installed the floor there were a couple of spots where I guess I didn’t quite get the board nailed down right and those did squeak. I just walked around with my nail gun everywhere looking for the squeakers and added a couple of nails to the boards that needed it.
3) Where I didn’t shim the floor feels super solid, no flexing that I can feel. Where I did add shims you do see some flexing in the light, but I’m okay with that. 🙂
4) I haven’t been at the house in the winter so I don’t know what the gaps look like compared to the summer months but there hasn’t been any buckling so I think the expansion gaps are ok.
5) I haven’t noticed coupling on the board edges. Not yet anyway.
6) I did refinish a couple of boards last year and I didn’t see a difference in sheen. It is a good point though, as the floor gets older the difference in sheen would have to eventually become more obvious. At that point I’d have to decide if it’s part of the perfectly imperfect style I was going with, otherwise, I may decide to add a coat of poly on the entire floor.
These floors are a revelation. I’m a professional floor installer, and these are up there with the finest wood floors I’ve ever seen. I’ve been looking for something durable, but warm and real for my home, and there aren’t many options out there. Conventional floors don’t really interest me: they try too hard to be perfect and highlight any and all damage. I want something that’s real, cost-friendly, and will roll with the punches – this seems to strike the balance.
I imagine you will still love these floors in 25 years. Obviously it’s too soon to tell, but they’re certainly something to be proud of.
Do you mind a few questions?
1) Do you have to hit surface scratches and dings with a stain marker (or something of the like) or does the gel stain normally penetrate deep enough to hide them? Do you ever re-stain with the gel to restore the wood grain look?
2) Does the poly chip off easily when scratched or damaged? When you put a couple coats on a repair, does the sheen look uneven from a distance?
3) In you dining room (or kitchen?) where you didn’t shim the floor, how does the floor feel underfoot? Does it flex? Do you notice the boards bending when someone is walking on them (you’d have to be in the right light)?
4) Do they expand and contract a lot? I don’t suspect they do being that its engineered wood, but its worth knowing how wide my expansion gaps should be on the edges.
5) Have you noticed and cupping or curling on the long edges of the boards?
6) Is the floor quiet? Do the boards crackle or pop underfoot? You painting the subfloor was clever, but I was wondering if foot pressure made any funny sounds when the planks press into, and release from the paint.
Anyway, thats it for now. Another question will probably come to me as soon as I send this lol. Thanks for listening and thanks again for sharing.
Hi again Rick, I see some of these questions are similar to the ones in your other comment which I just answered. The one thing I didn’t answer in the previous post was regarding the poly chipping, the poly hasn’t chipped off at all. It has held up amazingly well.
lol, recaptcha got me, forced me back, and I lost the whole comment. Or so I thought…rewrite special 🙂
No worried Rick! Thanks for your comments!
My dog just had a series of bad accidents all over our 1960s foyer carpet so instead of trying to clean it, I just started ripping carpet up! This is our plan over the next few weeks and I just had one question. I’ve been seeing various articles about vapor barriers and whether or not you should use them when you have a wood subfloor and nail down wood flooring such as this. Any insight as to why you didn’t use it?
Hmmm, that’s interesting. When doing research I didn’t see anything about installing vapor barriers with flooring on a wood subfloor.
They do mention using vapor barriers for flooring installed on concrete to prevent moisture from the concrete affecting the flooring.
I have seen a paper that gets installed between the flooring and subfloor, mostly for floating floors. I didn’t use that because I didn’t want the paper to be visible in the expansion gaps.
Wow! Your floors are gorgeous. I’m in love. The only thing bugging me and that I’d do differently is to make the spliced wood part wider.
I wish I had seen this post before I did my entryway with vinyl flooring. It’s beautiful and friends say it looks like real wood, but it doesn’t have near the character your floors have.
Thank you for sharing your expertise.
Thank you Ginnie!
Oh, so you would make the wood planks wider? Cool!
It was my intention to make the planks wider too, but when I tried it out it felt like they might be too wide. By making them 5 7/8″ wide it minimized waste from the plywood sheet and the planks felt more like real wood if that makes sense.
Hey, they make gorgeous vinyl flooring in our days so I’m sure your entryway looks awesome. Maybe my floor have more character but they also took a whole lot longer to install. 🙂
Hello! Absolutely beautiful floors. I was wondering. Did you use anything between the planks & subfloor? We have concrete and wondering if I can do this on them…..
Hi Lina! I installed those floors on a plywood subfloor so we didn’t have to put something between the planks and subfloor. Concrete would be trickie. You’ll definitely need to put some sort of vapor barrier between your flooring and the concrete. You would also need to put something between the concrete and your planks to be able to nail them in. A possibility would be to install a vapor barrier, sheets of plywood nailed to the concrete, then the plywood planks nailed into the sheets of plywood. It would be a lot more work for sure and it would also increase the total cost of the project quite a bit but that may be a solution.
Do you think that a 3/8” plywood would work fine instead of a 1/2”? Our floors are pretty even so we wouldn’t need the flexibility, it’s just significantly cheaper since we would be doing around 1200 sq ft. Thanks!
I think it would. The only thing I can think of is you may be able to see the subfloor a bit easier than with 1/2″. As long as your subfloor is a very dark color and not shiny I think you could totally do it with 3/8″ sheets.
Good luck with it!