Starting on the floor

I borrowed Neighbor S’s table saw and set it up next to the bench under the eave of Landlady’s barn.

I have five sheets of nice clear plywood that have been stored in the barn since all the building materials for the bedroom addition were delivered in May. The plan, which Landlady got from surfing Pinterest, involves cutting plywood into 9″ plank-like shapes, sanding the corners slightly, and laying them down over tarpaper to pretend they’re a plank floor.

Honestly I’ve been very unhappy with the tile floor I so laboriously laid down last September; the tiles are cold in winter, which I expected, but they’re also slippery as hell and surprisingly fragile – several are already broken. So I’m looking for a floor that’s a little more in tune with the Joel-ness of the cabin. Frankly I toyed with the idea of just laying down some plywood, but Landlady gave me That Look so I ceased my wrongthink.

The next task, just completed, was to borrow Neighbor D’s palm sander. I should have enough material for some moderate goofs, so I’m going to practice the technique by doing the closet floor first.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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10 Responses to Starting on the floor

  1. Ben says:

    How do you intend to finish the floor Joel? Stain and then some sort of clear coat? Do you have the materials to do that? I’m guessing that allowing the floor to get dirty or stained before finishing would just make extra work for you.

  2. Judy says:

    It will be interesting to see what it looks like. I’ve laid the laminate flooring and it can be fiddly to cut and lay without chipping the hardened surface.

    If it were me, I would stain and do most of the finishing before laying the floor to save my back and knees. But someone with more experience might have a different take.

  3. Joel says:

    Yeah, stain and then clear coat. I hope to do the closet separately, then I can move stuff in there while doing the bedroom proper. Haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to keep LB off it, but he usually respects a physical barrier. Unless there are rabbits.

    I figure I should be able to roll it on, so breaking my back shouldn’t be an issue.

  4. Mark Matis says:

    Aren’t most wood floors tongue-and-groove? And you don’t have the means to do that with your plywood…

  5. Joel says:

    We’re doing this on the cheap, Mark. Tongue and groove costs mucho moola. I just want something to keep the cold and the splinters away from my remaining toes.

  6. Mark Matis says:

    There’s a reason, though, why wood flooring is tongue and groove. You MAY be able to get away with face-nailing, and I doubt that you’ll be that concerned about the resulting appearance, but make sure you nail hear the edges of your “planks” at the nominal wood floor spacing on BOTH edges of each plank to avoid a severe tripping hazard when the edges curl upward. In addition to the tripping issue, that would also present some REAL splinter opportunities…

  7. Zelda says:

    If the “plank” edges butt together, what about shrink/swell issues and the resulting splinter opportunities. Is your plywood marine grade? because that would be a bit more stable. It might not look elegant but I would think sheets of plywood would be more stable and have less hazard potential than planks. However it turns out, your planks can be covered with rugs or mats.

  8. Norman says:

    This goes back decades, but “plywood planking” works surprisingly well. In certain cases…..a friend had a house which had a large, open attic above the 3-car garage; the plan was put something down for a floor so it could be used for storage. Problem was, due to the truss layout there was no way to get 4X8 sheets into the attic, much less properly positioned.

    The solution was rip 3/4 (actually, 23/32) plywood into 16″ widths to make 8 ft X 16 in “boards.” We used a table saw set to 25 degrees to cut the edges at an angle. One “board” went in like this, / \ the adjacent went in like \ /. That produced tight edges and as the “boards” absorbed and lost moisture the expansion and contraction didn’t open up spaces between them (square edges would have worked, but anything small that got dropped/fell might have fallen between the “boards” and come to rest on the top of the garage ceiling between the bottom truss chords; since the “boards” were screwed down, and never mind the junk piled on them, that space was inacessible). The size also made it easy to half-notch the “boards” around the truss joints (half-notching each of the two “boards” that hit a truss joint instead of full-notching just one retained more strength in each “board”).

    Cutting was fairly easy – just flip the sheet to get the correct angle on each board. Why 25 degrees and not 45 degrees? We figured that would make the edge too thin to hold up and the top veneer layer of the plywood would wind up cracking and splitting into splinters.

    I would have preferred shiplap edges, but it was a borrowed portable saw that would not accept a dado blade, and I’ve never been convinced shiplap edges in plywood – especially CDX sheathing, which is near the bottom of the barrel quality-wise – would ever hold up.

    Pro tip: if you’re using this for a floor where “visible fit” is important (or you’re just anal and OCD about such things) don’t forget to allow for width loss due to the saw blade kerf, and plan your layout to allow starting from the outside and work toward the center, with the last “board” fitting in as \ /. This allows cutting that last “board” to exact width to maintain good fit.

    2nd Pro Tip: buy one more sheet of plywood than you think you’ll need……

  9. Ben says:

    My suggestion is to not snug the “planks” together tightly, even though that will leave dust-holding gaps. Use (perhaps) some thin cardboard as shim material as you install the planks. This will give them some expansion room. (Take this from someone who has had a wooden floor buckle on him from expansion.) In a floating floor this problem is dealt with by leaving plenty of expansion room at the edges all around, but your floor can’t “float” because of the absence of T&G joints. Fortunately, since it is monsoon season and I assume that stuff has been stored in a barn, your material should be near it’s maximum dimensions when you install it. So that will give you that much extra safety margin.

  10. Goober says:

    Spar varnish.

    As for marks concerns, plywood will be much more dimensionally stable than regular wood flooring. Glue and nail and you’ll be just fine.

    I did a floor one time in an architect’s office that turned out really well. I used OSB also known as wafer board sanded it down and put Spar Varnish over the top of it. It turned out awesome looked amazing

To the stake with the heretic!