How to: install an inexpensive wood floor that looks like a million dollars

Aug 26 2015
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In a past life I had thought of the idea of buying solid oak plywood, cutting it into strips and using it as inexpensive solid oak flooring and I was told that I was an idiot and carpet was chosen instead (a far more expensive option when we had already exhausted our budget). As it turns out I was very right and cutting plywood into strips for a wood floor has been done and it can be gorgeous. And (just for the record) you can put whatever you want under foot, if its wood, then you have a wood floor! It does not need to come out of a box that says “flooring” on it, nope, what makes a floor a floor is the fact that you walk on it. The only reason I did not opt for the plywood-cut-into-strips-option was because I do not own a table saw to cut it ourselves and it still would have been about twice the cost of what I ended up paying. This inexpensive wood floor cost less then $300.

DIY cheap make your own solid wood floors for a fraction of the cost @GrandmasHousDIY
The idea to just use basic pine 1x4s for the floors in our Dining Room/Entry and Extra Bedroom came about when I found out I could buy what they call “furring strips” from a local lumber yard for less then $1 a board. Note: Furring strips are generally made of very rough material, its not pretty wood, it is the roughest pine that you can buy and its usually only used on something where it will be covered up. However, I have a very old farm house and only about 500 square feet to cover and an extraordinarily limited budget. During the renovation, when we (my ex husband and I) finally got to putting in our new wood floor my local lumber yard was completely out of the furring strips I wanted to buy so, after many calls, I ended up buying 1x4s (of the cheapest pine available) somewhere else for $1.80 a board. Not as cheap as I had thought I would get however, it is much higher quality then it would have been had I went with the furring strips. So this floor cost us less then $300 for 500 square feet and that makes me very happy.

DIY cheap make your own solid wood floors for a fraction of the cost @GrandmasHousDIY
Make money by shopping online by using Ebates!

You don’t need much for this installation but there are some things you can do that we did not do. Squeaks fit right in around here and I wanted no gaps between the boards because the original floor boards had no space between them. To eliminate squeaks and groans you can put down a pad/underlayment between the sub floor and your new wood floor, you can also glue the floor down as well and you can also use some kind of spacer between your boards. These are all things that I chose to skip and all things that would eliminate the squeaking, groaning and shifting. For us having the floors look like they’ve been here for 100 years was more important to us then living with squeaks.

How to install an inexpensive wood floor that looks like an expensive hardwood floor for cheap, pine, do it yourself, wood working, diy, tutorial, tips

Question I will undoubtedly be asked: Aren’t you supposed to run your new floor the opposite direction the sub floor is run? Yes, that is how you are supposed to do it and no that is not how we did it. In only about 1/4 of the flooring the old sub floor for the screened in porch remained, the rest was plywood so we just went ahead and did wrong. We regret nothing.

How to install an inexpensive wood floor that looks like an expensive hardwood floor for cheap, pine, do it yourself, wood working, diy, tutorial, tips

We used a brad nailer and two inch long brad nails for this job. My ex husband nailed the boards down while I cut them with the miter saw outside. He did two brads every few feet in a line down every board so it looks very consistent but you have to look close to see them as brads are very tiny. We bought 12 foot long 1x4s so they spanned the distance of the entire room – 8 foot long 1x4s would have been cheaper and would have made little to no waste but would have created lots of seams and our original wood floor have no seams. This is one of those jobs that one person can do but is so much quicker and easier with two people that you really should have two people. With me cutting the boards and my ex nailing them down we laid all of the floor in under 3 hours. Other tools we used were a jigsaw and a skill saw for the tedious cuts. We started in the center of the room and worked our way out so either tool was an absolute must because in three instances we had to rip the 1×4 down lengthwise something that we could not have done that long of a distance with our miter saw and we still do not own a table saw.

How to install an inexpensive wood floor that looks like an expensive hardwood floor for cheap, pine, do it yourself, wood working, diy, tutorial, tips

I used a pine 1×8 to cover the uneven threshold between my dining room and my kitchen, I did not want the two floors butting up to each other to be compared as they are very different types of wood as well as slightly different in size. The threshold creates the stopping point that makes the two different woods/floors make a lot more sense to the eye. We sanded the floors together, using a far rougher grit sandpaper (35) on the original wood floor then we used out here (60). From there I applied one coat of stain to all of it by hand with a paint brush, laid it on there thick, let the floor soak up as much as it wanted and then, after about twenty minutes, wiped up the excess with old t shirts. From there we did two coats of a poly acrylic floor finish with no sanding between coats, letting it be as rough as I could so they would look like they’ve been here forever. I love them!

How to install an inexpensive wood floor that looks like an expensive hardwood floor for cheap, pine, do it yourself, wood working, diy, tutorial, tips

All in this project of 500 square foot of wood flooring cost less then $300.

How to install an inexpensive wood floor that looks like an expensive hardwood floor for cheap, pine, do it yourself, wood working, diy, tutorial, tips

UPDATED September 7, 2017: So far the floors are holding up incredible! Like any wood floor you’re going to find yourself dealing with the dreaded scratches and just like any dark wood floor I find myself still at a loss on how to keep them clean! I’ve got a couple of tricks up my sleeve (all of which I, of course, learned from other amazing bloggers!) The trick is to just bite the bullet and sweep at least once a week and to put a good rug outside to make sure you get the sand off your feet before you come in! This is the rug I love and this is the broom/sweeper I use on a daily basis: A regular broom is just all kinds of inadequate when it comes to a wood floors. 

Initially we had some squeaks because we chose to put the planks tightly together, a year later there are NO squeaks however now there is a tiny gap between each of the planks which is what I expected. With the changing in seasons (and we’ve got major changes because I live in northern Minnesota) and the humidity wood is going to change and its going to move. Because of the tiny gaps now in a couple of places you can see between the planks and I’ve gone back and added a little stain in those areas. If there ever comes a time that one plank gets irreparably damaged I could always just replace it but, so far, I’ve had no major accidents (knock on wood) and all of the scratches I’ve created have disappeared after being walked on after a few days meaning: they were only superficial and my sealant is doing its job!

After 2 years I would still recommend this floor to anyone!

How to install an inexpensive wood floor that looks like an expensive hardwood floor for cheap, pine, do it yourself, wood working, diy, tutorial, tips

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67 Comments on "How to: install an inexpensive wood floor that looks like a million dollars"

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kddomingue
Guest

These look fabulous! We went with a laminated wood plank floor…..and I hate it. It would have saved me a pretty penny to go your route but the husband didn’t want to. Sigh. Wish I had bargued longer.

Tessa
Guest

I think i am going to try this in a home we just bought. When you put the floor down did you seal put anything between the boards, like a sealer? Or did you just seal it over the top? I keep thinking of dirt being trapped in-between the boards.

The floor looks beautiful

Emily Facio
Guest

I love these floors and this idea! I am about to lay some wood floors down on concrete and sub wood flooring. I was wondering how I would put these on the concrete floors? Would I glue them down?

Thanks

Michelle
Guest

Hi-I’m in your situation. I love how this project turned out, but have a concrete slab. Did you end up gluing down the boards, if you did this project? Hoping to learn a little more before tackling this project. Thank you!

Leigh
Guest

This floor looks amazing! I am so impressed! I’m not sure I could do it. 🙂

Olivia Kundisch
Guest

Hello There,
the floor looks faboulos.I just wanted to ask which exact color & brand of poly acrylic finish you guys have used?
I am german, so I won’t find the exact same products probatly here anyway but I really don’t know which color to buy
to have a beuatiful floor liek yours. Thank you so much for this amazing inspiration here.
Warm,
Olivia

Angie @ ambient wares
Guest

Oh my gosh! They’re too gorgeous! I want to do this sooo bad. We have wood in our kitchen and that’s it. Everywhere else is gross carpeting and unfortunately no wood underneath 🙁 I know we could do it but, still intimidated I guess.

Rebecca
Guest

Hi! We have been contemplating the plywood floor route and find ourselves in the same predicament of not having a table saw to cut the plywood. I did a quick search for 6″ pine boards and didn’t find anything for under $4 :(. I know Lowes probably isn’t the cheapest place to look. Any suggestions for other types of outlets? I know there may be regional differences, but figure it can’t hurt to ask!

Joanna
Guest

This is in response to Emily Fasio. When laying a wood floor on concrete you must use an underlayment. Concrete never truly dries and depending where you live it could be a real desaster. If you are wanting to nail the floor like they did then you would need to put a wood subfloor down and then nail the floor to that. If you are going to float the floor like engendered wood then you use an underlayment made for that purpose. NEVER glue solid wood to concrete. I hope this is helpful and gets back to Emily.

Sarah Shelly
Guest

Absolutely gorgeous. What a smarty pants idea.

xoxo,
Sarah @ Gypsy Girl Revivals

Kathy Puerling
Guest

Looks great. Are the brads enough for installing flooring? How well is it holding up now that it has been in use for several months

cristy mcmaster
Guest
I have been planning to do this on my concrete floors. I have done a lot of research. The floor does have to be clean and free of dips from carpet strips etc. I was planning on having lowes cut 4×8 foot plywood into 8 inch strips. My house is almost 3000 sq ft. Whats great Is I can do 1 room at a time. The tutorial I watched was wood Directly on concrete flooring with NO subloor. However, they did a test on the concrete to make sure that the concrete was dry enough for this application. They put… Read more »
Dorothy Mushinski
Guest

Is it possible to do this on a concrete foundation?

Kenny Kyle
Guest
Dorothy, yes you can put this on a concrete floor but there are some things you need to make sure of. You will need to make sure your floor is level, meaning no dips or high spots in the concrete. If so get some leveling mix and make the floor level. You should use a vapor barrier of some sort which would mean you will have to make your floor a floating floor. You can glue it straight to the concrete but you MUST make sure the moisture level of the floor is at it’s lowest degree. Then you can… Read more »
Dave
Guest

Wow. Looks great and I think I’m going to try it! What colour of stain and what kind of sealant did you use?

Cheryl
Guest

Hey , I have a tip for you that we learned from a person who had put in floors for a leaving. For gaps: he mixes sawdust from the same wood, wood glue and the same stain. I don’t know measurements but it really works!

Kayla
Guest

I’m actually about to do this same thing. I was going to use screws, stain, and poly the top to seal it. I’m thinking about just nailing it, but I’m curious if the screws would actually be better and hold the planks down better?

Leanne
Guest
Have an old farm house, built in 1760 with what I affectionately refer to as roller coaster floors. Because of the undulating rises and dips as you walk around the 500 sq ft kitchen. The painted plywood subfloor I walk on now is tragic at best and is beginning to separate a few of its layers now, after who knows how many years of use before hubby and I arrived 5 years ago. And this could be what I have been looking for. I do wonder if you have any thoughts on how my crazy uneven floor would accommodate this.… Read more »
Tricia
Guest

The floor is beautiful. I’m just wondering how the new floor looks up against the existing floor? I really want to tear out our ugly blue ceramic tile in the kitchen and replace it with wood. We have old solid hardwood in the hallway leading to the kitchen and I don’t think installing that in the kitchen is going to work in our budget. I’m hoping this is an option.

Kasey
Guest

I am remodeling an old house. My concern is how loud is the wood floors. Can you hear everything? We are on pier and beam and I have 2 girls so you know what that means, lots of running and playing.

Beth
Guest
I have seen this on pinterest a million times and keep going back over it. I have Great Danes and they are rough on the floor. I have 1925 craftsman style home and just being divorced I have finally gotten the house to myself. My ex-husband was an ok guy but always took shortcuts on fixing or repairing things. I have been begging to do the floors for years and now I finally can. I have a couple of main flooring boards on the original floors that need to be replaced first but I want to do this so badly.… Read more »
shona
Guest

Hey they are beautiful,,I am in process of thinking how to put a cheap wood floor down also..I thought sanded pallet boards..but you said you didn’t use spacers. A contractor did that to ours and it started bulking..hopefully your climate is different than mine lol. I also see you didn’t zig zag the boards…..that is the fastest way and probably how I am going to put some down

Glaizalyn Dela Cruz
Guest

Thanks for all the details. Many people who want to install a wood floor look exclusively at oak and other hardwoods, but softwoods such as pine are usually less expensive. It’s true that pine dents more easily than oak, and that’s why it’s not the best choice for every room. But if you believe that a few dents and dings simply add character to a wood floor, then pine flooring is a great option.

Peyton
Guest

Can I do this with a concrete base I have cheap flooring in and it pills up and with kids it’s not holding up and it’s less than a-year-old

Avery Clark
Guest

I love the hard wood flooring you did. You did a great job on everything. Keep it up.

Amy Stufflebeam
Guest

Your floor is absolutely beautiful!!! I was wondering what brand and color of stain that you used?

Laure
Guest

I am in the process of doing a floor like this with 1×6 pine boards. I stained all the boards and them dry brushed them with white paint. The room in 11×13 so I either have to cut a 12 foot board to make it 11 or add a piece to a 12 footer to make 13. Should the boards run the length of the room or the width? Also, what did you seal yours with? Any problems with splintering over time?

Thank you.

Connie
Guest

I have begged my husband to do this for a few years now! Your floor is beautiful! I’m showing him this post. Are you still happy with your floor? Any issues that have come up?

Joann
Guest

We are thinking of buying a house trailer we have never done work like this and it will have to have a gut job and redone. I am very good with remodel and a fab interior decoratetor however my husband will not be able to help a lot have a son who can help , in your opinion do you think I can get this done? I can pay for some help what would be the best to get help with?

M
Guest

Did you have to sand these before or after installation?

Iris Nacole
Making a shoe rack and closet storage out an old ladder

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