DIY Plywood Floors – Part 1: Buying and cutting the wood

cutting plywood

So, you’ve decided to give installing Plywood Floors the old college try, huh? The first thing you’ll need to worry about is buying and cutting the wood.

Buying the Wood

Buying plywood should be pretty simple, right? Well, turns out there a a lot of options. I choose to go with 15/32″ plywood, which cost $20/sheet at my local Home Depot.  Remember, a 4×8 sheet of plywood equals 32 square feet, which should help in your area calculations. Unless you’re buying the expensive pre-sanded plywood, don’t order the sheets online, or ask for the total number to be delivered to your house. I found that most of the sheets at my store had holes, cracks, or gouges that would be difficult to sand out. Be picky and be prepared to go to more than one store or make more than trip. One time, I went to the store and they were completely out of the plywood I needed.

I don’t have a truck, so the first few trips I had Home Depot cut the sheets in 24″ halves so that I could fit them in the back of my hatchback. But later, a neighbor volunteered the use of his truck and I was able to buy 10 at once, which saved me a ton of time.

Cutting the Wood

Now you’ve got a pile of plywood sheets in your garage or workshop. This is probably the most important part of the project, so take your time and try to get the cuts as straight as possible. Just one little curved cut will cause you major grief when you go to install it.

Trust me, I tried and, it’s almost impossible to rip these down by yourself. I’ve read some posts where people had Home Depot cut the planks for them, but I didn’t have the nerve to ask them to cut 12 boards into six, 8-inch planks.

Speaking of 8-inch planks, that seems to be the most common size for folks doing DIY plywood floors. You’ll get five 8-inch planks and one that’s a little thinner from each board. You can use these thinner boards for where the floor meets the walls, or intersperse them among the 8″ boards. We like the look of the wide planks, but a more traditional hardwood look can be had with thinner planks.

Now, if you don’t have a table saw, go out and buy, rent or borrow one as you’re going to need it. I used the 10″ Ryobi Table Saw and it did the job, although I did have to buy a new 80-tooth blade, as it came with 40-toother. This is important, you need some way to support the plywood after you cut it. I built a table on a sawhorse that is a little lower than the table saw bed and gives the plywood a place to rest once it’s been  cut. Also, having a sawhorse behind the table saw will help you position it before you cut it.

I bought my table saw to cut plywood to make kitchen cabinets, but we haven’t exactly started that project yet, so I’m a total newbie when it comes to this tool. I did take off the prawls that prevent boards from flying backwards as the plywood was getting stuck. I raised the blade about half-inch thicker than the plywood.

I was lucky to have a neighbor help me. Like I said before, I tried to do it solo and it wasn’t going well.  We would pick up a sheet, position the front end on the saw platform and rest the backend on the saw horse. Then, I’d line it up with the fence, turn on the saw and move to the back of the sheet. I’d push from the back, while my neighbor would guide it, keeping it snug against the fence. Then, he’d move to the front and guide it from there. Occasionally, the cut would jam, and we’d fix it by separating the two pieces on the cut end.

I wasn’t paying attention to time, but I think it took us about an hour to rip 10 pieces into 8-inch planks.

One note of caution: You’re going to make a lot of sawdust, and if you’re working in a garage or other building, EVERYTHING will get covered in dust, so if you can, do this outside.

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