Best Types of Plywood for Floors: A Comprehensive Guide to Thickness, Grade, and Installation

When it comes to choosing the right plywood for floors, making an informed decision can save you time, money, and future headaches. With so many options available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But don’t worry—I’ve got you covered.

In this article, I’ll break down the different types of plywood suited for flooring, from the most durable options to the ones that offer the best value for your money. Whether you’re renovating your home or building from scratch, understanding these choices will help you create a solid foundation for any room.

Key Takeaways

  • Types of Plywood for Flooring: Various plywood types such as softwood, hardwood, structural, marine, and particleboard plywood offer different benefits, from affordability to high moisture resistance and strength.
  • Factors to Consider: Thickness, grade, presence of voids, and cost are crucial factors when choosing plywood for flooring, ensuring proper support, durability, and budget alignment.
  • Durability and Cost-Effectiveness: Plywood floors provide strong, stable, and long-lasting surfaces at a lower cost than solid hardwood, making them a budget-friendly option that doesn’t compromise on quality.
  • Installation Techniques: Proper subfloor preparation, aligning sheets perpendicular to joists, staggering joints, and securing sheets with nails or screws every 6-8 inches are essential for a stable and durable installation.
  • Maintenance and Care: Regular sweeping, damp mopping, and placing mats or felt pads under furniture help maintain plywood floors. Long-term care includes refinishing every 3-5 years and maintaining consistent humidity levels.

Choosing the Right Plywood for Flooring

Factors to Consider When Choosing Plywood

Choosing the right plywood for flooring depends on several factors. Thickness is crucial for durability. Most floors need at least 3/4-inch thick plywood for proper support. Consider the grade; exterior grades like CDX resist moisture better, essential in high-humidity areas. Understand the presence of voids, as they weaken the board. Higher-quality options like A-C grade have fewer voids. Cost and budget also play a role; premium plywood costs more but offers enhanced performance.

Types of Plywood Suitable for Flooring

Several types of plywood are suitable for flooring.

  • Softwood Plywood: Often made from pine or fir, it’s affordable and readily available. It’s suitable for subfloors and provides a stable base.
  • Hardwood Plywood: Typically made from oak, birch, or maple, it’s more expensive but offers higher strength and a smoother finish. It’s ideal for visible flooring layers.
  • Structural Plywood: Constructed for strength, it easily handles heavy loads and frequent use, making it perfect for flooring.
  • Marine Plywood: Specifically designed to resist water, it’s excellent for areas prone to moisture, such as bathrooms or basements.
  • Particleboard Plywood: Comprised of wood chips and resin, it’s less durable than other types but is cost-effective for low-traffic areas.

Understanding these types helps in making an informed decision about flooring plywood.

Benefits of Plywood Flooring

Durability and Strength

Plywood flooring offers excellent durability and strength due to its layered construction. Each layer, bonded with strong adhesives, adds stability and resistance to wear and tear. According to the American Plywood Association, high-grade plywood can support significant weight and withstand heavy foot traffic, making it ideal for high-use areas like kitchens and living rooms. Its ability to resist warping or bending under pressure ensures a long-lasting surface, which translates to reduced maintenance requirements.


Plywood flooring stands out as a cost-effective option without sacrificing quality. It is generally less expensive than solid hardwood while offering similar aesthetic appeal. Various grades of plywood meet different budget ranges, allowing flexibility in project costs. For example, a sheet of 3/4-inch thick hardwood plywood may cost around $50 to $70, while structural plywood could be even more affordable. This affordability does not compromise the overall quality, making plywood an attractive choice for those seeking both durability and budget-friendly solutions.

Installation Tips for Plywood Flooring

Preparing the Subfloor

Ensuring the subfloor is even and clean is crucial before installing plywood flooring. Sweep the area thoroughly to remove debris and dirt. Check for and repair any damages, such as cracks or holes, to prevent structural instability. Use a level to confirm that the subfloor is flat; if it’s not, sand down high spots and fill low spots with a leveling compound. Adequate preparation of the subfloor ensures a smooth ply installation and extends the floor’s longevity.

Plywood Flooring Installation Techniques

Align the plywood sheets perpendicular to the floor joists for maximum stability. Starting at one corner of the room, stagger the joints of plywood sheets to reduce weak spots. Use a chalk line to create straight lines as guidelines for laying the sheets.

Secure the plywood to the subfloor using screws or nails every 6-8 inches along the edges and 12 inches in the middle. Ensure all nails or screws are flush with the surface to avoid creating bumps. Apply wood glue to the edges of plywood sheets for added strength.

Leave a 1/8-inch gap between sheets to allow for expansion due to temperature or humidity changes. After installation, sand the joints to achieve a smooth surface before adding any floor coverings. For optimal results, follow these techniques carefully, and the plywood flooring will be both durable and aesthetic.

Maintenance and Care for Plywood Floors

Routine Maintenance Tips

Routine maintenance keeps plywood floors looking good and extends their lifespan. Sweep or vacuum floors daily to remove dirt and debris, which can cause scratches. Use a soft-bristle broom or a vacuum with a hardwood floor attachment. Damp-mop the floor weekly with a mild, pH-neutral cleaner and a well-wrung mop to avoid excessive moisture, as it can damage the wood. Never use abrasive cleaners or steel wool, as they can scratch the surface. Place mats or rugs at entrances to capture dirt and reduce wear. Felt pads under furniture legs prevent scratches and dents when moving or rearranging items.

Long-Term Care Strategies

Long-term care ensures plywood floors remain durable and aesthetically pleasing. Refinish floors every 3-5 years using a light sanding and a new coat of polyurethane, depending on the traffic level. Inspect floors regularly for signs of water damage or warping and address issues immediately to prevent further deterioration. Maintain consistent indoor humidity levels between 40-60% to prevent expansion and contraction, which can cause gaps and cracks. Use dehumidifiers in humid climates and humidifiers in dry ones. Avoid dragging heavy objects across the floor, and clean up spills promptly to prevent stains and water damage.


Choosing the right plywood for your floors is essential for durability and cost-effectiveness. Proper installation and maintenance can significantly extend the life of your flooring. Remember to prepare the subfloor properly and follow the recommended techniques. Regular care like sweeping and damp-mopping helps maintain its appearance.

Long-term strategies such as refinishing and maintaining humidity levels are crucial. Regular inspections and prompt attention to any damage will keep your floors looking great. By following these guidelines you’ll ensure your plywood floors remain beautiful and durable for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What factors should I consider when choosing plywood for flooring?

Consider plywood thickness, grade, and cost. Thicker plywood offers better durability, higher grades have fewer defects, and ensure the price fits your budget.

What types of plywood are best for flooring?

Various types like CDX, Birch, and Marine-grade plywood are suitable for flooring. CDX is commonly used due to its balance of durability and affordability.

Why is plywood a good choice for flooring?

Plywood is durable, cost-effective, and easier to install compared to solid hardwood. It also adapts better to changing humidity levels, reducing the risk of warping.

What are some key tips for installing plywood flooring?

Ensure proper subfloor preparation, align sheets evenly, use screws instead of nails, and leave small gaps for expansion. These practices help in achieving a stable and long-lasting installation.

How should I maintain and care for plywood floors?

Regular sweeping and damp-mopping keep the surface clean. Long-term care includes refinishing every 3-5 years and maintaining consistent humidity levels. Regular inspections help in early detection and resolution of issues.

How often should I refinish plywood floors?

Refinishing every 3-5 years helps maintain the aesthetics and durability of plywood flooring. This frequency can vary depending on foot traffic and wear.

What should I avoid to protect plywood flooring?

Avoid dragging heavy objects to prevent scratches and dents. Address water damage promptly and keep the humidity levels consistent to avoid warping and other issues.

Can plywood flooring handle high foot traffic?

Yes, when properly selected and installed, plywood flooring can handle high foot traffic. Opt for thicker, higher-grade plywood to ensure maximum durability in busy areas.