You've got a shop, garage, storage room, rec room, or re-purposed room of any kind, and you want to update it with a wood floor -- without spending a ton of money. Source it from a variety of pallets, planks, particle board or plywood, and get the character you're looking for.
Pallets are almost considered an alternative firewood source in today's society. But pallets are nothing more than planks. When disassembled, they offer a sturdy building product that's actually thicker than most hardwood planks.
Reclaimed lumber is anything previously used. Barn or fence wood are perfect examples, and works great for flooring. It's well seasoned, and imparts a soft gray, aged appearance if not sanded too much.
Rough lumber appears fuzzy, because it's not been sanded. With random thicknesses and widths, it's affordable and tough. Pick some up at a sawmill or lumberyard.
Fir plywood is among the cheapest floor alternatives, or consider lauan plywood for a less rustic look. Use 1/4-inch-thick, 4-by-8-foot sheets for economy. A better choice would be 1/2, or 3/4-inch-thick sheets, but as thickness increases, so does cost.
Particleboard is one of the cheaper options. It ranges from a semi-dense, soft surface, to a hard, glassy surface, depending on cost and thickness.
OSB is a type of affordable particleboard with larger chips and looks more like wood. It's used all the time in construction for a variety of applications. Lay it down in sheets, with the smooth side up, for one of the most affordable wood floors. OSB, like particleboard, is prone to delamination and swelling when exposed to moisture. A vapor barrier should be placed under the sheets if used on a concrete slab floor and the exposed top surface should be sealed thoroughly with a clear polyurethane finish to protect against water damage.
Use end-grain tiles for a butcher block appearance. It's a considerable amount of work, because you're working with a thin slice -- about 1/2-to-3/4-inch piece -- of wood cut from the end of a plank, log, stud or any other piece of lumber. End-grain tiles install with glue, piece by piece, but the results can be stunning.
Installation and Finishing
Install rough-hewn planks, pallet, reclaimed lumber and plywood with a pneumatic nail gun. There are electric versions, but they don't pack the punch of air-powered guns. Brad and pin nailers shoot a delicate, thin nail that buries the head for a finished appearance. Staple guns are another option, particularity for thin plywood. Staples have the holding power, without driving nails too deep like nail guns sometimes do. Rent a gun if you need to. Nailing flooring by hand is difficult at best.
Screw It Down
Screws add extra clamping power to force errant or bowed wood down. And if you're working with rustic lumber, exposed screw heads or visible fasteners of any type can add ambiance to the floor. Use nails or screws that penetrate at least 1 inch into the floor beneath it.
Glue or Not
Construction adhesive can be applied if desired, but it's not necessary. If you ever do want to replace your wood floor, it will be difficult if not impossible to remove without tearing it into pieces if it's glued down.
High spots, exposed joints, defects and even splinters are common on affordable wood flooring. You can rent a floor sander -- a giant rotating disc -- to sand it flat, or use a 4-inch belt sander to do the same thing, with more effort required.
Stain to brings out the beauty and personality of affordable flooring. You'll be surprised how fir plywood, planks and end-grain tiles look after adding stain.
Water-based polyurethane is a common choice for wood flooring. It's dries hard and stays clear. It's user-friendly and easy to clean up.
Oil-based polyurethane is a traditional finish for wood floors. It's more flexible than water-based, imparts an amber color and is less expensive than water-based but takes much longer to dry and gives off more fumes.