A fun project: Hardwood chair mat

I’ve had one of those really serviceable plastic mats for my office desk chair for years, and was never really happy with it. It looks like a plastic mat, it grows dents after a few minutes with the chair in the same place, etc (the same reasons you don’t like yours).

Fortuitously, my sister in law is in the flooring biz, had some discontinued engineered hardwood samples to get rid of, and the light came on in my head: make my own chair mat!

Procrastination followed, but here’s how I did it:

  • measured the size it needs to be
  • got Home Depot to cut down my 3/4 inch 4×8 plywood to my needed 4×5 (they have a nice rip saw)
  • bought trim to finish the outer edges (doesn’t match perfectly but is close)
  • got some PL premium decking and flooring glue, and some Elmer’s Wood glue

I took all this home, put the bare plywood on sawhorses, laid out the flooring to make sure it’d fit (and wouldn’t have a noticeable pattern). I probably did this wrong (but it worked out) and attached the edging first, then started putting on the flooring, gluing the planks to the plywood with the PL, gluing the tongue and groove with the Elmers’ (and stapling every row down with an air-nailer and 3/4 inch brads on an angle, hidden). Yes, it’s probably over-secured, but I’ve never built a floor before.

When all was done, I flipped it over (the eye-rolling teen helped here) and the hanging-over bits were trimmed off with a circular saw.


a nice hardwood chair mat

It’s sturdy, not bad looking, and much better than the plastic.

The thing I didn’t think would matter (it does) is that the floor is now 1 1/4 inches higher relative to the desk, so now I need to raise the rest of the desk about that much (probably really only an inch would be fine) so my legs fit under the keyboard tray better.

I figure I’ll get around to raising the desk in another 5 years; sooner if I get tired of taking off my shoes when I sit down.


  1. It looks very nice indeed! What a great idea…
    However, this seems a little high: aren’t you afraid of rolling off that platform and falling backwards? Maybe you should install railings. :-)

  2. Mrs. Fred says:

    The family “fixit” gene works!

  3. Can you build my deck? :)

  4. Wouldn’t it just be easier to get a smaller chair than to raise the whole desk an inch?

  5. Nice work. I’m sure it looks like every other bloggers desk – nice to see someone else in chaos and it makes a great “where’s waldo” picture. Found a beer, two computers, external hard drive (I think), PDA, multi-panel screens, old DVD/VCR in the bottom right corner, headset/mic and binoculars (hope you’re a bird watcher) but what’s with the gnome in the middle?

  6. Ian, it’s three computers if you count the XO laptop on the floor (where it lives until it goes with a mission trip to elsewhere).
    The binos: I have a little pond out back, and I like to see the critters when they come to call.
    The gnome is actually a Disney Grumpy doll. For some weird reason, when my family buys me Disney gifts it’s always Grumpy stuff (our last visit there, I couldn’t find any Doc stuff at all).

    Not a beer, BTW: it’s a Diet Dr. Pepper (I was still in Tool Mode then, so no drinking).

    I have a new chair on order, but it’s not the chair going shorter that’s the problem, it’s the length of my foot/ankle/shin-knee that’s the interference fit.

  7. LMAO – nice.

  8. Aunt Susie says:

    Now that the raised floor (beautiful, by the way) commands the desk raising, have you considered if the ceiling is high enough? Kara can advise how to vault it to the rafters, if head room is an issue.
    Any altitude sickness experienced?

  9. Wow, nice job! Having just finished my 6′ x 6′ closet with a similar flooring; your’s looks down rite purty!!!! do you have any of the flooring left over? You could use some 2″ x 2″ blocks to raise the desk. Two of them stacked would give you about 1.5″ in extra height.


  10. Cap'n Jan says:

    Just a couple of flat laid 2 x 4’s under the desk legs will get you 1 1/2″, probably won’t notice the extra 1/4 inch. You can also use a little stain if you get good 2 x 4’s and not those cheesy white wood studs.

    Nice job! Gets me to thinking.. Stop that! Every time I start thinking my husband has to hide the checkbook…

  11. Cool! Looks nice.

  12. Nurse 1961 says:

    Way to go Inspector Gadget!

  13. I have the easy solution !!! I just bought a chair mat made of parquet from chair-mats.com. This chair mat was affordable and works great. http://www.chair-mats.com/beautparchai.html

  14. walt moffett says:

    I feel a project coming on. The local lumber yard has a sale on and payday is not too far away.

  15. Well I like it! However I might find a way to make it lower/thinner/stronger so I don’t have to raise the desk.

  16. TheNewGuy says:

    You don’t drink when you’re using your tools?

    My patients maintain that it’s the only way to build.

  17. You mentioned using 3/4 inch plywood, but do you recall the thickness of the hardwood that you used? Overall thickness?

    I am thinking about doing the same exact thing that you did, although I was thinking of using 1/4 or 3/8 inch plywood, depending on the thickness of the flloring I find.

    My thinking is that an overall thickness of around 3/4 inch (plywood & flooring) should be thick/rigid enough to go over carpet and pad, without flexing too much.

    Your chair mat is probably a tad over engineered in terms of thickness, although, for sure, there’s no risk of flexing when you roll the chair over it.

  18. The flooring is 1/2″. It’s steady as a rock and, to date (2 years later) shows no appreciable wear.

    I still haven’t raised the desk.