Wooden Chair Mat




Introduction: Wooden Chair Mat

About: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is Sam and I'm a community manager here at Instructables.

I work from a home office situated in a carpeted room, where I sit for hours at a time next to a computer screen.

To protect the flooring and provide a smooth rolling surface, I acquired a plastic chair mat from an office store.

However, I soon found that I was extremely unsatisfied with the performance of my new chair mat. Despite buying a thicker version, my chair wheels still rested in "divots" in the mat. In the chair mat's defense, I am on the "huggable" side at 240-ish . . . But nonetheless, sitting in divots defeats one of the main benefits of the mat in the first place--the ability to roll and move the chair freely.

Also, my work table is about 6 feet long. My computer sits on one half of the table and the other half is left open for other tasks. This plastic mat wasn't big enough to allow me to roll my chair to the other side when working on non-computer things.

After a bit of searching I found that you can in fact purchase longer, thicker and more heavy-duty chair mats that would meet the needs I was trying to fill. These bamboo ones look like an excellent choice, but they are not cheap.

With that in mind, I decided to make my own. All said, I spent less than $75 USD on this mat and am perfectly happy with its performance. It is made from laminate flooring, particle board, and a bit of wood trim, all of which is available from any home improvement store.

If you find yourself in a similar predicament and don't want to shell out big bucks, here's how to make your own wooden chair mat. Thanks for taking a look!

Step 1: Prepare Laminate Flooring Pieces

The cheapest box of laminate flooring I could find was about $30 USD. One box covers an area roughly 4 feet by 5.5 feet, which is perfect in front of my 6-foot work table. A smaller mat can be made by simply not using all of the boards from the box.

For this use, the cheapest laminate is the best choice not only for price, but because it is perfectly smooth. The more expensive laminate flooring styles have slight waves, gouges and mars to imitate real wood. That looks nice in a dining area, but is the opposite of what a person would want in this application.

The boards are made with a tongue-and-groove system that allows them to snap together along both the longer sides, as well as the narrow ends. Both the tongue side and the groove side have portions that extend out past the upper finished surface of the board, which are generally hidden once the boards are installed. (The groove side has a 1/2" tab that extends out from the bottom of the board that locks onto the bottom of the tongue side of the opposing board.)

For this use, however, these extending portions must be removed from any areas that will become the perimeter of the assembled mat.

I began by trimming away the bits from the narrow ends of all boards using a cross-cut sled on my table saw.

Then, along the lengths of two boards I trimmed away the tongue from one board, and the locking tab below the groove from the other. These two boards will be the end pieces on the right and left sides of the assembled mat.

See photo notes for additional details.

Step 2: Prepare Base

My initial thought was to just glue together pieces of laminate flooring and use this as a chair mat, but I quickly dismissed this idea because it just wouldn't be substantial enough. The pieces of flooring needed to be mounted onto a heavy, flat base.

The base material I chose was 3/4" particle board. Particle board is generally used as a sub-floor material in houses anyway, so it seemed ideal to use as a base for a chair mat.

Particle board has a lot going for it in this application: it is cheap, heavy, and consistently flat. This board was around $15 USD.

Based on the measurements of my trimmed laminate pieces, I determined the necessary size for the base piece and cut it out with a circular saw.

The only trick here is to make sure you do not cut it too small.

Step 3: Prepare Trim

Around the perimeter of my mat I added some trim, both to cover the raw edges of the laminate and particle board, and to act as a bumper to keep me from accidentally rolling off the edge of the mat.

The trim pieces were made from 3/4" thick alder boards, from which I cut a few 1 1/2" wide strips. I used a router to round over the two edges which will become the top when installed. I filled any cracks with putty, sanded them smooth, and then stained and sealed the pieces.

When installed, these will stick up past the height of the mat an additional 1/2".

Step 4: Install Trim

The trim pieces were measured and mitered at the corners with a homemade 45-degree sled on my table saw. A miter saw could have been used as well.

These were installed with 1 1/4" brads with a nail gun, with one of the shorter sides left off to allow for easier installation of the very last piece of laminate. A bit of wood glue was used on the bare wood at the corners of the trim pieces.

The fit wasn't exactly perfect, as you can see in photo 3, but close enough for me.

The corners were touched up with a bit of sandpaper and a quick dab of stain to cover the bare wood.

Step 5: Install Flooring Pieces

Beginning along the shorter side where the trim was installed, I began adding the flooring pieces. The first piece is the one with the tongue portion trimmed away. The trimmed-tongue side side goes against the wood trim, with the groove and locking tab side pointing toward the open area of the particle board base.

I chose to add construction adhesive underneath the pieces of laminate, rather than to let them simply "float." It took two cartridges of construction adhesive to complete the entire mat.

Only enough adhesive was applied for the installation of one board at a time. The boards snap in place with a few direct blows by either fist or rubber mallet. I just used my hands, but if I was installing a huge floor I would definitely use a mallet.

Step 6: Add Final Piece of Trim

With all the pieces of flooring in place, I added the final piece of trim and touched up as needed.

The final step is to quickly move this onto a perfectly flat surface (my garage floor is not), and walk all over it.

This will settle the boards into the adhesive and remove any slight buckles or waves that may exist. I walked around and jumped on every square inch until I could no longer hear the adhesive popping and squishing, and could no longer feel the boards settling.

I sat in my office chair and rolled around freely on my solid wooden chair mat. No more sitting in divots!

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75 Discussions

I see I am 4 years late, but better late than never! I am going to hire someone to make me this (I know I can't), but wanted to see the bottom of it. Would you happen to have a pic of the bottom? Also, should I tell the person I hire anything special or just give him this link & hope for the best?
This is awesome as I am going through my 2nd mat now (that is cracked in several places!). I need a solid mat that can hold some weigh (huggable too) and this looks perfect!

1 more answer

The bottom is just bare particle board. I think the instructions here should be sufficient for most handy-type people :)

I'm going to make it out of 1/4" plywood, since I have some left over from another project. The one you built will probably last forever. It's just the thought of stubbing my toe when I get that 2:00 AM phone call that is not appealing to me. I'm going to use the current plastic mat as a template. I will show you when it's done.

1 reply

Mine's still rock solid almost 3 years in with daily usage. I'm looking forward to seeing how yours turns out. Best of luck with it! :)

Would be all for it if I didn't need to cut such a custom shape for mine and not have the tools for it. Needs to be skinnier under the desk and a bit wider outside the desk.

I just found a stack of laminated wood on the curb. When I get some time, I will post a pic. Great instructable, and great idea! Thank you.

Our local Habitat for Humanity REstore often receives donations of single boxes of laminate flooring that can be purchased for a very low price. This will be an excellent use and help a good cause at the same time. Thanks so much for this Instructable.

Here's a solution I came up with:

1) Buy a really cheap table from craigslist with the correct table top dimensions.

2) Detach all the legs and keep the table top.

Done :)

3 replies

LOL!!!! That,...my friend....is nothing short of BRILLIANT!!! PLUS you are repurposing an item (recycling!)

I must add that this is very beatuiful though. I just thought I would share my poor man's version :)

Oh, my gosh! I can't tell you how mad I am at myself after seeing this. I passed up an entire display of laminate flooring a few weeks ago, ten bucks a box!

Such a cool project, and it looks great! Thanks for sharing!

This is so fine! Also it was a pleasure to read your instructions which are so easy to follow.

I have an smallish ugly coffee table and lots of leftover flooring so I am going to try to make a top for the coffee table. My question is why did you put the trim on first? It would seem to me that it should go on last. I have a few reasons for this question and I will do it your way if you just tell me why.

1 reply

First of all, thank you for the compliments on the floor mat, and my instructions!

A couple reasons for doing the trim first: The trim acts as walls (or "bumpers") so the flooring pieces fit into a predetermined place, and there's no need to watch and make sure they are not overhanging the edges of the base--they can't!

Most importantly though, is the piece of trim directly behind the first flooring board you lay. When installing the first board, and every board thereafter, there needs to be a firm "wall" to push against so you can tap or pound the flooring pieces into place (if you're using the variety that lock in place) without them shifting. Without a back wall to push against, the adhesive on the first board may suffice for (although you would need to wait for it to cure sufficiently before adding the remaining boards.) So it's just easier and very helpful if you at least put that back "wall" (trim piece) in place ahead of time.

Good question! You really made me think there. :)

Great idea! I decided I needed one of these myself, after killing atleast 3 of the plastic chair mats. I backed mine with some 1/2" plywood and I'd I have to say - even though the particle board seems like a non-optimal material to use it does hold its shape better than plywood. I had to deal with some warping of my base sheet, though in the end I really like how it looks. I also cut the front corners off of mine so it would slide a little ways between the legs of my IKEA desk.

2 replies

Glad you were able to make one! Got a photo to share? I'd love to see how it turned out.

I haven't put the trim on yet. Once I do that I'll get a photo up ASAP.

Well done. I would be interested to know if the particle board holds up. I think of it as being "crumbly", so I'm very interested if it will give good service for this use. Did you use 1/2"? I am toying with this idea and returning the mat I purchased for my husband's chair. He is a big guy and we keep replacing these...also, I need something in my computer room. I have fir floors (very soft wood) I put down a heavy rubberized mat, like you see in restaurant entries. The short naps rolls okay and I thought it would protect my floor, but the wood floor is getting chewed up by the rolling. I think I may have to use your idea there. Since it is already hard, I was considering using luan (really thin plywood) and gluing the faux wood flooring to that. If I get it done, I'll post it. Thanks for inspiring me.

2 replies

As an update, this shows no sign of wear whatsoever. I sit in my chair on it 8+ hours a day. This is the ideal floor mat.

I would not recommend making this with anything other than 3/4" particle board as a base. People have a misconception about particle board. It is the perfect material when using it for what it was designed to do, which is be a hard, uniform subfloor material. When used in furniture, that's another story.

this is but 1 of the reasons why I refuse to use particle board....

another is, I am forever having something to drink at my computer(water, soda, most any non alcoholic drink) & on occasion, things get spilled...

particle board turns to mush when it gets wet...exterior plywood does not have that problem.