Your Guide to Hardwood Floor Installation: Take it One Stage at a Time
Ready for hardwood floor installation in your home?
If you are dreaming of a gleaming, smooth hardwood floor that complements all your furniture and will give you years of warmth, then you are onto a good thing!
Hardwood flooring is long lasting, beautiful, and timeless. Installation can be tricky but may not be as hard as you think.
It’s challenging and rewarding task – a great experience to add to your renovation repertoire. Check out what DIY hardwood flooring skills you’ll need for your project.
As long as you get the basics covered before you start to install hardwood flooring you will be on your way to floors that look great for years, and decades, to come.
I’m sure you’re anxious to see the end product so let’s get started!
Hardwood Floor Installation – OVERVIEW
A good deal of time and consideration goes into making quality hardwood and into making a masterpiece in your home that will last. There are several installation steps to follow and it will all come together in stages. Click to jump to each section:
Stage A: Preparation
Step 1: Measure & draft the floor layout
Step 2: Adapt the wood
Step 3: Prepare the flooring area
Stage B: Laying the Floor
Step 4: First boards and rows
Step 5: General laying procedure
Step 6: Special maneuvering
Step 7: Final rows
Stage C: Final Touches
Step 8: Transitions & moldings; Trim & baseboard; Vents
Step 9: Filler
Step 10: Cleaning
*See Floor Care and Repair Pages (Main Menu at Left)
*Jump to the Tools section
**Go to installing wood floor inlay page
***Go to hardwood flooring stairs page
THINK BEFORE YOU LAY
Before you even get started with the hard physical work of hardwood floor installation you have some decisions to make.
You’ll consider your decor, your budget, the function of the floor and location in your home. Check out the pages on ‘Wood Types’, ‘Flooring Styles’ and ‘Reviews’ to help you choose. You could even have an installer come make an estimate to see if using a professional might be your best option for installing hardwood flooring. Read DIY vs Hiring a Professional to guide your decision.
PLANNING & PREPARATION
Once you’ve decided to take on the project there are some preparations to make before you even lay the first plank.
Plan the floor layout, measure the area and prepare the surface that you are installing the flooring on. Read about which direction to install hardwood floor to ensure you’re on the right track.
The types of surface you can install hardwood flooring on will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so it is always best to read individual instructions. The individual guides above give instructions depending on the type of installation.
You will need to make sure that the surface you are installing the floor on is level, and even. If you’re installing wood floors over an uneven subfloor (click for tips) this is not as big of a problem if you are installing a floating hardwood floor, but it will play an important role in traditional solid and engineered hardwood floor installations.
Your sub floor must also be clean before hardwood floor installation, and you may want to skim or screed the floor before laying the floor itself, to make sure that there are no problems later on.
Another important factor is making sure that you install a recommended damp proofing layer or underlayment, which your home improvement store or flooring supplier should carry. For laminate flooring underlayment you may find there are specific types of underlayment required depending on the subfloor and your needs.
METHODS OF HARDWOOD FLOOR INSTALLATION
An important part of the installation is installing the first rows and keeping the rows straight.
GENERAL LAYING PROCEDURES
Installation procedures vary slightly depending on the subfloor and flooring type. Here are the procedures and some tips for best practice in installing each of the different types of hardwood flooring:
Installing tongue-and-groove flooring – nailed down
The term ‘tongue-and-groove’ refers to the way the boards fit together. Planks can be nailed or glued down or installed as a ‘floating’ floor. For glue-down or floating installations see below:
Installing glue-down flooring
This flooring is installed over glue spread on the sub-floor. Solid parquet flooring and engineered flooring are commonly used in these installations. Read about hardwood floor adhesive before you buy and apply.
Installing floating flooring
Almost as magical as it sounds, these installations use engineered wood which is neither secured to the floor below nor to neighboring boards.
‘Click’ hardwood floor installation systems
Just as the name suggests the planks ‘click’ or are tapped together to create this type of floor. It’s common in DIY projects as a less difficult type of installation
Hardwood floor installation with connection systems
This type includes a separate piece that joins planks together – often made of a different material than wood. These installations are uncommon so the focus will be on the type of installations mentioned above.
THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB
When you decide to install a hardwood floor, you will find that, like everything, having the right tools for the job makes everything go a lot smoother.
Different types of flooring may require different tools, but as a general rule you will need the following hardwood flooring tools:
- measuring tape
- tapping block
- chalk line
- *camera – for proof of your hard work! Take pics at every step and share them with us!
Read before you rent or buy: For nail-down installations you’ll also need larger tools such as a hardwood floor nailer and other power wood flooring tools that you way want to invest in. Take a quick read though the links to ensure you’re getting the right tools for your project.
Once you have chosen your hardwood flooring, bought the tools you will need, and prepared the floor surface, all that is left is the installation itself. Installation will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and from product to product, but the following basic installation tips apply across the board:
- Make sure that you get the first three rows of flooring right, as they will determine the overall results you get when you install hardwood flooring. Make sure that they are straight, and that all joints fit securely, and use straps to keep them in place as you work.
- If you are installing floating flooring, ensure that you use the right adhesive for the job, and that you use it as directed. Do not try to save by using too much, but also do not overdo it, as you could ruin the finish of the floor by doing that!
- Plan before you lay. Whether you are using glue or nails, it is a lot harder to change your mind once the boards are in place!
- Use a tapping block to protect the tongue and groove from the hammer itself.
- If your planks are not fitting together correctly, check for items on the subsurface, too much glue, or dirt in the grooves themselves. Remember, for best results, when you install a hardwood floor, you need a tight fit!
- Do not forget to leave a small gap around the perimeter of the room, for the floorboards to expand and contract.
You can take advantage of the staff at your home improvement store to get further advice about your hardwood flooring installation project.
Be cautious though as they are not necessarily experienced professionals in flooring projects. Since you’re already informing yourself here and have a good base of knowledge you’ll be able to see through any sales people who don’t know what they’re talking about.
Final Steps: Trim, Transitions and Touch Ups
Now, on to the finishing touches! Don’t get lazy here – you’re almost done and these last steps including installing trim and flooring transitions will be essential in the final look of your floor.
More renovations to complete after hardwood floor installation?
Tips to protect your investment:
- Use cardboard to cover the floor to place tools or machines on
- Use felt pads on the bottoms of furniture legs and never slide furniture across the floor
- Use drop sheets for any last minute painting touch ups
If you stick to these tips for hardwood floor installation and also consider to the manufacturer’s instructions for special wood products, you are on the right track to getting the result you want! Now, watch your floor take shape and become a part of your home. Don’t forget to take lots of photos along the way!