When you install hardwood floor in the right direction it will not only look better but make maintenance easier and can prolong the life of your finish.

Installing most types of hardwood flooring can be very DIY friendly project and by the time a few rows are down, you may begin to feel like an old pro. However, before you start hammering any nails or spreading any glue, there’s one important issue to consider – which direction should your floor run?

For the best direction to install hardwood floor there’s actually some thought that needs to be put into the decision as direction may affect your wood floor’s performance and how it looks in the room once the job is complete. Consider different rooms and hallways as you may need to change direction (see more on this below).

How to Install Hardwood Floor in the Correct Direction

In some cases the direction your wood floor boards are installed is decided by the framing below the subfloor and in other situations it’s for purely cosmetic reasons. Here are some tips on how to tell which is the best hardwood floor layout direction for your project:

Wood Subfloors

If your subfloor is wood or particle board, there should be framing members called joists underneath providing support. Those joists are normally spaced on 24 inch centers although they might be closer for various structural reasons.

When installing solid hardwood or engineered flooring on a wood subfloor, the boards should always run perpendicular to the joists. This allows each piece of hardwood flooring to be supported by the joists whereas if the boards parallel the framing, most of the flooring will simply rest on and be nailed into the plywood. If you install hardwood floor that isn’t supported properly, it can result in squeaks and separation between the boards.

If running perpendicular to the joists just won’t work for your application, it’s possible to add blocking between the framing to provide adequate support for the flooring. This can be a fairly large and costly project unless the room is over an unfinished space.

Concrete Subfloors

Support isn’t an issue when installing engineered flooring over concrete so appearance becomes more of a factor. In most cases, designers will tell you that the boards should parallel the widest dimension of the room. If you have a space that’s 18′ x 12′, the boards should run in the 18′ direction. That’s why in most long and narrow hallways, you’ll see the hardwood running the length of the hall rather than from side to side.

Another issue to consider is where the main entrance into the room is located. For best wear and tear as well as an open feel, you want to be walking along the length of the boards – not across the rows of boards.

Another view on entrance board direction is: Many designers prefer that when you enter the space, the boards are running across your view rather than paralleling it. This helps to hide rather than highlight any uneven seams between the boards. This however means that in the most high traffic areas you’re increasing the wear on the flooring and finish – not good in the long term.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring isn’t normally attached to the subfloor and is much lighter than engineered or solid hardwood flooring so proper subfloor support is normally not a consideration. The tips above for installing over concrete also apply when putting in this DIY-friendly product.

Change wood floor direction from room to room?

Many wonder if you can/should change the direction of hardwood floors from room to room and room to hallway. The simple answer is yes you can and you should if it supports the floor best or you like the look and support is not an issue.

hardwood flooring hallway direction

You may need to switch direction from a room to the adjoining hallway when you install hardwood floor. As we’ve mentioned, flooring in hallways should almost always be installed lengthwise, with the long edges of the boards along the length of the hallway.

If, the bedroom’s joists or room shape are opposite to the hallway it may mean changing direction. Follow the above advice about installing across floor joists and for visually pleasing design.

You probably want the boards to run the length of the room – but like we mentioned – if it’s not a wood subfloor or solid hardwood that you’re working with, it can come down to your personal preference.


The structural directional tips for installing over wood should always be followed for a long term trouble-free floor and may need to or may choose to switch direction of flooring from room to room. The cosmetic tips are more like suggestions – if support isn’t an issue, install in the direction you think looks best.

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