Hardwood floors are a beautiful, timeless addition to any home. They are stylish, add value to your house, and hardwood floors will last a very long time with proper care and maintenance. Proper installation is essential if you are considering hardwood floors for a new home or redoing your existing floors. There are many types and styles of hardwood to choose from. Once you’ve made the perfect choice for your home, you’ll likely be eager to start laying them down.
However, floor installation is a complex task. If you plan on taking on the project yourself, you’ll need to understand the process beforehand to get the best results. In this post, we’ll review everything you need to know about hardwood floor installation.
Prepare Your Space
Before you can get started laying down your first row of floorboards, you’ll need to ensure your space is properly prepared. This starts with preparing your subfloor. The subfloor is the bottom-most structural layer of your floor, providing a flat, stable surface to support your hardwood. The subfloor must have 3/4″ plywood or oriented strand board (OSB). The subfloor should be sturdy, level, and smooth. Be sure to sand down any raised spots and fill any low areas if necessary. Ensure your subfloor is secured to the floor joists to prevent shifting and creaking. Cover your subfloor with underlay to smooth out any irregularities and avoid moisture. Remove any old flooring and baseboards before cleaning the entire area well.
Your Hardwood Planks
Before purchasing your hardwood, measure your space and calculate the square footage, so you’ll know how much you need. Purchasing up to 10% extra is recommended in case of any waste.
Once you’ve received your boxes, open them up and be sure there are no warps or damaged pieces. It would help if you always let your flooring acclimate to the temperature and humidity in your home for three to five days before installation. This is a good time to lay your boards and determine your layout plan. Remember to be familiar with and always follow all manufacturer instructions that come with the specific hardwood you use. Different cases may come with slightly different shades and colors, and you’ll want to mix boards from other flooring packages aesthetically pleasingly.
Installing the First Row
Determine which planks you’ll be using for your first row. You’ll want the straightest boards for your first row, and it’s best to start along the longest, most unobstructed wall. It’s important to lay the first boards perpendicular to your floor joists. You’ll want to mark a 3/4″ spacer to allow for expansion in case of changes in temperature or humidity. Make a chalk line parallel to the wall to ensure that your first row of boards is straight. On the reference line, lay out the first row of boards with the groove facing the wall and the tongue facing into the room. Your first (and last) row will need to be nailed through the face of the board. Once your first board is laid down in the right spot, nail through about half an inch from the edge of the board against the wall. (Pre-drilling pilot holes is recommended to prevent your wood from splitting.) Continue nailing the first board, with 6 inches spacing between each hole. Blind nail other nails through the tongue at a 45-degree angle. Be sure to countersink each nail (drive it slightly beneath the surface of the wood) to finish the look. Tap the next board in place with a tapping block and mallet, and continue with this method for the entire row. When you reach the side wall, cut the last plank to fit. Don’t forget to leave the 3/4″ expansion gap.
The Next Few Rows
Lay down the next few rows to create an attractive floor pattern. You should only start or finish a row with a board of at least 12 inches. Stagger board ends by 6″ to 8″, alternating board lengths in an aesthetically pleasing way. Never have the ends of the boards in adjacent rows line up with each other. All boards (other than the last one) will be nailed through the tongue of the board only. Insert the tongue into the groove of your next row, using a block and mallet to adjust for a good, tight fit. Continue nailing in the tongues 6″ apart, similar to what you did in the first row. Once you are a few rows into your project, you will have room to use a pneumatic nail gun. Position your gun at the correct angle to drive the nails through the tongue of your boards, and adjust the air pressure to countersink all nails properly. Be sure to take all safety precautions and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a nail gun.
Continuing Your Project
Continue installing your hardwood planks in this fashion with the nail gun. Always leave room at each side wall for an expansion gap and that you are staggering your boards in each row. If you have any obstructions (like a fireplace, vents, etc.), use a jigsaw to cut your boards to fit your space properly. Continue working your way across the room. Once you reach the last few rows, you will no longer have room for your nail gun and will need to return to blind nailing, as you did with the first few rows.
The Last Row
Enjoy the look of your beautiful new hardwood floors! You will likely have to adjust the width of your last row of wood to fit your space. Measure your left room (minus the expansion gap) and cut your boards accordingly with a table saw. Put your boards in place and nail through the face of your boards, as you did with the first row, countersinking each nail. To finish your project, replace all baseboards and moldings to cover your expansion gap.
Hardwood floors are one of the most popular flooring choices for homeowners. They are attractive, durable, and add to the value of your home. With the proper tools and know-how, installing hardwood floors yourself is possible. That being said, hardwood floor installation is a challenging task. If you need to become more experienced in flooring installation, hiring a qualified professional to make the most of your investment and have your home looking the best it possibly can be worth it.
Learn more about hardwood refinishing and the different types of hardwood floors.