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How to Install a Hardwood Floor:

Home Remodel with Domestic or Exotic Wood Planks Instead of Laminate

© 2008 by All rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

A hardwood floor in sunlight

A hardwood floor in sunlight

Whether you’re remodeling your home or planning new home construction, installing a hardwood floor adds a bit of warmth and grace, raises the home’s curb appeal, and increases your property's equity.

Why Hardwood Floors?

Hardwood made of natural wood like oak, maple, or pecan continues to be fashionable with homeowners. Even though laminate flooring is steadily gaining market share, the hardwood flooring manufacturers have responded by making and marketing prefinished hardwood planks that connect with tongue and groove, making installation easier even as a DIY project.

DIY-inclined homeowners who are novices at finishing wood flooring are best sticking to the prefinished variety or hiring a pro.

  • Hardwood floor installation hint: Let the planks sit inside the home for at least three days after delivery to stabilize with the interior temperature and humidity level; keep your HVAC system dialed in to your usual condition.

Installation Tools Needed

If you need woodworking tools, Rockler Woodworking and Hardware is the most reliable merchant out there.

  • Tape measure
  • Chalk line
  • Utility knife
  • Heavy-duty stapler
  • Festool or Dewalt track saw, compound miter saw, or benchtop table saw (a back saw and miter box will work for end cuts in a pinch)
  • Hammer, finish nails, and a nail set; or a compressor-driven or airless finish nail gun

Subflooring for Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors like an even, solid subfloor to be laid on. This can be a well-finished and moisture-proofed concrete slab, or 3/4” plywood or OSB subfloor glued to and screwed to floor joists. This article addresses a plywood or OSB subfloor.

  1. The initial thing to do on an existing floor is to take off any shoe base or quarter round trim on the baseboard.

  2. Now, roll out 15-lb asphalt felt. Be sure to overlap seams by 3”. Use your staple gun and secure it to your subfloor. The primary purpose of the felt is to keep moisture from the wood. Secondarily, it affords acoustic sound control.

Laying Out the Floor

  1. Find the center of the room by measuring from the wall.

  2. Mark it, then snap your chalk line through these marks. You've just marked your control line.

  3. Now strike another chalk line that’s parallel to your control line. Make it 1/4” from the wall. This represents the border of your first run of wood planks. It also provides for expansion due to humidity.

Installing Your Planks

  1. Using your chalk line to guide your work, nail your first run of hardwood down; the tongue side should be aligned towards the the room's center.

    Using a Festool or Dewalt track saw, compound miter saw, or benchtop table saw, cut your planks.

  2. Nail straight down close enough to the wall so that your shoe base will be sure to completely cover your nail holes. Feel free to use a hammer, finish nails, and a nail set; or make use of an airless or compressor-driven finish nail gun.

    I prefer an airless because of the convenience. If you use a hammer, it’s a good idea (but optional) to pre-drill the holes; it's an extra step but that is preferable to a split board.

  3. Next, nail through the tongue at a 45 degree angle.

  4. Next, nail down your next run of planks. Alternate the joints to keep from a boring look. Also, using the drop from the prior run conserves valuable material. The tongue of the first should fit into the groove of the second and be snugged up. Once again, nail right through the tongue.

    From here on out, no end joint should be any less than 10” from the nearest joint of the previous run.

  5. Proceed in this manner nailing down the runs of planks. When you reach the opposite side of the room, you might need to rip the last run at an angle if your room is out of square. Do not forget to allow an expansion gap on the finishing wall.

Finishing Up the Hardwood Floor Installation

  1. If you used unfinished hardwood, now it’s time to finish it (unless it comes prefinished which is a huge time-saver). Use a floor drum sander and finish with 2 or 3 coats of a urethane. Generally, this wears better than varnish.

  2. Next, finish it up with installing your baseboard and shoe base or quarter round molding.

  3. Now, all that’s left is routine hardwood flooring maintenance.

I hope this article on how to install a hardwood floor has helped you with your DIY project. If so, please share it with friends and social media. We're all in this together!

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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