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Home > Ideas & Tips > Hardwood Flooring Buying Guide - Installation & Maintenance

Hardwood Flooring Buying Guide - Installation & Maintenance

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Installation & Maintenance

The Big Question: Do It Yourself OR Call A Pro? The Big Question: Do It Yourself OR Call A Pro?


  • You're OK with pre-finished flooring (planks are purchased already-finished and ready to install).
  • You're comfortable with locking hardwood installation (see here for more info).
  • The layout of the room in which you want to install is fairly straightforward (not many nooks and corners).
  • You are willing to sacrifice some quality in order to save money.
  • You have the time to invest in learning how to install the flooring properly; if you're a beginner, the learning curve may be steep.


  • You want flooring that is installed first and finished afterwards (planks must be nailed down, sanded, and finished by hand by an experienced installer).
  • You require the installation of an appropriate subfloor for your hardwood (see here for more info).
  • The room's layout is complex.
  • You have the budget to ensure a high-quality job.
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Important: Don't Forget The Subfloor Important: Don't Forget The Subfloor

One of the most important things to consider when installing hardwood flooring is what will lie underneath it.
It's vital to protect your investment and crucial to do it right!

Consider the following:

  • Solid hardwood flooring is only as good as the subfloor underneath it.
  • Hardwood flooring is usually installed by nailing or stapling flooring planks to the subfloor underneath them; therefore, it's important that the subfloor be able to hold nails or staples for the life of the floor. Substrates like concrete, ceramic, vinyl, or glued-down carpet are not a suitable base for hardwood flooring.
  • If doing an on-grade installation (at ground level), don't forget to consider the ventilation quality of any basement or crawlspace underneath ground level. Moisture will affect hardwood flooring from below and above.
  • If doing an above-grade installation (above ground level), consider whether the strength and rigidity of your subfloor is adequate for supporting the flooring being installed.
  • If doing a below-grade installation (ie. a basement floor), remember that moisture levels are higher. A very limited number of specific hardwood flooring options are suitable for below-grade installations.


  • In floating installation, floor boards are attached to each other, not the subfloor.
  • Solid hardwood can be nailed or glued only. But engineered hardwood boards can be nailed, glued, or installed as floating—the latter is the fastest and easiest method.
  • Carefully consider all your installation options before making your product selection, so you get the flooring system that works best for your needs.

What Is a Subfloor?

A subfloor is a layer of flooring installed underneath an interior floor like hardwood or laminate. Subfloor provides structural support for the actual flooring above it. It creates a stable, flat, and solid surface that rests across the flooring joists. The subfloor is the closest piece of flooring to the joists themselves. Only builders and installers deal with subfloors, so homeowners rarely see the subfloor. This is the main difference between a subfloor panel and underlayment.

What Is Underlayment?

Underlayment is installed on top of subfloor; it functions as a protective barrier or sound dampening layer below the uppermost flooring material. Instead of being installed on joists, underlayment sits over floorboards that are secured to the joists. Depending on the type of flooring you choose, you'll need a specific variety of underlayment—while subfloor material is generally standard and consistent across all types of houses, underlayment material depends on the types of interior floors you are installing.


  • Use a soft, fine-bristled broom for day-to-day cleaning of dust and dirt.
  • Vacuum your floor once or twice a week. Use a soft brush attachment.
  • Place mats and rugs at all entrances to prevent debris from spreading.
  • Cover high-traffic areas with rugs; move them periodically if they are exposed to sunlight, so that flooring does not fade unevenly.
  • Wipe up spills immediately with a lightly dampened cloth, and follow up with a floor cleaning product. Moisture can cause staining, buckling, splitting, warping, and cupping in the flooring over time.
  • Oil-based cleaners should not be used on hardwood flooring. A neutral, pH-based wood cleaner is best for hardwood flooring.
  • Make sure you dry the floors right away after cleaning.


  • Put felt pads on the bottoms of table and chair legs to prevent furniture from scratching floors.
  • Remove spike-soled shoes like cleats or stilettos when walking on your hardwood floors, and watch out for sand or stones in footwear with treads.
  • Minor scratches can sometimes be repaired with wax sticks that are included in hardwood care kits.
  • Larger, deeper dents, like those caused by heavy furniture, must only be fixed by flooring professionals. Often, a board will need to be replaced. It's always a good idea to keep spare boards after your floor has been installed.
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