How to Install Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring is a timeless and elegant option that can enhance the warmth and value of a home’s interior. Environmentally sustainable and incredibly durable, hardwood can continue looking beautiful for many years with some simple maintenance. Plus, installing hardwood flooring is an easy weekend project.

Difficulty level : 
Duration : 
Weekend project
Notes
Hardwood Flooring: Laminate vs. Glued Boards
Hardwood’s fibre determines its stability, which influences the way the boards are designed and installed. Unlike planks that are installed with adhesive, this step-by-step guide is for installing hardwood flooring with floating boards. Consult with an associate in store to find out how the selected floor is installed.

1
1. Preparing the Subfloor for the Hardwood Flooring

  • 1.1For this project, the subfloor should either be OSB particle board or ¾" plywood. If the plywood is only one layer thick, adding a second layer ¼" to ½" in thickness is recommended.
  • 1.2The subfloor should be even and level, with variations up to 3/16" per 10' only.
  • 1.3Ensure that the subfloor is secured to the floor joists—this will keep it from shifting and creaking.
  • 1.4Determine the layout of the hardwood planks. Unless the subfloor is reinforced, the boards should be laid either perpendicular or at a 45° angle to the joists.
  • 1.5Calculate the total area to be covered and purchase an additional 10% of planks to allow for waste.
  • 1.6Open up the hardwood plank boxes to ensure uniformity.
  • 1.7Let the wood acclimate by leaving it in the room for several days before installation.
  • 1.8Remove all door thresholds, edgings, quarter rounds, and baseboards.
  • 1.9Cut the bottom of the door frames so that the boards can be inserted underneath.
  • 1.10Cover the subfloor with a vapor barrier underlayment to smooth out irregularities, improve the soundproofing, and prevent moisture infiltration.
  • 1.11Make sure to lay the underlayment parallel to the flooring joists, allow 6" of overlap, and staple it down every 8" to 10".
icon-bulb

Pro Tip

Start along the longest wall involved in the installation, which will typically be the hallway.

2
Marking the Reference Lines for the Floor Installation

  • 2.1Determine the layout plan, including the starting point, for the hardwood boards.
  • 2.2Measure the room width and calculate how wide the last row will have to be.
  • 2.3If it is not wide enough for the manufacturer's minimum recommendations, then reduce the width of the starting row.
  • 2.4Find the centre of each wall in the room and draw reference lines between the points so that they cross in the middle of the floor.
  • 2.5Make a mark denoting the ½" to ¾" expansion width on the line out from the starting wall.
  • 2.6Calculate the distance from the centre to this mark and transfer the distance along the walls. Draw a parallel line along the starting wall corresponding to the expansion gap.
icon-bulb

Pro Tip

Test the floor nailer pressure on a few boards before beginning installation and adjust according to the species.

3
Installing the First Row of Hardwood

  • 3.1Lay out enough boards for the initial four or five rows, using the longest and straightest for the first one.
  • 3.2Line the first board up with the reference line, with the grooved side oriented towards the wall.
  • 3.3Use shims and spacers to ensure the expansion gap is maintained.
  • 3.4Lay the first board and nail it ½" from the grooved side with a pneumatic nailer.
  • 3.5If nailing by hand, bore 1/16" pilot holes at a 45° angle before countersinking the nails.
  • 3.6Start spacing the nails every 6", around 2" from the board ends.
  • 3.7Measure out the second board and use a mitre saw to make cuts facing the wall.
  • 3.8Set the end of the second board into the first board's groove and nail ½" from the edge.
  • 3.9Follow the reference lines to maintain the expansion gap.
  • 3.10Secure the first row.
  • 3.11Sinking the nails through the tongue.

4
Completing the Installation of the Hardwood Flooring

  • 4.1Start the second row with a cutting remnant from the first, but try to avoid beginning (or finishing) a row with boards less than 12" long.
  • 4.2Install each subsequent row by inserting the tongue into the groove of the previous board.
  • 4.3To ensure a proper fit, make any necessary adjustments with a block and mallet.
  • 4.4Alternate board length between rows and stagger the joints by about 6" to 8".
  • 4.5Nail in the board tongues and space the nails 6" apart. Use a pneumatic nailer for the first few rows and a floor nailer for the rest.
  • 4.6Calculate the width of the final row by measuring the distance to the wall and subtracting the expansion gap. It should be no less than 1" wide.
  • 4.7Cut the final boards with a table saw to ensure a straight cut.
  • 4.8Lay the last boards, applying glue to the groove before installation. If necessary, protect the wall with a lever and wedge.
  • 4.9Nail the final row using a pneumatic nailer or a hammer.

Need help?

To help you make the right hardwood flooring choice for you, your house, and your budget, see our Hardwood Flooring Buying Guide.

WHILE YOU’RE AT IT