How to Install Hardwood Floors Properly

Installing hardwood FloorHardwood Floors are not extremely difficult to install. However, being knowledgeable in the usage of power tools and a clear understanding of the complexities of wood floor installations can save you quite a bit of grief. A handy do-it yourselfer can install a pre-finished floor in a moderately sized room over a couple of days. Precisely piecing together varying lengths of tongue and groove planking can give you more joy than working a large scale on a Saturday afternoon and save you massive installation fees in the process.

Preparing The Room

The most important and yet time consuming step in installing wood flooring is the preparation of the space. Whether the floor is currently covered in carpet, ceramic tile, or vinyl, the first “to-do” on your list should be to get it removed. Each one of those types of floor presents a different set of problems. Removing carpet and the underlayment can be dusty work.

As you don a face mask, you’ll not only need to slice and roll up the carpet and padding in manageable sized bundles for disposal, but you will also need to remove all the staples and tack-strips embedded around the room.

Ceramic tile often needs to be broken apart in order to remove it, but that’s only half the battle. The removal of the residual glue from the subfloor can be quite difficult and will have to be scraped or sanded down.

While you are at it, usw a pry bar and a wood block to carefully remove the baseboards in the room. This is a necessary step as the floor level may rise substantially after the wood planks are installed.

Once you have removed the remaining debris, it’s important to then check if the floor is level, or if it squeaks as you walk over it. Squeaks can usually be quickly remedied by screwing long screws through the subfloor down into the floor joists, tightly securing the plywood.

Let’s Get Started

After you’ve carefully measured the room, spend a few hours carefully perusing the isles and the pamphlets of your flooring supplier. Once you’ve purchased your favorite color and style of wood flooring, it is time to gather your tools and get started.

Tools and Supplies for Installation:

  • Miter Saw
  • Jig Saw
  • Circular Saw
  • Hand Saw
  • Knee Pads/Kneeling Pad
  • Pencil
  • Safety glasses
  • Nail setter
  • Tape measure
  • Wood putty
  • Chalk line
  • Nail gun and Nails
  • Drill Gun and Screws
  • Pry bar/crowbar
  • Underlayment and tape (Red rosin paper or asphalt felt for wood subfloors or a vapor barrier for concrete)
  • Pre-finished or unfinished wood flooring.
  • Hammer or rubber mallet
  • Vinyl or plastic tapping block

Floor Prep

Begin with unrolling and piecing together an underlayment that will lie between the subfloor and the wood about to be installed. It will not only provide a uniformly smooth surface to work from, but it will also reduce any wood on wood squeaks making your floors solid and silent.

Working from the most visible side of the room, snap a chalk line to mark the placement edge for the first row of boards. Walls are not always perfectly flat, so it’s best to work off a line that you know is straight.

Leave a 3/4 inch gap between the wall and the chalk line to allow for seasonal temperature, and moisture expansion.

Fitting The Floor

Lay out your first row of boards along the chalk line using spacers to keep the boards in place. The first couple of rows will have to be hand drilled and hammered until there is enough space to use the nail gun. These holes can be filled with matching wood putty, and later gently sanded smooth.

Use a vinyl block and rubber mallet to seat the next piece into the grove of the previous piece and then nail in place.

Measure and cut the end boards (finished side up) with a miter saw to fit neatly into the space as needed. Remember to stagger your boards as you go so that the end seams don’t line up with each other.

Once you are able to use the nail gun or the larger Flooring Nailer, you can begin to blind nail at a 45 degree angle into the side of the board and on top of the tongue. Space these nails 3” from each end and about every 6” in between. These nails will be hidden and won’t need to be filled with putty.

Work your way across the room cutting boards to fit around floor vents and cabinetry. When you reach a doorway, lay a scrap piece of flooring against the door frame. Use a handsaw laid flat against the scrap piece of flooring and carefully cut away the door frame to raise it to the correct height for your new floor.

Finishing Up

The last few rows may need to be drilled and hammered by hand through the face using a nail setter to sink the nail below the surface. The last row in particular may need to be cut lengthwise to fit in the space remaining.

Use wedges and a pry bar to tap the last boards into place before nailing.

If the final row of boards needs to be cut to less than one inch wide, it will have to be glued to the previous row to keep it in place. All that’s left to do is replace the base boards and install room transitions.

Now, step back and enjoy your newly installed and gorgeous wood floor. While you’re at it, enjoy the satisfaction that you did it all yourself!

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