How to Lay Hardwood Floor (A Complete Guide)

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Maintaining the value of your home is the greatest investment you should never hesitate to spend on. As a homeowner, you need rich and attractive solid flooring for your house to add to its overall look and value at large.

Solid hardwood flooring is among the right flooring finishes you can give a home. They are mostly installed in living rooms, bedrooms, kitchen, and dining spaces.

However, everything will look appealing if it’s correctly done as per expert guidelines.

In this article, we will present a step-by-step guide for installing hardwood flooring to smooth the process.

Every project starts by gathering all the necessary equipment required to complete it successfully. Below are two essential things to consider when buying hardwood flooring material.

Determine the square footage of the room

Determine the square footage of the room

Take measurements of the room you plan to install the hardwood flooring. Find its area by multiplying its length and width; then, check the square footage in each box.

It’s always recommended to buy about 10% more flooring than the actual calculated amount. The extra will account for any damages and any other miscellaneous in the installation process.

Measure the adjoining rooms

Measure the adjoining rooms

You also need to mind the flooring of adjoining rooms of the house. Always remain with a level floor all through the entire house.

Your flooring should be of almost similar thicknesses to avoid getting different height levels that will require dressing up later.

Note: The key factor to consider when shopping for hardwood flooring is the manufacturer’s warranty. Consider manufacturers that offer a lifetime warranty on the products they sell.

Tips for installing hardwood flooring:

  • The manufacturer’s instructions should always be your guide if to get excellent results.
  • Hardwood floors are not installed directly on concrete or open basements. Install them on ¾ inch plywood.
  • Always purchase extra flooring materials to account for any damaged pieces in the process. Get the actual room measurement by multiplying the length and width and add an extra10% of the approximately calculated pieces.
  • While installing the hardwood floors, ensure you leave a ¾ inches expansion gap around the perimeter.
  • Hardwood floors are installed parallel to the longest wall and perpendicular to the joists of the floor.
  • Avoid forming H shaped joints. If possible, join the ends over the floor joist and keep the joints lining at least two rows apart.
  • The first row and the last one should be your point of focus. So, before the installation process, calculate the width of your last row. If it becomes less than an inch, then cut the first-row width into half so that the last flooring fits well to the remaining space.

Tools and Materials

Before we get into the installation process, let’s have a hint of the tools and materials essential for the project. Below is a list of must-have tools and materials for hardwood flooring installation;

  • Claw hammer
  • Hardwood flooring
  • Underlayment
  • Tape measure
  • Nail setter
  • Pry bar
  • Mallet
  • Jigsaw
  • ¾ inch spacers
  • Drill and bits
  • Table saw
  • Tapping block
  • Long level
  • Chalk reel
  • Moisture meter

Additional tips before installing hardwood flooring:

tips before installing hardwood flooring

Before you start on the actual project, ensure your subfloor is leveled. Besides, since wood expands and contracts, you need to acclimate the flooring planks or strips according to the room’s temperature and humidity conditions. This should be done at least 72 hours before the actual installation process.

Ensure you work in a clean room free of obstacles. The planks or strips should be stacked and acclimated in the room they will be installed last.

For an on-grade concrete floor, store it at 4-inch airspace beneath the wood’s cartons and the stacks.

Note: Always refer to the manufacturer’s installation manual for wider or plank 5 inches before the actual installation.

The glue-down floor installation method is not ideal for installing solid hardwood flooring.

A step-by-step guide to installing hardwood flooring:

Locating joists

 installing the hardwood flooring at the corner

Start installing the hardwood flooring at the corner of the longest wall perpendicular to the floor joists. Use a nail and partially hit it into the floor; this will act as your joist locator.

Use the tape measure to locate other subsequent joists and mark the joists’ ends using a nail.

Strip off the bottom part of the casing and let the planks fit well below. Alongside the casing, lay a strip and rest the backsaw on it. This will keep the saw at the recommended height as you cut through.

Securing the underlayment

The hardwood underlayment layer prevents squeaks during the installation process. Staple a layer onto your subfloor, with the lengths running perpendicular to the floor joists and about 4 inches overlapping edges.

Get a layer of hardwood floor underlayment and staple it on the prepared subfloor. Mark a line between the nails using chalk to show the joists.

Create a thelk guide

At the starting corner of the room’s longest wall, snap a chalk line running perpendicular to the joists.

The line will be your guide when laying the first hardwood flooring course to ensure you align them straight and perpendicular to the joist throughout the installation process.

The groove side of the first course should face on the existing flooring or the wall.

Racking planks and stripes 

Appearance is the utmost important thing when installing your hardwood flooring. Since the planks and stripes tend to look similar when packed in a bundle, you need to mix them up so that there is a balanced look at the end.

Drilling the pilot holes

Installing the last course can be tricky in a way. For the last board to fit well in the remaining last space, the first and last courses should be nailed an inch from the wall.

Always prevent the nails from splitting the board during installation; you need to predrill 1/16-inch pilot holes to avoid this occurrence.

Installing the boards

Installing the boards on hard flooring

Start to work on the first course; the hardwood flooring should fit parallel to the guidelines you established. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended spacers to position the first boards.

Also, adhere to the prescribed allowance from the wall to give room for expansion and contraction of the wood.

Secure the first board using the pneumatic face nail and follow to align other boards according to the instructions from the manufacturer.

The strips or planks should fall end to end, use the face driven nails to secure your flooring. For the last board, cut it proportionally to leave a gap of ¾ inches between the wall and the board.

Whenever a plank meets a corner, ensure the boards get positioned against the wall. Use a chalk liner to mark wherever the corner meets the board.

Here comes the importance of the jigsaw. Cut the extra piece using the jigsaw as you still allow a gap of about ½ inches for expansion.

Utilizing the siding nailer

utilizing the siding nailer on hard flooring

To operate the nailer, you need space of about 6 inches. Therefore, you’ll utilize it after completing the third row or so. The nailer should be positioned to ensure the lip fits right over the edge of the hardwood flooring board.

Release the nail and air pressure between by striking the knob using a rubber mullet. The nail will be driven smoothly at a correct angle through the tongue into the subfloor.

Strike nails 4 inches apart and other subsequent nails 8 inches from each other.

The manufacturer will recommend the nails that are perfect for the type of flooring you’re installing. Use the nails to load the power flooring nailer in place.

Lay the nailer to rest flat as you hit it using a mallet. Always ensure the courses are parallel before nailing them.

Installation of master obstacles and fixing bowed planks

Master obstacles, in this case, are things like built-in cabinets; for this, be extra careful to avoid common installation mistakes many people go through.

Here, miter the ends of the hardwood flooring board to have it fit correct to the remaining space. Slice the board carefully whenever possible to let the cabinets run freely as they were before.

Throughout the process, ensure to face nail the planks until you complete installing the boards.

Now, you might in between the process use bowed planks for one reason or the other; maybe you have inadequate materials.

So, if you used bent planks, screw a piece of lumbar about an inch from the plank to the subfloor.

Drive a wedge of lumber in the space between the bowed plank and the lumber. In the process, the lumber acts as a brace, ensure the plank is straight and nail it firmly in place.


Now, these are the steps you should follow to get the project complete. Every step is essential; avoiding or skipping one will cause common errors most people get involved when installing hardwood flooring.

Gather all the materials necessary for the project and always adhere to set expert recommendations so that you will move on the right track.

With this guide, spend every coin you have to maintain the value of your home.

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