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Install a Locking Hardwood Floor

Hardwood flooring adds warmth and beauty to any room, and is a great way to increase the value of your home. An added benefit is that installation of a locking hardwood floor doesn't require nails, glue or staples.

Getting Started

  1. Bring the flooring into the room so the wood planks can acclimate to the room’s temperature and humidity for at least 72 hours before installation. This reduces problems associated with moisture, such as warping and fit. Stack the flooring in a flat position in the room or rooms where it's to be installed.
  2. Check the moisture level of the subfloor to make sure the floor is within the manufacturer’s recommendations. If your moisture level isn't within manufacturer’s recommendations, stop the installation and call a Lowe’s associate for assistance. A Lowe’s associate can tell you what type of moisture barrier will work best for your materials, at least a two-in-one underlayment is required.
  3. Once you've prepped the subfloor, carefully sweep and vacuum the surface on which the flooring will be installed.
  4. Check the planks for warping and defects, which typically affect around 5% of the product. These boards are unusable and should be discarded. If you experience more than 5% defects, stop the installation and call a Lowe’s associate for assistance.
Good to Know

Be sure to wear your safety glasses throughout the project.

Installing the First Rows


Step 1

Once your subfloor has met the moisture requirements, install a moisture barrier or underlayment.

  • Install the moisture barrier or underlayment based on the manufacturer’s guidelines, typically by rolling out the underlayment in the same direction that the wood is being installed. Extend the underlayment a few inches up the wall (will be trimmed later).

Step 2

Using the straightest planks, lay the first row of flooring along the guideline, with the tongue side facing the wall.

  • This will serve as a guide for the rest of the room or house.

Step 3

Place spacers between the flooring and the wall for the expansion gap.

  • Be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the appropriate expansion gap.

Step 4

Begin by locking the ends of the first row together.

  • Check the manufacturer’s instructions for how to lock the boards together. Typically, you insert the tongue into the groove and fold the board to the floor to lock the planks together. Occasionally you may need a dead blow hammer and tapping block to ensure a tight fit.


Step 5

For the second row, lock the sides into the first row and overtop of the end of the adjoining board in the second row.

  • Until the weight of the floor can hold itself in place, use weights to keep the boards from moving and aligned with your guideline.
  • A folded towel or pad can protect the flooring.

Step 6

Place the second row so that the ends are at least 6 inches apart in each row.

  • This will help strengthen the floor.
  • This will also give the floor a staggered look, so you may need to cut the first plank.
  • For a locking floor, be sure to cut the tongue end and not the groove end.
  • To cut the flooring, lay the plank on its face and cut with a circular saw.
    • Make sure you’re using the correct blade to cut flooring.
    • Make sure you allow for the appropriate expansion gap.

Installing the Rest of the Floor


Step 1

When installing the rest of the floor, mix planks of different colors and grain to give the floor a more random pattern.

  • You'll need to work out of multiple cartons at a time.

Dry-fit a few rows together before you install them to see how they look and speed up the installation.

Step 2

Continue laying the floor across the room, staggering the ends at least 6 inches apart.

  • Maintain the expansion gap around the perimeter of the floor.

Step 3

If you have entry areas or columns, cut the planks to fit.

Step 4

For the last row, you may have to cut the pieces to fit.

  • Measure the distance to the wall from the last laid row. Measure from the top edge of the board.
  • Subtract the manufacturer’s expansion gap and cut the last row.
  • If the width of the last row is less than 1 inch, glue it to the previous row by placing glue on the tongue.

Finishing Up


Step 1

Once the last row is attached, install the transition pieces according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 2

When your transitions are in place, remove the spacers and trim any excess underlayment.

Step 3

Install the baseboards and shoe moulding.

  • Attach the trim and shoe moulding to the walls, not the floor.

Step 4

Keep one to two cartons of your hardwood flooring so you can fix any potential problems in the future, like a damaged board.