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How to Install a Solid Hardwood Floor

Solid hardwood flooring adds style, value and warmth to your home. If you decide to tackle installation yourself, we have instructions to help.

Introduction

Solid hardwood flooring has a rich, attractive appearance that adds value and style to your home.  It's considered mostly for installation in the living room, the kitchen, bedroom and dining room.

Good to Know

When buying hardwood flooring, carefully consider whether or not your manufacturer offers a warranty.  A lifetime warranty, as defined by the manufacturer, is key when shopping for a solid hardwood floor. 

Before You Install Solid Hardwood Flooring

First, make sure your subfloor is level and your hardwood flooring is acclimated to the room’s humidity and temperature according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. To learn how to do this, watch <Prepping Plywood Subfloors>.

Caution

You cannot use a glue-down installation method with solid hardwood flooring.  Please refer to manufacturer’s installation instructions for planks 5 inches or wider.

Getting Started

Step 1

drill over a piece of hardwood flooring

For your first row, you’ll want the straightest planks, arranged with the tongue side facing the center of the room.  Place spacers inside the expansion gap – the space between the wall and floor that allows for wood expansion from heat and humidity. Pre-drill nail holes 1/4 inch from the narrow side of the plank at 1/2 inch from the wall.  Continue at 6-inch intervals for the length of each board. 

Good to Know

Mix boards from each box of flooring to ensure the finished product has a blended color and finish without patchiness. 

Step 2

countersinking a nail

Because the pneumatic nailer is hard to maneuver near the wall, face-nail the first few boards in place. Countersink the nails with a nail punch and fill the remaining hole with matching putty.  Then, blind-nail at a 45-degree angle through the tongue.  Make sure to countersink the nail so it doesn't interfere with board-to-board connection.

Good to Know

Blind-nailing is a method of concealing a nail using the next board that is installed. For tongue-and-groove flooring, drive a nail at a 45-degree angle through the tongue, then conceal it by engaging the groove of the next board. Be sure to countersink the nail – drive it slightly below the surface of the wood – to prevent interference in the joint.

Step 3

tapping boards together with a mallet

On the second row, lock the tongue and groove and tap them together with a mallet and block for a tight fit between the boards. Stagger the ends six inches between adjoining boards, cutting the end board if needed, to create a stronger, more attractive flooring pattern.

Step 4

pneumatic nailer on partially intalled hardwood floor

Blind nail the second row through the tongue and repeat the process until you’re able to use the flooring nailer. The flooring nailer requires room to work, so it typically cannot be used until two to four rows into the floor.  When using a flooring nailer, be sure to install the nailer's protective boot to protect the flooring.

Caution

As you move forward with the floor, maintain the expansion gap on each end of the room. 

Step 5

wood glue floating in the groove of a small final piece of solid hardwood flooring

When you get to the last rows, switch back to nailing by hand.  On the last row, cut the pieces to fit, measuring the distance from the wall to the board – not the tongue – and minus the expansion gap. 

If the final piece is 1 inch wide or less, apply a small amount of wood glue to the tongue and groove and insert the piece with a pry bar and piece of scrap wood to protect the wall.  Otherwise, face-nail the final piece, countersink and fill the hole with matching putty.

Step 6

nailing shoe moulding back into place above the new solid hardwood floor

Install the transition pieces according to the manufacturer’s instructions and remove spacers.  Cut the underlayment and re-attach baseboards and shoe mouldings to the wall, not the floor.