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How to Install an Engineered Hardwood Floor

Engineered hardwood flooring adds beauty, warmth and value to your home. Learn more about installation with our quick video.


Engineered hardwood flooring adds value, warmth and beauty to your home. Made from layers of real wood compressed together, engineered hardwood floors are better able to handle changes in moisture and humidity than solid hardwood.

If you’ve decided to install engineered hardwoods, there are four possible installation methods depending on the subfloor: glue, nail, staple and float.

Whichever method you choose, you’ll need to prep the subfloor by cleaning, leveling, and checking and adjusting door clearance. Read and defer to the manufacturer’s instructions for acclimation times.

Before You Begin

  • Allow at least two days to complete this project.
  • You can’t walk on new flooring for 24 hours, so plan your work accordingly.  You may have to leave a walking strip bare and complete the flooring the following day.
  • Check all boards for warping and defects.
  • Purchase a trowel with teeth for applying glue if you’re using the glue-down method.
  • Wear safety glasses and latex gloves.
  • Mix planks from different containers to avoid patches of color.  Stains and finishes can vary from batch to batch and mixing pieces from different boxes creates a more unified look. 

Floating Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Before installing a floating engineered hardwood floor, follow the same preparation steps mentioned above, including underlayment and laying out spacers to maintain the expansion gap specified by the manufacturer.

Step 1

laying first board with glue on ends, tongue side facing the room

Install the first row using wood glue on all plank ends, arranged with the tongue facing the center of the room.

Step 2

tight shot of glue application

When installing additional rows, work from left to right.  Apply wood glue to the tongue and groove seams, then connect the pieces, carefully folding and tapping the new piece to rest on the subfloor. Immediately wipe up any glue that squeezes through the boards. 

Good to Know

Use small pieces of painter’s tape randomly over each new seam to secure your work as you move. This provides additional stability to the floor as the glue dries. 

Step 3

inserting the last row of boards

Measure from board (not tongue) to wall and subtract the expansion gap to know the correct cut for the last row of boards. Then, insert the last row of flooring, taking care to leave the proper extension gap between the last piece and the wall.

Step 4

blue painter's tape on a new floating floor

Remove the painter’s tape after 8-10 hours, but avoid heavy foot traffic and furniture placement for 24 hours. 

Step 5

new floor with spacers remaining at edges

Once your new floor is complete, install transition pieces and remove the spacers. Then nail the baseboards and shoe mouldings to the wall, not the floor. 

Glue-down Installation over a Concrete Subfloor

Step 1

Lay spacers along the walls to create the expansion gap specified in the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 2

trowel spreading glue on concrete

Pour a small amount of glue on the concrete – about the width of two or three boards – and use the trowel to scrape the glue and drips clean away from the bucket. 

Step 3

Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle and spread the glue – make sure the teeth of the trowel touch the concrete.  Continue to spread glue in small sections; you only want to work on two or three rows at a time.

Step 4

first row of boards in place with spacers between board and wall

Using the straightest boards, lay the first row along the guideline you created when prepping the subfloor with the tongue side of the board facing toward the room.

Step 5

using a mallet to secure the first and second row of boards

Fit the second row’s groove on the first row’s tongue and tap the board into place using a rubber mallet and block. 

Step 6

illustration of a 6 inch stagger

Stagger the boards at least 6 inches from each end to add strength to the floor.  You may have to cut the first board using a circular or miter saw with a blade designed for engineered wood flooring.

When you run into columns or doorways, cut the planks to fit on both sides, taking care to maintain the expansion gap. 

Good to Know

Use a cleaner or special floor wipes designed for engineered wood flooring to immediately remove any glue that may have squeezed through the boards.

Step 7

When you reach the end of the floor, stop and leave enough space to comfortably exit the room without stepping on the new floor. Wait 24 hours for the glue to dry. If you need to finish installing the flooring, follow the same process until you reach the last row. 

Step 8

cutting the last board on a circular saw

Measure the distance between the wall and the board – not the tongue – and subtract the expansion gap.  Cut (or rip) the last row.  If the boards are less than one inch wide, apply glue to the tongue of the installed boards and slide the last row into place using a pry bar and a piece of scrap wood to protect your wall. 

Once your new floor is complete, install transition pieces and remove the spacers.  Then nail the baseboards and shoe mouldings to the wall. 

Staple-Down Installation over a Plywood Subfloor

If you’re working with a staple-down engineered hardwood floor, you’ll follow the same preparation steps as above, including laying spacers around the room’s perimeter to maintain the manufacturer’s recommended expansion gap.

Step 1

staple gun securing first row of engineered wood flooring

For the first row, pre-drill and nail with finishing nails about 1 inch from the wall at 3- to 4-inch intervals.  Use a nail punch and fill the holes with wood filler. 

Step 2

staple gun driving at 45-degrees

For the second and third rows, drive staples every 3 to 4 inches at a 45-degree angle, just above the tongue using a pneumatic staple gun.  Staples must not interfere with the tongue-and-groove fit of additional boards. 

Step 3

face nailing last rows

Your last one or two rows will be face-nailed, as your pneumatic stapler will be difficult to operate in a small space.  Pre-drill the holes and use a nail punch to countersink the nails.  Fill the holes with matching wood filler to camouflage the marks. 

Step 4

attaching baseboard to the wall

Once your new floor is complete, install transition pieces and remove the spacers.  Then nail the baseboards and shoe mouldings to the wall. 

Nail-down Installation over a Plywood Subfloor

With a nail-down engineered hardwood floor, follow the same subfloor preparation steps as above, including underlayment and laying spacers around the room’s perimeter to maintain the manufacturer's recommended expansion gap. This installation method is identical to staple-down, only the fastener and fastening tool differ.  Reference the imagery for staple-down installation for guided assistance.

Step 1

For your first row, face the tongue toward the center of the room, pre-drilling and nailing with finishing nails about 1 inch in from the wall.  Pre-drilling saves the wood from cracking and makes for an easier job.  Then, use a nail punch to countersink the nails and fill the hole with matching wood filler.  Work at a 3- to 4-inch interval along the length of the board.   

Step 2

For the second and third rows, drive the nails at an angle, just above the tongue, using a pneumatic nail gun. Countersink the nails to avoid interrupting the tongue and groove engagement in the following rows.

Step 3

Because it's difficult to use the nailer in small spaces, face-nail the last one or two rows.

Step 4

Once your new floor is complete, install transition pieces and remove the spacers.  Then nail the baseboards and shoe mouldings to the wall, not the floor.