How to Install Wood Flooring: Step-by-step Guide

Hardwood flooring adds warmth, beauty, and elegance to a room. What’s more, this flooring option is generally available in a wide range of colors, styles, and patterns and to top it off, it is easy to maintain, environmentally sustainable, and easy to replace. With that in mind, here is a step-by-step guide on installing hardwood flooring:

hardwood installation
Photo Credit: F.D. Richards

Tools Required

Before you start installing a hardwood floor, you should have all the necessary tools at hand. These tools include:

  • Table saw
  • Pencil
  • Chalk line
  • Hammer
  • Nail punch
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife
  • Safety glasses
  • Wood spacers
  • Hardwood floor cleaner
  • Broom
  • Plastic scraper
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Power saw
  • Filler or putty
  • Wood moisture meter
  • Putty knife

Choosing Hardwood Floorboards

hardwood installation
Photo Credit: Tim Dorr

You should choose flooring boards that are flat, dry and free of defects. Moreover, it is important to note that while hardwood boards vary in color, graining, and tone, the industry standard for natural defect tolerance is five percent. This is particularly important because some flooring warranties do not cover products with visible defects after installation. Also make sure the wood color matches with the walls’ to enhance the room’s overall experience. If you are interested, check out this guide on choosing wall colors based on room types.

Floor Preparation

Use a plastic scraper to remove adhesives and dirt that might be stuck to the subfloor. After this, use a broom to sweep the subfloor. Make sure the subfloor is as flat as possible. If it has depressions, use Portland base compound to fill them. Furthermore, inspect the structural soundness of your subfloor to ensure that it is rigid and strong enough to support a hardwood floor.

Moisture Check

Moisture testing is necessary to ensure your hardwood floor does not degrade or become uneven after installation. According to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), subfloor moisture content must be less than 3 lbs/1000 sq.ft/24 hrs or less than 75% RH levels in concrete when using in situ probes or no greater than five percent on a concrete moisture meter. If your moisture test results exceed these limits, you should wait until the moisture content level falls to the recommended levels.

Install Vapor Barrier Paper

Even if your subfloor’s moisture content is well within the recommended limits, it is advisable to install a vapor barrier paper. Fortunately, you do not necessarily have to buy and install expensive vapor barrier paper because 15-lb felt paper would work just as well.

Laying The Hardwood Floor

hardwood installation
Photo Credit: Marcelle Guilbeau 

Plan the layout of your hardwood flooring by determining the direction of your hardwood floorboards. Once you do that, you can use a long board to create the first row. As you do that, be sure to leave a gap of about 6 mm between the wall of your room and this board. Drill holes through this board and then nail it to the subfloor.

When you complete the first row, choose another board for the second row and proceed to nail it to the subfloor following the same routine. However, the board for the second row should not be as long as the one for the first row. It should be at least 150 mm shorter or longer to avoid creating joints that line up together. Continue to lay rows of floorboards in the same manner until you cover the entire room.

Finally, use wood putty to fill the nail holes that you have drilled. Remember to wipe off excess putty and use a broom to sweep your hardwood floor. You can also use a vacuum machine to remove small specks of dust or hardwood material generated during the floor installation process.

Author Bio: Kal Elfarro is the Senior Project estimator for Ottawa General Contractors. He comes from a family of three generations of construction experience from building custom homes, to designing homes and, of course, home renovations.