How do I Install Wood Floors?

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  • Written By: Eric Tallberg
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2019
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There’s nothing that makes a home more elegant than to install wood floors throughout. The job is not difficult, nor overly expensive. Most homeowners, if they are at all handy, can install a hardwood floor by themselves. However, the job does require patience, and attention to detail.

Before starting to install wood floors, determine what type of flooring is desired. Things such as color, grain, and finish should be thought out. Is a genuine hardwood floor what is wanted, or will less expensive laminate flooring work? Is the distinctive look of parquet or bamboo desired?

To install wood floors correctly, the subflooring is critical. Is the subfloor plywood, concrete, or original wood flooring? Hardwood flooring will be nailed to plywood, glued to concrete, and some laminates can simply be “floating” over the original floor, anchored only by the tightness of its tongue-and-groove construction.

In preparing to install wood floors, make absolutely sure that the subfloor is clean and dry. In the case of a hardwood floor laid over plywood, bond paper is laid first to minimize squeaking and provide an extra level of moisture protection. This preparation is critical to ensure ease of installation, as well as a tight, finished look.


The first course of boards, should be laid parallel to the longest wall of the room, with the groove toward the wall, and spaced approximately ¼-inch (.64 cm) to ½-inch (1.27 cm) from the wall to provide for expansion. Measure and cut a board to finish the length of the first course, and use the remainder of the end piece to begin the second course. The first course, if not anchored with adhesive, should be nailed by hand.

The next course is laid alongside the first, groove to tongue, and the two courses tapped gently together with a rubber mallet to engage the tongue of the first course with the groove of the second. The second course is then nailed to a plywood subfloor with a floor-nailer. The nails spaced approximately every eight inches (20.32 cm) along the board, and three to four inches (7.62 to 10.16 cm) from the ends. Care must be taken not to scratch the floor surface with the nailer. Ensure that ends are staggered at least six inches (15.24 cm) along each course to avoid bunching end pieces.

The last course is laid, like the first, spaced ¼-inch (.64 cm) to ½-inch (1.27 cm) from the wall, and also hand nailed. The nail holes in both the first and last courses should be filled with wood putty at the end of the job. When proper care is taken to install wood floors, the results are well worth the effort.


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Discuss this Article

Post 3

When I installed a wood floor recently, I found that I was damaging the floor when I was driving nails into it. I have since learned that a nail gun or staple gun is less likely to cause damage to the wood.

However, if you choose to use the nail and hammer method, try drilling the holes before you actually drive in the nails. The bit of help getting the hole started should allow the nail to enter the wood without causing damage.

Post 2

@Animandel - As the article mentions there are several ways to install wood floors and the method you choose should depend on what you are installing the floor on. If your wood floors are on top of concrete then an adhesive could hold the entire floor in place as mentioned in the article.

However, some wood floors are actually installed with nails, but the nails are not visible. If you sink your nails with a nail punch and then go back and fill in the spots with a wood filler then the nails will be below the surface of the floor, and because of the filler you will still have a smooth surface.

Post 1

I would like to try to install wood flooring, but the process seems like it could be a difficult job. Looking at my current wood flooring, I have been trying to figure out how you get the floor secure without having the nails show on the top side of the wood.

Now, if I am reading the article correctly then I can use nothing but the adhesive to hold the entire wood flooring in place. Is that why no nails are showing on my floor?

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