Although we always recommend hiring one of our recommended professional hardwood flooring installers, here are a few tips for the handy person who wants to take on the task themselves.
- Pneumatic hardwood floor nailer
- Tape measure
- Weighted rubber mallet
- mitre or chop saw
- table saw
- Electric drill
- Air compressor, nails and gun
- Flooring screws
- Chalk line
- floor liner/paper or wax/rosin paper
- 2″ flooring nails
Note: Be sure the flooring is delivered at least 7 days before installation. Wood needs time to acclimate to your house.
First thing you need to do is take measurements of all the rooms where you’re considering installing hardwood floors. Remember that you’ll be installing the hardwood perpendicularly, or across the floor joists. Many older houses may not have parallel walls so expect to use some odd shaped pieces to make the floor flush with the wall at some points.
Your flooring comes in fixed lengths, find out how many square feet come in each box. You have to estimate how many of these packages you will need.
Know beforehand which stains or floor finishes are best for the type of hardwood and which will look best.
Remember to bring your hardwood into the room you want to install it. That’s needed because the hardwood must acclimate to the room’s typical humidity. It will help to ensure the amount of expansion or contraction.
Remove the old floor covering including molding. Measure the floor from wall to wall and take into account a ½” space between the edge of the floor boards and the wall. This is to allow the flooring to expand with humidity changes. Check the subfloor and ensure it is sturdy enough to hold the new flooring. Check for squeaks and cracked boards by walking along the joists. Fasten loose boards with screws or ring shank nails.
Your sub floor must be level or the installation may not go smoothly and the floor may not look the way you expected. Check the level of the floor and if there are any board sections rising up, you may have to get a sander and sand them down. If there are dips, you may have to fill them with a wood leveling compound.
Moisture metering the sub floor and insuring homes humidity has been consistently between 40% and 50% before beginning your install as wood reacts to changes in humidity and can shrink, swell and warp.
If there is a lack of parallel in the walls, you may have to cut a tapered piece to allow a good fit to the wall and the adjacent floorboards you’re installing. There are spacers available to help you keep the required distance to the wall. When you have your starter board in place, it should be nailed into the floor joist, not just the subfloor.
The boards need to run across instead of with the existing floor joists.
- To get started, lay down wax paper or rosin paper.
- Plan the floor avoiding the “ladder effect” or “H pattern” by laying the strips parallel to the longest wall.
- Chalk a line out from the wall at least 1/2″ wider than a flooring strip, leaving 1/2″ minimum expansion space between the wall and the first strip.
- Drill pilot holes for the nails 12″ to 16″ apart so as not to damage the strip when nailing.
- Lay the tongue edge of the strip on the guide line. Measure and cut the strip to finish the row. Nail the first row by hand and use the extra to start the next row. Stagger the boards by at least 6″ to avoid clustering the end-joints. (Avoid using staples as they have less holding power than flooring nails.)
- Tap the next board tight to the previous board (using a “rubber” mallet to protect the wood) and then nail. Use a hardwood floor nailer for installation.
- On the last rows, remember to leave 1/2″ expansion space, even if you have to trim the last piece.
- Ease the tongue in place, and nail with air compressor and gun, when the space is too tight for the pneumatic gun. A crowbar might be required at the end to pull pieces in tight.