Hardwood Installation Tips

Hot Deals In-Stock Now Take it home today!

Hardwood Installation:

Step By Step Instructions:

Preparation

Before installing your hardwood floor it is important to remember that wood comes from nature and, like the rest of nature, is not perfect and you should not expect it to be. However, there are industry standards which permit grading deficiencies exceeding 5% and the wood flooring you buy at our stores all adhere to those standards.
  • Inspect the wood carefully before installing. Be selective about wood with excessive deficiencies, naturally-occurring or caused by the manufacturing process. Either do not use them or try to cut off the deficiencies. If the material is not acceptable, do not install it and contact the seller right away. The installer should assume all responsibility for final inspections of the wood in terms of grade and finish. Take great care in making sure that the color and finish work according to your needs and tastes.
  • Not only does the wood have to adhere to industry standards, the job site environments and sub-surfaces do as well. Determine if they meet or need them. You must follow local codes as well as recommendations of the construction and materials industries which recommend that the subfloor be dry, stiff, and flat. The manufacturer will not take responsibility for job failures having to do with deficiencies in the sub-surface, sub flooring, or job-site environment.
  • Keep in mind that it is normal procedure to use stain, filler, or putty stick for touch-up during installation.
  • When ordering, it is always a good idea to add 5% to the actual square footage that you need to account for cutting and grading allowance. It is better to have more than you need than less.
  • When in doubt, throw it out! Do not use the piece if you are doubtful as to its grade, manufacture, or factory finish.
  • You should also accept as normal procedure the use of appropriate products to correct subfloor voids.

Tools and Accessories Needed

  • Broom/vacuum
  • Pencil
  • Safety Glasses
  • Filler or putty stick
  • Moisture meter (wood, concrete, or both)
  • Hand Saw, table saw, circular saw or band saw
  • Moisture resistant cushioned underlayment
  • Tape Measure
  • Vinyl/plastic tapping block
  • Carpenter's Square
  • Hammer or rubber mallet
  • Small pry-bar or pull-bar
  • Utility/razor knife
  • Dust mask
  • 3M 2080 Blue Masking tape
  • Transition and wall moldings
  • Wood Glue*
  • 4-6 mil polyvinyl sheeting (if needed)

*Use wood glue designed for laminate or floating wood installations or a Carpenter's glue such as Franklin TiteBond II. A 16 oz. container will be adequate for approximately 200 ft2 of wood installation.

Pre-Installation Recommendations and Best Practices

Prior to installation of any hardwood flooring product, the installer must determine that the job-site environment and the sub-surfaces involved, meet or exceed all requirements as stipulated in the installation instructions. The manufacturer declines any responsibility for job failure resulting from or associated with sub-surface or job-site environment deficiencies.

Storage and Handling

Handle and unload with care. Store in a dry place, preferably within the room where the product is to be installed. Be sure to provide at least a four-inch air space under cartons when storage occurs over concrete. DO NOT OPEN CARTONS PRIOR TO INSTALLATION. This may cause the tongue to swell making installation difficult.

Site Requirements

EXTERIOR: Exterior grading should be complete with surface drainage directing water away from the building. All gutters and downspouts should be in place.

INTERIOR: The building should be closed in with all outside doors and windows in place. All concrete, masonry, framing members, drywall, paint and other wet work should be thoroughly dry. The wall coverings should be in place and the painting completed except for the final coat on the base molding. When possible, delay installation of base molding until flooring installation is complete. Subfloors (wood or concrete) must be checked for moisture content using the appropriate testing method. This product may be installed below, on or above grade. Basements and crawl spaces must be dry and well ventilated. Concrete should be at least 60 days old. Permanent air conditioning and heating systems should be in place and operational. The installation site should have a consistent room temperature of 60-75° F and humidity of 35-55% for three days prior, during and until occupied. Do not install in areas of high moisture incidence such as bathrooms and powder rooms.

NOTE: Radiant heated subfloors. In rooms with under-floor (radiant) heating, the surface temperature of the subfloor may not, under any circumstances, exceed 85° F. Increasing heat should be done in 5-degree increments. DO NOT install species other than Oak when using this type of heating system. Excessive heat may cause unacceptable shrinkage and structural damage.

Subfloor Requirements and Preparation

Our floating floor products may be installed over any subfloor, new or existing, provided those materials meet the following requirements:

  • STRUCTURALLY SOUND – Nail or screw any loose areas that squeak. Replace any water-damaged subflooring or underlayments. Subfloor must have minimal vertical movement (deflection)
  • CLEAN – Scraped, broom clean, and smooth. Free of wax, paint, oil or debris.
    FLAT – Within 3/16" in 10' and/or 1/8" in 6'. Sand high areas or joints, fill low areas with a leveling compound or layers of 15# builders felt. DO NOT use cushioned underlayment for this purpose.
  • DRY – Check moisture of subfloor. Moisture content of wood subfloor must not exceed 14% on a wood moisture meter, or more than a 5% difference than moisture level of product being installed unless a suitable moisture retardant material is installed prior to installation of the flooring. Visual checks are not reliable.
  • Acceptable test methods for subfloor moisture content include:
    • Polyfilm test: Tape 3" X 3" pieces of polyethylene film to the subfloor and leave in place for 24 hours. Assure all edges are completely sealed. Darkened concrete or condensation on film indicates presence of moisture and requires testing with Tramex meter or Calcium Chloride.
    • Calcium Chloride test. The maximum moisture transfer must not exceed 5#/1000 square feet in a 24 hour period with this test. Test several areas, especially near exterior walls and walls containing plumbing.
    • Tramex Concrete Moisture Encounter meter. Moisture readings should not exceed 5.5 on the upper scale.

Correcting Moisture Problems

If the subfloor fails to meet the minimum requirements listed above, resolve the issues using the most appropriate method listed below:

  • Wood and wood composite structural panel subfloors, vinyl and vinyl composition tile: use a moisture resistant cushioned underlayment pad (shiny side down) and seal all joints with duct tape or other suitable moisture resistant tape.
  • Concrete, terrazzo and ceramic tile: Install a layer of 4-6 mil polyvinyl sheeting overlapping joints 6". Tape all joints using duct tape or other suitable moisture resistant tape. Install the cushioned underlayment pad over this polyvinyl layer.

Preparation for Installation

Before you start:

  • Check the subfloor and make certain it meets all the minimum requirements as listed above.
  • If possible, remove all wall mounted moldings such as base and quarter-round.
  • Undercut door moldings with a hand or jamb saw to allow for ease of installation and 1/2" of expansion space in all directions.
  • Remove all surface dust, loose debris and organic materials. Clean, sweep/vacuum the subfloor thoroughly.

Getting started, plan your layout:

Before you start:

  • Measure the width of the room at five points, noting any uneven or wall variations. Preplan the number of rows of planks that will be required to complete the installation. The final row will normally be narrower than the others and will have to be ripped lengthwise. NOTE: The last row should not be narrower than 2". If the walls are uneven or the last plank is less than 2", it may be necessary to rip both the first and last row.
  • Decide the direction of the floor installation in the room. Planks installed parallel to windows accent the floor the best. Floors should be installed perpendicular to the floor joists.

Installation of the Floor

Laying the cushioned underlayment:

  • Install the 4-6 mil polyvinyl (if necessary) over lapping the joints 6". Seal all joints using the appropriate moisture resistant tape.
  • Install the cushioned underlayment PARALLEL to the direction of the wood planks. Butt edges together, do not overlap them.
  • Seal all seams if necessary.

NOTE: If the last row of the floor will be less than 2" in width the first row must be ripped to allow additional width.

NOTE: Installing first row: ALWAYS ALLOW ½" EXPANSION AROUND ALL VERTICAL OBJECTS.

  1. Select the longest boards available for the first row.
  2. Starting from the left carefully place the first board in place. The tongue of the board MUST be facing away from the wall, groove towards wall with the end groove facing the perpendicular starting wall.
  3. Use wedges or ½" scrap along both walls to hold plank in place while allowing the required expansion space.
  4. Select another board using the longest length available.
  5. Apply a 1/8" bead of glue inside the END groove.
  6. Align the end groove with the end tongue on the previously installed piece. Force the groove into the tongue as tightly as possible. If any excess glue squeezes out on the surface remove it immediately.
  7. Continue in this manner until the first row is complete, always using wedges or ½" thick scrap along the wall to hold plank in place while allowing the required expansion space.
  8. Measure and cut the last board and install as above. Use a pull bar or small pry bar, if necessary, to tighten the joint. Use a wedge or ½" spacer to restrain movement and maintain expansion zone.

Installing remaining rows

  1. Begin the second row with the cut piece from the first row. If the cut piece is shorter than 18" do not use it, instead begin with a new board cut to a minimum length of 18". Maintain an 18" space between the end joints of the first through 3rd row.
  2. Apply a 1/8" bead of glue inside of the groove. Align the groove with the tongue of the board in the first row. Tap the board into place using the tapping block. Tap the ends together first then tap LIGHTLY the full length of the board several times until the joint is completely closed. DO NOT strike the board aggressively. Excessive force will cause the board to bounce out of place and damage the tongue making installation of the next row difficult. Remove any surface adhesive. If necessary hold the boards together with 3M 2080 Blue Masking tape. DO NOT tap the groove edge at any time. This damages the edge and may cause splintering at a later date. Use a wedge or ½" scrap to hold the end in place.
  3. Apply a 1/8" bead of glue within the groove of the end and side of the next board. Align the end groove first then the side groove. Tighten as in step 2. Remove any excess adhesive and use 3M 2080 Blue Masking tape to hold in place.
  4. Complete the second row, cutting the final board to length then and install a wedge or ½" thick scrap to restrain movement of the row. Use a pull bar or small pry bar if necessary to tighten the joint.
  5. Complete the floor by installing in the same manner as row two.
  6. Whenever practical use cut pieces from previous rows as a starter board to reduce waste.
  7. Maintain 12" spacing between end joints for best appearance.
  8. Use stain, filler or putty sticks to fill small gaps and to improve appearance during installation. Use a filler or putty stick that blends with the flooring such as those available from MinWax.

Installing final row

  1. The last row may need to be cut lengthwise (ripped).
  2. Measure the space between the face of the last row installed and the wall. Subtract ½" for expansion. Cut the board to this width. Measure each board in the final row separately to allow for any irregularity in the wall.
  3. Apply a 1/8" bead of glue within the groove of the board. Remove any excess adhesive and restrain movement by inserting a wedge or ½" spacer.
  4. Rip the final board, as above, and then cut to length. Install as previously. Use a pull bar or small pry bar if necessary to tighten the joint. Remove any excess adhesive and restrain movement by inserting a wedge or ½" spacer.

Completing the installation

  • Fill or putty any areas necessary that were missed during installation. Use a filler or putty stick that blends with the flooring such as those available from MinWax.
  • After 8 hours remove all wedges and tape if used
  • Install any transition moldings. Install base and/or quarter round moldings. Nail moldings into the wall, not the floor.
  • Clean floor with a wood flooring cleaner designed for Urethane finishes.
  • Do not cover with a non-breathable material such as plastic.

To prevent surface damage avoid rolling heavy appliances or furniture on the floor. Use plywood, hardboard or air sleds or appliance lifts if necessary.

Installing 3/4" Wood Flooring

Before installing your hardwood floor it is important to remember that wood comes from nature and, like the rest of nature, is not perfect and you should not expect it to be. However, there are industry standards which permit grading deficiencies exceeding 5% and the wood flooring you buy at our stores all adhere to those standards.

  • •Inspect the wood carefully before installing. Be selective about wood with excessive deficiencies, naturally-occurring or caused by the manufacturing process. Either do not use them or try to cut off the deficiencies. If the material is not acceptable, do not install it and contact the seller right away. The installer should assume all responsibility for final inspections of the wood in terms of grade and finish. Take great care in making sure that the color and finish work according to your needs and tastes.
  • Not only does the wood have to adhere to industry standards, the job site environments and sub-surfaces do as well. Determine if they meet or need them. You must follow local codes as well as recommendations of the construction and materials industries which recommend that the subfloor be dry, stiff, and flat. The manufacturer will not take responsibility for job failures having to do with deficiencies in the sub-surface, sub flooring, or job-site environment.
  • Keep in mind that it is normal procedure to use stain, filler, or putty stick for touch-up during installation.
  • When ordering, it is always a good idea to add 5% to the actual square footage that you need to account for cutting and grading allowance. It is better to have more than you need than less.
  • When in doubt, throw it out! Do not use the piece if you are doubtful as to its grade, manufacture, or factory finish.
  • You should also accept as normal procedure the use of appropriate products to correct subfloor voids.

Tools and Accessories Needed

First, you must use the proper adapters as well as staples or cleats. Improper machines, fasteners, and air pressure can cause severe damage. Expect the manufacturer to not take responsibility for damage caused by use of improper tools and materials.

Below is a list of all the items you will need when installing your hardwood floor.

  • Broom
  • Drill with 1/16" drill bit
  • Tape Measure
  • Hammer
  • Earplugs and safety glasses
  • Recommended Hardwood Flooring Cleaner
  • Chalk line & chalk
  • Handsaw
  • 6-7d screw-shank nails
  • Nail Set
  • Moisture meter (concrete, wood or both)
  • Undercut or Jamb Saw
  • 2" "Blind" fastening machine.

Job Site Inspection Pre-Installation Procedures

  • Make sure all outside doors and windows are closed and in place. Make sure everything is dry like the concrete, masonry, framing members, drywall, and of course paint. All painting should be complete (except for a final coat on the base molding) and all wall coverings should be in place. You may want to delay installation of the base molding until you're finished installing the floor. Make sure that all basements and crawl spaces are dry and well ventilated.
  • Grading on the exterior should be completed with surface drainage a minimum drop of 3" in 10' so that the water is directed away from the structure. The gutters and downspouts should be in their proper places.
  • Solid wood flooring has to be installed on or above grade level. Installing it in full bathrooms is not recommended.
  • Make sure your crawl spaces are a minimum of 24" (600 mm) from the ground to the underside of the joists. You must have a ground cover of 6-8 mil of black polyethylene film because it acts as a vapor barrier with joints lapped 6" and tapes. The crawl space should have a venting perimeter a minimum of 1.5% of the crawl space square footage. Make sure the location of the vents promote cross ventilation.
  • Check the subfloor for moisture content using the appropriate testing method.
  • Your heating and permanent air conditioning systems should be working and in place. Try to keep the installation site a consistent room temperature of 60-75° and at a humidity level of 35-55% for 14 days prior, during and until occupied to allow for adequate acclimation.

Handling and Storage

It is best that solid wood flooring be stored in the environment in which it is expected to perform. Delivery of the materials should be to an environmentally controlled site. Allow for a 72 hour acclimation period or longer (if necessary) to meet the minimum installation requirements for moisture content. A closed carton does not allow for adequate acclimation because of the lack of air movement. Be careful when handling and unloading your hardwood. Provide at least a 4" air space under the cartons stored upon "on-grade" concrete floors. Do not deliver the flooring until the building has been closed, everything is in place, and all wet work is completed and dry. Even though it may seem dry, make sure the concrete is at least 60 days old.

Installation Applications

Following the instructions below will minimize occasional small noises caused by structural movement and/or environmental changes in mechanically fastened floors but there is no guarantee that they will eliminate them.

With any Fastening Machines, try not to strike the edge of factory-finished products with a fastener's mallet because edge crushing can cause cracks and splinters. If you must, use a block hammer. Cover protective materials with faceplates to prevent damage to the floor surface. Water damage or swelling will cause the sub flooring to not hold staples properly.

When using manual Fastening Machines, it's important to be aware that improper adapter plate selection can cause severe edge damage. Select the proper adapter and properly install it for ¾" flooring.

If you're using a pneumatic Fastening Machine, make sure your pressure settings are correct and use proper adapters or you can severely damage your floor. The correct adapter and pressure setting should smoothly set the fastener in the nail pocket. Low pressures will not properly set the staple and damage adjoining boards and pressures too high will damage the tongue, preventing the installation of the adjoining boards. Just be certain that the compressor has a regulator aligned with the air hose and set the pressure at 70 PSI to start and adjust to a proper setting from there.

Subfloor Requirements

  • They must be CLEAN. Scrape it, sweep it, and smooth it. Make sure it's free of wax, oil, paint, sealers, curing agents and other debris.
  • Make sure they're LEVEL and FLAT - within 3/16" in 10' and/or 1/8" in 6'. To flatten low spots use layers of 15# builder's felt (tarpaper), plywood, or shims. NOTE: Laminated rosin paper or tarpaper retards moisture and can reduce movement caused by changes in subfloor moisture which reduces cupping and warping. They can also give wood a more solid feeling and prevent noises caused by minor irregularities.
  • It has to be STRUCTURALLY SOUND. Nail or screw any loose, squeaky areas. Replace any sub flooring or underlayments that have been swollen or delaminated.
  • The subfloor must be DRY. Check the moisture level with a moisture meter.

Recommended Subfloor Surfaces

  • ¾" (19mm) CDX grade plywood ¾" (23/32") OSB PS2 rated underlayment is PREFERRED. Have a MINIMUM of 5/8" CDX grade plywood.
  • T&G wood subflooring
  • Screeds
  • An existing solid wood flooring will work well

You should not install solid wood plank or strip over radiantly heated subfloors or try to glue to a subfloor of any type. The following is a list of subfloor types:

Wood Subfloors and Wood Structural Panel Subfloors

Plywood: It should be a minimum of APA grade rated sheathing or CDX minimum. An Oriented Strand Board (OSB) must be PS2 rated installed sealed side down. Don't install it over particleboard, waferboard, pressed wood or fiberboard. Existing floor or subfloor should be nailed or screwed down every 6" along each joist to cut down squeaking or popping. Make sure it's dry. Measure the moisture with a reliable wood moisture meter. It must not exceed a13% moisture content. The difference between subfloor and floor must not exceed 4%.

The less the movement the better for optimum performance of hardwood covering products. Excessive vertical movement (deflection) can make for a noisy floor or premature finish wear later. The MINIMUM subfloor recommendations are for 19.2" O/C joist spacing with minimum recommended spans.

Space all underlayment panels 1/8" apart to allow for some expansion space or cut around the perimeter using a circular saw. T&G panels will likely have built in expansion, however; DO NOT cut around the perimeter in this case. An additional layer of plywood may be necessary to stabilize the flooring or install the wood floor at right angles when installing over existing wood floors.

Concrete slabs: Once the appropriate nailing surface has been installed, solid wood flooring can be installed over concrete. But make sure the concrete is of high compressive strength and dry. Use a moisture meter as visual checks are not very reliable. Test several areas, ESPECIALLY near plumbing and exterior walls. Keep in mind that it can be dry now, but wet at other times of the year. These tests cannot guarantee year-round dryness. So make sure all concrete slabs have a minimum of 6 mil of poly film moisture barrier between the ground and the concrete.

Subfloor Systems

Bonded: Install a suitable moisture-retardant followed by a plywood subfloor with a ¾" minimum thickness. Allow for a ½" expansion space all around vertical objects and 1/8" between all flooring panels. Properly attach to the subfloor using at least one fastener per square foot. Use pneumatic or powder actuated fasteners if at all possible. Do not hand-nail the subfloor with concrete nails. Install a moisture barrier with joints lapped 6" and begin to install the floor using 1 ½" fasteners.

Floating: Install a suitable moisture-retardant followed by a plywood subfloor with a 3/8" minimum thickness. Allow for a ½" expansion space all around vertical objects and 1/8" between all flooring panels. Install a second layer of 3/8" plywood at a right angle to the previous panels, offsetting the joints by 2'. Staple them together with staples that will not penetrate the first layer of subfloor with at least a 3/8" crown width. Install a moisture barrier with joints lapped 6" and begin to install the flooring.

General Installation Tips

  • Install from several cartons at the same time to ensure good color and shade mixture
  • Stagger the ends of the boards at least 6" wherever possible in adjacent rows to ensure a better appearance
  • Use spacers, such as small washers, to accomplish internal or field expansion in areas of high humidity; insert them every 10-20 rows above the tongue, remove them after several adjoining rows have been fastened

Step 1: Doorway and Wall Preparation

Undercut the door casings. Remove existing bases, shoe molds or doorway thresholds. Don't worry; you can replace these after installation. Make sure that all of the door casings are notched out or undercut to avoid difficult scribe cuts.

Step 2: Wall-to-Wall Installation: Establish a Starting Point

  • Install parallel to the longest wall for optimum visual effects but make sure the floor is installed perpendicular to the flooring joists unless you have already reinforced the subfloor to reduce sagging.
  • Use an appropriate subfloor from the list above. If you are using a moisture-retardant like Rosin Paper install this before proceeding.
  • Measure the width of the product you're installing. Use the widest plank for the first row to randomize or alternate width products.
  • Allow for ¾" expansion and the width of the tongue by adding 1"
  • Use that measurement, in two places at least, to measure out equal distance from the starting wall and 12" – 18" from the corners and draw a chalk line

Step 3: Wall-to-Wall Installation: First 4 Rows

Always end glue wide width (4" or more) planks with a PVA wood glue.

  • Use your longest, straightest boards for the first two rows
  • Use the chalk line to align the tongue of the first row, making sure that the groove faces the starting wall
  • Pre-drill the nail holes 1" from the back or groove edge, 1 to 2" from each end, and at 6" intervals at a 45° angle down through the nailing "pocket" on the top of the tongue
  • Face-nail the groove side where pre-drilled. Then blind-nail at a 45° angle through the tongue of the first row. Using 6 or 8d nails, fasten. Countersink nails to ensure flushness of the groove. Don't use a nail set to drive the nails the last ½" into the groove as it will bruise the wood.
  • Continue blind nailing until stapler or nailer can be used
  • Stagger end joints of adjacent rows a minimum of 6" to ensure a favorable overall appearance

You can blind-nail beginning rows if the clearance allows it using a pneumatic finish nailer with 15 gauge, 1 ½" minimum nails in lieu of above.

Step 2 & 3: Center to Wall Installation

  • Draw a chalk line down the center of the room.
  • Install a sacrificial row that extends the length of the room on that line.
  • Install only three rows of flooring.
  • Remove the sacrificial row, insert a slip tongue (spline) in the open groove.
  • Always glue and nail the slip tongue into place.

Step 4: Racking ("Dry" laying) the Floor

  • Rack materials to cover about 2/3 of the room. Begin racking about 6" from the edge of the previously installed rows. Don't pull boards too tightly together on the sides because they must be allowed to move freely when fastening begins.
  • Mark the final board in each row and cut to the right length, allowing for expansion
  • Look at the flooring carefully and set aside boards that need to have natural character flaws cut out.
  • Use these boards for starting and finishing a row after objectionable characteristics have been removed.

Step 5: Installing the Floor

  • Sacrifice a board and fasten to the floor. Check it for surface damage, tongue damage, air pressure setting, etc. before going on. Make all adjustments and corrections before beginning installation. Once you have made all the right adjustments, remove and destroy the board.
  • Begin the install with several rows at a time, fastening each board with at least two fasteners, 8-10" apart and 1 – 1 ½" from the ends to avoid splitting. Tighten boards as needed to reduce gaps before fastening.
  • Stagger end-joints of adjacent rows 6' when possible to ensure a favorable appearance
  • The last 1 or 2 rows will need to be face-nailed where clearance doesn't permit blind nailing. Pre-drill and face-nail on the tongue side following the nailing pattern used on the first row.
  • Rip the final row and face-nail it. If the last row is less than 1" in width, glue it first to the previous UNINSTALLED row and the two joined units should be face nailed as one.

Step 6: Finish the Job

  • Clean the floor with recommended cleaners such as Dura-Luster No-Wax Cleaner
  • Reinstall any transition pieces that are needed, such as Reducer Strips, T-moldings, or Thresholds. They are available pre-finished to blend with your flooring.
  • Re-install all base and/or quarter round moldings. Don't nail the moldings into the floor, nail them into the wall instead.
  • If you are not the owner, leave all warranty and floor information with the owner.

Don't roll heavy appliances or furniture on the floor to prevent surface damage; use plywood, hardwood or appliance lifts for that.

The Floor Trader Showrooms are independently owned and operated. Prices, products and services provided may vary by location.