Remodeling 9: How to Install a Hardwood Floor

First of all, determine which direction you are going to install the hardwood floor boards. Conventionally the hardwood floor boards are run with the length of the room rather than across it. Another choice is installing the hardwood floor boards diagonally. Measure along a wall, the equivalent of one board plus the tongue, plus 1/4" for expansion. Go to the corners of the room and snap a line between these points. Don't follow the wall, follow the line. Diagram of how to stagger the ends of floor boards when laying a hardwood floor.This first hardwood floor board should be laid down with its tongue away from the wall and its grooved side about 1/4" away from the wall. Face nail this first hardwood floor board into position securely. The whole floor will follow this line. Lay up the hardwood floor boards for the next rows with no less than 6" between joints in a 6" radius. Don't have a joint then a hardwood floor board and another joint exactly opposite it. Spread these joints out as shown in the drawing. Nail above the tongue of the hardwood floor board, into the sub-floor on an angle, called toe nailing. You can rent a compressor and nailer for hardwood floors which is designed to drive a staple into the floor above the tongue. You can also rent a manual nailer. Go for the air nailer it drives the hardwood floor boards together better. The rental person will explain how to use it properly. Staple or nail the hardwood floor boards no more than 6" apart. If using the air nailer get into the habit of sliding it along the tongue of the hardwood floor board, rather than lifting the nailer and moving it into position 6" away. Use the hammer supplied and give it a good smack, not too hard though.

Continue this procedure until you come to the other side of the room, when you run out of room to nail with the nailer into the tongue of the hardwood floor boards. Either use a finishing nail air nailer or toe nail the hardwood floor boards by hand. Rip the last hardwood floor board to fit, keeping it 1/4" away from the walls. The ends of the hardwood floor boards should be at least 1/4" away from the walls, also.

When coming to a doorway, follow this procedure. Get a sharp handsaw or reciprocating saw. Use a small piece of hardwood floor board as a thickness gauge with the saw on top of it, remove the bottom of the door jamb to the middle of where the door is. In other words, we want the hardwood floor board to go under the jamb. This piece that goes under the jamb and comes up to the center of the door, when the door is closed, is called the reducer. The reducer forms a transition from the hardwood to the other type of flooring - carpet, lino, tile, on the other side of the closed door. This is why the edge of the reducer is under the center of the door. When the door is closed, you see only the hardwood flooring on that side of the door. To make a reducer, cut a piece of hardwood floor board to length, to fit between and under the jamb. Rip the bottom of the groove off and round over the top of the hardwood floor board on that same side. On the other side of this reducer cut the tongue off and make a groove in the edge, to receive the hardwood floor board coming into it. If the piece coming into the reducer is too wide, rip it down and put a groove in it as well. Then make a spline to go into the two hardwood floor boards. Use a piece of hardwood floor board for the splines, that is not too pretty or that you discarded due to nailing a staple through the face of the board.

If you come to a set of stairs, remove the existing nosing, if any. Place a hardwood nosing to match your hardwood floor boards on the top stair. If you are adding hardwood down the stairs refer to my article Stairs 6: Installing Hardwood on Stairs.


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