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How to Install Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood FlooringInstalling hardwood flooring doesn’t have to be difficult, we’ve provided guidelines to follow that will allow you to be the expert you didn’t have to hire, saving you money and promoting the satisfaction of a home DIY (Do It Yourself) project done right. Learning how to install hardwood flooring requires time and effort but will definitely be worth all that you put into it giving your home a natural style and sophistication.

What You Need to Know First

What is your subfloor made of-is it concrete or wood? If installing hardwood onto concrete, ensure that the concrete is dry by testing several different areas of the floor for excess moisture. This is important as excess moisture is a death sentence for hardwood floors. New concrete slabs need to cure for at least 30 days prior to installing hardwood flooring.

When installing hardwood flooring onto a wood subfloor of engineered or solid flooring in the staple or nail down method, an underlayment of 15 lb. black felt paper rolled out over the wood subfloor before installing the new hardwood floor is recommended. This will help to reduce moisture from coming up underneath your new hardwood floor protecting your investment. This is also recommended for the floating method of installation which can be done over laminate, concrete or wood subflooring. Floating floors will expand and contract and the underlayment will allow this movement during season changes that result in humidity while providing a soft cushion to the flooring.

How To Install Hardwood Flooring

What Hardwood and Species Will You Use

Hardwood in officeRed or White Oak, maple, hickory, and cherry are usually considered the best species for hardwood floors as they are, well, hardwood. Depending on your overall color scheme, light, dark or somewhere in between and the resilience of the wood is important. Consider also that other hardwood varieties available are mahogany, walnut, ash and also bamboo. Bamboo is considered a grass but it is feasible for flooring. Consider what room you are renovating before you make your final decision on which wood to use.

Pros and Cons of Various Hardwoods

While most flooring grades are not concerned with serviceability but rather aesthetics, it’s important to keep in mind that all grades perform at about the same consistency with differences being in their appearance and whether they are uniform in color, finished product, and unfinished product, natural or engineered. Note that grading on engineered is not considered, it’s about the milling, the veneers, actual finish and it all varies with manufacturers.

Red Oak

Red Oak has rosy undertones with medium to heavy grains and is one of the top choices for flooring in the United States. Less expensive than Maple and Hickory it is the most stable choice compared to maple and hickory.

White Oak

White Oaks linear grain makes it ideal for stain absorbing it evenly throughout. The most common hardwood used in flooring it is a great choice overall.


Maple, whether a hard maple or sugar maple tends to have a smooth look after all is said and done and is durable. After hickory, high traffic areas benefit from having maple installed. Being harder than oak it usually doesn’t perform well when it comes to staining.


Hickory planks are usually cut wider due to its graining but it performs well in high traffic areas. While being harder to install it can be worth it in the long run as it is harder than oak

Mahogany and Cherry

Mahogany and Cherry are highly desirable for their appearance. Considered an “exotic” hardwood their durability is usually not up to par with other hardwoods available.


Bamboo is slightly more water resistant and not as prone to warping as some other materials, however, there are different types available that are just as durable as red oak. While it can become scratched or marred over time, as does all wood, it can be easily refinished, just sand it down then reapply the finish periodically.

How To Install Hardwood Flooring – The Process

Now that you have decided exactly what flooring is going to work the best in your project the next step in learning how to install hardwood flooring would be the actual work that needs to be done. By laying out a box of the hardwood boards you can visualize the flooring lengths, grain, and color and adjust as needed.

Also, gather all the tools you’ll need for proper installation. You can rent the hardwood flooring nailer from most big box stores like Home Depot and Menards. But the nailer can’t be used when you’re near the walls, so you’ll need a hammer, some finish nails, and a nail punch.

You’ll also need a miter saw to cut the pieces down to size at the ends. For this kind of job, I would suggest something basic to save money, like the Hitachi C10FCG 10″ saw. However if you do a lot of home projects and want a little more versatility, I would suggest looking at this Makita sliding miter saw, it can handle larger, more customized projects.

Prep Work

  • Measuring the width and length of the room is essential. Multiply the length and width to find your room’s square footage then be sure to allow for some mistakes, bad cuts, and so forth and order a little extra, you know, just in case.
  • Clean the work area where the flooring is going to be installed and deal with any squeaky flooring by reaffixing the subflooring and joist where there may be noise with a screw.

Getting Started Takes The Longest

  • Roll out and install the black felt paper leaving an excess overlap of about 4 inches and secure to the subflooring marking the baseboards where the joists are at.
  • Begin installing by the longest unobstructed wall and mark with a chalk line 3/8” from the baseboard to allow for seasonally affected expansion and contraction.
  • Choosing a straight and fairly long board as your first board allows you to align it with the chalk line and then drill your pilot holes down into the subflooring through the plank. Be sure to face-nail the plank at every joist and keep the lengths random fashion so the flooring is aesthetically pleasing and looks natural.
  • Be sure to lay the first boards perpendicular to the flooring joists to create an anchor in the flooring.
  • You can use cut off boards to begin your next row keeping that random look flowing.

And Now The Easy Part

  • At this point, you can use a pneumatic flooring nail gun and a mallet to install the hardwood plank. Whether you use the pneumatic nail gun or not, you should use a mallet to firmly strike the plank into place before nailing it.
  • Thresholds and baseboards differ when it comes to the cuts of the hardwood plank. Thresholds can be precisely cut once the floor is finished while baseboards need a piece that is able to fit into the baseboard as close as possible eliminating waste.
  • End-match the flooring by inserting the tongue portion into the groove portion. Always cut the wall end (the side without the groove) so you don’t mistakenly ruin the plank where it won’t fit into the tongue. Knowing how the pieces fit together is important especially as you begin to finish up your project.
  • As you come closer to the opposite wall be sure to again drill the pilot holes and face-nail as you did in the beginning. Once the floor is down you can fill in nail holes with wood putty that matches your flooring and wipe off the excess.


Now that you’ve installed your first hardwood floor take some time to enjoy it because as we all know. There is always another do it yourself project waiting to be done on that honey-do list, what’s yours?

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About The Author
Adam has been woodworking for the last 10 years. He considers himself a 'Small Shop Woodworker' and practices his hobby in his garage. With the lack of time, space, and proper tools, he always finds ways to get great results without over-complicating or over-thinking the process. Various shop jigs, table saw sleds, and tricks of the trade have served him well. God has blessed him with a beautiful family, as well as a passion for teaching others about woodworking. You can read more about Adam here.

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