DIY – Step by Step Hardwood Floor Installation
#1- Choose hardwood
1. Choose the hardwood species and board widths for the room installation.
#2 - Measure
2. Measure the width and length of the room and multiply for the square footage. When ordering hardwood flooring, allow 7-10 percent extra for irregular boards and any cutting mistake.
#3 - Check
3. Check the sub-floor. Minimum requirements are a 3/4" plywood sub-floor. Make sure there are no squeaks in the floor. If you find a squeak, screw a long drywall screw into the sub-floor and joist where the squeak occurs. Remove shoe-molding from the room and sweep and clean thoroughly.
#4 - Roll out
4. Roll out strips of vapor barrier paper, allowing at least a 4" overlap and staple securely to the sub-floor. We used a 15 pound tar paper (Aquabar). It is relatively inexpensive (you can get a roll for approximately $16 at a home improvement store).
#5 - Start installation
5. Start the installation at the longest unobstructed wall, an exterior wall. Remove the shoe molding and snap a chalk line 3/8" out from the baseboard (this allows for expansion in the hot, humid weather and contraction in the colder, drier weather of the hardwood flooring).
#6 - Selection
6. Begin by selecting a long board to start the first row. Pick one that is straight. Align the edge of the board with the chalk line and drill pilot holes down through the hardwood plank and into the sub-floor and joist. Face-nail each board at the point of every joist and set the nail with a nail-set. Face-nail the entire first row and remember to keep the board lengths random. It is important to face-nail the first row because you can't get the pneumatic nail down in there, it will hit the wall and the force would push the wood against the baseboard and you would lose your 3/8" expansion and contraction. This is very basic method for starting a floor; there are many different ways to start a floor. It all depends on the lay-out.
#7 - Important
7. It is important to lay the first boards perpendicular to the joist which are underneath. That is important because you want to get a nice solid anchor. You can look at the subfloor to see which way the nails and seams run. You might be able to go underneath your crawl space to see how they run.
#8 - Tip: layout
8. Tip: Lay out a box of hardwood boards ahead of the installation to visualize lengths, wood grain, and colors of the boards. When laying out the boards, keep in mind that you never want to have the ends of boards in adjacent rows line up with each other. Keep the lengths random and at least 6" in length.
#9 - Use equipment
9. Using the pneumatic nail gun, place the gun lip over the edge of the board and strike firmly with the mallet, driving the staple into the tongue of the hardwood plank.
#10 - Install threshold
10. When installing up to a threshold, it is not critical to make cuts exact. Come back later after the floor has been installed and use a circular saw to cut across for a precise cut. Of course, straight end cuts will save time and look much cleaner.
#11 - Cut
11. When cutting along the baseboards, select a piece that will fit in there and leave yourself 10 or 12 inches more and you can cut it off and use the other piece on the beginning of your next row. You don't always have to get it in there real close and throw out the end piece. That will save you some time and waste.
#12 - Fit
12. You have to be sensitive to the way the ends fit together. One end has a tongue and the other end has a groove -- this is called end matched. You need to make sure that you always cut the wall end of the wood so that you do not cut off the groove that fits to the tongue. If you do that, you would end up with a pretty big gap. You find a piece and lay it along side the hole you have and then flip it over. Make sure when you make your mark, you are going to cut off the wall side, not the room side. When you make your mark, you can butt it up against the baseboard and then mark at the end of that tongue. That will leave your 3/8" gap for expansion and contraction when you install the piece.
Note: When you go to nail, you need to make sure you put at least 2 nails in every board. The rule of thumb is to place a nail every 6" to 8".
#13 - Clearance
13. As you near the opposite wall, clearance for the pneumatic nail gun again becomes an issue. Face-nail the remaining boards. We use a 16 gauge, 2" brad nailer for this process to limit the size of the hole (which will be filled with putty later anyway).
#14 - Use pry bar
14. Tip: Use a pry bar and a few extra scraps of flooring to firmly seat the hardwood plank as you nail. Or a powerjack works very well too.
#15 - Measurement
15. If you are left with a narrow gap for the last board, take a measurement and rip (cut length-wise) the last board to fit into place. Remember to leave a 3/8" gap at the end wall for expansion and contraction space.
#16 - Replace
16. Replace shoe molding in room and putty all of the nail holes that have been face-nailed. Be sure and get wood putty that matches your floor. Fill the hole and wipe off the excess.
#17 - Maintenance
17. Maintenance is easy for a pre-finished hardwood floor -- keep grit off of the surface by sweeping regularly and use a flooring cleaning kit (microfiber mops are best). Use a warm water / vinegar solution in conjunction with the mop to wipe your floors clean (1:32 ratio). Hardwood floors also help cut down on dust mites.
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