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How to Install Hardwood Floors

by Adele Joy

With a huge variety of woods, finishes and designs, hardwood floors offer an endless choice of possibilities to suit any type of home. Beautiful and hard-wearing, a hardwood floor almost never needs to be replaced. They undoubtedly add character, charm, and value to a home.

Sub floor preparation

  • Prepare all doorways and walls - undercut all door casings and remove all moldings.

  • All sub floors must be clean, level, absolutely flat and dry. Scrape and smooth any debris off the surface, sand high areas or joints and fill low areas and cracks with the proper compounds.

  • Wood sub floors need to be well secured with counter sunk screws on ring shank nails. It should not exceed 14% moisture prior to installation.

  • Concrete sub-floors must be completely cured and dried (8-12 weeks old) with minimum surface temperature of 60ºF (15ºC) and maximum moisture content of 2% dry-weight basis. The ideal relative humidity in the room should be 55%.

There are three different ways you can install your hardwood floor: glue down, nail down, and floating. You can read more about each in the sections below.

GlueDown Installation

This method of installation does not need any cushioning underlayment, but requires fans to create airflow and to help speed up the drying time of the adhesives. However unlike the floating installation method, longitudinal tongue and groove gluing (along the edge of each row) is not compulsory with this glue down method.

  • Note that the adhesive should be used sparingly over an area that can be laid with flooring within 3 hours. Also, the installation should ideally start from the right side.

  • First of all, determine the working area to begin the installation in and the longest wall in the room with access. It is a good idea to do a test and dry lay floorboards beforehand. A starting block is also recommended, to help the initial floorboard placement: within the working area, nail the starting block down firmly along the starting line to help hold the first row of the installed floorboards firmly in place.

  • Align the first floorboard with the starting line (starting block) along the groove’s edge. Lay the first floorboard and ensure that there is a 12mm (1/2”) gap from the adjacent wall.

  • With the second board, apply a 1/8” (3mm) glue bead on the inner topside of the groove at the board end and start jointing the board in the row. Never apply glue on the tongue. Continue the same steps with the next floorboard and complete the first row. Use a specially designed crow bar to pull the last board into place. Push joints tight and drive spacing wedges in. Clean any excess glue from the joints immediately.

  • Lay the rest of the rows, continuing as described above.

To prevent movement, tape flooring down every 3 completed rows across the face together using temporary adhesive masking tape.

  • Roll the floorboard surface with a 100-150 lb (50-70 kg) roller every 2-3 hours and upon completion, to ensure all boards are flat and in perfect contact with the adhesive. To avoid scratches or dents on the floor surface, wrap the roller with cloth or foam pad.

  • One completed, the finished floor should be free of loads and heavy foot traffic for at least 24 hours. The next day, remove all temporary spacing wedges and install all of the skirting/moldings, making sure they are fixed onto the adjacent wall only, not the floor.

Nail Down Installation

This method of flooring installation has several advantages over other methods, including speed, reduced labor materials and allowing more immediate “use” of the floor. However, the process is more difficult and some professional assistance may be required.

  • Align the first floorboard with the closest wall, groove side facing the wall. Once the floorboard is perfectly aligned, face nail it with the nail perpendicular to the surface. Depending on the thickness of the floorboards installed, you can use 1 – 1.5” finishing nails.

  • Repeat the step above for following boards in the first row until it is completed.

  • Continue to install all the remaining rows. From the second row on, nailing is done on the tongue side only.

  • It will probably be necessary to cut floorboards lengthwise to fill in the final row, as it is usually narrow. Measure the remaining space, ensuring a ½” (12mm) gap at all sides, and cut the boards accordingly. Complete the installation by nailing down this last row in the same manner as the first row. Once the nail down work is completed, install all the skirting and moldings, making sure they are fixed onto the adjacent wall only, NOT directly to the floor.

Floating Installation

  • The installation should begin from the right corner of the room. Place the first floordboard as in a nail down installation: align it with the closest wall, groove side facing the wall. Spread and unroll the required polyethylene cushioning underlayment parallel to the longest wall (it can be trimmed after the installation has been completed). Allow sufficient overlap on all joints with the next sheets, using double adhesive tape to fix the joints. Complete this until the whole surface is covered with the underlayment.

  • Create the necessary gaps from the walls using ½” (12mm) temporary spacing-wedges. Pick the second board, apply a 1/8” (3mm) glue bead at the inner topside of the groove at the board end, and start jointing the board in the row. Never apply glue onto the tongue.

  • Continue these using steps until the first row is competed. Push all the joints tight at the same time with a specially designed crowbar. Use this crowbar to tighten joints from the sides and use clamps if necessary, to ensure tight and square joints. Always remember to immediately wipe off any excess glue.

  • Repeat the row processes above to install the rest of the floor.

  • Allow the finished floor to be free from load and traffic for at least 8 hours before all temporary spacing wedges are removed. Install all the skirtings/moldings the next day, making sure that they are fixed onto the adjacent wall only, and not directly fixed onto the floor.



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Species

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Thickness

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Width

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Installation Type

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