Love, Pomegranate House

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How To: Install Hardwood Floors

I have something to confess… I have been doing a really poor job at managing my time as far as the blog goes. I have no doubt that I’ve lost some readers because of it. But I’m not in this for numbers. I’m all about the benjamins, people……. Just kidding. Any blogger will tell you NOT to get into blogging if you want to make loads of moolah. I write for myself. And for all you wonderful friends who have stuck around and wait for word of my crazy antics. You guys rock. I have another confession… I’m really sick and tired of apologizing for not posting. So I’m going to do it once and for all now. And this apology is going to cover all past lack of posting and any future lack of posting. So you better enjoy it…………………..

I’M SOOOO SORRY I KEPT YOU WAITING TO READ THE MAJESTIC WORDS THAT CONSTANTLY FLOW FROM MY BRILLIANT MIND. I’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN! (I’ll totally do it again… Sorry.)

Ok. Now that that is done, let’s get on to the meat and potatoes of this post… the hardwood floors!! Are you guys sick of them yet? I swear I’m almost done sharing about them. They’ve been installed for about 3 months now. HA! I think it’s time I wrap these suckers up.

How To: Install Hardwood Floors

Installing hardwoods is a really intimidating prospect if you have never done it before. But it really isn’t hard at all! Time consuming? Yes. Hard? No. Like I told you in a previous post, we decided to do a floating installation. And in my last post, I showed you how we prepped for the floors and left you with a picture of our very own in-home highway. So now we are up to the biggie… installation.

How To: Install Hardwood Floors

Installation began pretty early one morning. All in all, we laid roughly 800 square feet of hardwood in 6 spaces of our home (master bedroom, hallway, kitchen, living room, dining room, laundry closet). And we did it all in about 8 days. And that was going at a somewhat leisurely pace. I’m absolutely sure the professionals could have it done in 2-3 days… tops. But being novice floor layers, it took us a bit longer.

Let’s begin with a comprehensive list of all the supplies you need to lay floating hardwood floors:

  • Hardwood floors – DUH! (Professionals recommend you get 10% extra for waste… we did just that and ended up with 10% unused! Still… better safe than sorry.)
  • Underlayment
  • Duct tape – to tape together seams of underlayment
  • *Wood “highway” pieces* – Optional! This is only needed if you are doing a vast space that requires you to turn around and lay wood the other direction.
  • *Nails/Nail gun* – Optional! Again, only needed if you are doing the divided highway technique.
  • *Splines* – Optional! More on this later in the post.
  • Wood glue
  • Laser level – to make sure you are staying level as you transition into other rooms
  • 1/2 inch shims
  • Rubber mallet
  • Painter’s tape
  • Pry bar
  • Table saw
  • Chop saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Safety Stuff (ears and eyes!)
  • Caulk matching wood finish

I know. It is quite a list. But most things aren’t too expensive or difficult to find or borrow.

How To: Install Hardwood Floors

First things first, you ALWAYS work with the tongue side of the plank facing you. It is much easier to push a groove onto a tongue than a tongue onto a groove. Woah… that sounded dirty. You guys know what I mean.

Also, you need to leave a 1/4 to 1/2-inch gap along the walls to allow space for expansion of the wood over time. Put a little shim or a spare piece of wood and then press the wood plank against it and against the “highway” pieces for a tight and square piece. We chose to use our Ryobi Airstrike and put a few nails into each of the first row of planks as well to make sure they weren’t going anywhere.

To lay the rest of the planks in the first row, begin by squirting a little wood glue into the groove on the short end of the plank.

TIP #1: Use scraps of the flooring you are installing as spacers.
TIP #2: Apply the glue on the top side of the groove. That way, when you put the plank down, the glue will run down the back of the groove and onto the bottom, giving you glue on every side of the tongue for the tightest hold.

How To: Install Hardwood Floors

Then, because the “highway divider” pieces are nailed in and level, push against them and slide the glued grooved edge into the tongue end of the piece already laid down. Then give that piece a few nails just to keep it in place.

How To: Install Hardwood Floors

TIP #3: All end seams need to be at least 6-inches away from each other to ensure the most stability in your floors. (See picture below. The two horizontal seams are more than 6-inches from each other.)
TIP #4: Use painter’s tape where you are going to cut to protect the finish of your plank. If you don’t, you will end up with a chipped finish.

After the first row is done, it is smooth sailing. All you have left is measure, measure again, cut, dry fit, glue, place, and tape. The easiest way to cut (and the way the professionals do it) is to take a plank and flip it around so the grooved edge is facing you… AKA backwards (see left picture above). Line up your piece nice and straight, allowing for your expansion gap if it is an end piece, put a little painters tape down and mark with a pencil where you need to cut. Then cut the piece. When you flip the piece around and put it in place, it will fit perfectly. Awesome. Plus it saves you LOADS of time on measuring.

TIP #5: Use painters tape on the glued seams to help hold the plank in place until the glue has enough time to set.

Cutting around vents and obstacles is a little bit more tricky. No real tips or tricks here. You just have to measure twice and then cut. We used the jigsaw A LOT for those.

How To: Install Hardwood Floors

After gluing your piece and pushing it into place, use a scrap piece of wood and a rubber mallet to gently tap the plank to make sure there aren’t any gaps.

How To: Install Hardwood Floors

And when you get to a wall, use a pry bar to gently pull the plank tight.

How To: Install Hardwood Floors

And generally, that is how you continue the whole way along until you finish one half of where you are laying floors. Not too hard! For us this meant we had half the master, half the kitchen, and the entire laundry area and living room done. Now it is time to turn around and go the other way.

TIP #6: Use the laser level again as you enter into different rooms. This will help you to make sure you are straight and not crooked. If you start with one crooked piece, you will have to fight gaps the entire way. And no… we didn’t learn this the hard way. coughLIEcough.

How To: Install Hardwood Floors

OKAY! Turning the other way! First, pry up the highway pieces. Your stubbed toes will thank you.

Remember how I said you ALWAYS have to work with the tongue side towards you? In order to do this, you need to buy/create a spline. A spline is a tiny wood piece that you fit into a grooved side to make it a tongue side! If you decide to make one like we did (standard ones didn’t fit our groove), we found this very helpful. All you do is glue it in your spline…

How To: Install Hardwood Floors

Flip the boards around and start working towards the other wall! Easy peasy.

Oh my! GUYS! I did it! I installed hardwood floors! And I made it through this whole post without making a “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” joke! Go me! And go you guys for sticking it out with me! To reward you, I’ll give you a little peek-y-poo at the finished floors…..

How To: Install Hardwood Floors

TA-DA!!! Aren’t they magnificent! You can tell that Ruby really loves them. Also, another sneak-y-poo… notice that wall on the right in the foreground of the picture? What’s that!? Stone!? Crazy town! 😉

How To: Install Hardwood Floors

I think I love how these new floors look in the kitchen the most. It is sooo nice to have a little contrast after all our white on white on white on white on white. Do you remember how it looked before?? You can see it in this post. Yikes. I promise I’ll share more finished pictures later this week! Stay tuned to see them!

Have you ever installed hardwood floors yourself?

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Posted in DIY | Tagged , , | 9 Comments |

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9 thoughts on “How To: Install Hardwood Floors

  1. I’ve helped with this kind of flooring before, and once you get the hang of it, it can be pretty fun! You mentioned a few things that are important to remember when doing this project. Keeping seams spaced enough is one of the most important things. Thanks for the article!

  2. Using hardwood floor planks with tongues and grooves sounds like it would be easier to install. I would have to look into this method to see if my husband and I could do or get someone else to do this fairly easily. Also, how long would it last compared to if you just have it glazed in place ?

  3. Thanks for the list of all the materials needed to install hardwood floors. My wife and I are thinking about installing ourselves. I just wanted to see if it would be possible for us to do it. What was the hardest part of the installation for you?

  4. I haven’t ever installed hardwood floors myself; it seems so complex! However, your flooring looks absolutely amazing! I love the dark color, and it all turned out so even. While I wouldn’t be up to this much DIY, I’m sure plenty of your other readers appreciate your hints and tips to install hardwood flooring. Thanks!

  5. It is a shame that you left your readers without the words which flow “from your brilliant mind” as you so eloquently put it. That’s a nice tip about applying glue at the top side of the groove for the tightest hold.

  6. My husband and I are close to buying a ranch-style house in a month. It currently has an old Berber carpet throughout the home. We’d love to install hardwood. I appreciate your tip about using a laser level in the different rooms when installing this. Because we’re both busy and don’t have the time or tools, we’ll probably need to hire a professional. I think your dark wood flooring goes great against the white wainscoting in your home.

  7. Looks great! I am planning on doing this myself and have a quick question. How did you place it around the cabinets? Did you go under the toe kick or just around it?