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How to Install Hardwood Floors

male hand cleaning hardwood floor

Source: Stokkete /

Step 1: Determine the Installation Method

Engineered hardwood–Since engineered hardwood offers a floating, click-lock design, the glue-down and staple-down method works best. 

Solid hardwood–The nail-down method is ideal, but requires a wooden subfloor.

Step 2: Prepare Your Space 

  1. Remove baseboards and ensure the subfloor has no squeaks and is smooth, sanding down uneven areas. 

  2. Mark walls to show floor joist locations.

  3. Roll out strips of a moisture inhibitor or vapor barrier paper, running the strip perpendicular to the joints with a 4-inch overlap. 

  4. Measure and snap a line to guide the first installed row. (You can also use the longest wall as a guide.) 

  5. Rack the boards by laying out the planks in the order you will install them. Otherwise, you may find obvious contrasts and fewer shade variations. It breaks up lengths, too.

  6. Stagger the end joints to offset six inches from the end of the board in the previous row. 

Step 3: Install by Chosen Method

Glue down

  1. Before beginning the glue-down method, make sure to test the subfloor layer for moisture. The NWFA recommends using either a probe or pinless meter in order to test wood subfloors. An excess amount of moisture can range from at least 6 percent to 30 percent.

  2. After moisture has been properly measured, determine a starting wall and working line and begin the process with a starter board.

  3. With a trowel, spread adhesive in small sections to work on a few rows at a time.

  4. Lay first row and then the second, fitting the groove into the tongue. 

  5. Use spacers to maintain the expansion gap.

  6. Tap planks in place using a rubber mallet, repeating after each is installed to ensure they’re flush.

  7. For engineered hardwood, match up and push the ends into place. 

Nail the board down

  1. After determining a starting wall, align the first board with the layout.

  2. Put a ¾-inch space against the adjoining wall and slide the edge of the board against it. 

  3. Lock the tongue and groove in place and push for a tight seam. 

  4. Nail the board using appropriate fasteners, moving down until you reach the side wall.

  5. Drill pilot holes in the tongues, nailing the countersink through.

  6. After installing the second or third row, there should be room to position a flooring nailer to drive a nail through the tongue with a mallet. 

  7. Repeat the same way across the room, staggering ends in adjoining rows by six inches.

  8. Once you reach the other side, return to predrilling holes for face-nailing when you have finished laying all boards.  

Staple down 

  1. Predrill holes on the first row and hammer the nail one inch from the wall at four-inch intervals.

  2. For second and third rows, drive staples in at a 45-degree angle every four inches.

  3. On the last row, use the predrill nailing method using a nail punch. 

Step 4: Fill Any Spaces with Wood Putty

  1. Replace any flooring transitions and shoe molding in the room.
  2. Find a wood-matched putty and fill all nail holes that have been face-nailed. 
  3. Fill each nail hole and wipe off any excess. 

As you can see, installing hardwood is not an easy DIY task. Twenty & Oak recommends that homeowners seek the help of a professional flooring installer. 

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Twenty & Oak Flooring Experts
Twenty & Oak Flooring Experts are a team of flooring professionals with over 150 years of combined experience in the industry. They have hands-on experience with all flooring types and bring inside industry know-how to homeowners in the Southeast. 

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