How to Install Wood Flooring

Once all the preliminaries have been taken care of and your new wood flooring has had time to adjust to its new home, you’re ready to begin the actual work of installing the new floor. If you’ve prepared the subfloor properly and equipped yourself with the right tools and supplies, the job will go surprisingly fast. Below and on the following sections you find step-by-step instructions for installing a wood strip or plank floor. For directions on installing a wood block floor, see next section.

Installing strip and plank flooring

The procedures for laying tongue-and-groove strip flooring and tongue-and-groove plank flooring are almost identical. Both kinds are attached by blind nailing. With tongue-and-groove plank flooring, of course, screws and plugs can be added—partly for strength, but mostly for cosmetic reasons. Square-edged plank flooring, on the other hand, is secured solely with screws. Square-edged strip flooring is fastened with nails through the holes.

The best way to assure a tight floor is to install the strips perpendicular to the joists, which generally run across the room, and nail the strips through the subfloor into the joists. Use a chalk line to mark the locations of the joists on the paper covering the f loot

Plan the first course carefully. The key to a trouble-free installation of strip or plank flooring is to make sure the first course you lay will be parallel to the center line of the room.

Take several measurements of the width of the room and locate as accurately as possible the center line of the room. Snap a chalk line to mark the center— this will be your primary reference point.

Next, measuring from the center line near each end (be sure your measuring tape is placed perpendicular to the line), lay out and snap another chalk line about ½ inch from the wall you’ve selected as your jumping-off point (see illustration). This line will enable you to align the first row of flooring correctly.

Fig. 51-0

In rooms that are obviously irregular in shape, establish a center line as close as possible to the center of the room and snap a chalk line. The first row of flooring will be laid from the center line of the room, with the grooves in the boards turned to ward the center. A special wood strip called a spline (see illustration) is used to join two back- to-back grooved boards along the center line.

Fig. 51-1

If you’re working directly over screeds, using a chalk line won’t be as easy as it’s with a solid subfloor but the steps are the same. The screeds will be hidden, of course, by polyethylene film. In measuring to find the center and other lines (and at all times while you’re laying flooring), avoid stepping between the screeds and puncturing the film.

Face nail the first row. Appearances notwithstanding, few rooms are perfectly square. As you’ll be leaving a ½-inch space between the edge of the flooring and the wall, you can be compensated for some irregularities with no extra effort.

If you’re starting from one wall of a room that’s seriously out of square, though, it may be necessary to trim some individual boards so that your first row of flooring will line up properly while keeping the proper distance from the wall. If you’re starting from the center in an irregular room, of course, the trimming will have to be done when you reach the walls.

Work with one bundle of flooring at a time. Lay the boards on the floor in the area you’re working on, according to size. This will make it easier to plan the rows of flooring. Use the longest boards for the first row.

Fig. 51-2

If you’re starting along one wall, the first row of boards should be secured by face nailing where the nails will be covered with the shoe molding. Even with square-edged planks, the first course should be tacked down with nails set close to the wall before you proceed with the business of screwing down the planks (see “Inserting screws and plugs”).

Pre-drill the boards making holes slightly smaller than the diameter of the nails you’ll be using, particularly if the boards are oak or another hard wood. This will make it easier to drive nails through them into the subfloor without splitting them.

If you’re beginning at the center of an irregular-shaped room, you can start right off by blind nailing through the tongues of tongue-and-groove flooring (with a nailer, if you have one) or screwing down square-edged planks (see “Inserting screws and plugs”).

Plan several rows at a time. Once you’ve set your first row of boards, it will matter little whether you’re nailing into a solid subfloor or into screeds. The technique is essentially the same.

Lay out boards six or seven rows ahead. This will make it simple to plan an effective and attractive pattern. End joints should be staggered so that no joint is closer than 6 inches to a joint in an adjoining row of boards. Find or cut pieces to fit at the end of each row, leaving approximately ½ inch between each end piece and the wall. As a general rule, no end piece should be shorter than 8 inches.

Fig. 51-3

Longer boards might have bowed slightly because of moisture. With a simple block of wood and crowbar arrangement, these boards can be levered and held in place while you nail—or you can use a device made of 2 by 4 scraps, two strap hinges, and two beverage can openers (see illustration).

If you’re attaching flooring to screeds, plan joints to fall over screeds whenever possible. Also, try to avoid having more than one joint in adjacent rows fall between screeds.

When laying flooring over plywood, avoid placing end joints in the flooring directly over joints in the subfloor.

Tighten rows as you go. As you place each row, take a block of wood, move it along the leading edge of the flooring you’ve just put down, and give it a sharp rap with a hammer before you drive a nail. Don’t hit the block hard enough to damage the tongue— to be on the safe side, cut a groove in the block so that it will contact the flooring above and below the tongue (see illustration), or use a short length of flooring.

Fig. 52-1

If you’re installing planks, note that some producers of plank flooring recommend leaving a slight crack between boards—about the width of a putty knife blade. Follow the recommendations of your supplier for best results.

Periodically check the leading edge of the flooring as you work to make sure it’s straight and still parallel to the center line.

Nail first few rows by hand. As you won’t have enough space to use a nailer until you are several rows from the wall, you’ll have to nail down the first courses by hand. (If you’re installing plank flooring with screws and wood plugs, see the next section, “Inserting screws and plugs,” for directions on attaching the boards to the subfloor.) By continuing to pre-drill holes for the nails, you can help yourself keep nails at the proper angle—45° to 50° to the floor—and also pre vent splitting.

Take care not to crush the upper edge of boards by trying to drive nails flush with your hammer; these indentations will show when the boards have been joined. Instead, leave each nail head comfortably exposed; then place a nailset sideways over it along the upper edge of the tongue (see illustration), drive the nail home by tapping the nailset with your hammer, and, with the tip of the nailset, set the nail flush.

Fig. 52-2

When nailing into screeds, drive nails into each screed along the full length of each board. Where boards are laid on top of overlapping screeds, drive nails into both screeds.

If you’re nailing into a ply wood subfloor, drive nails when possible directly through the plywood into the joists—especially if the subfloor is only ½ or 3/8-inch plywood.

Once you have laid and nailed the first few rows by hand, you can begin securing flooring with the nailer, which will automatically countersink all the nails it drives.

When you reach the last few rows, you’ll find it difficult to toenail the boards. Pre-drill holes and face nail them.

Fig. 52-3

Fig. 52-4

Inserting screws and plugs in plank flooring is quite simple. With the plank in position, insert the screws in the predrilled holes and tighten; an electric drill with a screwdriver attachment will save wear and tear on your arm. If the boards aren’t pre drilled, mark the points where you intend to drill (see drawing for pattern), and use the center punch to tap in starter holes. Using the electric drill with the power or brad point bit, drill each hole ¼ inch deep.

When the screws are in place, blow the dust out of each hole and fill the holes with wood plugs. Put a dab of common white glue on each plug before inserting it.

Plugs should either be set flush with the surface of the floor or left slightly protruding (they’ll be sanded flat when the floor is finished), and held in place with a drop or two of white glue.

If you weren’t supplied with plugs along with the flooring you bought, you can cut them from hardwood dowels of the same kind of wood as the plank flooring itself, or from a different kind of wood for contrast. For example, walnut plugs in an oak floor will create a striking effect.

Fitting in the last row. When you’ve progressed across the floor to the far wall (or from the center of an irregular room to either wall), the final strip of flooring must be placed so as to leave a ½-inch gap between the flooring and the wall.

If you’re lucky, a standard board will fit. If not, you’ll have to rip several boards down to the proper width.

Framing fireplaces and the like. Exposed obstacles such as f ire- places should be framed to give the job a more finished look. Cut pieces to fit, using a miter box to get accurate 45° angles (see illustration). If you’re working with tongue-and- groove flooring, plane off the tongue on those pieces that will run perpendicular to the flooring, then cut and place them so that the grooved edges are exposed. This will make it possible to insert the tongues at the ends of a few boards in the running floor into the grooves on the framing.

Floor openings covered with grates that have flanges need not be framed.

Fig. 53-0

You may need a reducer strip. If your new floor will create a change of level from one room to the next, use a reducer strip for a smooth transition. A reducer strip (see illustration) is milled with a rounded top. It will fit into the tongue of an adjacent board, or, if laid perpendicular to the flooring pattern, can be butted against exposed board ends.

Fig. 53-1

Finishing touches. If you’ve in stalled pre-finished flooring, once the final board has been placed you can add (or replace) base boards, shoe molding, and any grates that were removed. Molding should be installed with a slight gap between the flooring and the bottom of the molding; use a piece of thin cardboard for a spacer. Nail the molding to the baseboard, not to the floor, to let the floor expand or contract.

If you’ve installed unfinished flooring, the floor will have to be sanded and a finish applied before you replace the molding and so forth. These steps are covered in the section “Re-finishing Wood Floors”.

Fig. 53-2

Prev: Preparing the Subfloor

Next: How to Install Wood Block Flooring

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Wednesday, 2008-11-19 0:18