How to Install Hardwood Floors – The Basics
Updated: Oct 28
Hardwood flooring is one of the most popular flooring materials on the market, and a hardwood floor can be a beautiful and long-lasting investment in your home. However, installing a hardwood floor is a big project, and whether you are planning on hiring a professional or taking on the job yourself, it’s important to know all of the steps involved before getting started so that you can be prepared.
Standard Flooring Preparation Process
First, there are some basic steps you’ll need to take to prepare for installation once you’ve selected your hardwood flooring material of choice. If you want to make sure that you’ve prepared properly, your installer should be happy to share some preparation tips before they begin work. It’s necessary to do the following:
Remove doors, shoe moulding, and baseboards;
Prepare the subfloor;
Dust-proof the space if cutting work needs to be done inside. For example, you can seal off rooms that won’t be worked on with plastic and painter’s tape, and likewise any vents or ducts.
The quality of the subfloor is critical to the success of your flooring installation. It should be level, flat, and dry. Concrete will need to be covered with a moisture-resistant underlayment.
If you have doubts about your subfloor, it is critical to speak to your installer beforehand and have them evaluate. A common fix is to install a plywood underlayment to correct any deficiencies and allow for a successful installation.
Hardwood Floor Installation
Once you’ve completed your preparations, the next step will be actual installation. The basic procedure is outline below:
Deliver the materials to the site
Unpack the wood and allow it to acclimate to the room’s humidity - this must be in the same room you will install in! The wood should be given at least 48 hours.
Mark out the layout of your flooring - remember, when laying out the pattern of your wooden floor, the direction of the hardwood flooring should run parallel to the longest wall.
Begin attaching the first row to the subfloor
Cut and attach successive strips until you’ve completed the room
Rip the final row and fasten it in place
Post-installation & finishing
We’ll discuss the steps to finish your hardwood floor at the end of the article.
This is only a basic discussion of the steps involved. As it is difficult for a non-professional to execute a full installation correctly, it’s also good to take a look at a slightly different hardwood flooring product, engineered hardwood flooring.
Engineered vs Solid Hardwood Flooring
Solid hardwood flooring your classic wooden floor composed of boards of hardwood. While a classic material with many advantages, installing it correctly requires solid preparation and know-how. Additionally, a floor made out of many planks of solid hardwood is more prone to warp, twist and expand overtime due to seasonal changes in temperature and humidity levels.
However, due to its thickness the planks of the floor can be sanded and refinished many times over its lifespan, which can last decades.
Engineered hardwood flooring is a composite flooring product made out of a thin layer of hardwood overtop of a plywood core. Engineered hardwood flooring has many advantages, particularly for someone interested in doing the installation themselves:
Can be purchased in click-fit configurations which make installation easier
Due to the plywood backing, doesn’t require a subfloor, and can be installed over concrete or underfloor heating
More resistant to fluctuations in temperature and humidity
The method for installing engineered hardwood flooring is similar to solid, but less preparation is required and the installation will proceed easier due to the interlocking, snap-fit boards.
The main disadvantage is that the layer of hardwood on an engineered board is much thinner than a normal plank, which means there is a limit on the number of times it can be sanded and refinished, limiting its longevity.
Protecting Unfinished Wood Floors
Most engineered hardwood flooring products are pre-finished. When buying your solid hardwood flooring, however, you have the option of buying pre-finished or raw wood.
If you choose raw wood, at the end of your installation you will have a choice. Many people will opt to sand, stain and seal their wood floor. Besides imparting an attractive colour with the stain, this will make your floor more resilient to wear and tear and allow you to clean your floor without worrying about damaging it. This is the best way to protect your floor for years to come.
However, some people opt to keep their floor raw for a rustic or classic look. If you choose to do this, you can have the floor sanded after installation to create a smooth texture to walk on. However, an unsealed floor should only be dry cleaned, with any wet stains people quickly spot-removed and the area dried. Over the years, wear on a raw floor will create a unique patina that some homeowners love.
Hardwood floor installation is not as intimidating as it seems. It is a simple process that can be done in a weekend, and the benefits are worth the effort. Wood floors are natural, durable, and eco-friendly. They offer a natural look with beautiful variations in colour and grain patterns. Installing hardwood floor is an affordable way to get a beautiful floor that will last a long time.