Select Page

Mastering How to Hardwood Floor Installation: A Detailed Guide

by | Dec 30, 2023 | How To

Hardwood flooring is a popular choice for homeowners due to its durability and aesthetic appeal. Whether you are a DIY enthusiast or considering professional installation, this comprehensive guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of hardwood floor installation. From preparation to finishing touches, we’ll cover everything you need to know to achieve a flawless hardwood floor.

Key Takeaways:

  • Follow the step-by-step guide for a successful hardwood floor installation.
  • Proper preparation, including assessing the subfloor and understanding carpentry knowledge, is crucial.
  • Choose the right type of hardwood flooring based on your budget and aesthetic preferences.
  • Consider hiring professionals if you are unsure about DIY installation.
  • Post-installation care and maintenance are essential to preserve the beauty and durability of the hardwood floor.

Preparation: Tools, Materials, and Planning

Before diving into the hardwood floor installation process, it’s essential to ensure you have all the necessary tools and materials. Proper planning and preparation will make the installation smoother and more efficient. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the essential tools and materials you’ll need to get started.

Hardwood Floor Installation Tools:

  • Tape Measure
  • Chalk Line
  • Circular Saw or Miter Saw
  • Table Saw (for cutting long boards)
  • Jigsaw (for cutting irregular shapes)
  • Mallet or Hammer
  • Drill
  • Nail Gun or Stapler
  • Flooring Nailer (for thicker hardwood)
  • Flooring Adhesive (for concrete subfloors)

Hardwood Floor Installation Materials:

  • Hardwood Flooring Planks
  • Underlayment
  • Nails or Staples
  • Moisture Barrier
  • Tongue and Groove Glue (if needed)
  • Sanding Paper and Sanding Machine
  • Wood Filler
  • Finishing Products (Stain, Polyurethane, etc.)

Once you have gathered all the necessary tools and materials, it’s time to plan your hardwood floor installation. Start by measuring the room to determine the amount of flooring needed. Keep in mind that hardwood expands and contracts with changes in humidity, so it’s crucial to let the flooring acclimatize in its intended environment for at least 48 hours before installation. This allows the wood to adjust to its new surroundings and prevents gaps or buckling later on.

Proper planning, along with having the right tools and materials at hand, sets the foundation for a successful hardwood floor installation. With these preparations in place, you’re ready to move on to the next section and dive into the step-by-step installation process.

hardwood floor installation tools and materials

Installation Process: Step by Step

Installing hardwood floors can be a rewarding DIY project that adds beauty and value to your home. To help you achieve professional-looking results, here is a step-by-step guide on how to install hardwood floors:

Step 1: Prepare the Subfloor

Before installation, ensure the subfloor is clean, level, and dry. Remove any existing flooring and ensure the surface is free from debris. If necessary, use a leveling compound to even out any uneven spots. Additionally, install a moisture barrier, such as rosin paper or a plastic vapor barrier, to prevent moisture damage.

Step 2: Acclimate the Wood

Allow the hardwood planks to acclimate to the room’s humidity and temperature for at least 48 hours. This will minimize the natural expansion and contraction of the wood once it’s installed.

Step 3: Install the First Row

Starting with the longest, straightest wall, lay out the first row of hardwood planks. Leave a 1/2-inch expansion gap between the planks and the wall. Use a pneumatic nailer or flooring stapler to secure the planks to the subfloor, placing nails or staples at an angle to ensure a secure hold.

Step 4: Lay the Boards

Continue installing the remaining rows of hardwood planks, interlocking the tongue and groove edges. Use a mallet and tapping block to fit the planks tightly together. Stagger the end joints between rows to create a more stable and visually appealing floor. Remember to maintain the expansion gap along all walls.

Step 5: Cut Boards as Needed

Measure and cut boards to fit around obstacles like doorways and vents using a miter saw or a jigsaw. Ensure that the cut pieces fit snugly and maintain the proper expansion gap.

Step 6: Install the Final Row

When you reach the final row, you may need to cut the planks to fit. Use a pry bar to close the final gap by gently levering the planks into place. Use finishing nails to secure the last row, ensuring they are angled towards the wall and hidden by the baseboard or trim.

how to install hardwood floors

By following these step-by-step instructions, you can successfully install hardwood floors in your home. Remember to take your time, work carefully, and consult manufacturer guidelines for specific product recommendations. Now that you have a solid understanding of the installation process, you’re ready to move on to the finishing touches to complete your hardwood floor.

Finishing Up

Once the hardwood floors are installed, it’s time to add those finishing touches that really bring the whole project together. This section will guide you through the steps of installing trim and moldings, cleaning the floor, and applying a protective finish.

Installing Trim and Moldings

To achieve a polished look, it’s important to install trim and moldings around the perimeter of the room and along transitions between different flooring materials. Trim and moldings not only cover the expansion gap but also add an extra layer of protection and visual appeal.

“Trim and moldings can be made of various materials, such as wood or composite, and come in different styles and profiles. Choose the ones that complement your hardwood flooring and overall design aesthetic.”

Measure and cut the trim pieces to the appropriate length, ensuring they fit snugly against the wall or other surfaces. Use a miter saw to create clean, angled cuts at corners. Then, secure the trim in place using finishing nails or a pneumatic nail gun. Fill any nail holes with wood putty and sand it down for a smooth finish.

Cleaning the Floor

Before applying a finish, it’s essential to thoroughly clean the hardwood floor to remove any dust, debris, or adhesive residue left from the installation process.

  • Sweep or vacuum the floor to remove loose dirt and debris.
  • Dampen a mop or microfiber cloth with a hardwood floor cleaner, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Gently mop the floor, making sure not to saturate it with excess water.
  • Dry the floor completely with a clean, dry cloth or mop.

Applying a Finish

Applying a finish is the final step to protect your hardwood floors and enhance their natural beauty. There are various types of finishes available, such as polyurethane, oil-based, or water-based finishes. Choose the one that suits your preferences and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for application.

“A finish can add a glossy or matte sheen to your hardwood floors, and it’s important to apply it evenly and in multiple thin coats. Allow each coat to dry fully before applying the next.”

Use a clean, lint-free applicator or a brush to apply the finish, working in the direction of the wood grain. Start at one end of the room and work your way towards an exit to avoid stepping on the freshly coated areas. Allow the finish to cure for the recommended time before moving furniture back into the room or placing rugs on the floor.

Congratulations! Your hardwood floor installation is complete, and with the finishing touches, your floors are ready to shine.

Table: Common Types of Trim and Moldings

Type Description
Baseboards Attached to the bottom of walls, covering the joint between the wall and the floor.
Quarter Round Hides the expansion gap between the flooring and the baseboards.
Thresholds Used to transition between different types of flooring materials.
T-Molding Used to join two floors of equal height, typically in doorways or archways.
Reducer Used to transition between two floors of different heights, such as hardwood to carpet.

hardwood floor installation finishing

Choosing the Right Wood for Your Floor

When it comes to hardwood flooring, there are a variety of options to choose from. Understanding the different types of hardwood floors can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your preferences and requirements. Let’s take a closer look at the three main types of hardwood flooring: solid hardwood, engineered hardwood, and floating hardwood.

Solid Hardwood Floors

As the name suggests, solid hardwood floors are made from a single piece of solid wood. This type of flooring offers a timeless, classic look and can be sanded and refinished multiple times to restore its original beauty. Solid hardwood is known for its durability and natural beauty, but it can be susceptible to moisture and temperature changes.

Engineered Hardwood Floors

Engineered hardwood floors consist of multiple layers of wood, with a top layer of real hardwood veneer. This construction makes engineered hardwood more stable and resistant to moisture compared to solid hardwood. Engineered hardwood is a popular choice for areas with fluctuating humidity levels such as basements or kitchens.

Floating Hardwood Floors

Floating hardwood floors are not attached to the subfloor but rather “float” over it. They consist of planks that interlock or adhere to each other, creating a stable and durable floor. Floating hardwood floors are often installed as a DIY project due to their ease of installation. They are also a good option for areas where moisture levels may fluctuate.

hardwood flooring types

When choosing the right wood for your hardwood floors, consider factors such as your budget, the level of maintenance required, and the specific needs of the room. Each type of hardwood flooring has its own unique characteristics and benefits, so take the time to research and explore your options before making a final decision.

Preparation is Key

Proper preparation is essential when it comes to installing hardwood floors. Understanding the subfloor, assessing your carpentry knowledge, and taking the necessary steps to ensure a smooth installation process will set you up for success. Here, we’ll explore the crucial aspects of hardwood floor installation preparation that you need to consider.

Understanding the Subfloor

The subfloor is the foundation on which your hardwood floor will be installed. It’s important to have a solid understanding of the subfloor’s condition and composition before proceeding with installation. Check for any structural issues, moisture problems, or unevenness that could affect the integrity and appearance of your hardwood floor. Addressing these issues beforehand will help ensure a stable and long-lasting installation.

Assessing Carpentry Knowledge

Installing hardwood floors requires basic carpentry skills. Before diving into the installation process, honestly assess your level of carpentry knowledge and skills. If you’re an inexperienced DIYer, consider starting with a simpler installation method or seek professional assistance. Remember, improper installation can lead to costly and time-consuming repairs down the line.

Proper Cleaning and Moisture Checks

Prior to installation, thoroughly clean the subfloor to remove any dirt, debris, or moisture that could compromise the adhesive or cause mold and mildew growth. Additionally, conduct moisture tests to ensure that the subfloor has an acceptable moisture content level for hardwood installation. Moisture content that exceeds the recommended levels can lead to cupping, warping, and other issues.

By taking the time to understand the subfloor, assess your carpentry knowledge, and properly prepare the installation area, you’ll be well-equipped to begin the hardwood floor installation process. Remember, adequate preparation is the foundation for a successful installation and long-lasting hardwood floors.

hardwood floor installation preparation

Getting Started with Installation

Now that you have completed all the necessary preparations, it’s time to begin the hardwood floor installation process. This section will guide you through the steps of removing old floor coverings, preparing the subfloor, and laying the rosin paper as a protective barrier.

1. Removing Old Floor Coverings

The first step in installing hardwood floors is to remove any existing floor coverings. This includes carpet, vinyl, or laminate flooring. Start by carefully pulling up the old flooring, making sure to avoid damaging the subfloor. Use a pry bar or pliers to remove any staples or nails left behind.

2. Preparing the Subfloor

Once the old floor coverings are removed, it’s time to prepare the subfloor for the hardwood installation. Start by thoroughly cleaning the subfloor to remove any dirt or debris. Next, check the subfloor for any unevenness or imperfections. Use a level to ensure the subfloor is flat, and fill in any gaps or low spots with a suitable filler. This will provide a smooth and stable surface for the hardwood planks.

Additionally, it’s important to install a moisture barrier on the subfloor to protect the hardwood from moisture damage. Lay a sheet of plastic or use a specialized moisture barrier product, ensuring it covers the entire subfloor area. This will help prevent moisture from seeping into the wood and causing warping or buckling.

3. Laying the Rosin Paper

Before installing the hardwood planks, it’s recommended to lay a layer of rosin paper as a protective barrier. Cut the rosin paper to fit the entire floor area, overlapping the edges by a few inches. This paper will help prevent moisture from the subfloor and provide a smooth base for the hardwood installation.

hardwood floor installation process

By following these steps and taking the time to properly remove old floor coverings, prepare the subfloor, and lay the rosin paper, you are setting a solid foundation for a successful hardwood floor installation.

Installing Hardwood Floors on Concrete

Installing hardwood floors on concrete can be a challenging task, but with the right tools and techniques, it is achievable. There are two main methods for installing hardwood floors on concrete: using hardwood flooring adhesive or installing floating hardwood floors. Each method has its advantages and considerations, depending on your specific needs and preferences.

If you choose to use hardwood flooring adhesive, you will need a moisture barrier to protect the wood from the concrete’s moisture. Apply the adhesive directly onto the concrete using a trowel, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Then, carefully place each hardwood plank onto the adhesive, ensuring a tight fit and proper alignment. It’s important to work quickly and efficiently, as the adhesive may dry fast.

“Installing hardwood floors on concrete can be a challenging task, but with the right tools and techniques, it is achievable.”

If you prefer a floating floor installation, where the hardwood planks are not directly attached to the concrete, you will need to lay down an underlayment first. The underlayment acts as a barrier between the concrete and the hardwood, providing insulation and cushioning. Once the underlayment is in place, you can then proceed to lay the floating hardwood planks, interlocking them together to create a stable and seamless floor.

Pros and Cons of Each Method

Hardwood Flooring Adhesive Floating Hardwood Floors
  • Secure and durable installation
  • Reduced risk of movement or shifting
  • Can be used on uneven concrete surfaces
  • Easier to install
  • No need for adhesive
  • Can be removed or replaced easily
  • Difficult to remove or replace planks
  • May require additional moisture barrier
  • Limited options for uneven surfaces
  • Potential for slight movement or shifting
  • Noisy underfoot
  • Less suitable for areas with high moisture

When installing hardwood floors on concrete, it is essential to ensure the concrete surface is clean, level, and dry. Any imperfections or moisture issues should be addressed before proceeding with the installation. It is also recommended to consult with a professional if you are unsure about the suitability of your concrete surface for hardwood floor installation.

By following the appropriate method and taking the necessary precautions, you can enjoy the beauty and warmth of hardwood floors even on a concrete subfloor. Whether you choose to use hardwood flooring adhesive or opt for a floating floor installation, the end result will be a stunning and durable addition to your home.

Post-Installation Care

Now that your hardwood floor installation is complete, it’s important to take proper care of your floors to ensure their longevity and maintain their beautiful appearance. Regular maintenance and cleaning will help protect your investment and keep your hardwood floors looking their best.

Hardwood Floor Maintenance

Regular maintenance is key to preserving the beauty of your hardwood floors. Here are some essential tips:

  • Regularly sweep or vacuum your floors to remove dirt, dust, and debris. Use a soft-bristle broom or a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to prevent scratching the surface.
  • Wipe up spills immediately to prevent moisture from seeping into the wood and causing damage. Use a slightly damp cloth or mop to clean up spills, but avoid excessive water as it can warp the wood.
  • Place doormats at entryways to minimize the amount of dirt and grit that gets tracked onto your floors. This will help prevent scratches and wear on the surface.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners on your hardwood floors as they can strip away the finish and damage the wood. Stick to gentle, pH-neutral cleaning products specifically designed for hardwood floors.
  • Consider using protective pads or felt furniture glides under furniture legs to prevent scratches and dents when moving or rearranging furniture.

Cleaning Hardwood Floors

When it comes to cleaning your hardwood floors, it’s important to use the right techniques and products. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Regularly dry mop or use a microfiber mop to remove dust and debris. Avoid using a wet mop as excessive moisture can damage the wood.
  2. For deeper cleaning, use a hardwood floor cleaner recommended by the manufacturer or a homemade solution of mild dish soap mixed with warm water. Dampen a soft cloth or sponge mop with the solution and gently clean the floor, working in small sections.
  3. After cleaning, make sure to dry the floor thoroughly to prevent moisture from penetrating the wood. Use a clean, dry cloth or mop to remove any excess moisture.
  4. Avoid using steam cleaners on hardwood floors, as the heat and moisture can cause warping or damage to the wood.

By following these maintenance and cleaning tips, you can keep your hardwood floors looking beautiful for years to come. Remember to always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific care instructions and recommendations.


Installing hardwood floors on your own can be a labor-intensive process that requires patience and attention to detail. It is a rewarding and fulfilling project that allows you to add beauty and value to your home. However, if you are unsure or prefer professional assistance, hiring experts is always an option.

By carefully planning and preparing for the installation, following the step-by-step guide provided in this article, and using your carpentry skills, DIY hardwood floor installation is achievable. Remember to choose the right type of wood for your floor, gather all the necessary tools and materials, and ensure proper subfloor preparation.

Once the installation is complete, it’s important to implement post-installation care to maintain the longevity and appearance of your hardwood floors. Regular cleaning with recommended products and avoiding excessive moisture will help preserve the beauty and durability of your floor.

In conclusion, whether you decide to tackle hardwood floor installation on your own or opt for professional help, the end result will be a stunning, timeless addition to your home. With dedication and attention to detail, you can enjoy the satisfaction of completing the project yourself and the benefits of a beautiful, durable hardwood floor.


What tools and materials do I need for hardwood floor installation?

You will need hardwood planks, nails or staples, a mallet, tape measure, saw, moisture meter, and a level. Additionally, you should have rosin paper, a moisture barrier, and trim or moldings for finishing touches.

What is the step-by-step process for installing hardwood floors?

The installation process involves preparing the subfloor, laying the rosin paper, installing the first row, laying the boards, cutting boards as needed, installing the final row, and adding trim or moldings to cover the expansion gap.

How do I choose the right type of wood for my hardwood floors?

Consider factors such as your budget, aesthetic preferences, and the level of moisture in your home. Options include solid hardwood, engineered hardwood, and floating hardwood.

How should I prepare for hardwood floor installation?

Understand the condition of your subfloor, assess your carpentry knowledge, and ensure your subfloor is clean, level, and free of moisture. Proper preparation is crucial for a successful installation.

Can I install hardwood floors on a concrete surface?

Yes, it is possible to install hardwood floors on concrete. However, you will need specific tools and materials, such as hardwood flooring adhesive, and the concrete surface must be properly prepared.

How do I care for and maintain my hardwood floors after installation?

Regular cleaning with recommended products, avoiding excessive water or harsh cleaning solutions, and promptly addressing any spills or stains are important for maintaining the beauty and durability of your hardwood floors.

Is it recommended to hire professionals for hardwood floor installation?

While hiring professionals is an option, with careful planning, preparation, and following the provided step-by-step guide, DIY installation is achievable. It can be a labor-intensive process, but the satisfaction of completing the project yourself can be rewarding.

Source Links