How to Install Hardwood Floors: Tools Required, Materials & Instructions

How to Install Hardwood Floors – A Step-by-step Guidance

A solid hardwood floor gives your living space a rich and attractive appearance. Considering the variety of types available, you can easily transform your house with the floor customized to the rest of the décor. Although it seems like an expert task requiring specialization, it is relatively easy to put in hardwood floors if you have done your research and know what you are doing. Whether you’re laying down a floor for your new house or renovating by getting rid of the old floor, this article gives you detailed instructions on installing a hardwood floor successfully.

How to Lay Hardwood Flooring?

While planning for your floor, consider factors like the subfloor, lifestyle, décor, and budget before choosing the installation method. For example, a concrete subfloor will need to have the floorboards glued into place and cannot be nailed. A wooden subfloor can have the hardwood nailed to it or use an engineered flooring with tongue and grooves that can be clicked together to lay down the floor quickly. The three popular methods for flooring are as follow:

  • The Glue-down Method: It is popular with engineered floorboards and requires an adhesive to glue the boards to the floor firmly. Since the process has a time constraint, you need an experienced person to carry it out. If you are uncertain of your skill, you can always have a professional do it for you.
  • The Nail-down Installation: Nail-down installations need a wooden subfloor to nail the hardwood flooring boards into place. The process is relatively inexpensive, and when the process is followed as per the instructions, the nails will barely be visible. This method is not suited for concrete or stone flooring.
  • Click-lock/Floating Installation: Most engineered floorboards are installed using this procedure, and they come with a click-locking mechanism that locks out moisture. It is an ideal flooring method for tile, cement, or other floors with some radiant heat.

Additionally, keep these points in mind before you begin installation:

  • When installing the hardwood, start from the longest and straight wall in the room/living space. The flooring should always be perpendicular to the joists of the floor.
  • Get an accurate estimate for the amount of flooring you need before ordering from the manufacturers. The hardwood is sold in full case quantities. Therefore round up to the highest number. It is better to have a little more than less.
  • Allow the hardwood to acclimate to the space you are installing it in for a few days before installation. The recommended temperature and humidity are 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit and 30-55 percent relative humidity, respectively. For this purpose, you can stack the flooring like cabin wood or just spread it all across. However, avoid placing it directly on concrete.
  • If the subfloor is wooden, most ¾” solid hardwood flooring can be installed using staples or nails. Engineered flooring can be installed over approved subfloors using adhesives, staples, or a floating method.
  • The subfloor needs to be solid and stable – preferably ¾” CDX or OSB with the minimum requirement of a 5/8” CDX existing floor.
  • In most living spaces, the flooring encounters obstructions such as counters or fireplaces. Use a miter saw to create borders around the obstructions into which you can fit the boards. If the edge of the space meets a tongue on the board, cut the tongue and seal the gap.
  • Ensure all safety precautions are followed while handling the power tools and materials.
  • Some hardwood flooring installation methods, such as the glue-down and nail-down methods, need a good amount of skill and are better done professionally.

After you have familiarized yourself with the basic guidelines, you can begin the task. For this, you need to be prepared with the right tools and materials and a plan for the floor.


These are the essential tools for the task:

  • Flooring nailer
  • Jigsaw
  • Mallets
  • Punches and nail setter sets
  • Wrecking and pry bars
  • Table saw
  • Claw hammers
  • Twist drill bits
  • Power drill
  • Chalk reels and chalk
  • Push brooms
  • Tape measure
  • Panel saw


The materials you will need for the floor:

  • Underlayment
  • Engineered hardwood
  • Solid hardwood
  • Wood fillers collated floor nails.
  • Collated flooring nails



1. Preparing the Space: Once you pick the flooring installation method, refer to the specific guidelines on the preparation and best practices for specific details. These general guidelines, however, are common steps to all hardwood floor preparation:

  • Remove the old baseboards to expose the subfloor if you have had different flooring before.
  • Ensure the subfloor is smooth and uniform as it is essential to level a floor for hardwood. Low spots need to be filled with wood fillers, while high spots need to be sanded down.
  • The wall needs to be marked to guide while laying down the flooring boards wherever the support joists are.
  • Wooden flooring often needs extra protection from spills, moisture, and vapor. Therefore, the floor can be covered with a moisture inhibitor for additional protection, even when the baseboard is waterproof. A silicon vapor shield or a 15lb to 30lb asphalt-saturated felt can do the job for underlayment. As a bonus, the layer also acts as soundproofing.
  • Measure hardwood flooring and mark the floor such that the flooring is laid across perpendicular to the floor joists for maximum resistance to flexion. At the end of the starting wall of the rows, leave behind a ½” expansion gap between the wall and flooring.
  • You can use a mason’s line to guide the flooring rows or mark up the floor with chalk and then lay down the flooring boards.
  • Before installing the floorboards, lay down the hardwood entirely across the floor to figure out the quantity you will need and get a rough estimate of the dimensions that need to be trimmed at the edges to make it fit perfectly.
  • Racking the boards this way also shows you the final result of how the floor would look. Since the boards are manufactured to have light and dark areas, you might want to plan how these shades will be distributed across the floor and arrange the boards accordingly.

2. Glue-down Installation: The glue-down method is an excellent choice when you need to install hardwood floors on concrete. Other fastening methods are impractical, and there is no need to add an extra layer of insulation.

Here is how to glue down hardwood flooring:

  • Once the floor is prepared for the hardwood, use a trowel to spread the adhesive over a small area where a few hardwood boards will be laid down. Avoid spreading over too much area as you may not be able to work fast enough before the glue dries. Generally, the glue has a set time of about 60 minutes.
  • Apply glue to the region of the first row and lay down the boards quickly.
  • Using a table saw, cut the last board to fit precisely, leaving about a ¾th of an inch gap for expansion.
  • When installing the second row, gently slide the groove of the boards into the tongue of the first row and give it a tap with a mallet for a tight fit.
  • Ensure to maintain a steady expansion gap and use the mallet to perfectly align the boards in every row.
  • If you are installing engineered hardwood flooring, match the ends and gently tap with a mallet to place it.
  • The last row will most likely have to be cut to precisely fit the floor while still allowing for a ¾” expansion gap.
  • Use a table saw to make precise cuts on the boards.
  • Install the threshold strips on edges where the boards transition to give a smooth chamfer.

3. Installation by Nailing Down the Hardboards: Nailing down is a method used when installing hardwood flooring on a wooden subfloor. The technique is inexpensive and effective. In this method, only the first and last rows of the boards are nailed into the floor through the face. The remaining boards are nailed in through the tongue. Here is how you can nail down your hardwood flooring:

  • Put a ¾” spacer against the adjoining wall and push the first line of boards against the spacer with the tongue facing the room.
  • By measuring 1″ from the edge, put pilot holes in the face of the boards 6″ apart. Drive 6d or 8d flooring nails into these holes
  • As directed by the manufacturer, drill more pilot holes into the tongue at 45 degrees and space them as per the directions. Drive all the nails through the tongue and into the floor.
  • Get the next set of boards with grooves and push the boards into each other firmly to make a tight seal. Nail down the first grooved flooring board similar to the first set and continue joining the boards until you reach the other end.
  • Using a table saw, cut hardwood flooring for the last row to fit the corner with ¾” expansion spacing. Nail the board into place.
  • Repeat the process for the next row of boards, with the first and last board being nailed into the floor firmly.
  • Work your way across to the other end of the room and prepare to install the last row of boards. If necessary, cut the last set to form a neat fit with a ¾” spacing with the wall.
  • Since you will not be able to drive nails through the tongue of the last row, you can nail these boards to the subfloor, similar to the first row.
  • Ensure that all the pilot holes for the nails have a countersink in them with enough room to fill up the rest of the space with wood filler and get an even finish.
  • Install the shoe molding by nailing it to the baseboard and not to the subfloor or the floor.

4. Click-lock Installation Method: The click-lock installation method is the easiest one of all and can be done with a minimal level of skill required. It is also fast as only the first row of boards needs to be nailed down with the other boards snapped into place like a jigsaw puzzle.

  • Start by using ½” spacers for the expansion gap between the sidewall and the first row of flooring boards. Slide each flooring board into place up against the spacers.
  • Drill pilot holes into all boards about 4” to 6” apart and about 1- ½” from the side of the board. Drive flooring nails through the holes and ensure all of them are countersunk.
  • Place the locking end of the second row of planks on the locking end of the first row and press them into a snug fit. Ensure the edges of the rows remain straight.
  • Cut the last flooring board to the required length for a smooth fit with a ¾” expansion gap to the side.
  • Use the same process to install the remaining rows.
  • To ensure the floorboards fit tightly, apply gentle pressure as you engage the grooves and tongue. If you find it difficult to fit them, give them a light tap with a mallet hammer.
  • When you get to the last row, cut the boards with a table saw to bring them to the proper dimensions along with a ¾” extension gap.
  • Finally, fix the baseboard and the shoe molding over the extension gap.
  • Install transition strips wherever the edges of the floor are exposed.

With the right idea about the process, skill, and essential tools, installing hardwood flooring is not a difficult task. Now that you are aware of the method best suited for the floor, you can choose the type of flooring you need and the installation method and get about transforming your home.

Also Read:

How to Plan a Home Addition
Low Budget Home Decorating Ideas
Budget-Friendly Ideas for Renovating Your Home

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Ruchelle has a vast experience working with clients in hospitality, health and wellness, entertainment, real estate, and retail. She aims to utilise her learnings to deliver quality content which will in turn help drive sales and customer engagement.