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Installing a Tongue & Groove Floor

Materials List
Wood Flooring
Floor Nails
Underlayment (foam backing, building paper, or roofing felt)
Tools List (click item to shop)
Tape measure
Tooth hand saw
Circular saw
Miter saw
Nail set
Flooring nailer
Drill bits
Carpenter's square
Jig saw
Pencil compass
Chalk line
Easy2 Home Improvement
Applying an Oil or Water-based Stain

Installing Resilient Floor Tile
Refinishing Wood Floors with a Drum Sander
Refinishing Wood Floors with an Oscillating Sander
Silencing Floor Squeaks
Easy2DIY (continued)
Patching Hardwood Floors

Edge Flooring
Edge Flooring Product Demonstration

Flooring System
Plytanium for Floors

IMPORTANT: Read this before you start

There are fewer things finer in a home than a hardwood flooring. For the do-it-yourselfer, however, it can be a fun, yet daunting task. Installing a hardwood floor can best be described as a combination of rough and fine carpentry. Pounding the nails home and bending warped flooring to fit is certainly rough work. However, it is detailed as well, because even small mistakes will show.

There are many types of hardwood flooring, but this tutorial will only cover solid tongue and groove flooring that is either prefinished or finished in place. Other types of wood flooring that are glued or clipped in place or made from different layers of wood require different kinds of installation procedures and will not be covered here.

Prefinished tongue and groove flooring is just like unfinished flooring except that it comes already finished and often has a slight bevel on the surface edges. The bevel is there because often when installing a floor the top surfaces from one piece to the next will vary in height because of inconsistencies in the sub floor and in the flooring itself. If the bevels were not there the edges might splinter or wear badly. Unfinished flooring does not have this problem because inconsistencies in height are sanded out during the finishing process. However, this same finishing process can be viewed as a disadvantage because it can take several days to complete and be very messy.

Skill Level & Time To Complete
• Beginner - 14 hours
• Intermediate - 10 hours
• Advanced - 8 hours

Installing flooring can be very hard on your back and knees. Be sure to wear kneepads and rest when necessary.

Helpful Tips
Because wood expands and contracts with the level of humidity, take delivery of your flooring several days several days early so that it can acclimate to its new environment. Also make sure that any plastering and painting has been completed as they can add moisture to the air.

Before you start make sure that the subfloor is in good shape. Bouncy, squeaky and uneven areas should be repaired before installing your new floor. If installing a new subfloor do not use particleboard, as the floor nails will not grip in it.

1. Before you start you need to decide what direction the flooring will run. Generally, you want the flooring to run the length of the room for aesthetic reasons and perpendicular to the floor joists for structural reasons, as the floor will be stiffer and less prone to joints separating.
2. A vapor barrier between the subfloor and the finish floor is necessary to help control dust and moisture from below as well as dampen squeaks. Resin paper works well, as does foam backing, and 15 or 30 lb roofing felt. Whatever you use roll it over the floor completely and secure it with staples so it will not shift around.
3. When doing the layout for a floor a good strategy is to establish a baseline parallel to the direction you are going to lay the floor. First find the center between the two walls at each end of the room (a and b) and snap a chalk line between the two points. This is your baseline. You do not have to start laying the flooring from the baseline, but wherever you do start, you must be parallel to the baseline. Do not try to establish the baseline by measuring from only one wall because walls found in most homes are not absolutely parallel.
4. It is also necessary before you start to saw off the bottoms of doorjambs and trim so that the flooring can be slipped under them. To do this use a scrap piece of flooring as a guide and with a handsaw cut off the jamb and trim. The baseboard can either be removed and reinstalled or have a kicker installed after the flooring is in to hide the gap.
5. For large rooms it is a good idea to install the first boards in the center of the room, placing the first 2 courses groove to groove with a piece of molding taking the place of the tongue. In this way the floor expands and contracts from the center out instead of from one side of the room to the other, allowing for less movement on edge pieces. For smaller rooms less than 12 feet across this step is usually unnecessary.
6. To start, choose some long straight lengths of flooring and nail them down parallel to the baseline. You should use a flooring nailer (which can be rented from most home centers) to nail just above the tongue of each board every 10 to 12 inches. To keep the first course from moving as you nail it down, try temporarily screwing down some lengths of 1x lumber.
7. Continue nailing down the flooring, while leaving a ½-inch gap around the perimeter. To nail down flooring that is too close to the wall for the floor nailer, nail directly through the top with finish nails and countersink them. If you are using refinished flooring repair these holes with matching wood filler and a drop of urethane finish.
8. For flooring that does not fit well try knocking it into place with a scrap piece of flooring. Do not try to hammer on the flooring directly as you may damage the edge.
9. For warped pieces of flooring try constructing a wedge to force them into position. Nail one part of the wedge into position (a) and hammer the other part (b) sideways to force the flooring into position.
10. To cut around corners or irregular shapes try scribing with a square or compass. To cut the flooring, a jigsaw or coping saw works well to create detailed cuts.
11. Finally, when putting the last pieces along a wall, use a pry bar against the wall to ensure a snug fit. You do not need to worry about damaging the edge, as these are the final pieces and will be partially covered with baseboards.
12. If you installed an unfinished floor, you will need to rent a floor sander and sand all the board surfaces flush with one another. Then you can finish the floor with stain and a few coats of urethane finish. See our tutorial on hardwood floor finishing for more detailed information.
13. If you removed the baseboards, you should reinstall them after all the flooring is laid down. Finally, you can install shoe molding or quarter round to cover any gaps between the new floor and baseboards.



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