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Wood Floor INSTALLATION
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Installing A Hardwood Flooring

Installing, sanding and finishing hardwood flooring takes a lot of work, but when it's done, all that effort is easy to forget.

A comparable product is pre-finished hardwood strip flooring . Essentially pre-finished hardwood flooring is the same as the material used in this project, but there are small bevels milled around the perimeter of each board. These bevels prevent you from noticing the small inaccuracies in machining that cause some boards to lay slightly higher than others. The procedure for installing a pre-finished hardwood floor would be about the same as the methods used in this article.

The room with just the sub-floor.

After we picked up the white oak flooring , we stored the bundles of wood in a utility trailer in the garage. We chose white oak instead of red oak. Red oak is more common, is slightly cheaper, but is softer and has a more open grain pattern. White oak has a lighter appearance when finished with a natural coating and no stain .

Storage:

Hardwood flooring manufacturers advise that the wood be allowed to acclimate in the same environment as the room it will be used in. During damp weather, the wood should be kept indoors for at least three days.

The first step in installing a hardwood floor is laying out an accurate reference line. See hardwood flooring preparations for more information on that step and other preliminary work.

Direction Matters:

The normal method for installing hardwood strip flooring is to lay the boards perpendicular to the floor joists. The boards can be installed parallel to the joists, so I'm told, but an extra layer of sub-floor plywood must be added.

We drew a line, parallel to the reference line made earlier, to indicate the end point of all the boards.

Normally we would just run the boards through the doorway and continue into the adjacent room. But the remodeling process of this old house has to occur one room at a time. So we decided to install transitional pieces by installing some perpendicular boards in the doorway. Later, when the dining room is remodeled, we can resume runs of flooring parallel to the flooring in this bedroom.

We drew a line near the wall to indicate the edge of the first board. It is important to leave about a 1/2" gap around the entire perimeter to allow for expansion.

We carefully selected several of the straightest boards for the first pieces.

The very first piece of flooring had to be notched to go under the door jamb.

This 3/8" diameter drill bit was necessary to drill holes in the face of planks that could not be reached with the rented floor stapler.

That tool in the background is a 3/8" diameter plug cutter, which will be used to make tapered plugs that will cover the screws.

First we drilled clearance holes for the deck screws...

... and then we drilled the large 3/8" hole, but only half way through the board. Later these holes will be filled with wood plugs.

The Result: The holes for the face-screws have a deep counter-bore so the heads will be recessed quite far.

Installing The First Row:

The location of the first board was carefully determined so it would be perfectly parallel to the reference line made earlier. The first board was fastened with 3" deck screws. We located the holes to occur over the floor joists. Note the joist and stud markings on the wall.

The second piece was not so simple. We cut a board to fit in the remaining space... ... and then we used a straight piece of flooring as a guide to ensure that the second piece was perfectly aligned with the first piece.

We used a pry bar to push the second piece towards the first piece, closing the end gap.

We secured the second piece with deck screws.

The alignment plank was removed. If these first two boards were not perfectly in line, the entire flooring job would be flawed and full of gaps.

Note (on right) how the end of the first row aligns with the line we drew at the beginning. This is critical for the doorway transition we will be doing.

After the first row was installed, the fun began... using the pneumatic stapler to fasten the flooring .

This tool takes 2 inch long 1/2" wide 15 gauge staples. These are more like 2-legged nails. Beware: There are also 16 gauge staples of the exact same size that may jam the stapler. The stapler holds a couple of sticks of staples.

For the second row of boards, we laid out one desirable piece and then measure the remaining distance to get a target length for the other piece. We were trying to avoid placing the ends of boards too close together.

A common recommendation is to keep the end joints at least 6 inches apart on adjacent rows of boards. We tried to keep the ends at least 2 feet away from each other.

The second row was started. The near end had to be carefully aligned with the end of the first row, for reasons that will soon become apparent.

The flooring we used was end-matched, which means the ends are milled with tongues and grooves. This keeps the ends of the boards from warping.

End-matched flooring is common, and costs a little more than square-end flooring .

It's tempting to just fit the boards together along their long sides, and then move the board downstream to close the end gap... but that doesn't work well. When positioning a board, we tried to get the ends to connect first (right photo)...

...and then the long edge of the new board was pushed (or tapped) into place so it interlocked with the last row.

But often the end gap opened up as the board was driven tight.

In which case we used a large pry bar (bearing against a block, not against the wall directly) to move the board lengthwise. We often used a hammer to tap on the pry bar... the impact made the board move easier.

A Doorway Transition:Perpendicular Boards

We cut a piece of flooring to the a length that would fit under the door jambs... ... then we used a large speed square to accurately position the perpendicular board. We marked the location.

Accuracy is critical here, or all the boards that butt against this perpendicular threshold strip will show a gap, and it will be highly visible, being right in the doorway.

We took a scrap of flooring and tapped it into the groove of the "threshold piece".

We put the combined boards back in place (and re-checked for squareness) and drove some 2" deck screws into the scrap piece. We had pre-drilled the holes before we tapped the boards together. This scrap is only a backer, to hold the threshold piece in place while staples are driven. If we didn't do this, the threshold piece would surely move when the stapler was struck with its hammer.

The threshold piece was stapled...

... and the scrap was removed.

We are pleased to report that the trick worked... the threshold piece remained at a perfect right angle to the main run of flooring.

The Sequence Of Setting A Board In Place:

There is a sequence that got repeated for each plank. It started with placing the tongue end of the board into the grooved end of the previous piece.

The side was tapped near the interlocking end, to draw it towards the previous row.

Then the side was tapped at the far end.

Tapping a board is always done by hitting a small scrap of flooring. Never hammer directly on the flooring.

A pry bar was used to move the plank downstream, hammering on the pry bar helped a lot.

Often the end gap closed tightly but the side gap remained...

... so a final tapping was needed.

The Sequence Of Stapling:

When a board was ready to be stapled, the base was gently tapped to make sure it rested firmly against the wood. Then the operator stepped on the base.

The base plate on the stapler is not meant to be hammered upon. It may be tempting to use the base plate as a short cut to tapping a board in place, but such a practice could damage the stapler or leave a dent in the wood.

The smacker block was given one last whack, to ensure the boards were tight.

And the mallet was used to drive the staple. It takes a pretty firm hammer blow to activate the stapler, and consequently the board is drawn tight as the staple is driven.

When we approached the corner of the closet, we couldn't fit the stapler between the flooring and the 12 inch wide wall, so we stapled the boards on either side of the wall.

It was important to avoid end joints in front of this wall, because we wouldn't be able to staple the boards near the ends.

We always tried to put a staple within 2 or 3 inches of the end of each board.

The last board before the closet wall had to be notched. It is important to leave a 1/2" gap between the floor and the wall, to allow for expansion.

Towards the end, we reached a point where the mallet could no longer be swung to hit the stapler.

Then we used a pneumatic 2" finish nailer to install a few more rows. It's also possible to hand-nail the boards through the tongue, but pre-drilling the holes would be a good idea.

The last two rows had to be installed with screws through the face. We used an elaborate setup of blocks and shims to force the board tightly against its neighbour.

The board was secured with 3" deck screws.

The final strip had to be ripped on a table saw. A circular saw with a ripping guide could also be used.

Completion :

We left a decent gap between the last board and the wall. Some sources say to leave at least a 3/4" gap, but since this floor was installed in summertime, it is not likely to expand much more, so we left a 1/2" gap.

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