Solid Wood Flooring Installation Tips

Solid wood flooring offers an unbeatable richness.  Proper installation requires some experience with carpentry tools and materials.  Your choices vary from strip to plank flooring, and from pre-finished to unfinished wood.  The choices of wood are almost limitless.  Hardwoods like oak are the most durable, but also the most expensive.  Softwoods like pine are less durable and less expensive.  The color stain that you choose will also make a big difference in the look of your new floor.

Most solid wood flooring materials are graded according to their color, grade, and imperfections.  In choosing your material, you need to weigh the cost of the wood against the quality.  To determine how much 2 inch wide flooring material you need, you multiply the square footage of the room by 1.383.  Your wood flooring dealer should have a calculator to show you how much you need depending on the width of the planks you want to use. 

When your wood arrives, you need to stack it in the room where it will be installed for several days.  This allows the wood to acclimate itself to the moisture content of the room.  Hardwood flooring should never be stored in damp areas with poor ventilation because the moisture will cause the wood to twist and warp.  After installation, the damp wood shrinks causing unseemly gaps and cracks in the floor. 

For installation, you will need a floor nailer and flooring nails, stapler, flat pry bar, backsaw, chalk - line box, framing square, masking tape, wedge, building paper, permanent marker, and hammer.  Using the pry bar, pry away the molding and baseboard.  Be careful not to break the molding, unless you are replacing that as well.  Using a piece of the new flooring as a guide, shorten vertical trim where necessary.  Roll out the building paper and staple it every 8 inches, overlapping by three inches at the seams.  Check the room for square, and snap a chalk line for setting the first piece.  Uneven areas and room for expansion will be buried under the trim.

Set the first board slightly away from the wall.  Pre-drill and set the nails for this board.  Now, layout several rows staggering the seams.  Nail subsequent strips with a rented flooring nailer.  Position the nailer on the tongue edge of the board and whack the plunger with a heavy rubber mallet.  To finish a row, measure the length needed on a full board and cross cut.  For bowed pieces, screw a piece of scrap wood to the floor approximately one inch from the strip and tap a wood wedge into the gap.  Then nail the strip into place.  Where ever the floor meets a jut in the wall or other obstacle cut the wood to fit allowing for a gap along the length of the wall.  The last row might need to be cut to fit as well.  Use the pry bar against a wood block on the wall to tighten the joint, and face nail the board. 

Solid wood flooring is installed parallel to the length of a room.  This makes for a stronger floor.  In hallways, installing the wood running the length of the hall provides a better look.  Seasonal changes will cause wood to expand and contract.  To account for this, leave a gap around the rooms perimeter that is equal to the thickness of the boards.  Don't worry about the gap being visible, as it will be covered by the baseboard trim.  Lay out the flooring pieces alternating long and short boards and evenly distributing end - to - end joints across the floor.  Also, the flooring materials will naturally have slight differences in color and shade.  Shuffle these color differences for a more random look.  Do not nail the boards in place without taking a moment to inspect the layout first.

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