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Hardwood Floor Installation: What You Need to Know Before Buying

Maybe you’ve reached your breaking point with carpet cleaning and sheet vinyl floors. Maybe you’re thinking of installing a hardwood floor in your home. While the task can seem daunting at first, a firm idea of the process, costs, and some technical know-how will put you well on your way to a seamless install. 

At Lifestyle Floors in Colorado Springs, we help people navigate the process of installing hardwood floors every day. Whether you try a DIY project or hire us to install your floors for you, here are a few tips to consider. 

Know your hardwood floor types

First and foremost, there are four basic types of hardwood floors you can install: 

  • Nail down/Staple – Often used for solid wood floors.
  • Floating – Often used with engineered hardwood, luxury vinyl planks (LVP), luxury vinyl tile
  • Adhesive – Often used with solid wood floors, engineered woods, luxury vinyl plank, luxury vinyl tile, vinyl sheeting

The type of floor you choose usually depends on your budget since the types of hardwoods that are available for each type vary significantly in cost. Because of the various installation methods, you should consult a professional before doing this project yourself.

Prep, measure, and fix 

Once you have determined the type of floor you want to install, you should measure out the square footage of the area you are wanting to refloor. You can do a simple calculation of length by width for square footage calculation. 

Once you know the square footage, it’s important to know what is under the floor you are replacing. Depending on the condition of your home, you may want to inspect the existing subf

Examination of the entire subfloor is essential because installation of a new hardwood floor on a broken or structurally unsound subfloor could lead to expensive repairs down the road. Planks may warp, crack, or become dislodged. Take the time to ensure subflooring is intact, water spots are remediated, and the wood planks are in good order. This will give you the peace of mind to know the newly installed flooring will be supported for the long term.

Additionally, when inspecting the subfloor, take a look at the floor joists and the direction they run. Knowing the direction of the floor joists gives you an idea of which direction the installed hardwood flooring should run. Ideally, you run the hardwoods across the floor joists, not along them. The cross-hatching method adds strength to the floor structure and allows for greater weight dispersion across the surface of the floor itself. Of course, hiring a professional means that they will take all of these steps. Remove a section of flooring to expose what is underneath, taking note of the type and age of the subfloor into consideration.

Hardwood preparation and underlayment

Depending on the type of floor you purchased, it’s recommended to let the wood sit in the environment in which it will be installed for a few hours to a day. Wood by nature expands in heat and is affected by moisture in the air. Your home environment is unique and letting the wood adapt to the environment before installation will help you during the installation itself. Check with your manufacturer for the proper acclimation time. Some solid hardwood may take weeks to acclimate, whereas engineered and vinyl materials might only take a few days.

Once you’ve prepped the subfloor and know your hardwood type, most contractors recommend installing a specialized underlayment. These can be made of rubber, foam, or a material similar to roofing felt. The type you need depends on the flooring you have chosen, but remember that if you choose a nail down floor, the underlayment cannot be too thick or else the nails won’t be able to grab the solid subflooring beneath. 

The underlayment also serves the hardwoods well during heat and cold snaps as the expansion and contraction of the wood are supported by a flexible layer, reducing friction between the floor and subfloor and between the flooring connections.  

When rolling out your underlayment, you should practice the same cross-hatching method, working against the lines of your floor joists, and you should let the layer creep up the wall a few inches since you will trim down the underlayment before re-installing hardwood floorboards. The underlayment will likely have adhesive strips on the edges, so when you have laid down the line of underlayment, peel off the adhesive and attach it to an adjacent piece. Easily done. 

Installing the hardwood flooring

Once the floor has been prepped and your underlayment installed, you are free to install the flooring itself. 

Some types of flooring may be constructed with a built-in locking system. Determine the non-locking side before you start and place that side toward the wall. Since you will be starting at the wall and working away from it, you should mark a line one or two inches from the wall itself. These expansion gaps will help you during installation since you will need to put spacers against each side of the hardwoods so as to not damage the walls during the snapping-in or setting process of the wood planks. Baseboards will eventually cover this expansion gap.

Once you have laid down your first line of hardwood, depending on the type, you can nail down the wood to the subfloor, putting a nail in every 6 to 8 inches. After setting your primary plank line, you need to make sure the separations in the wood are staggered so the separations in the planks don’t line up with separations on the next line of woods. Having lined-up seams will reduce the structural integrity of the floor and look unappealing, so be sure to avoid lined-up end segments. 

As you progress to the far wall, you will likely have to blind nail the last two boards or make cuts to a hardwood piece to fit the final few inches of flooring. The same process you used for installing the pilot line you should use here, nailing down the boards every 6 to 8 inches along the wall, leaving a few inches for the floorboards to be reinstalled. 

Lifestyle Floors is your destination for hardwood flooring installation

Hardwood flooring installation can be a complicated process. Without proper preparation, you may find yourself ripping out newly-installed boards due to human error. When in doubt, reach out to the professionals at Lifestyle Floors, your hardwood flooring installation experts in Colorado Springs.

We are happy to answer your questions and set you on the path to success!

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