I just finished installing my second hardwood floor, so I feel I have enough experience to tell, at least the beginner, how to do it.
- First, prepare the sub-floor. This would include pulling out all nails or staples sticking up, sanding down uneven spots, and pulling off baseboards and trim.
- Second: Lay out your boards in the general pattern that you want. This helps to visualize what the final floor will look like so you can plan out which boards to put where, which ones you need to cut, and to make sure you have enough to finish. Before you do this, lay down an underlayment layer to help with squeaks. Tar paper works for me.
- Gather your tools: I would say that the most useful tool besides a hammer and nailset, or the specialty hammer you can rent, is a good chop saw. This way, you are guaranteed straight cuts that you can do fast.
- Next, set the first row: You will need to measure the width of your boards, then take your measuring tape and take 5-7 measurements off the wall you are starting at. Then take a chalk line and snap a good clean line on the average of all your marks. Some old houses were built before they invented right angles, so if you just put the first row of boards flush with the wall, by the time you get across the room, you could be attaching the boards crooked, compared with the other three walls. So line up your first row on the chalk line and install it with brad-headed nails. Put them in at a 55* angle right above the tongue. Use a nailset to push them all the way flush so that the groove in the next board will fit perfectly. In the picture below, the nail in the back ground is set flush, and the nail in the fore ground show the correct angle.
- Hammer and cut away! If you’re doing a room of considerable size, I would recommend spending the extra bucks to rent a floor installer hammer. This is a pneumatic or hand powered nail gun that will make things go much faster. When you cut boards for the side, remember that you can leave yourself a little space because you will most likely be installing quarter round trim to finish.
- For the last board, you need to cut or chisel off the tongue so that it will fit. In some cases, you will need to use a table saw to rip the boards down to the correct width. Then use nails and your nailset to fasten them so that the holes will end up underneath the trim. For this particular room, I knew I wouldn’t have enough boards to cover the entire floor ( we bought the wood at a garage sale. 90 sq. ft. for $30) so I planned to build a window seat and built in bookshelves to take up the remaining space.