Take a Challenge By Installing Hardwood Flooring Yourself

Do you have a couple of unfinished bonus room above your garage? What do you think about installing the oak hardwood flooring in there? So, and what do you say about installing hardwood flooring yourself? Well, it wouldn’t terribly difficult, but it would have its challenges. So, for anyone else, who might be taking on the task, here’s a rundown of what you can do.


First off, why hardwoods? What if wall-to-wall carpet is much better? Carpet can be a good easy option. Besides, hardwood is a good choice for a cozy bonus room. Let’s find out WHY.


Engineered vs. Solid Wood Flooring

As it was discussed in different internet guides, the two main types of hardwood flooring—solid and engineered—differ significantly.

Engineered wood flooring is often thinner than solid wood flooring. It is manufactured with a thin surface layer of hardwood and a core that’s more like plywood. If you intend to install the floor yourself, engineered-wood flooring is usually the best bet because it is pre-finished, eliminating the need for sanding and finishing the floor, which dramatically simplifies the job.

In addition, because engineered-wood flooring is made from layers of wood sandwiched and bonded together, it is more stable than solid wood and resistant to changes caused by extreme temperatures and humidity. Engineered flooring, at best, can only be sanded and refinished once or twice because its finish layer is very thin (from 1/16″ to 3/16″). Engineered-wood flooring (or other flooring materials, such as tile or vinyl) may be installed above or below grade. This often plays an important role.

Solid wood flooring is a traditional favorite. It usually is thicker than engineered flooring and is clearly cut from a single board of hardwood. Solid-wood flooring has a tendency to warp, twist, expand, and contract with changes in moisture and temperature. On the flip side, solid flooring can be sanded and refinished multiple times. Bathrooms and kitchens are another story. Though moisture is present in both areas, you can protect the surface of a solid-wood floor with a sturdy, protective finish.


Because installing hardwood flooring is usually a major, expensive home improvement, it pays to ensure a quality, durable result. If you are going to install hardwood flooring yourself, it needs proper preparation. You can find a lot of helpful videos and reading materials about hot to install and what instruments you need.

New wood flooring should be laid on a clean, smooth, level, structurally sound base. Depending on the particular flooring, this base may be a previous floor covering, an existing wood floor in good condition, a new plywood subfloor, or even a moisture-proofed concrete slab.

By installing wood over an existing floor, you bypass the messy job of removing the old flooring, and you gain instant soundproofing and insulation from the old floor. A disadvantage to leaving old flooring in place is that you must correct any irregularities in it. Also, the new floor will raise the flooring level, making the transition to a hallway or an adjoining room awkward.


Whether or not you’re installing over old flooring, the first step in preparing floors for hardwood is to remove doors and base shoe molding. Number the molding pieces so you can easily replace them when you’re finished. Make sure that the use and conditions of the room won’t have a negative impact on the flooring during installation. Thus, too much foot traffic on a new floor or excessive temperature or humidity swings can diminish the quality of—and sometimes even ruin—wood flooring. Proper preparation techniques depend upon the type of flooring you’re installing and the conditions of the base that will be beneath it.


Most wood flooring goes on a typical raised, wood-framed subfloor that is surfaced with plywood or OSB (oriented-strand board) subflooring panels. The subfloor must be clean, dry, flat, structurally sound, squeak-free, and clear of any surface bumps or fasteners. Use a long, straight board and a carpenter’s level to check for any dips or rises. Sand down bumps and fill dips with leveling compound.



The conditions of your house must be ready for hardwood flooring before the material is delivered. In fact, wood flooring is typically one of the last installations during a remodel. To avoid physical damage to the surface, be sure it goes in after all construction and completed installation of any fixtures and appliances that will not sit on top of it. Heat and humidity can dramatically affect expansion and contraction of hardwood flooring.


Wood flooring—especially solid wood flooring—is very susceptible to moisture problems. Unless the manufacturer specifies otherwise, wood flooring must be allowed to adjust to the house’s normal humidity level before installation to prevent expansion and contraction that can spoil the final job. This means any packaging should be removed and the wood should be stacked for several days in the room where it will be installed. Do not store it in the garage or an exterior patio.


The instructions given here are generic for nailing solid-wood flooring to a plywood or OSB subfloor. Before beginning, read the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular flooring.


A power miter saw makes smooth and straight cuts.

Of course, you need special instruments to do that. To rip flooring, use a power saw that has a fence, such as a job saw or table saw. For crosscuts, equip a power circular saw with a carbide-tipped 40-tooth blade or, even better, use a power miter (“chop”) saw with the same type of blade. Cut the boards face down with a circular saw or face up with a job saw, table saw, or power miter saw. Be sure all end cuts are precisely square (at a 90-degree angle).

For making curved or irregular cuts, you can use a portable saber saw (jigsaw). The blade on this type of tool cuts on the upstroke, often splintering the top surface. So, if the cut will not be covered by molding, be sure to turn the flooring face down during cutting. If the cut won’t be visible, it’s usually easier to work with the flooring face up.

Once all the boards are in, it is just a matter of cleaning everything up. Then it is on to installing the baseboard, quarter round, and window molding. So if you’re about to undertake a hardwood floor installation, just ready yourself for some heavy box hauling, tedious hand-nailing, and exhilarating mallet smacking. So, do you still think of installing hardwood flooring yourself?

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