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Installing Hardwood Flooring

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installing hardwood flooring
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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 193 Projects

Tongue-and-groove hardwood flooring has always been popular with homeowners. It offers an attractive look, is one of the longest lasting floor coverings, and can be stripped and refinished to look like new. Oak has been the most common type of strip flooring because of its durability and wood graining, and it’s the species most people think of when hardwood is mentioned. Other woods, such as maple, cherry, and birch, are also becoming popular. Exotic species of wood from around the world are now finding their way into American homes as people want a premium strip or plank floor that is unique and stylish, and expresses their personalities. The more than sixty exotic hardwoods include Brazilian cherry, Australian cypress, Honduran mahogany, tobacco wood, teak, zebrawood, and bamboo—which is not really wood but a type of grass. This section describes how to install nailed down tongue-and-groove flooring, how to install a decorative medallion, and how to install tongue-and-groove strip flooring over troweled-on adhesive. Customizing your floor with borders, accents, and medallions is easier than you may think. A number of manufacturers produce a variety of decorative options made to match the thickness of your floor.

How to Install Hardwood Strip Flooring

  1. HG0202094A

    Staple the paper to the subfloor, overlapping edges by 4". Cut the paper with a utility knife to butt against the walls.

  2. HG0202094B

    Make a mark on the floor 1⁄2" from the starter wall at both ends of the wall. Snap a chalk line between the marks. Nail 8d finish nails every 2" to 3" along the chalk line to mark the location for your first row.

  3. HG0202094C

    Lay out the first 8 rows of flooring in a dry run with the groove side facing the wall. Make sure the first row of boards is straight. Arrange the boards to get a good color and grain mix. Offset the ends by at least 6".

  4. HG0202094D

    Drill pilot holes in the flooring every 6" to 8", about 1⁄2" from the groove edge. Face nail the first row until the nail heads are just above the boards, then sink them using a nail set. (Be careful not to hit the boards with your hammer or you’ll mark the surface.)

  5. HG0202094E

    Drill pilot holes every 6" to 8" directly above the tongue, keeping the drill at a 45° angle.

  6. HG0202094F

    TIP: To install crooked boards, drill pilot holes above the tongue and insert nails. Fasten a scrap board to the subfloor using screws. Force the floor board straight using a pry bar and a scrap board placed in front of the flooring. With pressure on the floor board, blind nail it into place.

  7. HG0202094G

    Keep the nail heads 1⁄2" out, then set them just below the surface, using a nail set.

  8. HG0202094H

    Set the second row of boards in place against the starter row, fitting together the tongue and groove connections. Use a scrap board and wood mallet to tap the floor boards together. Drill pilot holes and blind nail the boards. Do this for the next few rows.

  9. HG0202094I

    To install the last board in a row, place the tongue and groove joints together, then place a flooring pull bar over the end of the board. Hit the end of the pull bar with a hammer until the board slides into place. Stay 1⁄2" away from the walls.

  10. HG0202094J

    Once you have several rows installed and have enough room, use a power nailer. Place the nailer lip over the edge of the board and strike it with a mallet. Drive a nail 2" from the end of each board and about every 8" in the field. Keep a few rows of flooring laid out ahead of you as you work, and keep the joints staggered.

  11. HG0202094K

    When you’re out of room for the power nailer, drill pilot holes and blind nail the boards. For the last rows, drill pilot holes in the top of the boards, 1⁄2" from the tongue, and face nail them. The last row may need to be ripped to size. Pull the last row into place using the flooring pull bar, leaving a 1⁄2" gap along the wall. Drill pilot holes and face nail.

  12. HG0202094L

    Install a reducer strip or transition strip between the wood floor and an adjoining room. Cut the strip to size. Fit the strip’s groove over the floor board’s tongue, then drill pilot holes and face nail. Set the nails with a nail set. Fill all visible nail holes with wood putty.

  13. HG0202094M

    TIP: To install around an object, cut a notch in the board. For larger obstacles, cut 45° miters in boards so grooves face away from the object. Rip tongues off the boards. Set the boards against the object and flooring, fitting mitered ends together. Drill pilot holes and face nail in place. Apply silicone caulk between the floor and board edge.

  14. HG0202094N

    TIP: To reverse directions of the tongue and groove for doorways, glue a spline into the groove of the board. Fit the groove of the next board onto the spline, then nail the board in place.

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