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Some types of flooring enhance a home’s value and inspire interest from prospective buyers. Hardwood flooring is a very popular choice, from standard oak to maple to more trendy woods like bamboo. Some engineered flooring has a tongue-and-groove design intended to snap together. Novice do-it-yourselfers benefit from these tips for installing hardwood floors.
Let the Wood Get Used to Your Home
Before you begin the installation, allow your supply of hardwood flooring to sit for several days in the room where you’ll later install it. Doing so allows the wood to “acclimate” itself to the unique environment of your home, including variations in temperature and humidity.
Ensure the Floor is At or Above Grade and Level
It’s inadvisable to install hardwood below grade. It also should not rest directly on concrete. Rather, make sure the subfloor is an appropriate thickness of plywood. Most big-box home supply stores have educational videos on their websites that demonstrate how to install the kind of floor you have chosen. Ensure the subfloor is level, and install underlayment and a moisture barrier recommended by the hardwood supplier.
Choose the Right Tools and Wear Safety Gear
All but the first and last rows of hardwood flooring fastens to the subfloor with flooring staples or nails (called cleats). The choice of staples vs. cleats is your decision; they each have their benefits. You can buy or rent and electric or pneumatic floor stapler from your local big-box hardware store. These are heavy-duty, dangerous tools, so equip yourself with eye protection and other appropriate safety gear, like gloves, knee pads, and work boots with toe protection. You’ll need a mallet and a tool to protect the floorboard as you whack tongue and groove together before nailing it down. Flooring staplers don’t fit into extremely tight spaces, so as you complete the floor across the room, you’ll be nailing more of the fasteners manually.
Mix it Up
Hardwood comes in bundles or cases that are fairly uniform, but the bundles will differ from each other slightly in color and grain. After the wood has been “acclimated,” open all the cases and spread boards from many of them around the room to see what type of patterns they might create.
Test the thickness of the planks, with the underlayment and moisture barrier, by each side of every doorway in the room. You’ll have to remove the baseboard to install the hardwood, but you might also have to cut off a bit of the trim surrounding the door just above the subfloor to ensure that your new floor will fit.
Install the flooring perpendicular to the joists beneath the floor for added strength. Before you start nailing flooring down, make sure you have accounted for obstacles, odd corners, and things like fireplace hearthstones. You may need a miter saw to make special cuts. Leave room for expansion from humidity at the edge nearest the wall.
These are just a few tips for installing hardwood floors to keep in mind before you start laying down your new floor. If you feel like you’re in over your head, consult a flooring professional for help.