How to correctly install a hardwood floor

How to correctly install a hardwood floor

If you’ve recently purchased a hardwood floor and would like to install it yourself, take the time to read our advice in order to carry out the best possible installation.

The first step is to prepare the room. To do that, you should:

  • Take the measurements of the room in order to ensure a flush installation
  • Position the slats on the floor before installation according to the desired pattern
  • Place the slats perpendicular to the joists to strengthen the surface and avoid warping
  • Install a second plywood ½ or attach 2×6 pieces between the joists every 24 inches for an installation that’s parallel to the joists
  • Check that the first row is correctly installed, since this will be decisive for the entire installation
  • Make sure that the last row has a width of at least 1 inch so that the slats are properly attached


The second step: lay the subfloor

Lay the OSB or plywood subfloor on a flat surface (no more than 3/16 by 10 feet difference) with a humidity rate lower than 12%. In case of a crawl space, waterproof the concrete beforehand for better air circulation. Once the installation has been carried out, clean it and install a vapour barrier such as a laminated tar paper or saturated asphalt kraft paper with superimposed joints of at least 4 inches to prevent moisture problems.

You’re now ready for the eight steps involved in installing your floor:

1. Trace the guideline

Measure the room to determine the layout of the slats, making sure that the parallel sides are equal and equidistant from the walls. Leave a ¾ space between the slats and the walls for lateral expansion and ¼ between the ends and the walls for longitudinal expansion.

2. Lay the first slat on the guideline

Choose the straightest slats to form the first line.

3. Drill straight holes

Prepare the first row by drilling pilot holes ½ inch from one side of the slat then every 10 inches, stopping 2 inches from the ends.

4. Secure the first row with finishing nails and a nail punch

Since using a nail gun is impossible near a wall, the first and last rows will have to be secured manually. Nail the first row with finishing nails, a hammer, and a nail punch to conceal them.

5. 45° drilling

Using a surface nailer, nail the next slat(s) at a 45° angle into the tenon every 8 inches, making sure that the head of the nail is pushed all the way in.

6. Nail the rows

Where space permits it, use a wood nailer and a rubber mallet. Nail the slats every 6 to 8 inches and 2 or 3 inches from the ends. Then make sure that each slat is nailed in at least two places.

7. Arrange the slats to prevent the alignment of the seals

To prevent the seals from aligning, make sure that the ends of the slats are always at a distance of at least 4 inches.

8. Nail the baseboards into the wall

Complete the last two or three rows manually, in the same way as the first few. Install the baseboards and the quarter rounds by nailing them into the wall, NEVER INTO THE FLOOR; otherwise, they’ll move with the expansion of the floor.


To successfully complete this installation, you’ll need:

• Mitre saw
• Wood nailer (manual or pneumatic)
• Vacuum cleaner or broom
• Nail punch
• Handsaw
• Square
• Hammer or pneumatic surface nailer
• Power drill
• 3/32 drill bit
• Chalk line
• Measuring tape
• Pencil
• Finishing nail, spiral nails, and 2-inch wood nails
• Vapour barrier membrane



To properly maintain your hardwood floor, it’s important to regularly check the relative humidity and keep it between 35% and 55%. To clean it, it’s not necessary to pour cleaner directly onto the floor, and never scrub it with a soaking wet mop. Finally, consider protecting the wood in front of entrances with mats.