Hardwood Flooring Installation Facts

Hardwood Flooring Installation

So you’ve chosen hardwood floors for your home. Excellent choice! But before you start planning that open house to show off your new investment, it’s important to focus on the installation process. Being prepared will create less stress for you — and your installer! 

Go Pro

Installing hardwood floors is an art. Why hire anyone to install yours but a seasoned artist with skills developed through years of experience? Go with a professional who can guarantee a beautiful, efficient and correct installation. You’ll be glad you did.  Your specialty flooring retailer can coordinate the installation process for you.  Click here to find a professional hardwood flooring installer in your area.

Here are the four primary methods of hardwood floor installation:

1. Nail Down: 3/4" solid wood strips or planks are typically installed by using 2” nailing cleats, a wood flooring nailer and a mallet to attach them to a subfloor. Adapters are available for thinner products, as well. Solid strips and planks can only be nailed to wooden subfloors on or above grade.

2. Staple Down: With this method, 1-1/2 to 2 inch staples are used to attach the wood flooring to the subfloor. A pneumatic gun drives the staples into the hardwood and subfloor. Not all wood flooring manufacturers recommend the same staple gun, so hiring professional installers will help guarantee that the right staple gun and right size staples are used.

3. Glue Down: Here, adhesive or a natural resin (called “mastic”) is spread with the proper trowel to adhere your hardwood to the subfloor. This technique is typically used to install engineered and parquets since solid strip and plank floors can only be nailed or stapled down.  There are a number of adhesives on the market. Your installer will use the one recommended specifically for your flooring. Failure to use the manufacturer’s recommended adhesive and trowel size could void any warranties you may have.

4. Floating: With this technique, your hardwood floor is not mechanically fastened to any part of the subfloor. In other words, it “floats.” A thin pad is placed between the hardwood and the subfloor. Then, a recommended wood glue is applied in the tongue and groove of each strip or plank to hold the pieces together.

A floating floor offers fast and easy installation and has its advantages. It’s protected against moisture; it reduces noise transmission; it’s softer underfoot; and it provides for some additional "R" value. Some engineered floors and all Longstrip floors can be floated.


All hardwood products need to be acclimated to their new environment for at least four or five days prior to installation so that the natural material can expand or condense prior to installation. Professional installers will open all the boxes to achieve this process. Any loose products will be divided into smaller lots and stored in the designated room.


Prior to installation, it’s important to relocate all furniture and other objects from the rooms where new flooring is to be installed. It’s always best that you do your own moving to ensure nothing gets broken in the process, though some installers will do it for you at an additional charge.  Assuming you purchased your flooring through a specialty retailer, this is just one of several items they will coordinate with you prior to beginning the installation.

Before moving your furniture, be sure to empty the contents of china cabinets, closets, etc. Also, be aware that the installation area must be climate controlled (heated or air conditioned). Indoor humidity should be maintained between 45-65%.

Goodbye Hello

What do you plan to do with your old floor covering? Rip it out? Install your new floors over it?

If you’re going to remove your old floors, do it at least one day prior to arrival of your hardwood to allow for time cleanup and floor preparation. If removing old carpet, leave tacks in place and pull the staples out of the floor from the padding. Your installers may remove your old flooring for you for an additional fee.

Need A Trim?

In most cases, moldings and baseboards need to be removed prior to hardwood installation. Your installer may do this at an additional charge, but will most likely not be responsible for damage or breakage. Painted baseboards and woodwork may need patching and painting after the installation is complete. This is typically your responsibility.


Existing subfloors may require preparation to receive the hardwood, or a new subfloor may be required. Be sure to discuss your unique situation with your specialty flooring retailer or installer. Subfloors need to be as clean and level as possible.


There’s always the possibility that doors, especially closet, basement and bedroom doors, may not clear your new hardwood floors. Some installers will remove doors in order to install the hardwood and then re-hang them — if possible. Check with your specialty flooring retailer or installer about their policy and cost. You may require a qualified carpenter to shave or cut your doors down after installation.

The Clean Up

Installing new hardwood floors will create a mess inside and possibly outside your home. Typically, waste materials are collected by your installer and disposed of for a fee. Confirm this prior to installation so that you understand the terms of the agreement.  

Take the Day Off

Plan to stay home on installation day. Inevitably there will be questions to answer and decisions to be made. Your presence will help ensure that your new floors are correctly installed in all the right areas.  

Safety First

Hardwood floor installers use a variety of tools and techniques that can make the work area hazardous. Be sure that children and pets are kept out of the work area. In you’re installing floors in the kitchen, for example, plan to have food and drink available in another room so that entering the kitchen during work hours won’t be necessary.

Walk Thru

Prior to the completion of the installation, it’s important to walk the job site with the chief installer. This “walk thru” gives you an opportunity to ask questions, point out any unsatisfactory aspects of the work and ultimately “buy off” on the overall job.


If you or family members are sensitive to dust or odors, good ventilation should be established for 48 to 72 hours after installation of your new hardwood floors.

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Overall Rating: 3.8 stars - 16 reviews

Date: September 24, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
This article must have been written by an installer. I am removing old carpet installed over particle board, the sub flooring is 2x8 tongue and groove. very helpful article.
Date: December 5, 2015
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
very Informative
Date: November 6, 2015
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Date: March 16, 2015
Page Rating: (3.5/5)
There was no info about replacing old 3/4" wood that may be under cabinets. Cut around??
Date: July 25, 2014
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Very Good Advice!
Date: June 23, 2014
Page Rating: (4.0/5)
Please explain the best way to clean walls and other surfaces covered with the dust created from sanding the wood floor before finishing!
Date: May 15, 2014
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
Need to be able to use cac
Date: December 6, 2013
Page Rating: (1.0/5)
Not enough said about subfloors and stairs
Date: May 20, 2013
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
Need to replace my wooden floor and this was a great information to have.
Date: March 20, 2013
Page Rating: (3.0/5)
was looking for guidance on grain direction and room transitions. nothing mentioned.

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