How Hard Is It to Install a Wood Floor?

By: Danny Lipford


I would like to attempt to install hardwood floors in my family and living rooms. I’ve never done this before, is it possible for me to do this myself? -Sherida

Hi Sherida,
Installing wood (or wood-like) floors can range from a fairly easy DIY project to one that requires a good bit of carpentry and finishing skills. Here are the three options that are commonly available from easiest to hardest to install:

  • Laminate flooring is by far the simplest to install. While not really wood but made from the same material as plastic laminate countertops, it’s gotten pretty realistic looking in recent years. Laminate is a “floating” floor that locks together without nails or glue, so it can be installed on top of most existing floors and taken back up if needed. Be sure to follow all the instructions that come with it, particularly with regard to allowing time for it to adjust to the room’s temperature and humidity before installing.
  • Engineered wood flooring would be your next best choice for a do-it-yourself project. It consists of a thin veneer of hardwood glued to a substrate made of wood plies (much like plywood). It is available prefinished and can be nailed or glued down. Some types like Lyptus Flooring even lock together without fasteners similar to a laminate floor.
  • Solid hardwood flooring is the most difficult of all to install. It’s usually attached with a special flooring nailer then sanded with a drum type floor sander and finished. The sanding process can be tricky if you haven’t done it before, and since the smoothness of the sanding can make or break the look of a wood floor, you might want to consider hiring that part out even if you decide to lay and finish the floor yourself.

Good luck with your project,

Danny

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9 Comments on “How Hard Is It to Install a Wood Floor?”

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  • Rick Delgado Says:
    October 4th, 2010 at 5:52 am

    I started laying down some engineered wood floor and after glueing a few rows I try to install a long plank but it sort of teeter-totters at the ends. It is plush in the middle of the plank agains the other planks but the ends have gaps where if I tap and try to close the gap for one of the ends the gap for the other end gets bigger. How can I fix this?

    Thanks.


  • Official Comment:


    Ben Erickson Says:
    July 4th, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Hi Sandra,
    Today’s Homeowner took on a similiar project in our Today’s Addition Project. Basically, we started by gluing and nailing treated plywood to the slab. The plywood track and PEX tubing for the radiant floor heating system were then installed on top of the plywood subfloor. Finally, engineered wood flooring was glued to the radiant flooring track. In addition to the above links, more information on how we went about it can be found in episodes (637) Today’s Addition (Part 1) and (638) Today’s Addition (Part 2).



  • Sandra Landry Says:
    July 4th, 2009 at 1:48 am

    Hello, prior to purchasing our home the garage was enclosed to make a family room. It serves the purpose well except in the winter it is very cold. I would like to remove the indoor/outdoor carpet and put in heated hardwood flooring, however, the existing floor base is concrete. It also has 2 sets of concrete steps that now go into the laundry room and into the kitchen and a door that exits to the outside. I haven’t a clue what to do or where to start. Please make this sound simple so I can convince my husband that I need more than his big strong arms around me in the winter! (Of course that will not be too hard, because he is freezing, too!)
    Many thanks,
    Sandra


  • Official Comment:


    Ben Erickson Says:
    June 11th, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Hi Vanessa,
    The best case scenario is when the tops of adjoining floors are level with each other in which case you can simply butt the wood floor up to the tile, and, cover the joint with a thin strip of matching wood. If one floor will be higher than the other, you will need to make the threshold from a thicker piece of wood and notch the bottom so it fits snugly to both sides. You can also find some premade thresholds and seam strips in wood and metal at home improvement stores. Good luck with your project.



  • Vanessa P Says:
    June 10th, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Hi, I just bought a home and would like to install hardwood flooring. The living room currently has ceramic tile, bedrooms have carpet that I plan to remove. My concern is the transitioning from rooms. I would like to replace mostly all of the house with wood, except bathrooms and possibly the kitchen which has the same ceramic tile as the living room.


  • Official Comment:


    Ben Erickson Says:
    June 8th, 2009 at 8:15 am

    Hi Kenneth,
    Having sanded and finished my own floors in the past, I would go with prefinished flooring. The finish on prefinished wood floors tends to be harder and more durable than off the shelf polyurethane that you can apply yourself. It will also save you the added expense of having the flooring sanded and finished, as well as the inconvenience of waiting for multiple coats of finish to dry. Having also had a golden retriever in the past, I should mention that his habit of running around the house chasing our son scratched the floors (he was a young dog at the time, so yours may be more sedate). That can happen, however, whether the flooring is prefinished or not, just keep in mind that it can be a problem.



  • Kenneth Meador Says:
    June 6th, 2009 at 1:46 am

    Hi Ben,
    I just bought my first home. It is located in Oklahoma and I am currently finishing up my last month in Iraq and then a few more months in the Army. My question is: My wife wants to replace the carpets throughout our house with hardwood. We have a golden retriver and 6 year old boy. Is pre-finished hardwood my best option? The reasoning behind the hardwood is mostly allergy related. Thanks for your time.


  • Official Comment:


    Ben Erickson Says:
    June 3rd, 2009 at 8:05 am

    Hi Chris,
    The surface veneer and finish on engineered wood floors are very hard and durable, so it should hold up well in a high traffic area. However, once the finish does become worn and needs refinishing, engineered floors are more tricky to sand since you have to be careful not to sand through the veneer to the substrate below.



  • Chris Oselett Says:
    June 2nd, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Would you reccomend an a Engineered wood floor for a high traffic area. I would like to do this myself. So i jnow I can do this.


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