Installing Solid Wood Flooring

As part of my quixotic war on laminates, I spent a blissful afternoon installing a solid hardwood floor in our new/old closet. I know laminates have defenders, but I just can’t get behind any material that tries to look like another material. Maybe if they made laminate floors that looked like raw sheets of plywood I could support the idea.

If you want to install your own solid hardwood floor I’d suggest getting an online subscription to Fine Homebuilding just to watch their flooring installation instructional video. This is the second time I’ve installed a wood floor and here’s what I learned:

  • Layout is the hardest part.
  • Rent a pneumatic nailer. The last time I installed a floor I used a manual nailer and learned that driving 1,000 nails takes a toil on your joints.
  • Get a piece of scrap wood and practice using the pneumatic nailer. You can also use this test piece to adjust the air pressure.
  • If you’re installing a pre-finished floor, as I was yesterday, be careful not to bang up the floor as you put it in. Don’t lay hammers or crowbars on the new floor.
  • Let the flooring sit in the house for at least a few weeks before installing. I got a moisture meter to check the flooring material that I also plan on using for future furniture projects. In our case the new flooring was significantly dryer than our old drafty house.
  • Take your time. If a board doesn’t look right pull it up and try another one. Inspect each row after it goes in for defects and nailing mistakes. This isn’t a race and you’re not being paid by the hour.

I’m pleased with the results and I like the fact that sold oak flooring will last ten times as long as laminates. Over the next few weeks I’m going to replace the worn out douglas fir flooring in two other rooms with solid oak.

Let me say how thankful I am for the power of compressed air. That said, some time ago I fell into a YouTube hole, watching old films of early 20th century construction. One of the clips showed flooring being installed with just a hammer at the speed of modern workers with a pneumatic nailer. Then there’s the lost art of plastering but that would be another curmudgeony post . . .

Leave a comment


  1. Link to the old floor nailing video?

    Every time I have to do drywall I wonder about plastering. Drywall is such a dumb example of modern materials.

    We make this big flat sheet—but the joints need three coats of mud. When you see a finished wall the mud has covered half the area of the wall. And since the board is flat, any imperfections stand out like crazy.

  2. Is your old douglas fir flooring really not saveable?

    When we moved into our 1925 bungalow, we ripped up nasty broadloom carpeting in the front room and found the original douglas fir underneath. It was much stained (probably dog pee-maybe human pee?) and there had been botched attempts to refinish it. A few nail heads were showing.

    We consulted our local hardwood flooring expert who reckoned it could be saved. After several days work and hundreds of dollars spent, it was done and beautiful. However, the expert said that this was the last time it could be refinished. Although it is 3/4 inch fir flooring, there is only about 1/4 inch that can be sanded down before you hit the tongue-and groove bit and it is game over.

    This is a job that should be done by a professional flooring expert, not you or your local handyman/contractor. The drum sander used is a fearsome beast. A moment’s inattention and you are through to the joists, if not the basement!

    • We’ve lived with the doug fir for 20 years now after one attempt at saving it. Unfortunately, it’s stained, termite chewed and has been sanded to the edge of its existence so I’m afraid it has to go. And I’m definitely hiring out the sanding and staining of the new floor.

  3. Looks very nice! Good work and good tips! This is in the future for our home (not sure if near future or not) as this carpet has GOT to go. Of course, I’m waiting on the cats to finish destroying it (house-sized scratching pad!) first.

  4. Pingback: It's A Thing 6.8.18 - Are We Adults Yet

Comments are closed.