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Hardwood Installation – What to Expect

Now that you’ve chosen the perfect hardwood product for your home, you may be wondering what exactly happens next. Having a better understanding of what follows can help you properly prepare for the most important part of your flooring purchase, the installation of your hardwood flooring.

Choose the Materials

There are many types of hardwood flooring available, ranging from prefinished, laminate (also called engineered) strips and planks. In other words, everything from thin plywood with a hardwood veneer layer on top, to solid-wood strips and planks. In the past, if you wanted to install your own solid-wood flooring you also had to take on the task of sanding and finishing it. Today you can get solid-hardwood flooring prefinished in a variety of stain colors with a durable, long-lasting factory-warranted finish.

Like unfinished hardwood floors, the prefinished types typically have tongue-and-groove edges on all sides. They are available in 3/4-inch thickness, as well as low-profile styles that are 5/16- to 5/8-inch thick, which are a good or installing over existing flooring. Solid wood floors should not be installed in basements or below grade. Thinner styles can be glued to the sub-flooring. Full-thickness floors are installed using a special nailing tool that locks each strip tightly against the previously installed strip and, in the same motion, inserts a cleat nail or narrow-crown staple through the tongue joint into the sub-flooring.

Be careful to avoid damaging the finished surface during installation. Otherwise, installing prefinished hardwood is no more difficult than installing unfinished strips. Both require some carpentry experience.


Before any work begins, the installer will typically visit your home to inspect the jobsite and measure the flooring area. Feel free to ask any questions concerning the installation process including the installer’s expected time table. In general, once the project has begun, every room in which a flooring installation will be taking place should be off limits to you and your family until the installation is complete. Regardless of your installer’s estimation, there is always the possibility of unforeseen problems so make sure you build in an extra few days into your time table. You will need to set aside some time to move any furniture out of the installation room rooms and possibly contract a third party to assist in moving any heavy appliances or electrical devices that may need to be rewired. It is important to have the room clear before the installers arrive, unless you have arranged for them to move the furniture as part of the installation. All flooring needs to acclimate to your home before it is installed. This means it will need to rest somewhere, usually in an unused room, for several days while it adjusts to the temperature and moisture conditions of your home. This is crucial to insuring the proper installation of your hardwood and one of the most critical steps in the installation process. Depending on the type of hardwood you have purchased the next several days could possibly be rather noisy and disrupting as the contractor cuts and installs your flooring. Most installers will set up outside and use dust containment equipment; however, you should still expect a small amount of dust to collect as the flooring is installed. If there are any issues with your subfloor, they will need to be dealt with at this point before the installation can continue. Once the work is complete your installer may advise you to stay off your newly installed floors for a small amount of time to allow any adhesives that might have been used to set. As you move your furniture back into your newly resurfaced room, it might be a good time to consider felt or rubber pads on the bottom of any furniture that will come in direct contact with your new floors. This will help minimize any scratches or dents that may occur. It is also a good idea to test any appliances that were moved during the installation process to insure there are not leaks or electrical problems. After all, you don’t want to risk damaging your beautiful new floors.

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