Installing hardwood floors is easier than, say, trimming out your windows and doors.

But it’s not quite the cakewalk that the big-carton stores lead you to believe (yes, even those click-together engineered floors can be challenging).

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you dive in.

Are you comfortable with a table saw?

Even simple install projects will eventually involve ripping a board down its long length. You can’t do this safely with a circular saw – and please don’t try.

We generally tell people that if you have to learn to use a table saw to do a floor project, they should consider hiring someone.

Is your subfloor good enough?

A tight, smooth hardwood floor is entirely dependent on a sound, even subfloor, which is the layer of wood that sits directly on your floor joists.

Neither particle board nor 5/8″ oriented strand board (OSB) is an adequate subfloor for a solid hardwood floor –they are just too crumbly to hold tight to your fasteners. It would be like firing nails into shortbread.

If your subfloor is inadequate, your only hope is to remove it and replace with 3/4” plywood, but this is not a task for a first-timer. Scroll down to read Pete’s Bonus Tip ‘More subfloor knowledge’.

How complex is the room’s layout?

You may be installing what appears to be a simple square room, but make sure you take these complicating factors into consideration:

  • Installing around kitchen islands or pillars? Getting the flooring to meet up correctly on the other side takes great care. The bigger the obstacle, the bigger the potential misalignment.
  • Installing under toekicks or around built-in kitchen banquettes? It can be difficult to get fastening tools into these tight spaces, even a hammer.
  • Starting from the bullnose at the top of a stairwell
  • Framing a fireplace hearth
  • Framing any fixed diagonal features
  • Going through doorways
  • Removing radiators (no, you cannot install around them!)
  • Installing flush mount vents

Get a one-on-one phone consultation with a hardwood flooring expert.

Sometimes you need a second opinion on a specific wood floor problem, insight before hiring a professional for your job—or you have a question that Google can’t quite answer.

For a small fee of $25, we can provide the wisdom and knowledge that you need to complete your hardwood flooring project.

When you don’t know what you need to do next, that’s when it’s time to call Pete’s Hardwood Floor Help Hotline.

Pete’s Bonus Tips

More subfloor knowledge

Subfloors are not created equally and some will hold your new hardwood better than others:

BEST:

3/4" plywood is the gold standard of subfloors, but you should still resecure it to the joists with screws before you proceed with installation - squeaks are easier to prevent than they are to fix.

JUST BELOW BEST:

Homes built in the 1940s or earlier usually have 1x6s laid diagonally across the joists for subfloor. This gives you plenty of thickness to hold a 3/4" solid hardwood, but those 1x6s can often be cupped and distorted and so you’ll want to grind down any uneven spots (edgers are great for this).

Those older subfloors were usually nailed to the joists and will have loosened over time so take the time to resecure them with screws, especially if any butt joins are "piano-keyed".

GOOD:

Oriented Strand Board or OSB is technically a type of particle board, but it is considered an adequate subfloor if it is thick enough. If your subfloor is 3/4" OSB, your hardwood floor is more likely to move and develop squeaks over time because the the fibers in the OSB are somewhat friable and fasteners will tend to crush and stretch their openings over time.

As always, resecure with screws before you attach your hardwood floor to it.

Get a one-on-one phone consultation with a hardwood flooring expert.

For a small fee of $25, we can provide the wisdom and knowledge that you need to complete your hardwood flooring project.

When you don’t know what you need to do next, that’s when it’s time to call Pete’s Hardwood Floors Help Hotline.

An actual flooring contractor will answer all of your questions!

We have a crack staff with a range of specialties, from carpentry through floor machine maintenance, and we can troubleshoot just about any hardwood flooring mystery thrown our way.

If you are stuck or struggling with your hardwood floor project, one call could save you hours in the long run.

Buy online, or stop by our cute store in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Pete's sells supplies online across the continental U.S., and rents equipment to Minneapolis/St. Paul DIYers. Our store at 186 Fairview Avenue North in St. Paul, MN is at the corner of Fairview and Selby.

It's just the cutest sander rental shop you'll ever visit. Call us at 651-698-5888.

Store hours:

  • Monday - Friday: 8:30-5
  • Saturday: 8:30-3
  • Sunday: Closed