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8-Step Wood Flooring Installation Process: Measuring Up, Floor Prep, Tools, Cost, Maintenance

20/11/2023

With its rich patina and timeless elegance, wood flooring never goes out of style. It can elevate any décor and add a lot of character and value to your home with its natural warmth and classic beauty. 

Wood flooring is sturdy and long-lasting if maintained properly, lasting up to 100 years or more. And even though it can be scratched, the scratches can add a touch of antique charm, especially as the wood ages. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the wood flooring installation process, from its main steps to whether or not it’s DIY-friendly.

1. Choosing Your Flooring

First order of business, you need to choose the right type of wood flooring for your project. There are several factors to consider here as indicated below. 

  1. Type of Wood

Solid hardwood, engineered wood, and laminate floors each have their pros and cons. Solid hardwood is the way to go for maximum longevity, whereas engineered wood is perfect for dimensional stability, especially with radiant heat or concrete subfloor installations. If you’re on a tight budget, laminate floors are a good option. 

  1. Width of Floorboards

Deciding on the width of the floorboards will boil down to aesthetic preferences. Wide-plank floors, around 125mm to 200mm, offer a dramatic and rustic look, but they’re more costly than traditional floors (70mm to 100mm).

  1. Quality Grade

Higher grades of wood have a uniform, almost flawless appearance but come with a high price tag. Lower grades tend to have knots and visible character marks. Choose the grade that suits your budget and desired look. 

  1. Colour and Finish

Do you want your flooring to be light (e.g., natural oak) or dark (e.g., walnut)? Also, do you want a glossy finish that offers shine and depth or a matte/satin finish with a more subtle lustre? 

Along with the above-listed factors, which relate mainly to the characteristics of wood, there are non-wood-related factors that should influence your choice of flooring, namely: 

  • Room Type

Living rooms and bedrooms allow more flexibility in flooring choices compared to high-moisture areas like bathrooms and kitchens. Solid hardwood and engineered wood are suitable for most rooms, while LVT and laminate are suited for kitchens and bathrooms. 

  • Room Size

For smaller rooms, we highly recommend going with wide-plank floors. Narrow-plank floors can make small rooms feel cramped, while wide planks will make them look more commodious. 

  • Style

Wide-plank, matte-finish floors are best suited for contemporary spaces. For traditional homes, glossy-finish classic oak, maple, or cherry floors are a good fit. For more rustic styles, opt for distressed or hand-scraped wood. 

  • Environment

Houses with kids or pets may warrant more scratch-resistant wood finishes. As for houses in humid climates, they should opt for wood varieties that offer high dimensional stability, like red oak and ash. 

  • Lighting

The amount of natural and artificial lighting can affect how a wood floor looks. For example, darker stains typically show more detail in bright light. 

2. Measuring Up

The next step in a typical wood flooring installation involves taking measurements to calculate how much flooring you need and a rough estimate of the cost. 

  1. Calculate the Square Meterage 

Using a tape measure or a laser distance measurer, measure the length and width of each room you’re looking to refloor. We recommend taking measurements in multiple spots as most rooms aren’t perfectly rectangular. You then multiply the average length by the average width to get the square meterage. 

Example: If the room's length is 6m and the width is 4m, the square meterage would be 24m². For irregular rooms, check out this video tutorial

  1. Account for Cutting Waste

The figure you calculated in the previous step isn’t the final figure. You still need to account for cutting waste and defects. To do so, add 5-10% to the square meterage. If you’re working with parquets as opposed to planks, you should add 12-15%. 

  1. Figure Out Flooring Direction

Perpendicular flooring draws the eye from side to side across a room. This has the effect of making a room appear larger. Parallel flooring draws the eye ahead in the direction of entryways or windows. It helps add depth to smaller spaces. The latter is the more traditional choice for most installations. 

To figure out how much flooring you need, calculate the square meterage, add the 5-15% cutting waste factor, and then multiply the result by the width of the flooring board to get a linear value. 

Here’s an example:

  1. Room is 5 metres in length and 4 metres in width = 20 square metres.
  2. 10% cutting waste factor = 2 additional square metres.
  3. Total adjusted square meterage is 22 square metres.
  4. Assume the flooring boards are 20cm wide = 0.2m.
  5. Multiply total square meterage (22) by board width (0.2) = 4.4 linear metres. 

So, to cover a room that measures 20 square metres using 20cm-wide boards with a 10% waste factor, you would need to purchase approximately 4.4 linear metres of flooring. 

To calculate the cost of your purchase, simply multiply the number of linear metres by the price per linear metre. If the price per linear metre is £50, for instance, you would spend £220 for 4.4 linear metres. 

Note: If the flooring is sold by the square metre, simply multiply the total adjusted square meterage—22 square metres in the example above—by the cost per square metre. 

3. Selecting Tools

Now that you’ve purchased enough flooring material for your project, it’s time to gather the tools necessary for the installation. Some of the tools listed below will already be in your toolbox.

  1. Tape Measure

You should already have a tape measure if you’ve carried out the previous step. You use it, along with a carpenter's square and some chalk, to measure and mark straight lines during the installation. 

  1. Dust Mask

When using power tools on wood, dust particles are going to fly everywhere. You definitely wouldn’t want to inhale that dust, so be sure to have a dust mask handy. Ear protection is also recommended. 

  1. Table/Miter Saw

You’ll need a table saw or mitre saw to cut wood planks to size and mitre their edges. We’d recommend getting a sliding mitre saw for wide cross-cuts. 

  1. Jamb Saw

This is a specialised hand saw that’s used to undercut door jambs so that flooring can fit underneath them. This isn’t necessary, but it makes for a clean finish. 

  1. Flooring Nailer/Stapler

You’ll need a nailer or stapler to secure tongue-and-groove hardwood planks to the subfloor. Make sure to purchase nails/staples that are compatible with your flooring thickness. 

  1. Rubber Mallet

This is a soft hammer that you’ll use to tap the flooring together. Avoid using a hammer that has a metal head to prevent dents and damage. 

  1. Tapping Block and Pull Bar

You’ll use these tools with the rubber mallet to tap the wooden planks tightly together and pull them into place while avoiding damage. 

  1. Power Drill/Driver

You’ll use the power drill/drive to screw the flooring planks to the subfloor. We recommend having a selection of drill bits on hand for a smooth installation. 

  1. Moisture Metre

You’ll use this metre to test the moisture content of the subfloor and wooden planks before installation. Wagner and Lingomat are popular brand names to consider. 

  1. Pry Bar

Useful for removing existing floorboards and mouldings. We recommend getting one with a flattened end for easier floorboard/moulding removal.  

  1. Utility Knife

While not an essential tool, you may need it for trimming excess flooring and underlayment. Make sure to use fresh blades for clean cuts. 

  1. Wood Flooring Cleaner

Lastly, you’ll need a flooring cleaner to clean the finished floors after you’re done with the installation. Two of our favourite hardwood floor cleaner brands are Bona and Bruce. 

4. Subfloor Preparation

The subfloor is a building’s foundational floor. It’s typically made up of plywood or concrete. Subfloor preparation, as the name suggests, is the process of getting the subfloor ready for the new flooring materials (i.e., wood). 

There are several ways to prepare your subfloor for wood flooring, from making sure it’s level and in good condition to ensuring it’s clean and dry. 

A typical subfloor preparation involves ensuring that the subfloor is:

  1. Flat and level, using a straight edge or a spirit level. 
  2. Dry, using a moisture metre. 
  3. Clean, by sweeping and removing surface dirt, chemicals, and adhesives. 

5. Underlay or Glue

Underlayment is a material that’s installed between the subfloor and wood flooring to provide moisture protection and sound absorption. Glue or adhesives, on the other hand, are used to bond the wood flooring boards directly to the subfloor. 

If you’re having a hard time choosing between the two, consider their pros and cons:

MethodProsCons
Underlayment– Cushioning and isolation- Noise and echo reduction- Allows for floating floor installation– More expensive than adhesives- May also require adhesive for stability- Slightly increases floor height 
Adhesion– Strong bond to subflooring- Direct glue-down installation- No need for underlayment– Messy application process- Fumes require ventilation- The floors cannot be floated

Both application methods ensure a smooth and stable finished floor. Choosing between them will boil down to the specific type of flooring being installed and personal preference. 

Go for underlayment if you’re looking to create a buffer layer between the wood flooring and the subflooring. But if you’re looking for a direct attachment method, adhesion is your best bet. 

6. Laying Wood Flooring

After you’ve prepared your subflooring, settled on an application method, and determined the optimal direction for the flooring boards based on the size and shape of the space, it’s time to lay the wood flooring.

Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Remove Baseboards and Trim

You first need to pry off existing baseboards, door trim, and thresholds using the pry bar. Be careful not to damage the trim pieces as you’ll reinstall them later. Also, be sure not to damage the walls. 

  1. Lay the Starter Row

From a corner, start laying the first row of boards against the straightest wall in the room, with spacers placed against the walls to allow for expansion gaps. Make sure this starter row is as straight as possible, as this will affect the rest of the installation. 

  1. Stagger the End Joints

The end seams between the boards of each consecutive row should be staggered by at least 150 to 300mm. This ensures stability and prevents aligned seams, which could crack over time. 

  1. Use Fasteners

As you lay each board, use a stapler or nail gun to place fasteners every 100 to 150mm along the boards. You can also use temporary fixing cleats. 

  1. Secret Nail at the Tongue

Secret nailing is a technique where you nail through the tongue of the floorboard at an angle so that the nail heads are concealed once the adjoining board is installed. 

  1. Knock the Boards Into Place

Using the tapping block, gently knock the boards into place. Once again, you don’t want to use a hammer in this step as it can damage the surface of the boards. 

  1. Cut Final Row

Measure and cut the final row of boards to fit snugly against the wall while accounting for the spacer gaps. You may need to use the pry bar to manoeuvre into place. 

  1. Reinstall the Trim

Once you’re done with the steps above, simply renail all skirting boards, thresholds, and door trim to cover the expansion gaps along the walls and doors. 

7. Finishing Wooden Flooring

Finishing is the process of sanding, staining, and applying protective sealant to the wood flooring. If the flooring you bought is already sanded and stained, you’ll only need to apply a sealant. 

Here’s what this process entails:

  1. Sand the Flooring

Use a coarse to fine sandpaper to smoothen the surface of the flooring. You’ll need to vacuum after each sanding to keep the place free of wood particles. 

  1. Apply Stain

If desired, you can use water or oil-based stains to achieve the specific look you want. We recommend testing on samples first. We also recommend applying the stain along with, not against, the wood grain. 

  1. Seal the Floor

Next, you need to seal the floor so that moisture doesn’t seep in between the boards. You can use water-based polyurethane or moisture-cured urethane (for humid environments). 

  1. Apply Wax Finish

This step is optional, but waxing helps give you a classic, low-sheen look that’s quite appealing. We recommend it for low-traffic areas. 

Comprehensive wood flooring installation process in the UK - measuring, floor prep, tools, cost, maintenance. DIY guide for a perfect wooden floor transformation.

8. Maintaining Wood Flooring

Proper maintenance keeps your wooden floor in good condition and extends its beauty. Here are some tips on how to maintain your wooden floor after installation:

  1. Regular Sweeping and Vacuuming

Use a soft-bristle broom to sweep your wood flooring regularly. Also, use a hardwood-safe vacuum to get rid of dirt and debris that can scratch the wood. 

  1. Cleaning Spills Promptly

Any liquid spills should be wiped up as quickly as possible. If you let it linger long enough, it will stain and warp the wood. 

  1. Damp Mopping

If you’re used to mopping your floor every so often, you’ll want to tone it down a bit. And when it’s time to mop, be sure to use a damp, not wet, mop to avoid soaking the floors.

  1. Controlling Humidity

You can probably see the pattern here; water and wood flooring don’t mix! So you’ll want to keep the humidity level in your house between 40% and 60% to minimise expansion and contraction. 

  1. Using Felt Pads for Furniture

Attach felt pads to chair and table legs to prevent them from scratching and denting your hardwood floor. 

  1. Limiting Direct Sunlight

UV light can damage your wooden floor and cause it to fade. So be sure to use curtains, shades, or rugs to limit direct sunlight exposure. 

Please bear in mind that different types of wood flooring require different levels of maintenance. For instance, exotic wood that’s imported from tropical regions often requires more careful maintenance than domestic hardwoods. 

Generally speaking, darker, smoother wood floors show wear and tear more readily than lighter, wire-brushed floors. So the darker and smoother your floor, the more maintenance it’ll need. 

Do Different Styles and Patterns Require a Different Installation Process?

Yes, different flooring styles and patterns do require a slightly different installation process. For instance:

  1. Solid Hardwood

Basic installation; often nailed or stapled to the subfloor. It comes in simple patterns like parallel boards or squares. 

  1. Engineered Wood

Can accommodate more intricate design patterns like herringbone due to its dimensional stability. That said, the boards must be precisely cut and glued to the subfloor rather than nailed. 

  1. Exotic Woods

Brittleness and hardness may limit pattern options in certain exotic wood varieties. They’re often glued down to the subfloor as opposed to nailed or stapled. 

How Much Does It Cost to Install Wood Flooring?

The wood itself is going to cost anywhere from £20 to £100 per square metre, depending on the type of wood you choose. Add another £15 to £30 per square metre for the installation. 

Several factors affect the cost of wood flooring installation. Different patterns and finishes can be more expensive than others. You also have to account for factors like board width and wood grade. 

Here’s a brief explanation:

  1. Wood Species

Different wood species come at different prices as a result of their varying availability and durability. As an example, pine costs considerably less than walnut because it’s not as resistant to damage. 

  1. Pattern/Design

Certain patterns and designs are more intricate and elaborate than others, requiring more skill and time from your contractor to install. 

  1. Finish

Traditional finishes like oil and wax are more affordable than more modern finishes like lacquer and varnish.

  1. Board Width

Narrow plank widths (70mm to 100mm) often cost less than wider planks (125mm to 200mm). 

  1. Wood Grade

The higher the wood grade, as in the fewer knots and defects it has, the more it costs. 

How Long Does It Take to Install Wood Flooring?

Wood flooring installation for an average-sized room takes 2-5 days. If you’re flooring an entire house, the process can take 1-2 weeks. 

The time it takes to complete a wood flooring installation varies based on a range of factors, the biggest of which is room size. Flooring larger rooms or multiple rooms will need more total labour hours to complete. 

Other factors that affect installation time include:

  • Subfloor Prep: Additional time may be needed to level or repair the subflooring. 
  • Pattern Complexity: Bordered or diagonal designs take longer than basic parallel designs. 
  • Drying Time: Finishes, especially water-based ones, need time to dry in between coats. 
  • Experience Level: A professional contractor will work much faster than a DIYer. 
  • Accessibility: Navigating tight spaces and moving appliances/furniture can slow down progress. 

Do You Need to Hire a Professional for Wood Flooring Installation?

No, you don’t need to hire a professional for wood flooring installation. However, unless you have experience with flooring projects, hiring a professional would be advisable. 

Pros of hiring a professional:

  • Access to specialised equipment
  • Expertise in proper installation techniques
  • High finished floor quality and durability
  • Contractor warranty

Cons of hiring a professional:

  • Higher installation cost
  • Limited time/scheduling flexibility

Can You Fit Wood Flooring Yourself?

You can, but unless you have enough DIY flooring experience, we wouldn’t recommend it. It’s a difficult project that requires a great deal of experience. 

Pros of DIY wood flooring:

  • Significant cost savings
  • Time flexibility
  • Customise to personal style
  • Learn a new skill

Cons of DIY wood flooring:

  • Lack of experience leads to mistakes
  • Job takes a long time
  • Results may be of a low quality
  • No warranty/guarantee

Can You Install Wood Flooring Over Your Existing Flooring?

Yes, but it depends on the type of existing flooring you have. You can install wood over concrete, tile, sheet vinyl, OSB, and plywood. You shouldn’t install it over carpet, cushioned vinyl, or floating floors. 

Does Wood Flooring Need Acclimation Before Installation?

Yes, wood needs to acclimate for 3-5 days in the room in which it will be installed. This is to allow the boards to adjust the room’s temperature and humidity. 

What Are Some Common Problems When Laying Wood Flooring?

Some of the most common problems when laying wood flooring include:

  • Improper Acclimation: This often leads to buckling or gaps.
  • Inadequate Expansion Gap: This also leads to buckling. 
  • Subfloor Not Level: This makes the boards unstable. 
  • Improper Nailing/Stapling: This leads to squeaking and instability. 
  • Not Staggering End Joints: This results in weak seams. 

What Is the Process for Installing Laminate Flooring?

Here are the steps to installing laminate flooring:

  1. Make sure the subfloor is clean and level
  2. Cut the planks to fit room size
  3. Lay foam underlayment
  4. Leave an expansion gap of around 10-15mm
  5. Stagger the end joints of the planks
  6. Lock the planks together on their ends and sides
  7. Use spacer wedges for proper alignment
  8. Seal the seams (you can use silicone caulk)

What Is the Process of Installing Vinyl Flooring?

Here are the steps to installing vinyl flooring:

  1. Clean and level the subfloor
  2. Cut the planks to fit room size
  3. Lay a thin foam underlayment
  4. Place the planks with the tongue side facing the wall
  5. Lock the planks together on their ends and sides
  6. Heat the seams using a heat gun
  7. Install trim moulding over the edges

Wrap-Up

Wood flooring adds a timeless and natural beauty to any space. It’s versatile, durable, and easy to maintain, not to mention that it increases your property’s value!

While it’s possible to DIY a wood flooring project, it’s not recommended. If you don’t have enough experience, you’ll run into a host of problems that will eventually lead to poor results. For professional wood flooring installation in the UK, get in touch with us.

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