Hardwood Floor Installation
Staple or Nail Down Method

Here's a list of things you will need to perform this Hardwood floor installation - Staple Down Method.

Material list:

Wood Flooring - be sure to purchase extra for waste.Round-up to the nearest foot when measuring length and width. Ex: 12' 1/2" x 12' 1/4" should be 13'x13'. This is enough to cover your waste (@ 2%), without having to over purchase. You must manage your cuts. I'll explain later. 

Vapor Barrier - red rosin paper ($9.50), or 15 Lb black Fortifiber paper($17.90 recommended) or 30 Lb. black felt paper($21.00). This should be stapled down, using T50 staples, with the edges overlapped by 4-6".

Wood Putty - use a latex color match wood filler, for nail holes.

Staple - Assuming you're using a Bostitch floor stapler(rental). You'll need 2" flooring staple, 1000 staples will cover 1000 square feet.

Finish Nails - 2" finish nails, or 15 gauge 2" finish nails for pneumatic guns(rental).

Recommended, use power tools. All tools can be rented.

Flooring Tool list:

  • Floor stapler and mallet
  • Pneumatic finish gun
  • Pry bar 
  • Nail-set
  • Chop saw
  • Wood Putty and Putty knife 
  • Table saw
  • 4' or 6' level 
  • Air Compressor
  • Chalk line 
  • Multi-tool or Flush cut saw (for undercutting door trims)
  • Tape measure 
  • Hammer
  • T50 stapler 
  • Large flat screwdriver
  • Pencil 
  • Hardwood floor jack
  • Determine which direction you would like to lay the hardwood flooring. You should always consider installing hardwood flooring, perpendicular to your floor joist, when you have a plywood sub-floor. This will eliminate any bounce and chattering, when you sand them.

    If, you have a plank board style sub-floor, install hardwood floors perpendicular to the planks. This will eliminate any waviness on the hardwood flooring surface, giving you a much sturdier, stiffer and flatter floor. It will also make it easier to sand and finish them, if you're putting in unfinished wood floors.

    Remove baseboards, although not necessary, for hardwood floor installation. You can also, do a tight fit floor installation. If, you have a climate controlled room.

    1. Start by laying out the vapor barrierOverlap the edges by 4-6". Then staple the edges down, using the T50 stapler.

    2. Establish a starting point. If you have existing wood floors, you should always continue off, where the floor has ended, run the flooring the same direction. Otherwise, lay them perpendicular to your floor joist and start from the longest wall, then follow these steps.

    3. (2) points make a straight line. Measure off each corner of your starting wall (2x width of floor board) - 1/2". Snap a starting or reference line using a chalk line.

    4. From your starting wall, layout your bundles, 4ft from your chalk line, then 2ft apart. Making sure the Tongue side (considered the front edge) is facing away from the your chalk line.

    5. Open a couple of bundles. Take your 6' level, preferred. Search for the straightest and longest pieces, for your starting row. Qualify the boards, by placing the level up against the groove side, with the top(flat) surface facing upwards and stress reliefs down.



    Use the longest boards, if possible, you'll be able to maintain a straighter starting row, this way. Very important for any hardwood floor installation.

    Do not squeeze or press the floor boards, tight, against the level. You must check or inspect, the hardwood flooring, in it's free state, by just allowing the boards to touch the level, with no force or pressure - another important hardwood floor installation step. Do not use any floor boards, that are not straight, for your starting row. If need to, open any additional bundles, until you have enough to start 1 complete row.

    TipBefore inspecting, both level and flooring should be free of dirt, splinters or debris.


    6. Align, the groove side, of your starting row, with your chalk lineMix your lengths as you line them up. Use a short, then long flooring board, pattern to ensure you get a more random look for your hardwood installation.

    If, you did not remove your baseboard, the first piece should be placed tight against the baseboard. Otherwise, if you did remove the baseboards, allow 1/4 - 3/8 " expansion gap.

    Note: If, you have climate control in your home all year around. There is no need to remove the baseboards. It's unlikely that your wood flooring will expand, because you'll have dry air all year round, from air conditioners and heaters. You only need to use expansion gaps if, you don't have any ways of controlling the climate inside. This normally applies to waterfront homes, where air conditioners are sometimes not used and moist air is allowed inside the home.

    Using the finish nailer, face nail the boards, checking, to make sure, they did not move and your row is straight.

    7. Cut in your final board of this row. If you have removed your baseboard, see image on left, without baseboard for reference.

    Hardwood floor installation tip: You can measure your boards by simply, placing your floor board, groove end, tight against your wall. Then making a mark at where your, tongue side meets with your cut board, see image. Any waste or scrap ends 6" or longer, should be used as a starter piece in a new row. 


    By marking, at the end of the tongue, this will compensate for expansion space on this side of the wall, when you make your cut. Keep accuracy of your cuts within +/- one blade width.

    Cutting end pieces with baseboards in place, the tolerance for accuracy of cut should be with a 1/64 or better. 8. Now, that we have our starting row, nailed down. We want to set-up, all of the floor boards, in the main body area, up to the cut boards.

    The cuts are the final boards in each row, that, requires cutting to proper size.

    Hardwood flooring installation Set-up pattern. Start by laying out your boards, making sure the end joints are staggered. The end joint spacing should be a minimum of 6 inches for a staggered joint. The further the end joints, the better looking the staggered is.

    Avoid repeating this pattern in consecutive rows,and adjacent(rows) to each other, to prevent a cluttered joint look or a stepping pattern. Only, professionals with no real hardwood floor installation experience will allow a stepping pattern. Stepping patterns are weak joints. If, your floor buckles, you will see damages in these weak joints first.

    To achieve a more random length pattern and expert hardwood floor installation look, use a short ,then long board layout to allow proper staggering of end joints, see image. Be sure that no more than 3 boards of the same size are laid out next to each other. Whether, in the same or adjacent row.

    Repeat this step until you reach the opposite wall or until you're unable to lay out additional boards.

    9. Take the rubber mallet, slide the first piece in place, with a foot on each end of the board, using light pressure(foot). Begin tapping the floor board tight to the starting row, from your left foot to right (careful don't hit your own foot). The face of your mallet should make contact with the tongue and not the top corner of your hardwood floor board, corners tend to break or dent resulting in more work.

    Then with the hardwood flooring stapler, begin to fasten boards in place with staples, by striking the black bumper with the rubber mallet, stapling at the tongue, spacing the staples from 6 - 8" for a squeak free hardwood floor installation.

    Repeat this step for each piece. Making sure the boards are tight together.


    Tip: It's very important, upon starting your hardwood floor installation. To becareful, not to use too much force, on the first 3 rows, when stapling the boards in place. Otherwise, you will turn your perfectly straight row into, a bunch of curves and turns. After, the 3rd row, when your hardwood floors are nailed firmly, you can use as much force as you need to, lookout for the toes and shins.

    Repeat this for each row until you reach the opposite wall. Cut your end boards and install them, during your hardwood floor installation. Depending on your set-up, you can minimize a stop and go motion, by installing several rows in place, before making your cuts. This way you're able to make several cuts, during one stop, rather than 1 piece at each stop. A stop is considered, when you stop and make a cut for each row, down time we don't need.

    Tip:You cannot minimize the amount of piece you must cut. But you can minimize the amount of time you travel, to and from the chop saw, to the work area. This is down time, the less down time, the faster you'll be able to complete your project.

    Tip: To install hardwood floors close to the walls, Hold your mallet close to the rubber head and strike the bumper on the flooring stapler. Also, instead of swinging your mallet, drive straight down with it.

    Hardwood floor installation

    Nailing In Hardwood Floors Against The Wall


    10. By this time, you've reached the opposite end of the room, and you're abut 16 - 18" or 4-5 rows away from the wall and cannot continue with anymore hardwood floor installation. To finish the remaining hardwood floor installation, switch over to the finish nailer. You'll also, need a hammer, flathead screwdriver, and pry bar.

    If, you're able to get or rent a hardwood flooring jack. You can eliminate the flat screwdriver and pry bar with this one tool, it will be easier and quicker to complete this part of your hardwood floor installation.

    11. Repeat step 8. for set-up. For this hardwood floor installation step, you can install more than 1 piece at a time on this step. Move the first 3 pieces of the first 3 rows close to each other. Drive the tip of the flathead into the sub-floor, then begin to pull the hardwood floors towards you or place a 24" floor board up against the wall, then use a pry bar, to wedge the boards in. This will pull the floor boards tight to each other. If, they do not fit tight, tap the faces of the boards to shake them in place, this will also set your hardwood flooring down tight to the sub-floor. Don't be afraid to use more force, but avoid denting the wood.

    On pre-finished hardwood floor installation, use a scrap piece of material as a tapping block  to avoid any damage.

    After, the boards are tight to each other, while keeping pressure, face nail the floor boards, with the finish nailer. Repeat this hardwood floor installation step, until you reach the final row.

    Scribing The Final Piece Against The Wall

    12. The final row - filler strips. At this point, you will need to scribe the final pieces in. Utilize only straight pieces at this point or the best ones you have left over, for tight fit floor installation. Start by placing one board over the final row, you have installed (left corner). Align, the groove side to each other (lengthwise).

    Using a scrap piece, as your scribe block. Turn it upside down, so that the stress relief is facing upwards, and with the tongue tight against the wall (if the baseboards have been removed - by facing the scribe block as instructed, you will have also compensate, for an expansion gap).

    Make a mark, where the 2 pieces meet, as you're sliding the scribe block, down the wall, careful not to move the piece that you're scribing. Cut this piece using a table saw, repeat this step where needed.

    If, You are scribing with baseboards in place. Simply face the groove side of your scribe block up against the wall, then make your mark.

    When, you're making your cut, set your table saw, at around 15 degrees. This will produce a relief angle when you make your cut. So that you may be able to tap this piece in place, without interference or damaging your baseboards. After, you've completed your hardwood floor installation. Set your nails using a nail-set, then fill all nail holes and any unwanted gaps with a water based wood putty or wood filler. 

    It's a lot to take in, all at once. Take your time, you'll be just fine. This step by step hardwood floor installation guide will help you get the job done. You'll be a hardwood flooring pro.

    Enjoy, your new floor!

    Also, see our installation images for additional help. Or visit NWFA.org for more installation info.

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