Earlier this week, we talked about ripping up our wall to wall carpeting in favor of hardwoods. We’re back today to delve further into DIYing our hardwood flooring installation. Installing hardwoods is not aerospace engineering okay? We went with a nail-down installation for our tongue and groove planks. We own a floor nailer but if you don’t, this is the one we would recommend. A couple points about a nailer: it is adjustable to work with the depth of your flooring and the nailer needs to be oiled often to keep it functioning properly (at least ours does). The key to success with nailing down hardwoods is the knowledge that not all planks of wood are created equal. Within the same box, the width of our planks ranged from 4.25” to 5.125”. Abutting those two sizes would make for some mighty large gaps. That’s nearly a one-inch difference, people! Another way in which planks can differ from one another is depth. In other words, higher versus lower. Placing a particularly tall plank next to an exceptionally short one can create a Groundhog Day toe-stubbing situation in which you will question your wood floor laying abilities for a long time. Let’s avoid that. The very first row of wood has to be laid down perfectly square or the entire floor will grow progressively more crooked as we move into the room. We used a laser level and lots of measuring to accomplish a perfectly plumb first row and then checked frequently to make sure we weren’t veering off course as we moved into the room.
Marco and I developed a groove fairly early on in our hardwood laying that looked something like this: I measured each plank against our prechosen “control” plank (which was exactly 5” wide and ¾” deep). I sorted these planks into several piles (wide short, wide average, wide tall, average short, average, average tall, narrow short, narrow average and narrow tall). Keeping up? We rolled out the underlayment together and I handed Marco the planks one by one, staying within the same size family until we reached the end of one row. Once you reach the end of the row, you can start with a (slightly narrower, slightly wider, slightly shorter, etc.) size. The planks only need be consistent within the same row, if that makes sense. Marco did most of the nailing (you have to put quite a bit of power behind your mallet and I have the upper body strength of a bunny-ha Easter pun). The task of cutting the planks at the end of each row using our compound miter saw was a joint effort. This last element of teamwork was crucial to maintaining our efficiency. One person completed one row while the other was free to begin the next row. This kept us moving like kale and good hydration.
Another task that fell under the “my job” category was ensuring variety among sections. For example, I avoided placing too many darker planks right next to one another. Same went for lighter, redder, more movement, less movement-you get the picture. Paying attention to these details really elevated the end result. Check out this detail work around the fireplace. Please excuse my gushing. I am so proud of my husband’s skills I could just burst sometimes.
Marco and I try to be mindful of waste. Specifically, not producing it. Hardwood flooring experts will tell you to add on 10%, give or take, of your projected quantity to account for scrap. We had very, very little scrap because of the mindful manner in which we went about laying our floors. Any piece longer than a few inches was upcycled to subsequent rows. When we finished with this project, our neighbor, a professional wood craftsman, took the scrap off our hands and he was blown away by how little waste we amassed. Taking our time and staying organized saved us lots of money and the Earth was a little happier too.
The last thing we learned from this hardwood laying foray was to involve our kiddo whenever possible. Our little was six weeks old the first time we laid hardwoods. Needless to say, he didn’t have much interest in being involved for that project. This time things were a little different. But kids really can help if we let them! We found that having our son wear ear protection to protect his tiny eardrums from the nailer’s POP! and giving him a job, such as moving tools, kept him involved and interested.
And what kept us going was that we gained more and more square footage each time we laid another row. Every time we committed to finishing a certain area, it was as though we gained another room in our house that we didn’t have previously. I remember one particularly nice transition between our son’s bedroom and the main bathroom. When a two-year-old has to go, he has to go. And running from hardwood to splintery subfloor and back up to tile was not always so easy on the tootsies. Made us appreciate the end product that much more! And that’s really what home improvement is about, right? Making your home the best it can be for your life right now.
We removed all of the metal baseboard registers and replaced them with flush wooden floor vents. SO MUCH less obtrusive in the room, both physically and visually. We’ll go into more detail about how to accomplish clean cuts, thresholds and transitions at a later date. They still need to be stained but you get the idea. This is adjacent to our recently-installed patio in the former breakfast area. We still need to do some finish work here.
Check out our gorgeous, wall-to-wall hardwood flooring. No more transitions from laminate to carpet to tile. Just beautiful wood as far as the eye can see. Our house has flow like woah now. Check out this view of multiple rooms coming together with cohesive flooring (while ignoring the yet-to-be-tackled kitchen).
This is the view when you enter our home through the front door. Hardwood flooring is life.
As to how they’re holding up? Our quality control department has thoroughly tested them and he approves. Bet you wish you were cool enough to sport shark pants.
And you know I love to leave off with one last look down memory lane. Sayonara, Carpet City. Bonjour Wood World. We hope this post makes tackling your own hardwood flooring a little less intimidating. You CAN do it! Happy hardwood laying, e’rybody!