Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tips for installing Hardwood Floors

By Jeff Watson

If you're looking for durability and natural beauty, hardwood is probably top choice when it comes to flooring material. Whether it's in the dining room, the living room, the family room or any other place, wood flooring is a practical, attractive choice that will add value to your home. It moves with the temperature and moisture in the air, but can rot or warp if it's left wet. Because of this, hardwood flooring isn't usually used in the bathroom or the kitchen. However, when maintained with care and with a sturdy finish, it can work even in these less than suitable environments.

There are several different types of hardwood floors. Traditional flooring comes in strips or planks, which is fastened to sub flooring. Then, the floor is sanded and finished with a durable substance - varnish, polyurethane, or wax. There are newer hardwood floor types that come prefinished. They're fastened in much the same way, but no work is required after they're installed.

For those who want to install their own hardwood floors, this can be a real blessing, since finishing and sanding are difficult jobs best left to a professional. Of course, you get much less choice in these floors - wood types and colors come in a relatively small range. For the best quality floors, see a professional installer. Composite and veneer wood floors are also available, but these are not true hardwood, and will last a much shorter time. They are less expensive, however.

Remember to make sure that your flooring is being laid on a base that's clean, level and smooth, as well as being capable of holding up your floor in the long run. Stack flooring indoors for a few days so it'll adjust to the climate of your home, and make sure you install it at a right angle to the joists in the floor. Mark their positions on the wall before you start, as well as the room's center line. Many people cover the sub flooring with asphalt felt to minimize squeaking and provide moisture protection, but this isn't strictly necessary.

If you find that your room is very out of square (common in older homes) make sure you position the tongue of the first row of flooring parallel to the center line, ripping the groove side parallel to the wall. Boards can be cut with a power miter saw or a radial arm saw. The first row should be made up of the longest boards or widest planks. Face-nail these boards through the sub flooring to the joists when you get near the wall. This area will later be covered by a base shoe.

For every row after the first, move a short piece of flooring along the edge of the row, rapping it with a mallet. This tightens the new row against the one before it before you nail, and makes sure that your rows will be installed evenly. Never line a joint up with a joint in the sub floor, and when using plants, make sure that you leave a crack wide enough to slip a putty knife into between each plank. This allows for expansion.

You may want to lay out several rows of boards while you're installing the flooring. Just make sure that no end joint gets closer than six inches to any end joint nearby. Pieces next to the wall should be at least eight inches long, and installed with a half inch gap at the wall itself. When blind nailing, never drive nails flush. You'll see indentations from the hammer on the board. Leave every nail projecting up about an eight of an inch. Then, use a nail set to drive with home and recess the nail without leaving marks in the floor. Flooring nailers can be used after you've put the first three rows in.

Once you reach the final row, a pry bar and block will be needed to get the last boards into position. Drill holes and face nail these boards where the baseboard molding will cover, as you did with the first row, and set nail heads below the surface with a hammer and nail set. When the flooring will cause a level change between this room and an adjoining one or hallway, don't forget to install a reducer strip with a rounded edge. This keeps you from having a sudden transition between the two areas.

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