Installing Hardwood Flooring

Learning how to install hardwood flooring is important for a long-lasting floor that won’t cause you problems. Your big question right now probably is who is handling installing hardwood flooring in your home or office. Are you installing wood flooring on top of concrete or vinyl flooring, adjacent to carpet, or directly to a plywood or OSB sub-floor? Will you get fancy by installing herringbone hardwood flooring, or stay simple and go in conventional straight lines?


Installing hardwood flooring can be a cinch, or it can be a nightmare, depending on the sub-floor you are working with and the pattern you want to create. Do you do it yourself or hire it done?

Don’t miss our hardwood flooring article.  You’ll find one of the best selections of hardwood floors available!

There are three general methods installing hardwood flooring in your home.


  1. Floating
  2. Gluing
  3. Nailing


When it comes to choosing the best installation method, your sub-flooring should be taken into consideration to narrow down your installation options. If you have plywood sub-floors you can choose any installation method, but if your sub-floors are concrete, floating or gluing are advised. One trick of having a professional looking job is to start at a focal point, like a fireplace hearth and work from there. Once you establish your starting point, snap a chalk line so you have a straight reference point.

You can install wood flooring on concrete with proper care. Installing hardwood on top of vinyl or linoleum flooring may not take any preparation, other than starting with a clean surface. Installing hardwood flooring to carpet will often require a reducer strip to account for the different thicknesses.

Patterns for wood floor installations can be lots of fun. You could consider installing herringbone hardwood flooring pattern. Or think about a diamond shape. Maybe using different colors of wood can create a pattern like a throw rug with one color of wood acting as the border around the simulated rug. There are so many ways you can create interest with your hardwood floor installation.

Let’s look in detail at the different installation methods.





The floating method of installing hardwood flooring has become very popular in recent years. Floating is a very stable installation method since it’s not attached to the sub-floor. It floats above it, allowing for the natural expansion and contraction of a natural product. Unlike other installation methods where each plank or strip is installed individually directly to the sub-floor, a floating installation involves gluing or clicking the boards together.
This method is very common with engineered and laminate hardwood flooring. Before beginning your floating hardwood floor installation decide if you want an underlayment (made of foam, plastic, or cork) to help insulate noise transmission. If you want that muffling, then the underlayment must be put down first. The wood flooring is then laid on top of the underlayment. The glue used along the edges can be water-based or petroleum-based, and it is applied to the groove of the plank and the boards are then tapped together using what is known as a tapping block. Excess glue is wiped off with a damp cloth. Repeat the process until the room is complete. That’s it!

The clicking method (or CLIC) literally involved clicking the tongue and groove edges together for each board you lay. it’s faster and cleaner because you don’t have to take the step of applying glue, and then wiping excess off the surface.

The floating installation is an excellent do-it-yourself method and someone with little or no experience can get great results.


Glue Down:



You opt for a glue down installation primarily when installing an engineered strip or plank floor over a concrete sub-floor. Glue down installations can be very stable once properly installed. The glue down method can be used with plywood sub-floors, making the wood floor quieter than with either floating or staple down floors because there is less creaking.

Before installing using the glue down method for your wood floor, you need to ensure that your sub-floor is level. If your sub-floor isn’t level, you can have serious problems such as popping because of improper bonding due to insufficient contact between the sub-floor and wood plank. If your sub-floor is uneven you will need to use a leveling compound before installation. Once the sub-floor is level, you can proceed with gluing your flooring using the manufacturer’s recommended adhesive. As the adhesive dries it shrinks, pulling your wood floor tighter to the sub-floor and giving a stronger attachment.

Installing glue down hardwood flooring on concrete takes care. Make sure the concrete is dry and not wicking moisture from the ground to your wood, causing it to warp. Check the levelness of the concrete and fix areas that aren’t level and smooth. Consider an underlayment to help insulate against cold temperatures.

Glue down installations are recommended for those who have experience working with the preparations methods that are described above. Be careful of fumes when working in an enclosed area too.

Nail Down:



Nail down installations are used when installing solid and engineered wood flooring. Solid wood flooring expands and contracts more than engineered and laminate flooring, so take care to acclimate the wood to your home’s interior before starting the installation.

Longer pieces should always be placed at entries and doorways if you are working with random lengths and the shorter pieces should be integrated throughout the floor. Nail down installations require that you place spacers around the perimeter of the room to allow the floor to expand and contract. When positioning your boards the groove side should be against the wall. Nails should go through the face of the boards and nails should be long enough to penetrate the sub floor by at least 1 inch.

Nail down installations will require some basic carpentry skills and specialized tools such as a floor nailer, miter and jamb saws. This method of hardwood flooring installation is not recommended as a do-it-yourself project.

Stapling, a variation of Nailing:



Staple installations have become very popular and is mainly used with engineered wood flooring. The staple down method is used over plywood or wood sub-floors. Certain woods may require specific staple sizes to ensure a secure installation; your manufacturer can give you this information.

Staple down installations are recommended for those with a moderate amount of skill using power tools. When stapling hardwood flooring, a special stapler is required. This can be rented from most equipment rental stores
Now that you know the installation methods available, you will be able to choose which is best for your hardwood flooring installation. Will you tackle the project, or hire it done?

249 thoughts on “Installing Hardwood Flooring”

  1. Is it okay to install naildown bamboo flooring over existing original flooring? THe existing flooring appears to be some kind of reddish wood, perhaps cedar?
    My house is a 1941 story and a half. The subfloor appears to be made of 2 x 12’s running diagonal accross the joists/trusses.
    The bamboo flooring I am installing is frm Supreme Bamboo and measures 3.75 x 5/8.
    Thank you!

  2. Hi Flooring Lady
    I want to replace the floor in my condo with a solid
    3/4 inch oak. I don’t really want to install plywood over the concrete sub-floor then install tongue/groove oak over that. I wondering if the glue down method or floating would work for solid floor as the solid wood floor is affected more by moisture & climate. Thanks
    Regards Patrick

  3. Hi Patrick,
    A floating floor is always a good idea where you need to consider expansion needs. Just make sure that the manufacturer of the particular flooring choice you decide upon actually lists glueing or floating as an acceptable method of installation.

  4. Hi Flooring Lady,
    We are having Bruce Hardwood Solid Oak 3/4 inch finished wood installed in our game room and hallways on the second floor. My question is what is the best type of underlayment to use to reduce foot noise? The flooring will be nailed down to 3/4 inch plywood the original builder flooring.

  5. Hi Flooring Lady, I have two rooms that have 1/2 inch engineered wood floors glued down to concrete. I would like to cover them with 3/4 inch solid hardwood flooring. What would be your suggestion? Would this be possible with maybe a 1/2 inch plywood layer between for nailing depth?

  6. I am installing a glue down engeneered floor. I have a 3/4in OSB subfloor and I am installing a 1/4in plywood underlayment. I am leaving 1/8in gap between wood. My question is do I need to patch the seems and the screw head holes.

  7. Hi Tony,
    What do you mean by leaving a 1/8 gap between wood? Do you mean between sheets of plywood or around the perimeter of the room? You’ve lost me. You do need to patch screw head holes. Seams don’t need patched so long as they’re flush (butted up next to each other well).

  8. is it okay to lay hardwood fllor over laminate…. under the laminate is osb…. is this accepatble practice. or will it cause me greif in the future??? the fact that the nenoleuw is not a solid material… will it be an issue

  9. You need to make sure that the area is perfectly level and free of dirt and debris to ensure that the flooring that you install will remain secure. Please see my article “Hardwood Flooring Installation” for more information.

  10. Hi Flooring Lady,
    Thank you for the great web site!
    I live on the third floor of a condo with concrete subfloors. What ever route I decide to go, I will need to install a cork underlayment. My question is, can I install 5/16″ solid maple on top of the cork underlayment or do I need to go the engineered wood route?
    Thanks in Advance!

  11. Hi Franklin,
    If you are nailing (which would be a challenge) you can use solid wood. If you are floating it, then engineered would be the best answer. You would want to either use a click system or glue the edges to get a good float.

  12. Hi Flooring Lady
    I’m installing engineered floor on concrete in two rooms that used to have carpet. I noticed that there is some glue residue on the concrete perhaps from old carpet padding glued to the concrete floor. I’m debating whether to glue or float. I understand that if I glue I need to clean the concrete, I’m wondering if cleaning the concrete is as critical if I float the floor,

  13. will be putting engineered flooring over concrete. One company suggests glueing and the second can do either but suggests floating. Both products are Bruce flooring in 3″ planks. I am aware of pros/cons of each and like the idea of the barrier with the floating floor but worried it will sound hollow and not ‘feel’ like a wood floor. I also would guess my concrete in basement is not all that perfectly level. I wish I knew what a floating floor really felt like to walk on. what do you suggest?

  14. Hi Don, you should look for the thicker engineered flooring and then request an upgraded underlayment. This will greatly reduce the “hollow” effect to the point that the “floating” aspect will not be noticeable.

  15. Thanks for your info. The product is going to be the Bruce Springdale Plank 3/8″ x 3″ and the underlayment the company uses is Quiet Walk. I have done a lot of research on QuietWalk and it appears it is among the best. Also, the Bruce Springdale Plank has a thicker solid wood top and appears to be a good engineered product. Given these facts, would you float or glue if you were doing this job over ground level concrete floor?

  16. Hi,
    I know nothing about floor installation but know what I want to do. Setting:
    Beach Cottage: 1st Fl carpet over slab; 2nd Fl carpet over plywood; 3rd Fl carpet over plywood.
    Change: Put wide, rustic wood plank floor OVER 2nd Fl carpet.
    Question: What is a “REDUCER STRIP” as referenced above for this type of installation. Advance thanks.


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