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. Will be installing Bruce engineered red oak wood floor over concrete in walk-out basement (split foyer home). One installer suggests floating while the other two say glue. Would you suggest glueing or floating? I really want a solid feel but am wondering if the quiet walk under the floated floor would be a safer way to ensure against any future moisture vapor issues. Your suggestions as to float or glue?

  2. We had a lower grade engineered flooring installed (Floating) over linoleum tiles. The tiles have been down over a concrete basement floor for 8 years without any problems. One month after the wood floor was placed it began to buckle, so much so, that we were walking on a wavy floor. Some heavy gym equipment, ie: a treadmill and rowing machine are on top of a rubber grid mat that we placed over part of the wood floor, to protect it from scratches, but that only encompasses 1/3 of the room. The rest of the room is also wavy.Is there any way we can glue down the floor before it is permanently warped?

  3. Cate,
    Different moisture levels affect the two different sides of the wood flooring at one time which leads to the warping. If the moisture levels were the same on both sides of the wood,you would only have to deal with expansion and contraction properties.
    If the warranty is valid on the installation I would contact the professional who installed the flooring and ask their opinion.

  4. Don,
    Moisture issues are always a concern and as I stated to Cate a professional installer who is familiar with the moisture levels in your home could make the proper assessment. Perhaps you can ask for references from your installer to see work they have completed in the past and how the flooring has held up.

  5. My husband and I are looking at 12mm laminate flooring. For added interest to the large living/dining room combination – L-shaped room – I wanted to use 2 colors. A darker color border all around the room. Is this possible?

  6. I would like to do a herringbone pattern on concrete. i have laid tile but new to wood. Is there a book or web site I could go to. I would like to do a floating floor

  7. Liz,
    Click HERE for a PDF from the Wood Flooring Manufacturers Association on their recommendations for Herringbone Floor Installation. It will answer most if not all of your questions on the installation of Herringbone Floors Installation.

  8. Hi. I’m nailing solid red oak hardwood planks (3/4 x 2 1/4) on top of a wood sub floor that is solid but has some surface imperfections left from the glue previously used to hold down vinyl we removed.
    Do I need to use leveling compound or will the nails secure it and keep it from popping and squeaking? Any reason I couldn’t just use a thin foam padding similar to floating floors? Thanks, Jason

  9. Jason,
    It really depends on the manufacturer of the wood and how imperfect the subfloor is. Are the planks going to be tongue and groove? I would suggest consulting a local professional about your sub floor as well as your concern with the popping and squeaking.

  10. Hello,
    I currently have hard wood floors, the floor has deteriorated over the years. The floor is almost 20 years old. Do you recommend that I have someone professionally restore the floor or should I replace it altogether? Also, is it possible to put hardwood floors over existing hardwood floors?

  11. Norma,
    You could refinish the floors yourself or if you are concerned the floor is unstable and needs replacing I would indeed call a local professional to inquire not only if the floors can be refinished but if a new floor can be laid over the old floor.

  12. OK I need some assurance about my current work on a installing herringbone floors over a concrete via glue down method.
    The floor installation is going great no problems and everything is nice and straight (used Wood Flooring Manufacturers Association on their recommendations for Herringbone Floor Installation) as its great write up.
    Here is my question- I takes me about 2.5-3 hrs to install just 10 sq ft of flooring- is this normal- this includes all the final clean up of floor. I have installed about 100 ft of floors and now I stand at about 30 hr of labor.
    Its not that hard but very very very labor intensive as I do one board at the time. Am I missing something here or what as far as labor time is concerned – had few floor guys tell me that they can do the whole room of 250 sq ft in a single day and but I find this to be impossible – plus once they head herringbone they just run away and never hear from them again
    Also second question- some planks I have to hammer in (not directly of course) as its very tight fit -the floor is very tight and looks nice but will this cause me problems later on or its OK
    Anyone can lay straight floors even monkeys but the herringbone floor now we are talking craftsmanship
    no wonder no one wants to install it these days at it takes time and patience

  13. Hi Z man.
    Proper gluing of wood floors is time consuming. Herringbone is a tine-consuming style. You have chosen a labor-intensive approach so yes, it’s normal for it to take a long time.
    Regarding the tightness, if the wood has been completely acclimated, there are no water/moisture issues, and an expansion gap has been left around the edge of the floor then there shouldn’t be any problems with that beautiful-sounding floor.

  14. I have a concrete sub floor which is covered in foambacked carpet. this carpet is quite flat and has been down for 10 years, I want to lay Parkwood flooring. (tongue & groove) Is it OK to lay directly on the old carpet. (its a nightmare to take up we did it in one of the bedrooms which took ages as we had to scrae it off inch by inch!!)

  15. Noz,
    You could follow the instructions for floating the the flooring. I would make sure that the carpet is clean and dry before covering.
    Personally, I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave it, though I can’t tell you why. My hunch is that the foam backing will decay with time and that will cause he floor to move in unexpected ways. Yes, it does act as some insulation, but…

  16. Hi,
    I live in a high rise condo. It’s approximately 35 years old with slab floors that are presumably well cured. There is 1/4″ cork pad affixed directly to the slab. I’m considering laying vertical bamboo floors and was wondering if the glue down method would be appropriate or do I have to lay plywood subfloors and nail it down. Also, must I remove that cork pad, or can I go over it.

  17. I am about to install Solid F JL Wood flooring on concrete. the panels are 3/4″x6″x70 7/8″. Is it O.K. to just use the glue with a urethane moisture barrier or should I consider using OSB on top of the concrete. Help


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