Step 1: Make Your Floorboards Sound
It is very important that your existing floor forms a strong base for a new installation. One of the most common problems you may encounter with your old floorboards is that they may not be completely flat. In this instance, if you have the money to spend, then you may wish to sand down the whole floor to ensure it’s level. However, in most cases it should be enough to check that all the existing boards are secure and well fixed to the floor. Most floors can tolerate a 3mm discrepancy across 2 metres. If you have any loose boards, then you can get away with simply nailing them back into place. You will also need to remove any kind of old carpet underlay as this unsuitable for hardwood flooring.
Step 2: How Thick Is Your Flooring? Do I Need Underlay?
Look to buy hardwood floor boards that are around 19mm to 20mm thick as an 18mm thickness is required for a load bearing floor. Solid hardwood boards need to be attached to a base every 200-300mm, however most standard floor joists are around 400mm apart, so it can be difficult to attach your boards securely to the existing joist. In these instances you may wish to lay a chipboard or thin plywood underlay to allow you to create a secure and solid base for your new installation. This is a very important point to note, particularly as different manufacturers may recommend specific types of underlay for their hardwood flooring. You should always check what’s best when you make your purchase.
Step 3: Choose A Fixing Method
Most installers will tell you that the best method of fixing new hardwood boards to an existing floor is a secret nailing or screwing system. This is where you hammer nails at a 45 degree angle into the tongue of each board that requires fixing, thus securing it in place. These nails and screws are then hidden from view by the groove of the adjoining board. Whilst we would not recommend using generic wood screws for this job, you can buy some short screws, such as the Tongue Tite brand, which have been specially designed especially for this purpose. The advantage of using screws over nails is that they’re more effective at holding your floorboards in place over time.
Step 4: Spacing
Some suppliers say that if you leave your hardwood flooring in the house for a few days then this will give it a chance to acclimatise to your home environment, allowing it to expand with the ambient moisture to its natural size. However, we’d always advise you to leave an extension gap of around half an inch to allow the wood to grow. You can buy special installation kits that come with spacers to place round the edges of the walls to ensure the growth gap between your walls and flooring is maintained at all times during the fitting process.
Step 5: Where To Start
You’ll want to lay your boards at a right angle to your existing floorboards – otherwise you may get an unpleasant waving effect in your new floor. As a result we’d always recommend that you start your flooring job next to the longest wall that sits at right angles to the existing floorboards. It’s usually best to start about 2ft away from the wall, so calculate how many whole boards are needed to fill this distance, taking into account the spacing for possible growth, and mark a line down the floor with chalk before laying your first board.
Step 6: Subsequent Rows
Try to make the pattern of your hardwood boards in the floor as random as possible, avoiding mirroring the arrangement on subsequent rows or using the same pattern on each individual row as this will impact the overall strength of the floor. This may require you to be a little creative with your cuts, but the end result will definitely be worthwhile. A random pattern across your floor is not only stronger than a regular arrangement, but it’s also more aesthetically pleasing too.
Step 7: The Final Board and Skirting Boards
You’ll need to work the final board into place using a soft mallet as it may not be possible for you to get your hammer, nail gun or screw drill into the final gap here for fixing. When this is in place you can remove all the spacers from the edges of your new hardwood floor and begin to fit skirting boards to cover the growth gap. It should be possible to re-use any boards that you removed for re-installation, or if desired you can add new skirting boards and beading. Then it’s time to sit back and enjoy your new floor.