Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation |

For those that read the blog often or follow FOXY OXIE on Instagram (THANK YOU VERY, VERY MUCH!), you have watched as little by little our bungalow blossomed into a real house. But since it’s been a few weeks from the last progress report, I figured it was time for an update from the magical world of renovations.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation |

Since we last spoke, I’ve begun assembling our IKEA kitchen cabinets, which has quite possibly been the biggest test of patience yet. Also, as this article title already revealed, we installed hardwood flooring in the parts of the house where there were none.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation |

This fact alone calls for a major, MAJOR celebration.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation |

In the beginning, we hired someone to install the hardwood, but as it turned out, they had better things to do with their time – like go on vacation.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation |

Honestly I can’t say I blame them. If I had the choice to install hardwood floors or go to the beach, I’d be stupid not to pick the latter.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation |

But unfortunately, I didn’t have that choice, and with deadlines zooming past us at the speed of light, this situation left us in a bit of a pickle. With no time to find a replacement, we figured we may as well tackle the remainder of the project ourselves.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation |

Between me being a tile-laying master and all and my husband the handyman, we figured: How difficult could it possibly be?

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation |

Oh, the sweet naiveté of DIY-ers. Spoiler alert: While it’s not necessarily difficult, it’s most definitely TIME CONSUMING.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation |

So in my typical fashion, I’ve turned this hardwood floors-laying adventure into a hopefully helpful guide – just in case someone else out there also found themselves in a hardwood floors-laying pickle.

Without further ado, a few tips for DIY hardwood floors installation:

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation | No. 1: Acclimation Period

Plan for few days’ acclimation period for the moisture content of your wood to adjust to the environment in which it’s expected to perform. When the wood is delivered to your house or project site, make sure that the living conditions are normal – not too hot, not too cold, not too humid – open the packaging, detach the planks into smaller pieces and simply let the wood “breathe” for a few days.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation | No. 2: Layout

When installing, be intentional about the boards you choose. If you’re expecting for every single board you paid for to be usable, that simply won’t be the case. The industry allows a tolerance of 5% for defective boards, so discard any uneven, damaged or deformed planks. Consider the high-traffic areas, installing only the best boards where they’ll be more visible.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation | No. 3: Necessary Tools and Materials

You will need to either buy or rent an air compressor, compound miter saw, table saw, hardwood floors nailer and 2-inch hardwood staples. After doing a ridiculous amount of research, I was set on having hardwood floors in the entire house (except for the bathrooms). So we had to find an alternative to nailing the wood for the areas that had concrete sub-flooring. We ended up gluing the floors down in the kitchen, entryway and mudroom – but not before applying a very expensive concrete primer ($250 per bucket) to seal the concrete from moisture. While not necessarily the most budget-friendly option, it worked for us. If you’re considering gluing hardwood floors over concrete, but your installer or general contractor is looking at you like you’re crazy, the National Wood Flooring Association published a helpful article about the process of installing wood floors over concrete slabs. It’s a great place to start educating yourself and weighing your options.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation | No. 4: Measuring & Cutting

Measuring and cutting the hardwood floors is possibly the most time consuming part of the project – especially if you’re installing 1.5-inch boards like we were. If possible, team up with a buddy to streamline an effective system. I would measure and mark the cut lines while the husband installed the floors. Despite my ample experience with the tile saw, I was hesitant to step near the compound miter saw, so the husband also had to periodically take a break from installing to cut the wood I had marked. When measuring and cutting, be sure you’re leaving the recommended expansion gap around the perimeter of the room, which will later be hidden behind the baseboards anyway.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation | No. 5: Transitions

Figure out the room-to-room transition situation before beginning any floor installations. Transitions are the spaces in the doorway between two adjacent rooms. You want to eliminate as many transitions as possible so that the majority of your flooring is on the same level. Of course, in certain situations transitions are unavoidable.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation | No. 6: New vs. Old

Speaking of unavoidable, if you already have hardwood floors installed in parts of the house, you’ll have to accept the fact that no matter how hard you try, the two will not be a perfect match. Wood tends to change in color as it matures, so the flooring that was installed back in 1930 simply can’t match the flooring installed in 2016 – even if you use the exact same wood and stain.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation | No. 7: Straight Lines

Take the necessary time to ensure that the first row you lay is straight, since it determines how straight the rest of the floor will be. Don’t rely on your drywall to be straight – especially if your house is a 1930 bungalow that had been completely abandoned for 20 years.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation | No. 8: Screws vs. Nails

For the final pieces parallel to the walls, most people opt to attach them by nailing to the top of the board. We found an even better solution: solid wood screws. Screws are better fasteners than nails, and if you use the proper kind then you don’t even have to pre-drill a hole.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation | No. 9: Cleanup

Take the time to clean the space as you work if you want to avoid a couple hours’ worth of cleaning up after you thought you were done for the day. For whatever reason, we waited til the end to clean everything, and I literally spent 8 straight hours going gathering the discarded boards, sweeping sawdust, taking out bags of garbage, and cleaning up the mess we had made in the weeks prior.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation | No. 10: Timeframes

If you take away one thing from this list of tips, I hope it’s this: These types of projects take much, much longer than you originally expect, so try to be a little more realistic when estimating the completion time.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation |

I hope you found this roundup of advice useful. If you have any other questions about installing hardwood floors, let me know in the comments, and I’ll do my best to address each and every one.

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation |

As for our timeline, we’re hoping to sand all of the floors this weekend, then stain over the next week. Afterwards there are baseboards and window trimmings to install, kitchen cabinets to finish assembling and hanging, a custom peninsula to build and install, bathroom fixtures and vanities to install in both the guest and master bathroom, a few light fixtures here and there left to hang, that eyesore of a fireplace to fix, and hopefully then it’s move-in day!

Tips for DIY Hardwood Floors Installation |

I’ll be back oh-so-soon with more updates from the magical world of bungalow renovations, and in the meantime, please keep your fingers (and toes) crossed for us to make lots of progress over the next week. To catch up on what we’ve renovated so far, you can browse “Our Bungalow Renovation” series.

For more interior design inspiration and advice, check out 12 Things to Look Forward to After a House Remodel10 Essentials for Mid-Century Modern LivingMirrors of Every Style for Under $20012 Tips for Buying IKEA Kitchen CabinetsStep-by-Step Guide to Choosing Paint for the Whole HouseHome Renovation Progress Report: Choosing Lighting Fixtures10 Small Kitchen Design Ideas to Maximize SpaceMy House Wish ListHome Renovation Checklist10 Best Home Decor Websites to Bookmark Now, and 10 DIY Projects to Add Character to Your Home.

And now I’d love to hear from you! What’s the biggest home improvement DIY you’ve ever tackled? Any house projects planned for the near future? What sort of DIY projects would you like to see more of on the blog?



  1. Most definitely a great DIY project, one for the books! I’d love to tackle something like this at home but it is definitely intimidating. Thank you for sharing your work!

  2. I’ve always dreamed of having a nice hardwood floor. I think wood is so classy looking and matches just about any furniture style. I really like the tip about taking floor samples home. That’s a great way to make sure the options you’re considering would work well with your decor!

  3. Pingback: 15 Best Fireplace Ideas

  4. LOVE this! They look amazing! It really is much simpler to install wood than you’d think – I did my bedroom and it took all of 4-5 hours! Great post!

  5. Such an accomplishment! I can’t wait to refer back to your post when its my time to renovate a space. I definitely agree with letting the wood acclimate for few days, reminds me of the tips my dad tells me XD! Can’t wait to see the finish results!

  6. It is looking great! I have been following along with your renovation here and Instagram. We are purchasing our first older home (1927) and boy is it a mess. My pictures won’t do it justice like yours but I should be putting some of your tips to good use over at!

    • That is so great to hear, Anna! If you run into any questions, feel free to reach out! We’re by no means subject-matter experts, but if we can help, I’ll be happy to! Good luck!!!

  7. While I’m sure it wasn’t an easy task, you do make it look simple! Major props to you and the hubby for taking on such a BIG project, and it looking great! xx

  8. Whoa putting in hardwood floors is a lot of work. Props to you for doing it yourself. It looks great.

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