How to Install Engineered Wood Flooring

Installing hardwood floors is not a difficult DIY project if you do your research beforehand and take your time in the beginning when you are prepping the floor area, especially if you opt for engineered tongue and groove which snaps together, or a floating floor which requires no glue or adhesive.

In fact, depending on your choice of flooring, you will install the flooring using one of the following methods.

Fastening Hardwoods to Sub-Floor

Nailing Hardwoods

If this is your first time installing a hardwood floor, I strongly advise you to consider a floating floor.

However, nailing boards in place is not difficult, but will require a pneumatic nailer for face nailing, or a floor nailer to get the angle of the nails right. You can rent those at most home improvement stores.

There are two methods to nail hardwoods in place and both can be done without a pneumatic gun or floor nailer, although it is much more time consuming.

Face Nailing by Hand

I do not recommend this method with engineered wood. I would only consider it if installing solid wood flooring.

  1. Pre-drill a pilot hole in the surface of the wood flooring.
  2. Drive the nail into the surface but stop before you reach any part of the plank so that you do not risk damaging it with the hammer.
  3. Using a nail set, tap it in place, then fill the hole with wood putty.

Blind Nailing

There are also types of boards that require you to shoot a nail through the tongue of the plank at an angle, which is then covered by the next plank.

For this type of blind nailing, you definitely need a device called a floor nailer to guide shank nails at the appropriate angle. The device has a striking plate that you hit with a hammer to drive it in place at the right angle through the tongue of the placed board.

  1. Drive a nail at an angle through the tongue of the board that is set in place.
  2. Insert the next board into the tongue of the placed board which slides into place, hiding the nail.
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Installing the First Row Correctly is Critical

How to Install a Laminate FlooringCredit: Amazon.comBefore you begin, open up 4 to 5 boxes of your boards and mix them up so you get a true randomness once they are laid. Sometimes boards from the same box can be of a slightly different tone than the rest of the boxes, so mixing them up will guarantee you do not end up with a lighter or darker colored section once you are finished.

Set out boards for the first three rows making sure they are all straight. In order to ensure that your joints do not line up, the boards must be cut by 6 inches so you can stagger them from row to row.

For the first row, you can leave the lengths as is. For the second row, cut the board by 6 inches and start that row. For the third row, cut that first board by 12 inches.

From that point along those rows, you can use full length boards since the staggering at the beginning will keep the joints offset.

For the fourth row, you can either begin by cutting the first board by 18 inches, or simply return to full length boards and the process for row 5 will begin again.

At the end of each row, you will probably need to cut a board to fit it in place. Use the cutting methods described earlier to get a true cut.

First Row – Face Nailing Solid Wood Floors by Hand

  1. Dry fit the first row in place.
  2. Place the tongue facing away from the wall.
  3. Do not place the board directly up against the wall. You need to leave a ½ gap for expansion. The baseboards will cover the gap.
  4. Before nailing in place, measure the distance from the board to the chalk guideline from both ends to make sure it is the same distance.
  5. Top nail the first board with 1.5 inch finishing nails every 6 inches. Do not place a nail within 3 inches of the end or you risk splitting the board.
  6. Drive the final few millimeters of the nail with a nail set.
  7. Continue the first row laying boards end to end.

Blind-Nailing by Hand

  1. Predrill nail holes using a power drill.
  2. Lay the first board in place, then place the groove of the second row board into the tongue of the first.
  3. Tap it together using a block.
  4. Blind nail through the tongue at about 10 inch intervals. For the first few rows, you will have to do this by hand because it will be impossible to get a floor nailer in place to use it. However, after that, you should have adequate space to use one which will make it go much faster. Try to hit as many floor joists as possible.
  5. Continue in this manner until the last few rows when it will be impossible to use a floor nailer.

However, when you get to the final row, you may not have enough space to fit the full width of the plank. In that case you will have to make a long cut to slice off some with of the entire row.

To determine the amount you need to cut off the width, measure from the wall to the edge of the last board (not the tongue) that was set in place.

Now subtract ½ inch and cut the length of the board. For very thin boards, simply glue them in place. Use a pry bar such as a Superbar to force the last rows tightly together before nailing in place.  

Before adding the baseboards and shoe moldings back, cut any underlayment that might be exposed then nail them to the wall.

between your new floor and other flooring materials. Fill any remaining nail holes with matching putty.

Dealing with Obstacles

If you come across a floor register or electrical outlet in the floor, cut an opening in the board before fitting in place. You will need to cut the section out with a jigsaw.

When you encounter objects jutting out into the floor, miter the boards to frame it, then glue them in place and face nail it if installing solid wood floors.

Finally, you will need to install a transition piece at the threshold between hardwood floors and for instance, a tile floor. If you are installing hard woods throughout your home, this will not be an issue.

However, there are various thresholds available to transition from one type of flooring to the other, so consult with an associate in a flooring store.


Hardwood Floors
Credit: mjpyro

I just described the basics of installing any type of hardwood floors. The methods are essentially the same, although the details differ slightly depending on the type of hardwood flooring you are installing.

One of the easiest types of flooring to install is a floating floor with snap together pieces. There are also other varieties that snap together with tongue and grove, but require a nail finisher. These are not difficult to install, just more time consuming.

The most important part of the project is choosing the right wood for your home. Be sure to follow all of the prep rules and you should have no problem installing your hardwood floors yourself, saving a lot of money in the process.