We installed hardwood flooring in the upstairs of our house a couple of months ago, about 500 square feet. This was our second time installing hardwood (we did it in our first house’s kitchen and hallway), so we felt like we knew what to expect.
Kitchen in our first house
Why Hardwood Flooring?
We knew when we bought the house that the upstairs bedrooms and landing would need new flooring. A peek under the carpet told us that all that was under it was lineoleum tiles. We went back and forth on engineered flooring versus hardwood. The nice thing about engineered is it can be cheaper and it usually isn’t as thick as hardwood floor. With low ceilings upstairs, space is at a premium. Engineered is durable, easy to install, and doesn’t take as many tools as laying hardwood flooring.
However, hardwood flooring has a lot of positive aspects as well. Solid hardwood flooring looks really nice and offers longevity and durability. It isn’t difficult to install and we already have all of the tools needed. We’ve installed hardwood before, so we know what to expect. Lastly, the hardwood isn’t so much thicker than engineered flooring that it would make a noticeable difference in the room. Hardwood, it is!
The nicest thing about hardwood is you can buy it pre-finished. The protective coating is way more durable than if you refinish flooring and put it on yourself. So even if you have fewer options on stain color, the floors we installed won’t need to be touched for probably at least 15 years (in fact, we’ve been living with them for a few months and haven’t noticed any dings or scratches). We got our hardwood at Lowes and got them to throw in free delivery. When making a large purchase like that, you can usually get them to deliver it for free if you’re willing to ask (and take a cute kid or two with you). It wasn’t on sale, but we used a 10% off coupon which helped a ton. We got this kind of hardwood, but let me tell you that it looks way different in person. It also got great reviews online.
How to Install Hardwood Flooring
Since we had to get Jules out of the house while we worked we just planned on working our rears off and getting it done FAST. We had our hardwood acclimating in the bedrooms upstairs for almost two weeks before we actually installed it. We laid the first piece Friday at 5pm and the last piece on Saturday at 8pm, breaking for 8-9 hours for sleep and meals. We used a flooring nailer (which uses huge 2-inch staples) we borrowed from Dylan’s dad, no glue involved. We thought the air compressor would freak Jules out, which is why we got her out of the house, but it actually didn’t. We definitely worked faster with her gone, though.
Prep the Floors
1. Remove any existing flooring. We ripped up carpet, but left the square linoleum tiles. We researched online a good bit before deciding to do this. First, linoleum tiles of that size and the age of our house mean that there was a good chance they contained asbestos. Asbestos is harmful when it is airborne. Removing it would be more harmful than putting our new flooring over it. Not to mention, it may not have been easy to remove, which could have meant we’d have to replace the subfloor. No thank you!
2. Remove baseboards. If they’ve been caulked to the wall, run a utility knife between the baseboard and wall before removing. Pry away from the wall using a 3-inch putty knife or pry bar. Set aside if you plan on re-using them (and remove the nails!).
3. Shorten door casing. Use a multitool to shorten all door casing, including closet doors. You want to slide the hardwood under these, so make sure it’s at the right height. Use a scrap piece of your hardwood to measure a good cut.
4. Screw the heck out of your subfloor. Now is the time to remove any creaks in your floor. Use 2 1/2″ wood screws and a stud finder (to find your joists) and make all of those squeaky spots disappear.
With hardwood flooring, the prep work is the most complicated part. Laying the flooring takes time, but once you get in a system that works for you, it goes pretty quickly.
Tips for Laying the Flooring
Before nailing down your flooring, there’s one last thing you need to do. Roll out roofing paper on your floor. Unless your whole area to be re-floored (is that a word?) is cleared off, you’ll have to do this as you go, which is why it is down here, instead of with the “prep work.”
When installing flooring, try to have two or three people around…any more and it would just get overcrowded. Dylan and I moved pretty quickly with just the two of us, I thought, with me picking out the pieces of wood (making sure joints were staggered and that the few ugly pieces of wood were set in a pile we used for closets) and cutting at the end. Dylan manned the flooring nailer, which was a big job in and of itself. The second day we had his dad helping too and it went even faster. His dad laid out the wood, staggering joints, while I made all of the cuts and did the closets when I was caught up on the main room.
Leave about 1/4″ gap on all sides of the room for the wood to expand when temperatures change. It’s easiest to have a piece of scrap wood or cardboard (folded over a couple of times) a couple of feet long so you don’t have to move it often. It will be covered up with your baseboard and shoe moulding.
Be sure you have any new thresholds or stair treads you need before beginning or your progress will be stopped when you have to make a mid-project run to Lowes. Other than that, just go to town and push through. Laying hardwood flooring is such a fun project because it gives you instant gratification. In one day our two upstairs bedrooms went from gross to beautiful.
See? The gross before…
and the beautiful after!
Okay, removing the window treatment, new paint and a new light fixture helped that before and after a bit, but we’ll get to those soon. :)