Wood Floor Installation Basics

Are you thinking about installing wood floors in your house? Changing your floors can completely transform the space, yet there are so many types of floor to choose from -hardwood or laminate wood flooring, planks or parquet – it’s hard to even know where to start. Here is some basic information on what your options are to get you started:


 There are a few different types of hardwood flooring:

Solid hardwood (unfinished – meaning you will have to finish it once installed – or pre-finished – requires installation only). Solid hardwood can come in strips, planks, or parquets – which you choose is a matter of your taste. In addition, you can get a high gloss finish (looks great but does scratch easily), low gloss finish or sheen finish. Again, the finish you choose is really a matter of personal preference.

If you have a professional take care of installation, it can be pricey, yet the benefit being once you install hardwood you will never need to replace it. Also, you know the job will be professional and taken care of by an expert – from planning to purchasing to cleaning up. It adds value to your home and is environmentally friendly as wood is a natural renewable resource.

Thinking about doing it yourself? You can save thousands of dollars as the majority of the price of having someone else do it for you covers labor. Websites like or provide great tips and step by step instruction if you are motivated and handy. However, if you are short on time and would rather stick with the pros, installing hardwood is still a very wise investment.

Hardwood floors can be installed by nailing, stapling, gluing or floating (when the floor isn’t attached to any underlying surface, it simply “floats” on the floor below). This is the easiest method if you are going to install yourself. Some manufacturers even sell kits that show you how to install the floor by “floating” step by step. Many major stores – like Home Depot and Lowes – sell these kits. 

If maintained, hardwood can last forever and can be resanded and refinished when needed or desired. There are endless types of wood to choose from – maple, oak, birch and beech are some popular choices. All are priced by the square foot – oak being on the low end at about $2 per square foot.

Engineered Wood

Engineered wood is real wood with a laminate finish. This is less expensive than solid wood yet less durable long term, but still a good choice for areas that may not have as much foot traffic like a bedroom or foyer.

Laminate Wood

Laminate wood is fibercore sandwiched between a laminate back and laminate top that looks like real wood. This is the least expensive – and often popular – option but not as durable as hardwood. However, it is a good choice for areas that have excessive moisture that can harm hardwood – like kitchen or bathrooms. Keep in mind that this will need to be replaced down the road.

Refinishing Existing Hardwood Floors

You might be lucky enough to have existing hardwood floors in your house that simply need to be refinished. Last year I took out my pink wall-to-wall carpeting that ran throughout the first floor of my old Victorian to discover oak floors underneath that just needed refinishing to look as good as new. The do it yourself websites can provide direction on refinishing yourself (you can rent equipment from your local hardware store and sand and refinish on your own) or a professional can take care of it as well. A quick test to tell if your hardwood floors need refinishing is to pour some water on a section of the floor – if the water beads up, the finish is in good shape, if it slowly soaks in, it is partially worn and will need refinishing soon and if it is immediately absorbed, it is time to refinish.

Whatever choice you make, remember installing wood flooring is an investment that is always worthwhile.

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