While most of us will hire a professional hardwood flooring installer, some of you probably thought about installing the hardwood floors by yourself. It might looks like a very complicated job, maybe even scary somehow, but as with most of the regular hardwood flooring installation, it can be done by a person with basics in operating powered tools, basic knowledge in general tools, and some self-learning ability for some new tools.

In this article we will explain how to Install Prefinished Hardwood Floors, Solid Hardwood Floors as well as Engineered Hardwood Floors, using the staple down / nail down wood floors installation method. Unfinished Hardwood Flooring can be installed on the same exact way, but at the end, it has be sanded and finished as well.

If you are not sure what kind of hardwood flooring installation method you need to use, or you want to read some more information about Hardwood Flooring Installation you can choose one of the following links from our Hardwood Flooring Installation Academy:

Nail Down and Staple Down
Glue down
Floating Floor

What is The Difference Between Nail Down to Staple Down Installation?

The first powered tools from this tools group were the nails guns – the nailer. Most of the hardwood floors installers were using these pneumatic or manual nailers. Over the last few years the staples guns become more accessible, more high tech and a lot more comfortable for hardwood flooring installations. That’s when they become so popular with wood floors contractors and installers. Today the wood floors contractors are using both of the ways, what they are more familiar with, what they prefer, without any real big difference between the two flooring installation methods.


First Steps in Nail Down / Staple Down Hardwood Flooring Installation

• First thing you need to know about hardwood floors is that they are expand and contract according to moisture and humidity changes. That’s why the need to be acclimated at least 72 hours at the same room where you going to install the wood floors. That way, the floors can get use to the temperature and humidity levels of the room. It is also recommended to open the boxes as well at this acclimation process.

• The normal way of how the hardwood floors planks (or strips) will be laid down is perpendicular to the house wood joists.

• First step after preparing the hardwood flooring installation is to mark a reference line, parallel to one wall, usually the doorway wall. This step is well described at the preparation page. Make sure this line is accurate and straight, because a mistake here can make the all installation harder and problematic.

• After making the first reference line draw another line, parallel to the reference line, and mark the place where all the boards will end.
If you are installing hardwood floors all over your house, you can simply run the hardwood boards through the doorway exactly the same as you would do on the room. If this flooring installation will be only on one room, it is recommended to install some perpendicular boards under the doorway, as it will be described later on.

• The next line you are going to draw is a parallel line to the wall, marking the edge where the first hardwood boards are going to be installed. It is very important to leave at least 1/2” inch. (1.27 cm) distance from the wall, letting the wood enough space to expand.

• For your first hardwood boards, try choosing the straightest pieces you can. You might have to cut (notch) the very first flooring board (or maybe others) to go under the door jamb, or from the other hand, to cut the door jamb and/or the actual door.

• Because of the size of the nails gun or the staple gun, you are probably going to have difficulties using it near the wall, while installing the first lines of hardwood flooring boards. In that case you will have to use manual nailing or screwing the first hardwood planks to the sub floor. We recommend drilling small holes (at the size of the screw or nail) all the way and then using a bigger size (about 3/8” inch. diameter) to drill only half way in, making room to the screws or the nails and their heads. By doing it that way, you are creating deep counter-bore, so the nails / staples heads will be quite far inside the hardwood plank. You may cover those holes later by using a 3/8" diameter plug cutter, which cuts wood plugs at the same size of the drills.


Starting The First Row at Nail Down / Staple Down Hardwood Flooring Installation

• The very first hardwood board needs to be installed parallel to the reference line we made earlier. It is very important to make it straight so that the next boards will be straight and parallel as well. Don’t forget to keep at least 1/2" inch. space between the wall and the boards. We recommend screwing the first pieces of the hardwood floors directly to the floor joists. Mark them prior the hardwood flooring installation and then drill the holes in the hardwood boards at the right places.

• Next, continue the first line of the hardwood boards by placing more pieces and screw them to the sub floor as well, until you reach the edge of the room. Make sure that the others pieces are straight and parallel to the reference line as well as the first board. You can use other hardwood plank as an alignment plank. Connect it in the way that it will be connected to both of the boards (the first already screwed one and the other new one) and then use a hammer to hit it, making sure it is becoming straight and perfectly aligned with the first piece. You can also use a ply bar by pressing one side against the wall, and the other one against the hardwood plank, and by that pushing the hardwood piece toward the other plank. After you make sure the hardwood planks lined straight you can remove the alignment plank.

• Do not use the ply bar directly against the wall! It will damage the wall. You can use a small piece of hardwood, putting it between the wall and ply bar.

• Again, make sure that the first line is straight and completely parallel to the reference line. If these first two boards are not perfectly in line, the entire flooring job would be flawed and full of gaps.


Doorway Threshold Hardwood Flooring Installation

• If you are installing the hardwood floors only in one room, or you have other kinds of flooring outside this room, you will have to edge this flooring installation with a threshold or a piece from the wood floors.
• Measure and cut a hardwood piece to fit the doorway. Put it in the place under the door jambs. Use a Speed square to position the flooring board perpendicular to the existing row and mark the location of the threshold. Since we do not have anything to hold the threshold in place while we fasten it to the floor, we recommend to connect it to another hardwood piece and then screw this piece to the sub floor. In this way, the threshold will stay in place without movements when fastening it down to the sub floor.

• After nailing down / stapling down the threshold to the sub floor you can remove the hardwood piece you screwed earlier to the sub floor. You must be very accurate here, or all the pieces that connect to this threshold will reveal big gaps between the wood boards.


The Fun Part: Nail Down / Staple Down The Hardwood Floors

• After you done installing the first line successfully, it’s time to start installing the rest of the floor…
For the next rows installation just lay down the pieces, connect them and nail down / staple down them to the sub floor using nails gun or a stapler, pneumatic or manual.

• It is very important not to put the boards’ ends too close to each other. You must keep at least 6” inches distance between the hardwood flooring boards edges when installing them, so plan wisely your next moves.
If you are having troubles putting the boards completely straight you can use an alignment plank like we did at the first row. You can also use the ply bar to pull the planks together, make them tight together.
• Another useful tool you can use is the powerjack. It is a tool that helps you pull the hardwood flooring plank to the right direction with minimum effort by you.


The Procedure of Putting Hardwood Floors Planks In Place

• While installing hardwood flooring you have to put large amount of boards in place, and to do it as fast and right as you can to keep the whole installation efficient. The first step of doing it right is to place one tongue end of a new board into the grooved end of the previous piece. Then use a hammer to punch the piece towards the previous row. Then, do the same on the other side. (Never hit the hardwood board directly! Always use a small useless piece to do it.)
• After putting both of the edges in place, use a pull bar, pry bar or the powerjack to tighten the hardwood piece to the previous row, closing the gaps between the two boards. You may have to tap it again on some places, to make sure that there are completely no gaps.


The Procedure of Nailing Down / Stapling Down The Hardwood Floors Planks

• Before you staple down / nail down the hardwood floors planks you must make sure that they are on place, with no gaps or edges not in place.
• The nailing down / staple down work sequence supposed to be about one fastening every 16” inches. If you are using long enough nails (or staples) try fastening them to the places where the joists are going through.

• On your last rows you may won’t be able to use the stapler, because there will be not enough space between the boards and the wall. Then you may use an edger nails gun, or nail down manually. If you are choosing to do it manually you might need to drill the holes first.

• On the last row, screw the boards to the sub floor (try hit the joists), exactly the same as you did with the first row.