Hardwood Flooring Installation Guidelines

We recommend employing a professional to install, and finish our flooring.  However, many of our customers are do-it-yourselfers and the successful installation of our solid wide plank floors is accessible to anyone who’s handy.  The following guidelines will help you with your hardwood installation.

Please inspect your flooring promptly after arrival to ensure it is the species and texture ordered, the quantity is correct, and the moisture content is acceptable.  Any irregularities should be reported immediately, as after the flooring has been out of our control, we cannot assume responsibility for subsequently encountered problems.  Birch Creek Millwork, Inc. is not responsible for site conditions or installation procedures; installation dictates acceptance.  Claims need to be made within fifteen days of delivery.  Following the probation period of fifteen days the floor will be considered accepted and no subsequent claims will be accepted.

Assessment, modification and maintenance of site conditions are the most important prerequisites to the successful installation and performance of wide plank wood flooring.  Solid wood flooring installation should be avoided anywhere outside moisture penetration is possible.  Therefore, any areas below the natural grade of the property or where rain can intrude are not recommended.

  • The installation of solid wood flooring should be postponed until all moisture producing trades (masonry, drywall, plaster, painting, etc.) are complete and their work is thoroughly dry; the roof, windows and exterior doors are installed tight and dry and the mechanical systems (heat or air conditioning depending on the season) have been operating for a minimum of 2 weeks.  Conditions and temperatures on site should be as close to living conditions as possible.  This will ensure a realistic acclamation for the flooring and reduce movement after installation.
  • The wood flooring and the sub-floor must be tested for moisture content.  The moisture content of the flooring and sub-floor should not differ by more than 2-3%.  If the deviation is greater than that, acclimation is essential and installation should be postponed.  Once both flooring and sub-floor have reached an acceptable moisture content level, installation may proceed.  Particle board sub-flooring is unacceptable for hardwood installation and will not achieve proper nail holding qualities; OSB or plywood is recommended.
  • Fifteen pound felt or red rosin paper may be used as an installation aid; however neither can be considered an effective vapor barrier.  The felt or rosin paper should overlap 2-4 inches to help restrict any moisture penetration.
  • Unfinished solid wood flooring is best installed before interior trim or cabinetry is installed.  This allows the trim to be fit tight and cabinetry to be scribed to the floor resulting in a neater overall job.
  • As plank flooring is in random widths of possibly unequal linear feet, an assessment of the quantities of each width (number of bundles) and an approximate layout plan must be devised.  This is no more scientific than to use rows of more prevalent widths more frequently, and to use scant widths more sparingly.  In no case will you fall short of any given run if this method is employed.
  • Begin by striking a line parallel to (usually) the longest outside wall, the distance away from that wall equal to the width of the chosen starter row including the tongue plus 1/2″.  Align the edge of the tongue with your marked line and face nail the groove side of the boards 1″ in from the edge (try to avoid face nailing where possible).  Once all boards are securely face nailed, proceed to blind nail the tongue side, using an appropriate length cleat (minimum 1½”) every 6″-8″ and 2″-3″ from every end joint.  Tap the next rows’ groove over the tongue (using a block on pine and a rubber mallet on hardwoods) and again, blind nail through the tongue.  Continue likewise across the room until you approach the opposite wall.  Begin face nailing when you are no longer able to nail the tongue.
    If necessary, rip the final boards to leave a ½” gap adjacent to the wall.
  • After all trim and cabinetry are installed, and all other “messy” trades complete, the floor can be sanded and finished.  With our flooring, we recommend a light screening with a 180 or 220 grit screen.
    Following the screening process thoroughly vacuum floor to remove dust and apply a finish of your choice.  Three coats of finish are recommended.  Reclaimed flooring will have special finish needs depending on the species and material spec sheets.  Trestlewood in particular is not compatible with any water based finish and will produce an unpleasant result.

Plank flooring can be successfully installed over radiant in-floor heating by insuring proper moisture content levels and job site preparations.   In-floor heating systems should be functional and running for a minimum of three weeks prior to installation (even during summer months).   We recommend laying OSB or plywood (5/8″ or ¾ thick) over a sleeper or gypcrete heating system to assist the equal distribution of heat.   Be sure to run the flooring at right angles over the sleepers.   Lay flooring out across the floor as it would be installed with the floor heating system operational.   This will help expedite the acclimation of the flooring to the appropriate levels before installation.   Be aware of the heat tubing location to avoid any puncture to the system by nailing during installation.   After installation and as winter approaches the in-floor heating system should be activated in increments over a period of two to three weeks for a gradual and even heating.   It should be turned off in the spring by the same process.

We recognize that the practices of the wood flooring professional you have selected for the installation and finishing, with specific knowledge of local conditions, favorite methods, finish types, etc. may differ from these guidelines and should be given due consideration.   The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) also has publications regarding proper installation techniques and should be given due consideration.