Hardwood Floor Installation

How Hardwood Installers Work

Hardwood floor installation happens in four different phases. The first phase is the size estimate. After you contact a company, an estimator will come to your house and measure your floors with a rolling wheel-type measuring device and a long tape measure. With these tools, the estimator will produce a square-foot measurement. Do not be alarmed if their figure is greater than yours since they will add at least a ten-percent overage amount to account for waste associated with cutting the wood.

Be sure to get at least three estimates from different companies. When all of the estimates come in, expect to see a wide price spread. Some installers may throw out high estimates because they know there is a certain percentage of homeowners who are prone to immediately signing a contract. Do not be that type of homeowner. By getting three or more estimates, you weed out those outlier estimates.

The second phase is the price estimate. The size estimator may sit down with you on the spot and crunch the numbers to come up with a price estimate. Or the estimator may take the figures back to the shop, and you will receive a call later.

When you receive the cost estimate, firm up some important details, such as:

  • Will the floor installers shift furniture? Moving the furniture by yourself ensures the condition of your furniture.
  • Will the installers cut the floorboards outside? Cutting wood on a miter saw, especially on that scale, produces a significant amount of airborne debris.
  • Will the installers seal off other rooms with plastic?
  • How will the installers handle baseboards, since baseboards usually overlap flooring? Will the installers cut under the existing baseboards to fit the hardwood underneath? Will the installers remove the baseboards and then re-install them after the flooring is in place? Or, as a third option, will the installers butt the floorboards against the baseboards, then cover with quarter-round trim?

The third phase is the delivery of the flooring and acclimation, which should happen at least three days before the installers arrive. Acclimation means that the wood needs to reach an equilibrium, or a moisture balance, with the home. Dry climates require longer acclimation periods. The inside of the home should stay at a steady 60 F to 80 F before and during installation. Humidity levels should stay between 30 percent and 50 percent.

The installers usually arrive early in the morning and set up their saws outdoors (if the weather allows) or in the garage. As long as the subfloor is in good condition, the installers can start right away. Subflooring for hardwood should be a minimum of 5/8-inch thick plywood, especially when you are installing extremely hard exotic hardwoods such as teak or Brazilian walnut. Do not use particleboard or oriented strand board (OSB) as a subfloor. Nearly all solid hardwood flooring is nail-down installation (where nails or brads are driven through the flooring and into the subfloor), so having a solid subfloor is vitally important.

Hardwood floor installers tend to be efficient and work quickly. By the end of the day, at least one or two rooms in your house will now have a new floor.