DIY Network

Basics of Hardwood Flooring

This DIY Basic will provide tips on hardwood flooring.

More in Floors

Step 1: Watch an Overview Video

Step 2: Learn the Basics of Traditional Hardwood

  • Boards made of solid wood such as North American oak, maple, hickory, and ash, plus exotic hardwoods from around the world like bamboo and teak

  • Widths are generally 2 1/4 to 4 inches

  • Thicknesses vary from 5/16 to 3/4 inch

  • Perimeter expansion gaps are generally equal to board thickness

  • Plywood subfloor must be nailed or screwed to joists to prevent squeaks and movement

  • Depending on style, traditional hardwoods can be nailed to plywood or glued on concrete

  • With the proper moisture barrier, bamboo flooring can be glued to concrete

Step 3: Learn the Basics of Handscraped Hardwood

  • Rustic finish with character

  • Created by hand with wood scraping tools

  • Great for areas of heavy traffic

  • Surface isn’t perfectly smooth so accommodates wear from pets and children

Step 4: Learn the Basics of Engineered Hardwood

  • Also called 'laminated wood flooring' but is NOT a laminate

  • Can be used in almost any room

  • Most are pre-finished

  • Made of several wood plies stacked in opposite directions and glued together

  • Ranges in thickness from 1/4 to 1/2 inch

  • Top layer is usually finer wood

  • Can be stapled, nailed, or floated over kitchen vinyl and plywood or glued over concrete

Tip: For best warranty, DO NOT MIX-MATCH PRODUCTS; use adhesives and moisture barriers from same product line

  • Comes in varying widths for unique look

  • When gluing over concrete, trowel-on a urethane moisture barrier first.

  • Engineered flooring’s stability or moisture tolerance makes it ideal for basements and kitchens

Step 5: Learn the Basics of Plank Hardwood

  • Engineered flooring 6 or 7 long and as wide as 7 inches

  • Made of 2 to 3 rows of thin hardwood strips spliced together to form solid surface

  • Can be glued, stapled, or floated

  • Can be installed over wide variety of subfloors including concrete and basement floors

Step 6: Learn the Basics of Floating Engineered Hardwood

  • Floating floors generally click together and float above the subfloor instead of being nailed or glued into place.

  • Only products with locking edges will click together

  • Tongue and Groove styles can be edge-glued and floated

  • Floating wood floors make an excellent choice over radiant heat, concrete, linoleum, and hard-to-remove or repair surfaces

  • Never secured directly to the substrate

Step 7: Acclimate the Flooring

All hardwood flooring must be acclimated to the installation space for at least 1 to 2 days.

All hardwood expands and contracts with temperature and moisture; always allow expansion space.


  • Choose a pre-finished hardwood and you’ll never have to seal the floor.

  • Always use moisture barriers over cement, ceramic tiles, kitchen vinyl and other non-porous surfaces.