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How to Lay Tongue-and-Groove Subflooring

Many older homes have plank subfloors. If you are remodeling and find that some areas of the subfloor are damaged, consider replacing them with new tongue-and-groove boards.

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Flooring-grade Chipboard

Step-by-Step Instructions For:

You can use a hammer, nails, and a nail set to install the planks, or you may decide to rent a floor nailer. It fires a nail at precisely the correct angle through the tongue of the board and into the joist below, securing it below the floor surface.

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Laying Tongue-and-Grooves Boards

Position the first board in the way described opposite for laying plywood. Check that the board is the right way up. The tongue should be facing you. The following steps show you how to attach tongue-and-groove boards using blind nailing (image 1).

Place the nail where the board’s tongue meets the vertical edge, position nail at 45-degree angle and hammer into place. Using a nail punch, tap it in until it sits below the surface (image 2).

Place the groove of the next board over the nailed tongue, covering the nails. Make sure that you join boards together over a joist (image 3).

Continue to position rows of boards across the floor. Use blind nailing, (image 4), as you progress.

On reaching the final board, scribe and cut to fit as required. A jigsaw is ideal for this. Fasten with finish nails (image 5).

Laying Tongue-and-Groove Particle Board

Flooring-grade particle board (also known as chipboard) is usually made with tongue-and-groove edges, including the board’s shorter sides. Supporting blocking should be placed around the room’s perimeter.

Position the first board across the joists. Insert wedges between the board and the wall, to create an expansion gap of 3/8" (image 1).

Screw the board in place, using particle board screws. These should be inserted at 6-inch intervals, positioned along a joist (image 2).

Apply wood glue along the tongue of the board. Then slot the next board in place (image 3).

To create a tight joint, tap the boards in place, using a scrap piece of particle board as a knocking block (image 4).

As you tighten the boards, you will probably need to wipe away excess glue with a damp sponge (image 5).

Continue to lay the particle board. At the edge of the room, mark and cut the boards to fit the remaining space and fix them with screws (image 6).

Creating an Access Panel

Gaining access underneath a tongue-and-groove floor is difficult, due to its interlocking structure. Note where access may be required. Remove the tongue from the board, and screw the board down. It can then be unscrewed and lifted easily. Fix extra blocking to support the edges of the access hatch.

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