Tips Before You Start Installing Wood Flooring

Find out the basic prep you need to do before you begin installing a wood floor.
hardwood floor

hardwood floor

Wide view of hardwood floor in this living room space with dining room area, couch, coffee table, and kitchen area.

Wood is an attractive and hard-wearing option. Imitation wood floors are broadly referred to as laminate floors. Real wood is more expensive, but gives a higher-quality finish. Real wood floors can now be laid using clip-together techniques (ideal for DIY), as well as by more traditional methods such as gluing tongue-and-groove.

Laying a Wooden Floor

Do not lay wood or laminate where humidity will be high (e.g., the bathroom or kitchen) unless the manufacturer states that it is suitable. Wood can be laid on most subfloors that are level and in good condition.


Most wooden flooring is laid "floating" (not attached to the subfloor). This allows some movement in the wood, aided by expansion gaps at the edge filled with cork and/or hidden by moldings (fixed to baseboard, not flooring).

Plan ahead, considering any fixtures that will need boards to be cut to fit around them, and avoid awkward slivers. Try not to attach permanent fixtures to or through a floating floor, which could restrict its movement or cause cracks to appear.

Start laying boards at one wall and go across the room, staggering joints between boards for the most hardwearing and best-looking finish.


Plastic Wedges (Image 1)
Used around the edge of the flooring, to keep the expansion gap a consistent width.

Pry Bar (Image 2)
Used in fitting end sections of floor, if space is too tight to use a hammer and/or knocking block.

Knocking Block (Image 3)
Protects the edge of a laminate or wooden board when being positioned.

Ratchet Floor Clamp (Image 4)
Used to tighten joints when laying a floating floor.


Clip-Together Board (Image 1)
Real wooden flooring with clip-together joints.

Laminate Board (Image 2)
Wood-effect flooring connected by tongue- and-groove.

Tongue-and-Groove Wooden Board (Image 3)
Real wooden flooring with tongue-and-groove fitting.

Pipe Cover (Image 4)
Decorative cover to give clean finish at the base of pipe.


Edge Beads (Image 1)
Molding to cover expansion gaps around the edges of a floor.

Cork Strip (Image 2)
Fills expansion gap. Needed only if manufacturer calls for it.

Roll Underlayment (Image 3)
Thin material positioned below floating floors.

Sheet Underlayment (Image 4)
Thick material supplied in small boards or sheets for use below floating floors.

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