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Thread: Prefinished Hardwood Flooring - installation Q.

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    London, Ontario

    Prefinished Hardwood Flooring - installation Q.

    I've never laid hardwood flooring before, but I've done plenty of other DIY jobs, so I'm confident in tackling this. But I'd certainly welcome some advise as to how best to approach my problem.

    We're planning to put prefinished hardwood in our LR/DR (3-1/4", not that that matters too much). It's basically a big rectangle, so I'm not that worried. However the LR and DR are separated by two stub walls that stick out 32" into the room. Like this:
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    From browsing these forums over the past couple years, and from checking out a DIY video (for unfinished hardwood) I've come up with two different approaches.

    1- I could measure out from the walls some multiple of a board (so that it starts on a full board) and snap a chalkline. Then screw down some plywood scraps as backing, and then start laying flooring across the floor toward the opposite wall. Lay out a few rows, then remove those plywood scraps. Then rip a spline from thin plywood, put it in the groove of these first row pieces, and then turn around and lay hardwood back towards the starting wall. Like this:
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    2- I could measure out as above and snap the same chalkline. Then, measure BACK towards the wall and mark a starting line. (Can't count on the wall being straight after all) Then lay out the first row and carefully face nail these into the floor. Then proceed outward. If you did it right, both rooms will match up when they pass the stub wall. Like this:
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    The downfall of the 2nd approach, I think, is that I can see you need to measure very, very, carefully. The downfall of the first is needing to be pretty particular about fitting that spline. Am I missing anything else?

    Is there another approach worth considering? How would you do it?


    ps: and yes, I do tend to overthink projects on occasion...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Charlotte, NC
    If it were me, I'd snap a line in the middle of the room and work out. You'll likely have to rip some boards on both sides of the room, But I think you have the tools to do that! Pull the base boards and reinstall them after the flooring is down. This will give you a little extra wiggle room!

  3. #3
    Make sure the opposite walls are the same distance apart. Other wise, you will end up ripping wedge shaped pieces on one side or both. If you check for overall square of the whole room, you should be good to go.

    One thing I would recommend, is that you un pack as many boxes as you can, and if there is a major variation in color, one box to another, mix them up so you don't end up with a really light or dark patch in one location.

    I had this happen with 1100 sq ft of Brazilian Cherry. A couple of the boxes were really light color.

  4. #4
    As you mention, it can get awfully easy to overthink these things. I recently did my dining room, which has an 8' opening into the kitchen on one wall (long wall), and a 42" opening to the living room on an adjacent wall (short wall). I chose to run the boards in the short direction, because I knew any 'crookedness' would be hidden at the back of the room under a hutch. If I'd gone the other direction and got off a bit it would be visible on the other long wall. So I say pick the most important visible reference, make it straight there, and git'r'done.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Kansas City, Missouri
    I've done a couple of floors using laminate. I usually measure out the width of the room, divide that by the width of the finished part of the piece of flooring (sounds like 3 1/2?). So if the room is 12' wide (144"), divide 144 / 3.5 = 41.14, you would have just over 41 pieces across the room. The goal is to have a few inches on each side of the room, no joints within a 1" or so of the walls running parallel to the flooring. So in this case rip the first row in half, and the last row should work out to be about the same distance.

    Personally I'd lay a chalk line the same distance out from each end of the room (rooms in this case) where you just clear one side of the opening. Your measurement should take in to account that first row's width and however many rows in addition to clear the opening. Once you put your chalk line down you can check your measurement to see if you'll have any large gaps and adjust accordingly by adjusting the width of your first row's pieces. I'd even go so far as to chalk each room's first row based off the reference line that runs room to room.

    Once you have the first rows down you could dry stack enough boards on each side to double check your layouts.

    As Ed mentioned, pull the base boards to give yourself some fudge room.

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  6. #6
    I have lain a couple of these floors (unfinished as well as prefinished) and you are right to concern that the stub wall will/might influence alignment. I use a chalk line just as you would tile. From it you make refference measurements to assure the walls of the ajacent rooms are on the same plane, Just because it looks like it, it is still best to measure. (who knows what the framer did or had in mind or if there were two different framers and two different measurements???? Better safe than sorry)

    Anyway, Once you lay down the paper (either black roofing paper if over a cool space like a crawl space, or over a bathroom or laundry where moisture abounds; or rosin paper where the space below is heated and dry) You do the layout and then make a measurement from the center line to the wall and mark both sides of the Stub wall to a starting point, set the first course to a line leaving an expansion area between the wall and the flooring.

    Work both sides of the stub wall making measurements to the chalk line o you can adjust the tightness or less than tight so when either room reaches the end of the stub, they align with the next course,

    When you get to the other wall the stub will be a moot point but you need to keep measurements from tyhe course to the opposite wall so you can adjust tightness to assure that you reach the wall at the same course.

  7. #7
    Difficult to adjust spacing with the prefinished stuff, unless it has a vee groove. Even the smallest opening on mine (no vee) is very, very noticeable.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    St. Louis, MO
    This past summer i installed a wood floor in the ground floor of my house. I had the exact same condition as you with the stub walls separating the living and dining rooms. I talked with several professional installers about the best way to go about it. they all said to follow your option #1 with a couple of minor additional points.

    1) once you snap your line across the full lenght of the space, check it for square to the parallel walls. If the walls are not perfectly parallel, do what you can to split the difference so you're not trying to make it all up on one side of the room (more obvious).

    2) if there are any significant features in prominent places in the space (grand staircase, fireplace hearth, etc.) you may want to frame them with 2 or three widths of flooring, then start your floor, using full plank widths, off of the hearth frame (for instance).

    laying up the first line against temporary cleats is the way to go. Reversing the install with spline is the old tried and true practice to work your way back to the wall. You're correct in that the spline is a pretty tight tolerance item. Most flooring manufacturers make and sell spline for their flooring. Mine cost me a dime per lineal foot - well worth it if you can purchase it pre-made.

    My floor was unfinished narrow plank (1-1/2" wide) 3/4" thick T&G. I did quite a bit to level up my 90 year old subfloor. The install (including subfloor work - replacing large areas on top of new sistered joists set level) took 6 long days of hard work, but it was immensely rewarding. I did had the finish applied by a professional, and was quite proud to see the final product.

    One additional note - if you've got any squeeks in your floor you want to eliminate, the time to do it is before you install your new floor. Additional screws, ringshank nails, or coated twist nails through the subfloor into the joist will take care of the problem. I went through about 15 lbs of ring shank nails and a couple of pounds of screws to quiet down my 650 square feet. It took care of all the squeeks - made a huge difference.

    The advantage of the prefinished product is that, once it's installed, you're done. Be carefull, though - in areas that are likely to be exposed directly to liquids, the edges and ends will soak them up and stain if spills are not cleaned up immediately. The surface has finish on it, but not the sides. A site applied finish fills in the gaps, sealing the sides and ends, but prefinished products are susceptible to staining at these locations if care isn't taken.

    One last recommendation - good knee pads and one of those wide back belts you see workers wear will save your body a lot of turmoil.

    Good luck and have fun.

    Paul Hubbman

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    London, Ontario
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Hubbman View Post
    - good knee pads and one of those wide back belts you see workers wear will save your body a lot of turmoil.
    Thanks, Paul, lots of good info there. I'm leaning toward #1, but starting from the opposite side -- there is a 5' opening into the LR from the foyer, and being a visually important area, I want to make sure that starts off with whole boards. The opposite wall, in contrast, will always have a couch against it, so a partial board along the wall will make no never mind.

    And another thing... What exactly do those wide black belts do? I see them on folks at the local Borg all the time, (many have them untied) and never been sure. Do they help keep your lower back straight?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Lindsay area, Ontario, Canada
    Art..those wide black belts are lower back supports. When bending...lifting etc. they take the strain...instead of your lower back muscles. If you're subject, to any sort of back "problems"...get a belt, for the flooring job! Other than needing good knee and back'll have no problem, laying it!

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