Labor day weekend hardwood floor installation

Ever since buying our home, we have been eager to replace both the (hideous) kitchen and dining room floors. While the dining room floor isn’t nearly as offensive, a couple of the tiles had already come up, and we were pretty lazy in covering it when we re-painted the room, so it was easily a candidate. As well, given that we’ve never installed a floor, and the dining room floor — unlike the kitchen — is basically square, we decided to start with that room to get an idea of the process.

We found a very good guide to installing a hardwood floor, which was quite useful. We certainly bought enough wonderful bamboo wood beforehand, but the tools were generally purchased and rented in the Friday before the weekend. In short, the following were used:

  • pneumatic floor nailer (2: the first one jammed/failed just after the store it was rented from closed for the remainder of the weekend; Home Depot was still open, however)
  • air compressor
  • rubber mallet
  • pry-bar
  • miter box + hand-saw
  • measuring tape, square
  • normal hammer
  • paint scraper
  • finishing nailer

removing tiles

We started pulling up the existing floor on Thursday night with the two tiles that had already come up in the last year … trying to understand how hard that would be. Luckily, the original floor installers had used very little glue. The tiles came up without much effort, and left nothing behind. The sub-floor was in great shape, ready to accept a new floor.

The installer in the aforementioned guide did some nifty drilling to create well-countersunk nail wells and covering plugs for the initial row of flooring. We, uh, didn’t do this. After carefully aligning the first row, we tried in vain to nail some finishing nails straight through, but bamboo is 106% harder than Red Oak, the manufacturer proudly proclaims. At this point, for some reason, we also didn’t have the finishing nailer. So, we used the floor nailer directly applied to the surface, creating some unsightly blisters on the first row. However, that row was now solidly attached to the subfloor. We looked at the remainder of the unfinished floor, and put our first folly behind us.

The remainder of the rows slotted nicely into place. As mentioned, this room is simple, and thus has only 3 widths. As the planks were tounge-in-groove and end-matched, there was some thought-work required to make sure we had the appropriate cuts to create “in-nie” and “out-ie” pieces for the left and right sides as we alternated seams. There was a section where my measurement was a bit off, so we had 2 rows that ended in a 1 inch gap from the wall. We agreed that wide trim would hide a multitude of sins, and pressed on.

We were also lucky in that we only had to cut one (1) notched piece, around one of the heater vent covers. All the other transitions were “perfectly” aligned. There were multiple “will you look at that!” and “my word”. It was good.

Of course, the last row didn’t work quite so nicely, and needed to be “ripped” … as I now understand, a word meaning “to cut a thin piece of wood the long-way”. I started into the short segment with the hand-saw in the basement, but the bamboo – 106% stronger than Red Oak – did not like this idea. As well, just given the geometry of the saw and cutting through a long piece of wood, a saw toothed pattern emerged. We resolved that trim would be our friend, and pressed on. We did, however, call Home Depot to find out that they do in fact cut wood that you do not buy there, as the long segment was forthcoming.

On the 2nd Home Depot trip of that day (after getting the finishing nailer), I found out that they cannot rip pieces unless it’s plywood wider than 12 inches. Dejected, we returned home, having no other option but to saw our arms off.

After returning, and even after starting to saw, we looked for options. We settled on perforating the board with a series of closely-spaced drilled holes, which would reduce the volume of wood by a good fraction … at least half. This actually worked pretty well; at times, the hand saw cut through inches of board as like butter. With the last piece cut, and luckily fitting, we ended the second night with an un-trimmed but finished floor.

When we do the kitchen, we’ll make only a couple of changes: * have the finishing nailer at the beginning * rent a table saw

But, otherwise, we’re looking forward to another nice home improvement project.

And that damn kitchen floor being gone.