How to Install Engineered Hardwood Flooring – Forbes Advisor


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  • Work time: 1 to 2 days
  • Total time: 1 to 2 days
  • Competence level: Advanced
  • Project cost: $400 to $800 for 100 square feet

Engineered hardwood flooring is a durable, long-lasting and timeless addition to your home if you are looking for the different types of flooring. Additionally, engineered hardwood is also a solid investment with resale values ​​sometimes matching or even exceeding the cost of installation. While other flooring trends may come and go, engineered hardwood flooring is a perennial favorite.

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So, installing your own engineered hardwood floor pays off, not only financially, but also in terms of the beauty and comfort for your home.

REMARK: The start of 2021 was marked by an unprecedented labor shortage, a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with this, the demand for construction materials and jobs has skyrocketed. As a result, material prices may be higher than shown in this article and delivery times may be longer than usual for labor and materials.

When to install engineered hardwood flooring

To minimize damage, install engineered hardwood flooring after drywall, plumbing, painting and electrical work is complete.

Engineered hardwood floors should be acclimated to the room for at least 72 hours before installation. Maintain a relative humidity of 30-50% and a temperature range of 60 Fahrenheit to 80 Fahrenheit. Note that certain projects like drywall work and painting can significantly increase the humidity level in a room.

If you are installing the engineered hardwood floor over a concrete subfloor, the concrete must cure for at least 60 days before installing the floor.

Security Considerations

Your existing flooring or underlying adhesives may contain asbestos. It is generally safe to install flooring over asbestos, as long as asbestos-containing materials are not cut, sanded, or chipped, as these actions can release asbestos fibers into the air.

If you decide to remove the asbestos, it is safest to contact a certified asbestos removal company to carry out the work.


  • Pneumatic floor stapler and compressor or manual floor nailer
  • Electric miter saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Electric multi-tool or pole saw
  • Circular saw or jigsaw
  • Tape measure
  • Straight edge
  • rubber mallet
  • lever bar
  • Ground hitting block
  • Pencil


  • Engineered hardwood flooring
  • vapor barrier
  • Expansion joint spacers
  • Filler matching the floor covering


1. Unpack and mix the flooring

To acclimate the flooring, unpack the floorboards and mix them so that similar planks are not installed side by side. Inspect the boards for damage.

2. Remove baseboards

Use the lever to remove the plinths. Before firing, place a thin block of wood between the lever and the wall to prevent damage to the wall. Also remove the quarter round trim and shoe molding.

3. Assess the subfloor

The subfloor should be either 5/8 inch CDX grade plywood or 5/8 inch OSB. If the subfloor is concrete, glue or nail 5/8 inch CDX grade plywood to the concrete with a waterproof membrane underneath.

The subfloor should be clean and free of bumps or dips. Sweep or scrape debris. The subfloor must be level to a maximum vertical drop of 1/4 inch or rise more than 10 horizontal feet.

4. Add a vapor barrier

Lay out the vapor barrier, overlapping the edges 6 inches. Consult the flooring instructions for details on the correct type of vapor barrier. Never use plastic, as the purpose of the vapor barrier is to slow water migration, not stop it.

5. Rack floor

Fasten or dry fit the flooring by laying many boards usually in place without nailing them. Keep colors and shades random and avoid grouping them. Also try to avoid creating patterns in the layout of the planks that will draw attention, such as stair treads or groups of similarly sized planks in the same area.

6. Undercut Door Frames

Use the jamb saw or multi-tool to cut the door casings to match the thickness of the flooring plus another 1/16 inch.

7. Add expansion spacers

Create a 1/2 inch perimeter space (or as recommended by the flooring manufacturer) with the expansion gap spacers. You can either use plastic spacers that hook over the floorboards when you install the boards, or you can glue 1/2 inch plywood squares to the walls.

8. Establish the first row

Engineered hardwood flooring should be installed perpendicular to the direction of the joists. Start with a long, straight, true plank. Align the tab on the board so that the tab faces the room, not the wall. Maintain the expansion joint.

9. Install the first row

Nail the face boards on the first row, with the nails close to the wall so that the baseboard covers them. Cut the last board to length, leaving an expansion gap at the end.

10. Establish the second row

Start the second row of planks with a longer or shorter plank than the first plank in the first row to avoid matching side seams. Joints should always be staggered at least six inches, if possible.

11. Install the second row

Push the grooves of the second row planks into the tongues of the first row planks. If necessary, bring the boards together by tapping them together. Instead of tapping directly with the hammer, use a piece of flooring board as a tapping block to separate the hammer from the installed flooring. Finally, nail in place with the staple gun or flooring nail gun.

12. Continue the remaining rows

Continue the rest of the rows. Even though the flooring nailer is designed to pull the boards together on impact, it’s always best to start with the boards as tight as possible.

13. Continue Flooring

Frequently reassess your remaining boards and anticipate your needs. It is often useful to collect groups of boards from the unused pile by length (short, medium, long) or by grade, color or grain. You will be able to quickly type in the type of board you need for a certain area.

14. Cut out obstacles

When you reach an obstacle such as a chimney or vent, cut the board with the jigsaw to fit around the obstruction.

15. Cut the Last Row

It may happen that the last row of boards fits perfectly into the available space. Usually, however, these boards will need to be cut lengthwise. Remember that this last row should still have some expansion space.

Pass the boards through a table saw or use a circular saw with a fence to maintain a straight cut.

16. Install the Last Lines

With the last two rows you will have to work backwards, as you are approaching the wall and have limited access.

Push the last row(s) into place, forcing their grooves over the tabs of the previously installed rows. Nail the boards of these last rows. Countersink the nails. Cover with the nail holes with wood filler.

17. Install baseboards

Install baseboards and other wall trim on the walls. The plinth must be able to cover the expansion space. If not, add shoe molding or quarter round trim to the base of the baseboard to extend the reach of the baseboard.

When to call a pro

Installing engineered hardwood flooring is a highly skilled trade that is sometimes best left in the hands of trained flooring installation professionals. You may want to call in the professionals for large projects, like whole-house installation, or for complicated projects with lots of tricky cuts like diagonally oriented floors or stairs.

Most engineered hardwood floors are prefinished. Pre-finished flooring can be more difficult to install than unfinished (or finished-in-place) flooring, as there is little room for error. Damage created during installation is difficult to sand and cover. If you feel uncomfortable installing prefinished flooring, consider hiring flooring professionals.

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