I finally finished the installation of the hardwood floor in the breakfast room and pantry yesterday! This was a big project, and it took way longer than I had anticipated, so I’m relieved to have it done. Of course, it still needs to be sanded and sealed, but that will be one of the last projects I do in here before I put furniture in the room.
So here’s a look at the newly installed solid red oak flooring. I got the flooring at Home Depot, and the store here keeps it in stock all the time.
Here’s the full view with my new windows.
That side of the room, with the old windows and asbestos tile-covered concrete floor used to look like this…
I love to see the progress!!
And of course, the best thing of all is that I no longer have a step down into the breakfast room from the kitchen. It’s now all one level floor from one room to the next.
And here’s the pantry at the back of the room…
That side of the room used to look like this…
It’s come a long way! But there’s obviously still so much to do.
So I wanted to pass on a couple of tips for installing hardwood flooring.
Hardwood floor installation tools
First, if you’ve never seen nail-down hardwood flooring being installed, this is the nailer that you use for this project. It’s big with a tall handle so that you can stand while using it. And it has a plunger button on the front of it.
You use the rubber mallet that comes with it to hit the plunger button to shoot the L-cleats into the tongue edge of the tongue-and-groove flooring boards.
The metal side of the mallet is slightly angled, and you use that side to tap the boards into place. The angle allows you to hit the edges of the boards without damaging the tongues on the boards.
I bought my hardwood floor nailer on Amazon about three years ago, and while they no longer carry the one I have, you can find a similar one here.*) Mine came with two different plates for two different thicknesses of hardwood flooring. The flooring I’m using is 3/4″ thick.
I use it with my 6-gallon Porter-Cable pancake air compressor*, and it works perfectly.
That nailer works great in the wide open areas of the room, which of course, is most of the room. However, when you get to the other side of the room and get close to the wall, there’s no longer any room for the nailer. So when I get about four rows from the wall, I start using my 16-gauge nail gun (mine came with this set*) and nail at an angle just above the tongue.
On the very last two rows, there wasn’t enough room for this nailer, so I installed those last two rows with adhesive and a few nails through the face of the boards. Those holes can easily be filled with red oak wood filler (this one is the best*) before the floor is sanded and sealed.
How to change directions when installing hardwood flooring
When installing my hardwood flooring, I started at the kitchen, and worked my way to the garage side of the room. When I hit the opening to the pantry, I took the flooring all the way to the back all of the pantry…
…and then I continued working towards the garage side of the room in both the breakfast room and the pantry.
But then I still needed to do the pantry floor from the door opening back towards the left side of the room (i.e., towards the kitchen). But that meant changing directions in the wood since that was the groove side of the wood, and you nail through the tongue side of the wood. You can’t nail through the groove side of the flooring boards.
Some people will just butt the two groove sides of two boards up against each other, and start nailing the opposite direction. But since there’s nothing holding these to edges together, that could cause problems down the road, so that’s not really the best option.
The best option is to use hardwood splines that are made to fit perfectly into the grooves on the flooring boards. These splines form a perfect tongue that holds the next board in place, and allow you to begin installing in the opposite direction.
I bought my splines online at Home Depot here.
How to easily remove misfired L-cleat nails
This is one of those lessons I learned while installing the hardwood flooring in my kitchen. I had a few misfired L-cleats that had to be removed before I could install the next row of boards.
I tried nailing it in all the way by hand, and it just bent and created a mess. I tried pulling it out with pliers, and since those L-cleats aren’t really made to come out, I ended up gouging the face of the flooring board and messing up the tongue on the board.
Then it dawned on me that the easiest way to remove it is to cut it. My Dremel oscillating tool (this is the one I have*) with a carbide blade* (an essential in my opinon) removed those things in about two seconds. It’s absolutely the easiest way to deal with misfired L-cleats. Just cut straight down along the edge of the board until you hit the tongue, and the excess piece of L-cleat will come right off.
So those are my tips that make hardwood flooring installation a bit easier. Truth be told, installing hardwood flooring is actually pretty easy. Just remember to allow the wood to acclimate in your house for a good amount of time before installing. I had mine stacked in the music room for about three weeks before I got started with the installation. Three weeks isn’t really necessary (one probably would have been enough), but longer is always better. There’s not really a set amount of time you have to wait. The issue isn’t time, but rather it’s the moisture content of the wood. The longer you can give it, the better.