How to Fit Solid Wood Flooring

So you’ve agonised about which type of flooring you need, had arguments about whether it needs to be lacquered or brushed & oiled (that old chestnut, huh?) and waited patiently for it to be delivered, like a child waiting for a favourite family member to arrive at Christmas.

But now what? Well you’ve got to lay the thing. You might think it makes a lovely hallway decoration or an elaborate and somewhat unwieldy paperweight, but trust us, it looks even better when laid.



Here is your guide on how to fit a solid wood floor:




Your hardwood floor needs time acclimatise and get used to its new home, a bit like a new kitten. This is because the air pressure and humidity levels in your home will cause it expand or contract slightly – not by much, but enough so that if you laid it straight away, it could buckle or leave large gaps as it changes in size.


Taken out of the packaging, you should leave your wooden flooring to acclimatise for around a week. If it is left within the packaging, it’ll likely take longer than that. Try not to leave the flooring near a radiator or in direct sunlight.


Related: Solid Wood Flooring – A Beginner’s Guide


Preparing the subfloor

fitting-wooden-floor-in-houseThe subfloor is just a slightly fancier name for the surface on which you’ll be laying your flooring. It’s essential you properly prepare your subfloor in order to prevent problems further down the line. 


Fixing to a concrete subfloor


Firstly, you need to ensure that the concrete is nice and level. You’re going to get nowhere laying it on a floor that resembles the surface of the moon. If it’s not level, you can use a special, floor levelling compound, alternatively you can screw in a level of chipboard or plywood to ensure an even surface. Secondly, you need to make sure your floor is clean and free from paint and adhesives.

If laying straight onto concrete, your best bet is to glue the flooring down, using a Rewmar Polymer Adhesive.


Fixing to a timber subfloor


If you’re fixing onto a timber floor, you’re best option is to nail it down. Again, if your floorboards are not level or in good condition then you might need to begin with a layer of plywood, onto which you can layer your new wood floor.

If fitting onto existing rafters or batons, you’ll need to lay the new floor at a 90 degree angle. You’ll also need bitumen-backed building paper between the joists and the flooring to protect against moisture.


Expansion gaps

Before you lay the floor, it’s important to remember to leave an expansion gap around the perimeter of the room. You’ll need to remove any current skirting beforehand. An expansion gap of around 15mm is recommended, you can fit spacers to maintain this gap whilst laying the floor.


Fitting your new solid wood floor

Right, so you know what you’re doing with your subfloor and how you’re going to fix your new floor. Now its crunch time.


Glueing your solid wood floor

First of all, do not apply any adhesive to the boards themselves. You’ll need to apply it to the subfloor and lay the boards on top.

You can either spread adhesive on using a notched trowel, imagine butter on toast, or you can use an applicator gun, applying lines of adhesive every 30cm before laying the boards on top. Do not apply adhesive to the tongue and groove parts of the boards.


Nailing down your solid wood floor

There are two methods to nailing down a real wood floor – secret nailing and surface nailing.

Secret nailing – The most common way of nailing down wood floors and usually completed using a nail gun. The nails are inserted at a 45 degree angle through the side of the wood, just above the tongue so that the nail enters the subfloor.

The diagram below will give you an idea of how secret nailing works.


Secret nailing on solid wood floor diagram




Surface nailing – A nail is driven straight down through the flooring and into the subfloor. This is then usually filled to cover it up, although some people prefer leaving the head of the nail showing as a quirky design choice.


Related: Wooden Flooring Safety Guide


With both glued and nailed-down flooring, use a rubber mallet to gently knock the boards together so they fit nice and snugly. When you reach the end of a row, you’ll more than likely need to cut the board to fit. Remember to leave room for an expansion gap and cut with a circular saw, if you have one.



Once laid, you should still have a 15mm or so expansion gap around the perimeter of the floor. Of course you don’t want to leave it like this, so skirting boards come in very handy. You’ll have removed skirting boards before you started, you can either stick them back on or replace with new boards. it is possible to undercut existing skirting without taking it off, although this is a bit more fiddly.


Man fitting skirting board over solid wood floor


Fitting wooden flooring around pipes

You may well reach a point in your room when you have to fit your flooring around piping of some kind, most likely for a radiator. To safely negotiate such hazards, drill a hole 5mm larger than the diameter of the pipe before cutting in from the side of the board at the side of the hole to allow the pipe to fit in nicely. You can then replace the off-cut piece of wood and glue in place.


Related: Tips For Looking After Your Solid Wood Floor


Getting the professionals in

Laying solid wood flooring is more difficult than Laying laminate or engineered flooring, if you’re not feeling particularly confident laying real wood flooring then you can get a professional floor fitter in to do all the hard work for you.

If this is the route you want to go down, then we work closely with where you can find expert local tradesmen.


We think we’ve covered pretty much everything you need to know about fitting a solid wood floor, but if you have any other questions then please just let us know and we’ll help in any way we can.

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