Installing and Finishing Hardwood Floors

After making the wise choice of hardwood flooring, the next step is installation. Putting down a solid, unfinished hardwood floor is a multi-step process. It is recommended to use a professional installer, but for you DYI’ers, here is a step by step guide.

Solid hardwood flooring is installed using a nail-down method, fastened to a plywood subfloor. Once the floor planks are in place, the finishing process must begin. The first step is to make sure the surface is flat and level. This is done by sanding the entire room with a coarse grit sandpaper. You can use a belt or drum sander and an edger to get the perimeter. This step will ensure that your finished floor will be completely flat, with no protruding pieces sticking out.

Once the floor has been sanded, it is ready to stain. The most popular brands of wood floor stain are MinWax and DuraSeal. The stain is applied with a lambswool applicator. DuraSeal and MinWax can be applied instead of a sealer, as they both “penetrate and seal” the flooring.

The next step in the process is to seal the floor. Sealing wood prevents liquids from penetrating into the wood, which causes all sorts of problems like warping and gapping. There are a couple of options for sealing the floor. You can use a universal sealer, a lacquer sealer or a super speed sealer. Each will cover approximately 300 SF per gallon. Shellac, or universal sealer, such as the kind made by Garco or Dunhams, soaks the wood and is probably the best base. Lacquer sealer is solvent based, dries faster than shellac, but is much more flammable. Super speed sealer is a much thicker base, recommended mostly for commercial jobs, or dark floors. You want to put one coat of sealer on the hardwood floor using a lambswool applicator, and let it fully dry. This usually takes up to one hour, but you need to make sure the air is at least 20 degrees Celsius.

Once the base is completely dry, you need to screen/polish the entire floor before applying the first coat of polyurethane. An oil-based polyurethane will be thicker than a water-based one, so it is recommended to use two coats for oil-based poly and 3 coats for water-based. Different brands of polyurethane have different dry times, so be sure to consult the technical data sheet. In general, water-based polys dry in approximately 2 hours, while oil-based polys dry overnight. Be sure to screen/polish between all coats.

Important notes:
1) It is recommended to use the same brand sealer and polyurethane.
2) Some finishes and sealers can be very flammable, so use caution!
3) Primer doesn’t spoil, but Polyurethane should be used right after opening
4) Water-based poly should be continuously stirred after opening (One person stirs, another person applies)

Some information on the differences between engineered vs. solid hardwood.

Some information on prefinished hardwood flooring.

Some information on how to choose wood flooring.

Some information on hardwood floor experts.

Some information on wood floor underlayments.

Some information on getting wood floors online.

Some information on European hardwood floors.

Some information on maintaining wood floors.

Some information on Green Bamboo flooring.