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The Choice for Tongue and Groove Flooring

Firm up your floor using tongue and groove flooring. Here’s how to do it. 

Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens®

Installing sheets of plywood can help you strengthen your floor. Begin by giving the area a good once over and clean it up. Set any popped nails and remove the baseboards and moldings. Take care with those moldings. If they are in good shape, you can use them again. Simply write numbers on the backs so can recall where each piece goes.

You also need to study the floor height. If the new flooring juts up too much, you may be creating a tripping hazard. Most people find a height difference of ¾ inch to be too much.

Level any bad dips by pulling up the old flooring, nailing shims to the joists, and renailing the old boards. Staple one or two layers of roofing felt (tar paper) onto the subfloor. This will help prevent squeaks.

Use spacers to create a 3/8-inch gap between the flooring and walls or baseboards. This is important; boards that are installed tight against the wall may buckle. Shoe molding will cover the gap when you're done.

Step by Step

1. Nail the first board into place.

Place the grooved edge of the first board 3/8 inch from the wall. The power nailer will not be able to reach this close to the wall. Drill pilot holes and drive flooring nails at a 45-degree angle through the tongue every 12 inches.

The Choice for Tongue and Groove Flooring

2. Tap the boards together.

To keep the courses parallel, tap the boards together before nailing. Use a wood scrap as a driving block to protect the flooring. Or use the neoprene head of the power nailer mallet. For a professional appearance, offset all neighboring joints by at least 2 inches.

The Choice for Tongue and Groove Flooring

3. Use the power nailer.

Load the power flooring nailer with staples recommended for your type of floor. Experiment with depth settings; the staple heads should just barely sink below the wood surface. Fit the nailer to a tongue, make sure it rests flat, and hit it with the mallet.

The Choice for Tongue and Groove Flooring

4. Measure for cut pieces.

Measure before cutting the last piece in each course, and cut with a power miter saw or a circular saw. Don't cut off the edge with the tongue or the groove that you'll need. About every six courses, stretch a string line to check for straightness.

The Choice for Tongue and Groove Flooring

5. Scribe around irregularities.

Cut casings at the bottom, using a scrap of flooring as a guide. To fit around other irregularities, scribe with a compass and cut with a saber saw.

The Choice for Tongue and Groove Flooring

6. Secure the last rows.

You may need to ripsaw the last course. Protecting the wall with a wood scrap, push the last courses tight with a pry bar. Drill pilot holes and drive finishing nails through the face of the boards. Set the nails and fill with wood putty.

The Choice for Tongue and Groove Flooring

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