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DIY Hardwood Floors

Here’s a peek at how we installed DIY hardwood floors.  I hate carpet.  When we purchased the townhouse, the first thing we did was run to Home Depot to order flooring.  We had to wait about 6 weeks, so if you are planning this project, plan ahead and budget wisely.  Even installing it ourselves, the flooring took a huge chunk of our budget: just over $4000 when the dust settled.  My husband and father-in-law installed approximately 600 square feet (plus a staircase) of hardwood flooring in a few days, working all day long.  Luckily, they had both installed flooring previously at my sister-in-law’s house so they had some experience with flooring.  There are plenty of resources and books highlighting the nitty-gritty of hardwood flooring, so we won’t provide step-by-step instructions (unless you want them!), but here are our progress pictures (to give you an idea of what is in store for you) followed by some tips we had to figure out on our own.

Hallway: “Before” (Note the ripple)


Stairs: “Before”


Carpet is gone! Removing nails from subfloor . . .


My grandpa helping remove staples too! (This was a big job)


Hello subfloor! Where did your carpet go?


Started to feel panic set in at this point.
As in, “What have we done?!?!? We’ll never get Humpty Dumpty back together again.”



We used maple plywood for the stair risers.  First we applied a few coats of varnish.






Starting to look good . . .

Ahhh . . . hardwood floors!
Ignore the ugly chair.  Soon we will part ways.  Soon.




Purchasing/Ordering your Flooring:

  • Have your calculations done before you even begin looking at flooring and ask the salesperson to double check your figures—don’t rely on that person to do all the math for you
  • If you haven’t done flooring before, consider 15% extra (as opposed to 10%) to account for mistakes cutting.  You don’t want to wait 6 weeks to finish your project
  • When you order your wood, ask for a copy of the guarantee and the instructions.  We didn’t ask for it ahead of time and were scrambling last minute for the proper underlay we didn’t know we needed and wasted an entire day
  • Ask about the return policy, you might have to pay a restocking fee for returning unopened boxes
  • Double check your entire order before taking your boxes of hardwood home—we almost left the store with 12 fewer boxes than we ordered!

Getting Started:

  • Let your neighbors know—this is LOUD work!  Apologize in advance, especially if you are new to the neighborhood
  • Make sure you allow the wood to acclimatize as per the manufacturer’s instructions (that’s why it is wise to get the instructions ahead of time so you can plan your schedule accordingly)
  • Don’t stack in one GIANT pile, it might be too much weight for the subfloor (depending on the size of your project) so spread the boxes in a number of rooms if possible
  • Allow for some “wiggle” room in your schedule—it took an entire day to pick up the flooring, rent the tools, find the underlay, etc., and we didn’t account for this time in our schedule
  • Make sure the subfloor is clean, level, and free of nails and staples
  • Start doing some measuring and figuring before you cut a single piece—plan the project: where to start, trouble areas, etc.
  • My husband and father-in-law started at the stairs (which were also stripped of carpet in exchange for hardwood) because the house isn’t square and they didn’t want the top of the stairs to showcase the crookedness
  • I asked them to do the guestroom last—in case we ran out of flooring, it would be an underused room that stayed unfinished not our bedroom or the office

Installing the Flooring:

  • Lay your hardwood across the joists—I wanted it the other direction, but it isn’t as structurally sound going in the same direction as the joists
  • If you have more than one person working, rent two floor nailers for the days that you are working on a simpler, wide open space with few cuts—it will really speed up the process
  • You may need to trim door frames and doors, depending on the thickness of the previous flooring
  • Look at each piece of wood carefully and pull from a number of different boxes at a time, so you don’t end up with a darker room and light room and some random piece in the middle
  • Don’t rush—it can be very difficult to fix mistakes once the planks are installed

Do you have any tips of your own??



  1. The English Organizer
    November 29, 2010 / 12:17 am

    Your floors look absolutely beautiful – congrats on all the hard work. I can't tell you how many "Humpty Dumpty" moments I've had, but somehow, things always work out!

  2. Dans le Townhouse
    December 2, 2010 / 5:12 am

    Thanks! I'm glad to hear that ours aren't the only imperfect renovations.~Tanya

  3. romina
    January 8, 2011 / 9:37 pm

    Hi Tanya. I have been think on using this kind of floor in my bedroom, but after seing your pictures I had made up my mind; It ended up so well, and I love that color! I will go for it.. as soon as get the money! By the way I don't think that chair is ugly, maybe it just need some re-upholstery.Romina

  4. Dans le Townhouse
    January 10, 2011 / 4:06 pm

    Thanks Romina! I love hardwood floors in the bedroom because they are so easy to keep clean and dust-free. It helps me sleep better. ~Tanya

  5. house no. 2
    March 18, 2012 / 11:50 pm

    i'm just reading back through some of your entries. i effin' love your house. it's absolutely gorgeous yet so comfortable. it's not the kind of house where you'd tip toe all around afraid to get anything messy, despite the fact that it's so lightly coloured. it remains so homey, yet glamorous, if you know what i mean. it's near perfect!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 19, 2012 / 5:57 pm

      Awww, thanks so much!! Yep, I do try to keep it from being "museum-y" but I still do love to be surrounded by prettiness. Your super flattering comment means a lot to me.

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