Hardwood floors are a popular choice for homeowners who want to add warmth and elegance to their homes. They are durable, timeless, and add value to a property. However, one of the most common questions homeowners ask is, “how long does it take to install hardwood floors?” The answer is not straightforward as there are several factors to consider. In this article, we will explore the process of installing hardwood floors and provide an estimated timeline for completion.
Before we dive into the installation process, let’s define what hardwood floors are. Hardwood floors are made of natural wood, which is cut into planks and installed on the subfloor of a home. The planks can be made from different types of wood, including oak, maple, hickory, and cherry, to name a few. Hardwood floors come in various styles, ranging from traditional to modern, and can be stained in different colours.
Apart from being visually appealing, hardwood floors are a practical choice for homeowners. They are easy to maintain, hypoallergenic, and can last for decades. However, installing hardwood floors is a significant investment of time and money. Therefore, it is essential to understand the installation process and timeline to avoid any surprises.
The preparation stage is crucial to ensure the hardwood floors are installed correctly. This stage involves removing any existing flooring, repairing the subfloor, and acclimating the hardwood planks.
Removing Old Flooring
The first step in the preparation stage is removing any existing flooring. This includes removing carpet, tile, or any other type of flooring material. Removing old flooring can be time-consuming, depending on the type of material and the size of the room. For example, removing carpet from a small room may only take a few hours, while removing tile from a large space may take several days.
Once the old flooring is removed, the subfloor must be inspected for any damage. Any damaged areas must be repaired or replaced to ensure the subfloor is level and stable. This step is critical as a level subfloor is necessary for the hardwood planks to lay flat and remain in place.
Acclimating Hardwood Planks
Before installing the hardwood planks, they must be acclimated to the room’s temperature and humidity. Acclimation involves placing the planks in the room for several days to allow them to adjust to the environment. This step ensures that the planks do not shrink or expand after installation, which can cause gaps or buckling in the flooring. The length of time required for acclimation depends on the type of wood and the room’s conditions. Typically, acclimation takes between 2-3 days.
Once the preparation stage is complete, the installation stage can begin. This stage involves laying the hardwood planks, securing them in place, cutting them to fit the room’s shape, and installing the last row of planks.
Laying the First Row of Hardwood Planks
The first row of hardwood planks is critical to ensuring the entire floor is level and straight. The first row is usually laid along the longest wall in the room, and spacers are used to maintain a gap between the planks and the wall. This gap is necessary to allow for expansion and contraction of the planks.
Securing the Planks
After the first row is in place, the subsequent rows are installed, with each plank interlocking with the previous one. The planks are secured to the subfloor using nails, staples or glue, depending on the installation method. It is essential to ensure each plank is level and snugly fits against the previous one.
Cutting the Planks to Fit the Room’s Shape
Not all rooms are perfectly square, and some may have irregular shapes or angles. Therefore, cutting the planks to fit the room’s shape is necessary. This step requires precise measurements and cutting techniques to ensure each plank fits snugly against the wall and other planks.
Installing the Last Row of Planks
The last row of planks is the final step in the installation process. This row is usually the most challenging as it requires cutting the planks to fit the remaining space between the wall and the last full row of planks. Once the last row is installed, the installation stage is complete.
Sanding and Finishing Stage
The sanding and finishing stage is where the hardwood floors come to life. This stage involves sanding the floors to smooth out any uneven surfaces and applying a stain or finish to enhance the wood’s natural beauty.
Sanding the Hardwood Floors
Sanding the hardwood floors involves using a floor sander to remove any rough or uneven surfaces. The sanding process is done in several stages, starting with a coarse grit sandpaper and finishing with a fine grit sandpaper. The number of sanding stages required depends on the condition of the floors and the desired finish.
Applying the Stain or Finish
After sanding, a stain or finish is applied to the hardwood floors to protect them from wear and tear and enhance their natural beauty. There are various types of finishes, including oil-based, water-based, and polyurethane. Each type of finish has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on the homeowner’s preferences.
Drying Time for the Stain or Finish
After the stain or finish is applied, it must be allowed to dry completely before any foot traffic is allowed on the floors. The drying time depends on the type of finish used and the room’s temperature and humidity levels. Typically, it takes between 24-72 hours for the finish to dry completely. Once the floors are dry, they are ready to be enjoyed.
Sanding and Finishing Stage
Once the hardwood planks are installed, the next stage is sanding and finishing. This stage involves sanding the floors to create a smooth surface and applying a stain or finish to protect the wood.
Sanding the Hardwood Floors
Sanding the hardwood floors involves using a floor sander to remove any imperfections, scratches, or unevenness from the surface. This step is necessary to ensure the floors are smooth and level before applying the stain or finish. Sanding can take several hours, depending on the size of the room and the condition of the floors.
Applying the Stain or Finish
After sanding, the floors are ready for staining or finishing. Staining involves applying a colour to the floors to enhance their natural beauty, while finishing involves applying a protective layer to prevent damage and wear. Both staining and finishing require several coats and must be allowed to dry between applications. The drying time can vary depending on the type of stain or finish used and the humidity levels in the room.
Cleaning and Maintenance
After the installation and finishing stages are complete, it is important to keep the hardwood floors clean and well-maintained to extend their lifespan.
Cleaning the Floors After Installation
After installation, the floors should be cleaned thoroughly to remove any dust or debris. This step is crucial as it ensures that the stain or finish adheres to the wood properly. Regular cleaning of hardwood floors involves sweeping or vacuuming daily to remove dirt and grit that can scratch the surface.
Regular Maintenance of Hardwood Floors
Regular maintenance of hardwood floors involves several steps, including polishing, waxing, and refinishing. Polishing and waxing help to maintain the shine and protect the wood from wear and tear. Refinishing involves sanding and applying a new stain or finish to the floors to restore their natural beauty. The frequency of maintenance depends on the amount of foot traffic in the room and the type of finish used.
Tips for Extending the Lifespan of Hardwood Floors
To extend the lifespan of hardwood floors, it is essential to follow some best practices, such as using furniture pads to prevent scratches, avoiding high heels on the floors, and keeping pets’ nails trimmed. It is also important to maintain the humidity levels in the room to prevent the wood from expanding or contracting.
In conclusion, installing hardwood floors is a significant investment of time and money. The installation process includes several stages, including preparation, installation, sanding and finishing, and cleaning and maintenance. The timeline for installation can vary depending on the size of the room, the type of wood, and the condition of the subfloor. However, on average, it takes between 3-5 days to install hardwood floors. With proper maintenance, hardwood floors can last for decades and add value and beauty to any home.