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hardwood flooring installation - How do I make a straight edge?

19848 Views 8 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  tacomahardwood.

I'm a new homeowner and I bought a bit of a fixer-uper. I'm starting my renovations with hardwood flooring and I am just prepping for my install when I realized that I should probably have a straight edge set up on the floor so when I start laying the wood slats they aren't crooked.

How do I go about making a straight edge on the floor if the walls aren't true?

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You're first 2-3 courses of flooring are going to have to be face nailed. Start by measuring the width of your floor boards, including the tongue. From each corner, measure out that distance, plus 3/8" (or manufacturers expansion recomendation). Now chalk a line from mark to mark. That line represents where the tongue of the flooring will be. Pick the longest straight boards you can find & start with them.
Another thing, Start on the side of the room that is most visible and end up on the side that is least visible e.g. behind the couch.
So a straight line is not required when laying the floor?

Also should I be putting a vapor barrier under the wood or at least foam padding? I was going to do it put the guy at the store said I didn't need it because I was laying solid hardwood. Is this true?
Your chalk line allows you to make your first course of flooring your straight edge. Chalk, you're line along your longest wall.
Do you have a crawl space, or a basement? Basements, I use rosin paper (craft paper), crawl space, I use tar paper. That is your moisture barrier. No moisture barrier needed if you've got a basement.

measure out from the longest wall and the longest wall perpendicular to it. after you have made your marks as the previous writer said on the long wall do the same on the perpendicular wall. after you have made your chalk line along those two walls to your measures you can check for square. the formula is 3ft, 4ft in each direction the triangular line that will connect them both will be 5ft if the room is square to those two walls. (you can use any multiples of the above e.g. 6, 8, 10 ft). if the result is not what it should be adjust your line along the long wall. now measure the width of the room parallel to the length or long direction of you wood. you may have to adjust the width of the first row so that the other side will come out more or less evenly.
15# felt underneath help minimize creaking caused by the flooring rubbing against the subfloor. The chaulk line is your straight edge. Keep the first course spaced away from the wall and snap your line, usually 3/8 to allow for expansion. This is why you took math...figure out how big of a piece to start with to end with the same size piece when you get to the other side. If you are ending with a small piece, deduct one full course from the total and add 1/2 piece to both small pieces on the ends. The first course will be face nailed as was already mentioned. If you are handy with a finish nailer, you may be able to shoot the next couple or so courses through the tongue until you can get enough clearance for the flooring nailer.

I took a look at your site; nice work.
all the answers

Yes you put a vapor barrier and straight with a straight line,
The easy way Is to measure off the longest wall , or if doing multiple rooms , Then use a hallway , The issue is to get the straight part where you will walk and notice if it is straight , rarely a house is out of square , But it happens , SO After you snap the Line By measuring off a long wall measure from a wall or cabinet and see if it is straight to that snap line , If it is way out of wack . Snap a line off the other wall close to the first line them snap a line in the middle splitting the out of square , Then get a couple row's glued and nailed down and start the paper .. I use Hardwood floor paper , Oh Heck we are all the way too the paper ,you need to check the sub floor with a moisture meter before you get this far , But if not , Then at least make sure there isn't standing water under the house And hope it doesn't happen during the rain , So Use a real Hardwood floor vapor barrier , Light roofing felt will work , BUT it and most vapor paper is a vapor retarder , . Now IF you are installing on a second floor and the lower area is heated .Then you don't have to put vapor paper down , the reason for moisture paper is when you are framed over dirt . The moisture can come up to the floor , a few percentages of moisture change will cause hardwood to expand maybe the size of half a piece of paper . So If you have 200 pieces of hardwood across the room then half of that would be 100 pieces . And it will eventually shrink back down , and gap , Sometimes it is not even noticeable , But why take the chance ,
when you come to the end wall you may see if you can rent a wall jack so you can jack it tight , But if not drive a chisel into the sub floor a little and pry the hardwood tight and then top nail it , You can Also cut little v shaped wedges and drive them between the hardwood and the wall it will damage the sheetrock but if you are carefull it will only be below the base molding , Hope this helps ?
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