The plan: install solid hardwood 3/4″ pre-finished walnut flooring in our kitchen, foyer, and master bedroom. (The three of these are connected). We already had existing honey-colored oak in our living room and dining room (of which we are not huge fans) & it would just be a waste to pull it all up. Perhaps we’ll refinish it a darker color later – but that’s waaaay down the road.
Anyway, we decided to install the hardwood floors on the diagonal, since it is a more expensive look (literally, it is. It requires around 20% more material) and we didn’t want the walnut to be running the same direction as the oak – and it couldn’t run the same direction as the joists. And since we’ve never installed flooring before, and diagonally is “harder”, we figure we wouldn’t know the difference because we didn’t have any experience to know the difference.
The more immediate plan: install the flooring in the kitchen and then the foyer. Later, after the kitchen is done, then we’ll tackle the master bedroom.
Installing our own floors means buying tools. We are now proud owners of a flooring nail gun. We already had the 21 gal., 125 max psi air compressor from the concrete countertop project. Immediately getting two uses out of the giant air compressor is great.
air compressor & hose
flooring nail gun & mallet
chop saw, extra blade
measuring tape, chalk line, square
mallet, hammer, small scrap 2×4
respirator mask, hearing protection, goggles
nails, tar paper, duct tape
things you wouldn’t think of:
pliers, screw driver
box to put tools in/scrap box
As a way to save on the amount of flooring material needed, we placed osb (oriented strand board) under the cabinets (including the island) and appliances. We placed the osb under the cabinets so that their feet were resting on the board, but the hardwood flooring would extend under the future toe-kick…ultimately hiding the osb. Using the boards also allowed us to install the hardwood floors after the cabinets, but more importantly, the countertops. We wanted to do this just in case the floor might get damaged in the installation process. (Unlikely, but you never know.)
When researching where to start floors on the diagonal, there were two camps: one said to start against a wall and the other said to start in the middle of the room. Now, as long as we were at a 45 degree angle to the walls, we would be fine. And actually, we didn’t have to worry about our walls not being perfectly square – so that was kind of a bonus.
We rolled out the tarpaper underlayment (the same kind that is used for roofing) and sealed the edges with duct tape. We snapped a chalk line & started in the middle of the room. Specifically, we started in the kitchen near the foyer in front of the island. (Near where the saw horses are in the above photo.) Since we didn’t have a wall to push against, we screwed a cleat into the floor (that would be removed later) to set our first row against:
And then using the nail gun. These are the first few rows. We only went partly into the foyer with the full rows: as soon as we hit the other door frame, we continued only in the kitchen. Working diagonally means hitting a lot of walls and complicated cuts.
Working our way into the corner: as you get into this situation, hitting the nail gun with the mallet goes from difficult to impossible.
After we finished the corner, it was time to turn around and start heading back around the island in the other direction. This meant that we needed to turn the tongue and groove completely around in the other direction. We purchased “splines” from a professional supplier. They are basically a tongue that you can insert into the groove to reverse the direction of the flooring. A side effect is that this reversed area might squeak a tiny bit since you can’t nail into the spline.
Behind the island (where you can’t see in this photograph), we worked our way from right to left and stopped near the dishwasher. On the original row (in the foreground), we started (in reverse direction – right to left) at our original cleat/starting point and headed into the corner… and reversed direction (left to right) to meet the other row near the dishwasher.
Once the kitchen was done, eight days later, we started the foyer.
We carefully picked pieces to optimize the boards used and eliminate as much waste as possible. Unlike a 90 degree angle floor, we couldn’t just take the last piece from the end of a row and use it to start the next row – the cut angle would be wrong. We ended up having a pile of end pieces that, depending on the wall angle, we might or might not have been able to use later. (Sorry for the iPhone photos).
In total, the kitchen took three days and the foyer another two. In order to finish the foyer, we had a few boards flow into the master bedroom’s doorway, but kept the bedroom’s flooring installation project for another day – we were focused on getting the kitchen done first!