Hardwood floor is beautiful but installing a hardwood floor is a challenge. Only the most experienced among us can complete such a job without help. But even those of us who have average skills can make a go at it, provided we follow instructions to the letter, get a bit of outside help, have all the proper tools, and avoid the pitfalls. There are just a handful of common mistakes, but they are whoppers, and can very quickly ruin an otherwise fantastic flooring job. Wood flooring adds so much to any space that everyone who owns a home should try to learn the basics of installing a solid, hardwood floor in at least one room or entryway.
If you decide to take the plunge and install some wood flooring, the very first thing you must do is inspect the subfloor. Depending what kind of shape it is in, you will have either a long road ahead or a short, simple path. If the subflooring is uneven, to the extent that it shows more than 3/16 of an inch variance throughout a six-foot length, then you officially have an uneven floor that must be fixed.
There are two ways to approach this dilemma. One, you could just use a handful of screws to tighten the plywood. If that works, all the better. If the problem is more serious, you might need to plane the joists and use some plywood filler to even things up.
Next, you need to acclimate the wood before installing it. Be sure to leave it in the open air in the room where it will be installed for at least one week. Never store hardwood in a moist area like an attic or basement. There will be some natural expansion during winter and summer months. However, if you do not acclimate the wood, that expansion and shrinkage will be too much to cover up with molding and trim.
Make sure the first board goes down straight; otherwise you could end up with a bad chain reaction of uneven boards. Do not use an exterior wall as a guide because walls are notorious for not being exactly square. Check instead of assuming so that your flooring will end up being straight.