Installing 5" x 1/2" engineered hardwood (tools and tips)

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Old 01-15-13, 03:44 PM
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Installing 5" x 1/2" engineered hardwood (tools and tips)

Hi, sorry if this has been discussed a million times, but I figure this would be the best place to post, also, a search surprisingly doesn't bring up too many relevant results, especially in tools. Thanks in advance for all your help, this is an awesome community and I look forward to all your suggestions and hopefully post some awesome pictures once I'm done!

About the job:
5" x 1/2" engineered hardwood
Plywood base
Nail down (unless you recommend something else)
Working on 2nd floor first, will eventually do first floor
Starting work in about 2 weeks

First and foremost, what tools will I need?

1. I have a table saw, what type of blade would you recommend? Do I need a miter saw as well? I've been reading that most cuts are easier with miters, but is it really necessary? The table saw was borrowed from my dad, but if I don't have to invest in a miter, that would be great.

2. For 1/2" engineered, what type of nail gun will I need? How much power?

3. What type of compressor would you recommend to power that nail gun?

4. Laser level? Is this necessary? If not, what are your recommendations for getting that first line as straight as possible?

5. Suggestions for underlayment? Sound dampening is very important to us, I don't want echo/noise/creek/etc...

5. What else will I need?

And now, some specific questions for my particular layout (see attachment):

1. The red lines represent the direct of the joists. I've read that the direction of the hardwood should be perpendicular to the joists to help with structural integrity, makes sense. But I've also read that people like to go with the length of the room (makes the rooms feel bigger). In this case, as a designer, I'd love to have the rooms look bigger, especially once it comes out into the hallway, it will look nicer to have the wood follow the hallway. Which would you all recommend?

2. Similar as question 1, once the planks meet the stairs, I imagine it will look better if the direction is the same as the stairs, but in that case, I'd have a bunch of short planks in the hallway... Not sure I'd be happy with that design

3. Where would you start to minimize any errors that might grow as you go into the other rooms.

4. I'm thinking of having the stairs done by a professional, I was quoted anywhere from 50-100/step. Does this sound reasonable or do you think it's a job I can do myself. I consider myself fairly handy, I've helped with lots of home improvement jobs at my parents home, and feel confident in doing the flooring, just not sure how much more difficult the stairs would be. Any suggestions?

5. I'm sure I'll have more questions as I get going, but wanted to get this thread going so I can get a head start on purchasing tools/materials

Thanks again for your time, and I look forward to sharing my results!
 
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Old 01-15-13, 05:56 PM
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Hardwood floor 101..........here goes!

A1. Table saw will be good for rips but not the best for end cuts. Miter saw makes it so much easier. The investment can be small with many rewards, even later on.
A2. Standard floor nailer with L cleats would suffice, and a 1/2" foot.
A3. Since your need will be "impulse", you can get buy with an inexpensive pancake type compressor. They provide enough pressure and cfm for a nailer.
A4. No laser level. Use a chalk line to snap your lines across the rooms.
A5. Underlayment can be from 15 lb. roofing felt (common) to noise deadening underlayment such as dB-4looring sold by big orange.
A6. To finish the job, you will need shoe molding and a finish nailer or hand nails.

All the above assuming this is not a click lock application. You didn't give the brand or style of flooring.

B1. Generally the flooring is run across the joists for better support. It is not law. I would run the bedroom and office and their associated closets across the joists, and the hallway in the long run. It will cut down on cuts.
B2. where the stairs are, I would run a "breadboard" piece at the bottom of the staircase and once you get to that place, you can lock the tongue and groove into it for a neater ending.
B3. I would start in the hallway, finishing it off in each doorway and stopping with a full piece across the threshold. Then start the rooms on the closet ends working toward the doorways. When you get to the threshold pieces, insert your groove on the end of the flooring into the tongue of the end piece and work from there to the opposite wall.
B4. $50 per step is steep, unless they are planning on staining and polyurethaning them all. I would purchase stair treads to match the floor (oak or pine), cut them and install them along with the risers myself.
B5. Tools are not "purchases", they are investments in your future projects. We're here. Ask away.
 
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Old 01-15-13, 06:05 PM
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Sorry, your limited to only 2 questions..... kidding of course.

Table saw is good, so is a miter saw. You can get buy with just about anything that cuts wood as your cuts will be covered up by trim when complete. A jig saw will help with odd shaped cuts as well.

A standard pneumatic floor nailer that delivers at least 2' cleat or staples and powered by a pancake compressor capable of sustaining pressures in the 90 - 100 PSI range depending on the species of wood.

Laser levels and other straight line creators are great if you are working by yourself, if you have a partner a couple of framing squares and some chaulk lines is fine.

Underlayment should be 15# felt paper or equivalent kraft paper. Tell us a little bit more about what your current subfloor and joist structure consists of to make sure it is sufficient for a nail down installation.

We can discuss direction of the flooring once you give use more information. Traditionally flooring is set perpendicular to the joists for strength. It keeps the floor from "sagging" between the joists and creating a wave effect. You may be OK in the hallway as it is a narrow space and the planks need to be the long way in that area. The other areas look like perpendicular is the way to go regardless of your wishes.

Steps are challenging and the prices you have been quoted I think are modest. Find out how they plan on installing, are they cutting off the nosing and using the existing risers or are they building out the risers and adding the nosing on top of that. (definitely need a miter saw if you tackle the stairs so factor into the estimate comparison). Keep in mind that the nosing needs to maintain the correct profile thickness of traditional stair nosing or it will not look correct.
 
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Old 01-15-13, 06:39 PM
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Thanks for the replies!

Firstly, the shopping list:

Hitachi C10FCE2 10-Inch Compound Miter Saw
10" enough? or should I go 12"

Factory-Reconditioned SKIL 7500-RT 3-by-18-Inch 120-Volt Belt Sander
Using for sanding down uneven surfaces in plywood

BYNFORD HARDWOOD FLOORING STAPLER NAILER (Uses standard narrow crown staples such as Senco "L" etc)

Can be used as a brad nailer too?!

Senco PC1010 1-Horsepower Peak 1-Gallon Compressor

Enough to power the Bynford stapler?

Any alternative recommendation? These seem like they are highly rated, and within my budget. See any red flags? Incompatibility or too weak for the job?

Tell us a little bit more about what your current subfloor and joist structure consists of to make sure it is sufficient for a nail down installation.
Plywood in fairly good condition on top of joists. I've had a few contractors come in for estimate, and they all recommended nail down.

All the above assuming this is not a click lock application. You didn't give the brand or style of flooring.
Not a click-lock. I have 5"x1/2" engineered hardwood, american natural cherry from Reward Hardwood Flooring. (Picture attached)

where the stairs are, I would run a "breadboard" piece at the bottom of the staircase and once you get to that place, you can lock the tongue and groove into it for a neater ending.
Can you expand on this? I'm a little confused.

I would start in the hallway, finishing it off in each doorway and stopping with a full piece across the threshold. Then start the rooms on the closet ends working toward the doorways. When you get to the threshold pieces, insert your groove on the end of the flooring into the tongue of the end piece and work from there to the opposite wall.
Great tip! Didn't even think of doing it this way. I always thought if I wanted to change directions, I'd have to get a T-molding trim. This is great news.

I would purchase stair treads to match the floor (oak or pine), cut them and install them along with the risers myself.
I was considering this, but the treads to match our cherry cost 100/step! Plus they're unfinished so I'd have to sand and finish them first (not a big deal). The nosing for our wood costs 30/step plus 50 for installation. So I'm wondering if I should just get the nosing and do the install myself. Still deciding.

Find out how they plan on installing, are they cutting off the nosing and using the existing risers or are they building out the risers and adding the nosing on top of that.
Not sure what you mean. From what I understand though, each nosing is 7feet, I need 1 riser for 2 steps (3 feet 1" per step). So they'll be cutting them in half. There's also a tricky part at the bottom of the steps that I think the professionals will do much cleaner than I can (see attached). As for the risers, we're going with white particle board risers.

Tools are not "purchases", they are investments in your future projects.
Couldn't agree more! I love the feeling of having the right tool for the right job, especially the second time around (when it feels like it's paying for itself)

Thanks again, all!
 
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Old 01-15-13, 06:42 PM
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More information on my hardwood:
Reward Hardwood Flooring
 
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Old 01-15-13, 07:02 PM
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Don't worry about the stair nosing, you do not have existing nosing on the steps so it answers my question. I would consider reworking the third step up. You will have to replace that riser with solid wood stained or painted so that you do not end up with a weird sideview of ply and MDF that you will have to try to hide. If that one is solid, it will make everyone think they all are solid.

To dress out the bottom stair, Rip down some riser material that is the full height of the step and install all the way around with mitered corners. You are going to have to miter a return on the bottom stair tread as well. Easily found if you go with traditional treads, if you go with nosing you will have a little more fun and have to picture frame the step.
 
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Old 01-15-13, 07:17 PM
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What is good pricing for treading? 100/step seems very expensive. Shopping around might result in mismatched color, though that's not a huge deal since I have fairly large variation in colors anyway.
 
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Old 01-15-13, 11:47 PM
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I ended up getting the FloorMuffler underlayment at .38/sqft, figured I'd used a good sound absorbing underlayment for upstairs, then use the cheaper roofing felt for downstairs.

Another question, what length nails do I need for my type of hardwood?
 
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Old 01-16-13, 04:34 AM
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Your drawings and pix differ in description. Disregard the "breadboard" comment as I was expecting a direct landing. Different situation exists.

The stapler you chose will be a MINIMAL tool to install the flooring. The manufacturer allows it, but no less than the longest staple the gun will hold, which I believe is 1 9/16". I would prefer a real flooring stapler, which helps to draw the wood tighter with the cleat and pressure from the mallet. Pricier, yep. Worth it? Yep. Example: 3-in-1 Flooring Air Nailer and Stapler-PFL618BR at The Home Depot

I agree with czizzi on the nicities of finishing the treads and risers on the bottom and first step above the landing. It takes patience and a 3D mind to do it, but it is DIY friendly. I think doing a return on the riser as well as the tread on both steps would give the illusion of solid wood, even though you are using MDF.

Is your guy proposing building the treads and landing from your flooring material? All he will need is the MDF for the risers and the bullnose. $100 per step is a little steep. You are talking almost $1200 for just the step treads and risers. The only thing different he will be doing is installing the nosing and risers. The rest is like laying flooring, which you can do. Half that price would be equitable if you just didn't want to be bothered with the precision cuts. $30 for a 3' piece of nosing????

You will need an inexpensive finish nailer to install all your trim and the flooring that is too close to the wall for the flooring stapler you choose, so plan on that.

Their website was less than stellar, as it was devoid of pricing, PDF files, etc.
 
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Old 01-16-13, 06:10 AM
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I would return the FloorMuffler underlayment. Here is a quote from one of the many online retail ads listed out there "Designed for floating floor installations - laminate, hardwood, cork and bamboo" Another stated "Eliminates subfloor imperfections" which means it has too much dimension for a nail down. Trust us, go with the felt, works best and is most cost effective.

I would go with a 34 degree angled finish nailer for you flooring application. It utilizes thicker brads (15ga) than most other finish nailers. They also have slightly larger heads on them for increased holding power. 34 Angle Finish Nailer
 
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Old 01-16-13, 06:27 AM
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I think the 34 degree finish nailer will not work on the flooring due to the angle in which each nail must be installed. He'll miss every other one. I do, and I do it for a living. What's your thoughts on the stapler he suggested with his link versus a real flooring cleat/stapler, Czizzi? The foot feature will help stabilize his shots. Like the input.
 
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Old 01-16-13, 06:49 AM
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Larry, was only adding to your suggestions and advising that he could use the 34 degree nailer for finishing where the Floor nailer would not work. Face nailing and other tough areas. I also use the 34 to squeeze an additional row or two out before face nailing. I hand shoot the tongue with the 34 the final rows that would otherwise be face nailed. When the angle gets too steep, I remove part of the bottom groove of the next board just enough to clear the nail under the tongue. If I am having a good day, the only face nails used fall under the base/shoe for a really clean finish. I does take patience and practice to hit the tongue both straightly and cleanly. You usually have to do some counter sinking of the heads as well, but worth the results IMO.

But definitely, go with the larger floor nailer, its similar to the one I have only by a different manufacturer.
 
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Old 01-16-13, 06:53 AM
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roger that. I was thinking of nailing all the flooring with the angle nailer, and how he would hunt us down like fair game after he finished Yeah, the finish angle nailer is the way to go on face and trim.
 
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Old 01-16-13, 11:14 AM
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The stapler you chose will be a MINIMAL tool to install the flooring. The manufacturer allows it, but no less than the longest staple the gun will hold, which I believe is 1 9/16". I would prefer a real flooring stapler, which helps to draw the wood tighter with the cleat and pressure from the mallet. Pricier, yep. Worth it? Yep. Example: 3-in-1 Flooring Air Nailer and Stapler-PFL618BR at The Home Depot
Minimal tool was actually what I was going for in this case, since I doubt I'll be installing hardwood flooring in the future. It's really tough to justify spending an extra 200 (3in1 + angle finish nailer). I guess when it comes down to though, I'd rather have the right tools to have the job done right. In an effort to save some money though, how does this compare? NuMax SFL618BR 3-in-1 Flooring Stapler/Nailer with White Rubber Mallet

Is your guy proposing building the treads and landing from your flooring material? All he will need is the MDF for the risers and the bullnose. $100 per step is a little steep. You are talking almost $1200 for just the step treads and risers. The only thing different he will be doing is installing the nosing and risers. The rest is like laying flooring, which you can do. Half that price would be equitable if you just didn't want to be bothered with the precision cuts. $30 for a 3' piece of nosing????
I've decided to just do this job myself as well. Here's my plan:
Use 1" treads, for the steps, 2 with right returns for the last and 3rd to last step as pictured. For the top step that leads into the hall, I'm thinking of getting 5.5" nosing or leading tread that will go flush into the hallway hardwood. Does this sound about right? Also, the risers will be mdf, what do you recommend in terms of density?

I would return the FloorMuffler underlayment. Here is a quote from one of the many online retail ads listed out there "Designed for floating floor installations - laminate, hardwood, cork and bamboo" Another stated "Eliminates subfloor imperfections" which means it has too much dimension for a nail down. Trust us, go with the felt, works best and is most cost effective.
Done, returned thanks for the heads up. I'll be looking for the felt at home depot.

I would go with a 34 degree angled finish nailer for you flooring application. It utilizes thicker brads (15ga) than most other finish nailers. They also have slightly larger heads on them for increased holding power. 34 Angle Finish Nailer
Thanks, I'll be ordering this one as well

So I'm guessing the other tools I mentioned will be good for the job?
 
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Old 01-16-13, 01:07 PM
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The flooring nailer you show will work just fine. It may not last for every day use for a year, but your project is cool. Use cleats rather than staples, and I think you will be better off.

Stair plan is superb. Glad you want to do it yourself.

OK, no backing down!! Let us know if we can help.
 
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Old 01-19-13, 11:59 AM
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What type/size nails do you recommend for the hardwood and the molding?

Just got all the tools yesterday, can't wait to get started! We're painting this week, and flooring next weekend!
 
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Old 01-19-13, 12:15 PM
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You can use 1 1/2" finish nails for the flooring face nails. Use at least 2" cleats in your flooring nailer. Putting the baseboard up may take longer finish nails since your baseboard is 1/2" and your sheetrock is 1/2" and you want 2/3 of the nail in the wood behind it. You may have to jump to 2" for the baseboard, then back down to the 1 1/2" for the shoe molding.
 
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Old 01-19-13, 12:51 PM
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What gauge do you recommend?
 
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Old 01-19-13, 01:40 PM
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You don't have an option if you already have the gun bought. Whatever gauge it takes is what you have. Most likely 15 gauge, but check the gun's specs to make sure.
 
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Old 01-20-13, 09:35 PM
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I laid a solid hardwood floor last year. Some additional tools I found helpful:

Adjustable carpenter's square
Chisels - helpful when a cleat splits the tongue
Hammer stapler - for attaching roofing felt to subfloor.
Flooring jack Powernail Powerjack Model 100 Flooring Jack | Tools4Flooring.com - not really necessary, but can be helpful on your final row against the wall.
Short prybar
18" slotted screwdriver - can be hammered into the plywood subfloor and used as a prybar,to get problematic floor planks to cooperate.
Pullbar Crain 560 Knuckle Head Pull Bar | Tools4Flooring.com
Tapping Block
Undercut saw - By undercutting the sheetrock, you can eliminate the need for ugly shoe molding.
Floor sander - to remove any high spots in the subfloor.

Knee pads. I cannot stress this enough. Do not just buy the cheap foam ones. Buy something good. Your knees will thank you.

Most of these tools can be rented. With the additional cost of tools and rentals, I could've paid somebody to install my floor for a few hundred dollars more, so consider that.

The Hitachi 10" miter saw should serve you well. I have the 12" and it's a bit overkill for most things.
 
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Old 01-27-13, 12:08 AM
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Thanks seattle2k, some great tips, I'll definitely look into some of those to help with the work.

I've got a new concern, I noticed there's a significant dip on the floor for both rooms, see pictured below.

The most abrupt change I found was a 6' length with a 3/4" difference in height. What do you recommend I do? What's the best way to even this out, or is it something I don't need to worry about?
 
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Old 01-27-13, 09:04 AM
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Need to determine if it is a dip in the subflooring or if you have a high floor joist. Take some mason string and with the help of a partner, stretch the string across the length of the room and lower the string down to the floor. If the string touches the floor everywhere except the area in question then you have a dip. If the string only touches in one area, then you have a high joist. Test in multiple areas across the width of the room. Let us know what we are dealing with.
 
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Old 01-27-13, 09:42 AM
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See attached picture, the blue area is dipped by about 3/4" at it's center. What do you suggest we do?

FWIW, the area between the rooms is a jack and jill restroom.
 
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Old 02-19-13, 11:13 AM
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Quick update, everything has been going smoothly, finally on the home stretch! Here's a quick preview, more pictures coming soon. Thanks, everyone, for your help! I really couldn't have done it without you all!
 
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