Many hardwood installations require you to transition from one room to another, sometimes around a dividing wall that has an outside edge that will require a new first board. An outside edge occurs when you install hardwoods around an object and are effectively left creating a new starting row along the outside edge of the object. Take a look at this picture from our installation for tw0 example locations:
Note that which walls display this phenomenon is a direct result of the direction you choose to lay hardwoods in the room. Since we’re laying from the front of the house to the back of the house, the load bearing wall across the center creates outside edges the whole length of the house.
We’re laying 1100 square feet of Brazilian Walnut flooring across the first floor of our home. If you’d like to follow along with these articles, please subscribe using the buttons at the right (RSS, E-mail). For an index of all the articles in the series, see this article on How to Install Wood Flooring.
The Challenge with Outside Edges
Each of the two locations above presents a set of challenges. In Location (A), the hardwoods must be gapped at least 1/2 inch from the center wall and back wall near the fireplace, but must stay perfectly straight relative to the rest of the floor. This is challenging because there is no support against the center wall when nailing, and wood is an imperfect building material. The picture below is a close-up of Location (A).
Without care, it is easy to bend the board back towards the wall, or forward towards the brick fireplace hearth, which will create gaps in subsequent rows of the installation.
In Location (B), the challenge is similar to Location (A), except that you must also ensure a clean rejoin with the existing hardwoods. In many ways this makes the job easier, especially if a single board can be used to span the entire gap. A single board is more likely to prevent the boards from being installed concave or convex relative to the rest of the floor.
How to Work Hardwoods Around These Walls
Working around these walls is simple. We cover all the steps in our instructions on laying the first few hardwood boards, so refer to that article for the pertinent How-To steps.
What’s important to realize is that in these situations, you are essentially laying a new first board and all the rules for laying that board apply. A highly accurate 8 foot level can be helpful in this step, since you can align the first few feet of the level with the existing floor, and allow the rest of the level to show you where exactly the boards should be laid.
Other tips that we discuss in the instructions for laying the first board include:
- Snap a chalk line guide for the first board.
- Shim the board against the wall once you have an accurate starting location.
- Use plenty of fasteners with your hardwood finish nailer to ensure the board doesn’t move as you work forward from it.