How Long Does It Take to Install Hardwood Floors – Ask the Home Flooring Pros

Welcome back to another installment of Ask the Home Flooring Pros. Last time out we compared red oak and white oak flooring, today we turn our attention to hardwood floor installation.

We’ve had a few emails from homeowners over the years asking us how long it normally takes for a hardwood floor to be installed. If you’re installing hardwood into several rooms this is pretty crucial information as it will affect you’re day to day living and may even require you to relocate for a period of time.

Of course your local flooring contractors will let you know how long they expect the installation to last, but how can you be sure the time frame they are suggesting is reasonable? While each installation project is unique, we think we can offer some generally sound advice about the typical length of time it takes for wood floor installation.

The average time it takes to install hardwood flooring once it arrives at your home is 10-15 days, about 7 for acclimation and the rest for installation and finishing the floors.

Here’s a breakdown of that time frame plus factors that might make it shorter or longer.

Days 1 to 7: Hardwood Acclimation

Hardwood flooring acclimation is the process of letting the wood reach the relative humidity of the home before it is installed.

If the hardwood is installed when it is drier or wetter than the rest of your home, you’ll have problems:

  • Too dry: Dry flooring will absorb moisture from the subfloor and air, and it will expand. The result will be cupping and bulging of the wood.
  • Too wet: Flooring that has more moisture than the rest of the house will dry out. As it loses moisture, it will shrink, and planks will pull away from one another, leaving gaps in the floor.

Acclimating wood flooring involves bringing the boxes into the house and opening them, including any plastic wrap around the planks inside. Boxes can be laid on the floor a foot apart, and another layer of boxes can be laid on them in cross-wise direction. That’s the general idea. Your flooring contractor or the retailer will have specific directions to acclimate the material you purchase.

Before the first plank is nailed to the subfloor, the installer should use a moisture meter like the Wagner MMC220 to measure several hardwood samples and the subfloor. The hardwood flooring is properly acclimated when it measures within 2% of the subfloor.

We recommend a minimum of 5 days to acclimate the wood. A week to 10 days is better. Before or during this time, any old flooring that must be removed should be taken up, and the subfloor should be vacuumed and inspected. It’s better to learn that the subfloor needs repair or replacement now than after the acclimation process.

Reasons it might be shorter: Not all engineered hardwood flooring requires acclimating. Engineered flooring is manufactured to be stable with little expansion or shrinking. That’s why it’s a better choice for bathrooms and the kitchen than solid hardwood. It won’t hurt to acclimate engineered hardwood, but if the manufacturer or retailer guarantees it isn’t necessary, you can skip this step.

Take a look at our reviews of the best engineered hardwood flooring to see if this flooring is a better fit for your home

Reasons it might be longer: Some installers prefer solid hardwood flooring to acclimate for 2+ weeks.

Days 8 to 10: Hardwood Flooring Installation

A 2-person crew of professional installers lays 750 to 1,000 square feet of hardwood flooring per day. The average job is 1,000 to 1,500 square feet of floor. In this average scenario, part of the third day is used for replacing trim and cleanup when the flooring is prefinished.

Reasons it might be shorter: If the job is smaller than average, it might take less time. Also, if the floor plan of the home is wide open with few obstacles to trim around such as a fireplace hearth or staircase, experienced installers might lay 1,500+ square feet in a day.

Reasons it might be longer: Big jobs take longer. Stairways can take an entire day. Installing the flooring diagonally and trimming around cabinets, bathroom fixtures, a hearth and other obstacles slows installation time. Installing a parquet or herringbone floor goes two to three times slower.

Some installers don’t make an extra trip to the home to remove the old flooring ahead of installation day. As noted above, this can be a mistake. Sometimes it becomes clear once the old flooring is gone that the subfloor must be repaired or replaced. Add up to a day for repairs like filling and sanding damage or replacing small sections in a subfloor. Add 1-2 days for installing a new subfloor in average-size jobs.

Days 11 to 15: Finishing the Floor

Unfinished hardwood flooring is stained and then sealed with two or three coats of polyurethane after it is installed. A day for each coat is standard.

Reasons it might be shorter: Combination stain and sealer products will shorten the process by a day. If you purchase factory finished wood, this step isn’t necessary. Some installers like to add a coat or two of polyurethane to prefinished floors to bridge the gap between planks. Others say the polyurethane between planks is soon fractured due to normal expansion and contraction of the wood. That’s more likely with solid hardwood than engineered hardwood flooring. This is an issue to discuss with installers when you get estimates from them.

Reasons it might be longer: Finishing a new floor rarely takes longer than five days, even in very large jobs. Staining and sealing hardwood goes quickly.

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