How to DIY: fitting your own flooring

If you're thinking about redoing your flooring and fitting it yourself, read on for top tips from the professionals and those who have done it before

The hallway of a graceful Georgian rectory set in five acres of gentle Gloucestershire landscape

Paul Massey

There are many DIY jobs that seem easy to attempt when you decide to crack on with them, but flooring is not one of them. It is, often, a job better left to the professionals but that's not to say you can't do it yourself. Like painting, fitting your own flooring is a job where the preparation is the most important part and if you skimp on that, you will ultimately regret trying to do it yourself.

Natalie Mudd of The Wood Flooring Co's top tips:

Hard flooring is a popular choice for many homeowners due to its durability, affordability, and ease of installation. If you’re feeling a little nervous about the task in hand, it’s always best to call in the experts, however if you have the skills and the know-how, you can learn to lay flooring just like a pro.

  1. First, prepare the room by removing the furniture and other objects from the area. Then, inspect the subfloor to ensure it’s clean, dry and level. If the floor is uneven, you may need to use a self-levelling compound to even it out. This is an important step, as an uneven floor can lead to further problems down the line. Lastly, don't forget to lay a moisture barrier to ward off any potential moisture seepage.
  2. If you intend on installing engineered wood flooring, this can be floated over underlay. It’s always recommended to glue-down parquet or chevron floors for a more stable base, but you should allow for extra time as this task can be more time-consuming to install.
  3. Next, measure and cut the floor. Start by measuring the dimensions of the room in order to accurately determine the amount of flooring needed. Next, carefully cut the wood flooring to the necessary size utilising either a jigsaw or a circular saw. Remember to allow for a 1/4 inch space between the walls and flooring to accommodate for expansion. This crucial step ensures a smooth and successful flooring installation.
  4. It’s then time to lay the first row of flooring. Begin the process by laying the planks along the wall with the longest length, positioning the tongue in the direction of the centre of the space. It is crucial to use spacers in order to preserve the gap of 1⁄4 inch between the flooring and the wall. Afterwards, secure the planks in place by interlocking them using a tapping block and hammer. Repeat this until the first row has been fully established, and continue throughout the entire room.
  5. Once all of the flooring has been laid, the final touches can be made. Transition strips should be installed where the flooring meets other types of flooring, like carpet or tile. Once that is done, take out the spacers and add skirting boards or scotia beading along the walls to conceal the space between the flooring and the wall. This will give your floors a polished finish and ensure a smooth transition between the different flooring types.

Rustic Barn Oak flooring from The Wood Flooring Co

This final point on skirting boards is key and our Decoration Editor, Ruth Sleightholme – who has some experience with laying flooring in her own house – advises that you always need to fit your flooring before your skirting boards, as the latter hides the joins at the floor and wall and this way, you avoid extra beading to hide unsightly things. However, she does say “if you know that you have to put your skirting boards on first – as, for example, you haven't decided on your final flooring – then nail them on loosely so that they can be easily prised off when you do lay the flooring and refitted properly.”

An amateur floor layer's tips

Fiona McKenzie Johnston – Contributing Editor, House & Garden
  • Make sure that all electrics and plumbing are organised first, and think about future plans – you don’t want to be having to pull up your new floor in order to lay pipes. (It’s confusing, because the floor seems like it should be a basic first step in a build or renovation, but actually it’s not.)
  • Treat any damp or dry rot in beams or joists before you replace the flooring – you don’t want it to collapse further down the line!
  • If you’re matching an existing floor – say, replacing the floor in the dining room to match the floor in the sitting room, and using reclaimed boards – you’ve got to make sure that the thickness is the same, otherwise you’re going to end up with a step between rooms.
  • If it’s a ground floor, seriously consider insulation before laying a floor. Doing anything on the ground floor is also an opportunity to ensure that your voids are free of debris and your air bricks (which are going to stop your house becoming damp) are not blocked.
  • It transpires it’s really hard to get the scent of years worth of cat pee out of wooden floorboards. Just replace them.
  • Uninsulated floorboards on a ground floor is a guaranteed means of having a freezing cold house for several months of the year. And that I write from (frostbitten) experience…