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Installing Red Oak Hardwoods

I picked up 1200 s.f. of hardwood flooring last week from Home Depot and we got started putting it down. On a full gut rehab I always put down the new wood floors before hanging drywall (if they are unfinished). We patched into the dining room, staggering the joints and have run the new 2 1/4″ unfinished Red Oak all the way through the kitchen, utility room and we are half way through the master bedroom. In the old portion of the house the wood nails right to the floor joists but in my new addition it nails to the plywood subfloor with some felt paper in between as a moisture barrier.  Most of the Craftsman Homes in San Antonio originally have Red Oak flooring but occasionally you’ll see Long Leaf Pine used and especially in kitchens. After some deliberation I decided to have all hardwoods in my master suite instead of using high end carpet for the bedroom and tile for the bath floor. On the last couple of houses I used carpet and didn’t really hear any complaints but these Arts and Crafts style homes are really all about having hardwoods throughout. By the time I looked at what I would spend on the carpet, tile and installation it made more sense to just put down all wood and I’ll end up with a way finer product. Like the last house, I’ll even run the hardwood floors through the master bathroom which got great feedback and will really give my new addition some character. I usually buy this flooring at Lumber Liquidators for $1.99/s.f. but their price went up to $2.89 now. Home Depot has it for $2.39 plus I got a little bit more off the order since it was over $2500.00 we got to send it to the bid room.  I’ll still have to have these floors sanded and refinished with the rest of the house once the renovation is complete but on the flip-side putting down a prefinished engineered wood just wouldn’t give you that old house feel.

I’ve been doing extra dark stains like Dark Walnut & Ebony on my last few projects but for this house I think I am going to go lighter with Golden Oak just to change it up. The dark floors are really trendy right now and very dramatic but they get so dusty and are a nightmare to keep clean during the period the house is on the market for sale. When the flooring got delivered the driver didn’t show up until 7 o’clock. Wouldn’t have been so bad but he dropped the pallets curbside so I had to lug all 63 bundles up 15 steps myself after a long week.

Here’s another item that I always do before the house gets drywall, I install all the HardiBacker in the areas that I have planned for tile. In the hall bath (not shown) I am doing the floor and tub surround. In the master bath pictured here I’ll do the entire new shower all the way up, inside and out of the 9 foot walls, and the box for the spa tub with a mini surround. Before the backer board could go up I had to do the shower pan.  I use the rubber membrane and a dry mortar bed and slope to the drain. It takes about 2-3 hours to complete. The backer board is easy as well, it cuts great with a skilsaw and goes in with tons of screws. You want a real stable base so your tile job doesn’t crack. I’ve seen some remodelers using that blue board the sell at Lowe’s, don’t do it, your tile job will crack in a few short months! That would suck to have your flip on the market for sale and a tile job start cracking. I’ve seen it happen, multiple times. Always use 1/2″ HardiBacker and screw it down, even if the guys on DIY Network nail it.

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  1. 8 Comment(s)

  2. By Mike on Jun 8, 2010 | Reply

    Tom. Love the hardwoods. Thanks for the insight to the backerboard. What is your spin on the “orange roll out material” that Holmes uses under the floor tile all the time?

  3. By Tom on Jun 8, 2010 | Reply

    Hey Mike,

    I really cant say, havent seen it being used that much here locally. maybe it’s an East coast thing. It’s probably really good but maybe costly as well. Holmes seems to be spot on from what I’ve seen of his show, “Holmes on Homes.” Thanks for the comment.

  4. By Robert Turner on Jun 9, 2010 | Reply

    Hi Tom.

    I’m a hardwood enthusiast and I think you made the right choice when you used wood on this project. The lighter shades can add dimension to the house. Thus creating an illusion of additional spaces.

    Last month, I changed my flooring to red oak floors from flooring Sarasota. Similar to your case, I favored the lighter shades since the dark ones can easily attract dust and dirt. Lesser cleaning is required on lighter hues so it’s very practical. Indeed, it was one good investment.

  5. By Chris Jones on Jun 9, 2010 | Reply

    +1 for the Schlutter Kerdi and Ditra tile membrane products (aka the ‘orange stuff’ that Holmes on Homes uses).

    Basically it goes on like wallpaper over the backer board (using morter instead of glue), then you tile over it, like normal. They also sell shower pan and drain kits made out of EPS, with the slope already built-in (cut to fit your space with a hand saw, morter it down, cover it with the Kerdi fabric membrane and you are ready for tile). The system creates a completely waterproof (not water resistant – water proof) barrier in showers and tub surrounds.

    Having torn out and replaced several lath and plaster over drywall showers in Houston built in the 70s that are riddled with moisture and mold, I am sold on a water proof barrier for all installs.

    The Ditra product is used as an uderlayment for tiling floors. Installs the same way as the Kerdi stuff or showers – cut to fit, morter down, tile over. It creates an isolation barrier between the solid underlayment and the tile which allows the underlayment to move without translating the movement to the tile (and cracking it). Its also water impermeable. Works great in Houston where all the slabs move around due to the gumbo soil.

    I order my supplies online since locally it only available at Home Depot special order.

    Another proponent in the Houston area is John Bridge ( The guy likes it so much he wrote a book on it.

    My 2 cents.

  6. By Acers on Jul 6, 2010 | Reply

    Congratulations by your site. You are very good desired, with much information nice and a layout very pleasant .

  7. By Dan Magnusson on Jul 19, 2010 | Reply

    I am up in the Twin Cities area and will be putting in ~500Sq. ft of hard maple (clear finish) of solid hardwood floor in 5″ width in master and kids bedrooms (nailed to the wooden subfloor). The house is 5years old.

    I have seen alot of advertisements/discussions on the “cork flooring”, quiet floor, quiet walk, floor muffler underlayments (some of these are more expensive than the hardwood itself!).

    In a previous floor installation we simply put down red rosin paper.

    The Flooring mill suggests the 15# felt.

    Can you help alleviate the confusion? What is the preferred underlayment for a nailed down hardwoord floor?

  8. By Tom on Jul 19, 2010 | Reply

    Go with the #15 pound felt paper as a moisture barrier. Just roll it out and overlap the rows by 3-4 inches. No need to staple it down. Enjoy!

  9. By shane on Mar 14, 2011 | Reply

    Hi Tom,
    thanks or the good information. I’m having a solid white oak floor (nail down to plywood subfloor) in a second story. I do animal rescue work and at times must keep a new cat/dog in my home for a short period. I’m very concerned about animal urine (accidents will happen). what would you recommend as a moisture barrier to protect the subfloor. I’m assuming I could replace damaged, stained hardwood and preserve the subfloor. any thoughts would be great.

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