How To Install Tongue and Groove Flooring | Ask This Old House

How To Install Tongue and Groove Flooring | Ask This Old House

In this video, Ask This Old House mason Mark McCullough teaches Kevin O’Connor how to patch holes in a tough surface.

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Tom Silva shows Kevin O’Connor how to install tongue-and-groove hardwood flooring. Tom shows Kevin a prefinished flooring product that he chose and explains how the tongues and grooves line up for a proper installation. Tom explains that it’s important that the first row be as straight as possible and shows Kevin how to make that happen using a chalk line for reference.

Skill: Moderate
Cost: Around $5 to $6 per square foot
Time: A weekend

Shopping list:
Hardwood tongue-and-groove flooring []
Construction adhesive []
Finish nails []
Flooring staples []
Shims [] or spacers []
Wood putty []

Chalk line []
Pencil []
Tape measure []
Caulking gun []
Miter saw []
Finish nailer []
Flooring nailer []
Rubber mallet []
Flooring jack []

Steps for installing tongue and groove flooring
1. Mark the first row by placing the groove side of a board against the wall near a corner, leaving a gap of approximately 3/16 of an inch between the board and wall. Mark the subfloor on the tongue side and measure the distance between the mark and the wall. Transfer this mark to the other side of the room and snap a chalk line between these points.
2. Run a bead of construction adhesive between the chalk line and the wall. This is only necessary for the first row.
3. Lay a piece of flooring on the floor so the outside of the tongue lines up with the chalk line. Use a finish nailer to nail through the face of the board along the groove side of the board.
4. Place shims or spacers in the gap between the flooring and the walls to hold it firmly in place.
5. Holding the finish nailer at an angle, shoot nails through the tongue every 8 to 10 inches.
6. Install the next piece of flooring against the chalk line, aligning the tongue and groove between the two pieces. Use a rubber mallet to join the two pieces before nailing through the face and tongue of the board. Continue across the wall until you get to a corner.
7. Mark the end piece for cutting by keeping the tongue pointed toward the wall while also flipping it upside down. Maintaining a rough 3/16-inch gap at the wall, use a pencil to make a mark where it meets the previous board. Cut the board to length with a miter saw. Nail through the face and tongue to hold it in place.
8. Continue using this method until you’re far enough from the wall to use the flooring nailer. At that point, simply lay a new board and tap it into place with the rubber mallet before nailing through the tongue with the flooring nailer.
9. Continue laying the boards, tapping them in place, and nailing every 8 to 10 inches. Ensure that the seams where the boards meet between corresponding courses are at least 6 inches from each other.
10. Once you make it across the room, it won’t be possible to use the rubber mallet to jockey the board into position. Use a flooring jack pressed against the wall to position the boards properly.
11. Along the wall on the other side of the room, switch back to the finish nailer and nail through the face of the boards every 8 to 10 inches.
12. Fill the nail holes with wood putty, buff the surface, and install baseboard moldings.

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From the makers of This Old House, America’s first and most trusted home improvement show, Ask This Old House answers the steady stream of home improvement questions asked by viewers across the United States. Covering topics from landscaping to electrical to HVAC and plumbing to painting and more. Ask This Old House features the experts from This Old House, including general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, landscape contractor Jenn Nawada, master carpenter Norm Abram, and host Kevin O’Connor. Ask This Old House helps you protect and preserve your greatest investment—your home.

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How To Install Tongue and Groove Flooring | Ask This Old House


  1. that_G_EvanP on April 26, 2023 at 12:26 pm

    It’s so strange to be watching a show on a wireless, hand-held device that I can remember watching with my Dad on weekends before the world even had internet. Talk about longevity!

  2. moemann cann on April 26, 2023 at 12:28 pm

    Appreciate it despite critics, Mr Silva,sir, is a tongue and groove specialist, not too many floor areas are a tongue and groove in North America,and if they are, they’re covered 👷

  3. Flynn Franklin on April 26, 2023 at 12:30 pm

    Wow! need him come to my house.

  4. Michael Tang on April 26, 2023 at 12:30 pm

    Would you like to test generator inelt box ?

  5. Bob Krueger on April 26, 2023 at 12:34 pm

    What fastners do you use for Brazilian Walnut?

  6. Jenna Bryant on April 26, 2023 at 12:34 pm

    Why not show how to trim the last board and install the slimmer final board when it’s not a perfect fit… That’s a key step in this process. And it’s obvious that you guys did it, but decided not to show…

  7. Learn English with Matta on April 26, 2023 at 12:36 pm

    So helpful for our project; thank you for this! 🇺🇸💪🏽

  8. Jim Serhant on April 26, 2023 at 12:37 pm

    Would one be able to use an 18 gauge flooring stapler with 1 1/2” staples to install the floor without issues? Or is the rental nailer & mallet an absolute must? Im considering laying down 3/4” hardwood flooring in my home & already have a Bostitch 18 gauge trigger active flooring stapler.

  9. Steve Main on April 26, 2023 at 12:37 pm

    I see that you are transferring those cut marks to the top of the plank from the bottom of the plank. Why cant you cut the piece with the finished side down on the saw? Is this solely to prevent roughing up the finish? Seems like its extra work and possibility to add or subtract a 1/4 of an inch

  10. Guero Garrapolo on April 26, 2023 at 12:38 pm

    Flooring contractors have a lot of work because videos like this give DIYers confidence and end up screwing the whole floor wether it’s installing or refinishing.

  11. dust09100 on April 26, 2023 at 12:39 pm

    Wish you would have shown the last rip

  12. yomamaBIG 303 on April 26, 2023 at 12:39 pm

    If anybody was wondering the wood species that they are installing it’s white oak

  13. dtemp132 on April 26, 2023 at 12:41 pm

    What kind of mallet is that Tommy is using?

  14. Lunch Lady on April 26, 2023 at 12:41 pm

    Tongue goes into groove. Show over.

  15. Steve Jensen on April 26, 2023 at 12:44 pm

    I’ve done close to 30 floor jobs over the years and have always used unfinished oak which I sanded and then finished. Only way to go imho. Always good seeing ole Tom! Sure been many decades watching him and we’re both alot grayer these days!

  16. Cody Campbell on April 26, 2023 at 12:45 pm

    I don’t ever put adhesive on my wall course. Good shims only.

  17. Rosana Dancel on April 26, 2023 at 12:46 pm

    Great video, what do you suggest in a cement flooring? Thank you

  18. Paul Turner on April 26, 2023 at 12:47 pm

    I grew up with This Old House and for the most part love their stuff. Unfortunately this video is so full of inaccuracies and poor practices that I have to give it a big thumbs down. If you’re looking to DIY a hardwood floor install, watch something different or better yet read the instructions that came with your product. Every manufacturer will tell you how best to install their product.

  19. Kevin Rowe on April 26, 2023 at 12:49 pm

    Not a professional institution, this is what home owners do that don’t want to pay a professional installer like myself.

  20. william wright on April 26, 2023 at 12:52 pm

    While I love some of the videos on this channel, as a hardwood installer this made me cringe a bit. Even before I had a cleat palm nailer, I would predrill the boards and use a cleat. You can get within 5 inches of a wall easy that way and now with palm nailers you can get closer than that. I hate face nails on a floor (except starter row where baseboard will cover it), and seeing that stuff makes me think the home owner did it.

  21. Bill Baillie on April 26, 2023 at 12:53 pm

    There’s a beveled side on the mallet / hammer that’s quite effective for driving / tapping the pieces together.

  22. humboldt glitches on April 26, 2023 at 12:54 pm

    Also for face nailing you want to use a 15 gauge nailer on hardwood flooring that is 3/4 in roughly

  23. Turning Short Final on April 26, 2023 at 12:54 pm

    They skipped showing the last couple rows, which is the hardest part!

  24. Mein Kamph on April 26, 2023 at 12:55 pm

    Yeah, but what if the floor isn’t perfectly square?
    It’s kinda hard to screw up tongue and groove flooring.

  25. Steve M on April 26, 2023 at 12:56 pm

    Pre finished is great unless your contractor scratches the crap out of it installing a refrigerator. Re finishing Pre finished flooring sucks and it’s never the same.

  26. Matthew Battie on April 26, 2023 at 12:57 pm

    I’m a long time this old house fan, and I love you guys, however having done many hardwood floors I have to say you forgot so many important tips such as underlayment, substrate preparation, room layout_planning, climate acclamation, Sheetrock cutback, and proper cut stratification. I have also seen liquid nails causing expansion and contraction problems such as buckling, and separation.

  27. V on April 26, 2023 at 12:57 pm

    We’re can I buy that little wood floor jack

  28. Jeffry Kwiat on April 26, 2023 at 12:58 pm

    Nicely done, however, I came here to see how to match the different size boards when laying them down on a much longer run, like 20 feet. Is the idea to use most of the longest boards and just use the shorter boards to create the 4-6" staggering boards between rows where needed?

  29. Borys on April 26, 2023 at 12:58 pm

    2nd to last row is not straight…

  30. ef2b on April 26, 2023 at 12:59 pm

    How is it possible to get a flat and level floor with prefinished flooring when unfinished flooring needs to be sanded flat and level before finishing? I don’t think you’d ever lay unfinished and then go right to finishing without sanding it all flat, would you? What is the magic that allows the prefinished comes out all at the same level?

  31. saeed sobhani on April 26, 2023 at 1:00 pm

    Nicely done, thanks for educational contents.

  32. Cherry Garcia on April 26, 2023 at 1:03 pm

    That last board was just too difficult

  33. runs3492 on April 26, 2023 at 1:05 pm


  34. Sean on April 26, 2023 at 1:07 pm

    the adhesive can be great to eliminate the annoying squeaking later on. what’s better, underlayer or adhesive?

  35. MrBritrider on April 26, 2023 at 1:07 pm

    Does the starter course have to be nailed over floor joists or anywhere on the subfloor?

  36. Salvador Sepulveda on April 26, 2023 at 1:07 pm

    Beginning of a playhouse for Christmas !! Nice work 👏

  37. Fingers MaGillicuddy on April 26, 2023 at 1:10 pm

    And in 3, 2,1, ………… you’re doing it wrong Tom! lol

  38. James Kozlowski on April 26, 2023 at 1:10 pm

    Its easy when your floor is 3ft off the ground.

  39. guardduck25 on April 26, 2023 at 1:15 pm

    I like that Jack Tommy used to pull the floor together .

  40. Stephane on April 26, 2023 at 1:15 pm

    My wood manufacturer recommends 3/4 in expansion gap. You’re using 3/16!

    I have a large gap to cover with baseboard 😟

  41. FL FL on April 26, 2023 at 1:15 pm

    Unfortunately this how-to is poorly done. They should have checked the overall layout to see what the final cut piece at the other edge of the wall is. Checking both sides of the layout to make sure your edge cuts are equal is a critically important step when starting a project.

  42. Peter Putnam on April 26, 2023 at 1:16 pm

    I have installed many hardwood floors in my day one major issue is expansion in a large room. I measure from the straightest wall to the center of the room snap a line from end to end , glue in a homemade tonque, and nail from both sides back to the walls. This helps to even out any expansion . Also red rosin paper is laid down to help provide a surface that is uncoupled from the sub-floor.

  43. Peter Schiavo on April 26, 2023 at 1:17 pm

    We moved to Spain and I miss my Saturday’s watching new episodes. I don’t even know if they’re making new eps.

  44. Weekend Warrior on April 26, 2023 at 1:17 pm

    Perfect sidekick – after it’s almost done he says "Huh, you have staples in it, don’t you?"

  45. humboldt glitches on April 26, 2023 at 1:20 pm

    Here’s a note flooring guy here prefinished is nice for a diyre but if you really want the maximum nice look it is much better to get raw hardwood and then have somebody sand and finish it then to just go this route most places will turn out fine but you will have some spots there really could have used a little bit of leveling and or fill

  46. Boiboi Dang on April 26, 2023 at 1:23 pm

    Tom Tom 🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀🙏🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀

  47. REGGIE G on April 26, 2023 at 1:24 pm

    Best way to install barn doors in 115ish old house w/o destroying oak floors w/ those guide thingys. I was thinking rubber wheels but havent found any in insert into bottom of doors

  48. humboldt glitches on April 26, 2023 at 1:24 pm

    A good rule of thumb is make sure your butt joints are no closer than the width of the board there’s more to it then that but that’s a good rule of thumb bare minimum

  49. irgtk on April 26, 2023 at 1:24 pm

    What happened to using rosin paper or roofing felt under layment?

  50. UWill NevahNo on April 26, 2023 at 1:25 pm

    as a homeowner that had to deal w/the prior owners DIY’ing a poorly installed flooring they glued I cannot stress enough DO NOT GLUE IT.

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