Red Barn Renovation: Laying Tongue & Groove Flooring

Red Barn Renovation: Laying Tongue & Groove Flooring

Johnny Williams
May 24, 2010

If you've ever met a flooring professional, chances are they had massive muscles. After all, installing a wood floor is a serious workout — but if my itty-bitty biceps were up to the task, anyone can do it.

Every DIY project starts with a shopping list — for our flooring, the supplies were fairly straightforward. After renting a Bostitch pneumatic flooring nailer and mallet from Home Depot, we gathered the additional goods: a few boxes of 2'' flooring staples, a chalk line reel, a pry bar and an extra large flathead screwdriver. We would also need a miter saw and an air compressor, both of which I already own. That left one last pesky supply: the flooring itself.

Driven primarily by price, we decided to use a softwood, southern yellow pine. As I mentioned in last week's post, Consider Softwood Flooring, pine is a cost-effective alternative to hardwood, albeit significantly less durable. It may be prone to dents and dings, but for our rustic, dog-free barn, pine was just fine.

To kick things off, we lay out our first row of flooring perfectly parallel to the longest wall. After wrapping the chalk line reel tightly around two nails protruding ½'' off opposite ends of the wall, we "snapped" a line on the floor. We then lay our longest flooring board, tongue facing out, along our chalk line and fastened it to the subfloor. The resulting ½'' gap between the wall and the flooring will be covered by baseboard molding. We then proceeded to lay out the next rows, staggering the end joints to keep the wood movement to a minimum. Using the miter saw, we cut the boards to length and began to fasten them down.

But here's where the back-breaking labor began. Flooring is a rough and tumble task — aligning the tongue with the groove often takes a hearty blow from a rubber mallet or a swift kick in the side. When that fails, you must use a large screwdriver as a lever and force it into place. Once the boards are fit together, the heavy flooring nailer is placed atop the tongue — the nails are activated by hitting a trigger pad with the mallet. A burst of pressurized air from the compressor then drives the nails down into the wood at a 45-degree angle. Once we reached our final row, the wall was in our way, so we used the pry bar to snap the boards together. And just like that (two days later to be exact), we ourselves had a new floor.

Make no mistake, laying your own floor is an ambitious endeavor. I couldn't have done it without my handy friend Shayn, who had installed a few floors before. But his expertise didn't make it any less strenuous. After two days spent bent over, dragging the heavy nailer across the floor, I was wiped. In fact, you could have wiped the floor with me.

Images: Johnny Williams

Johnny is currently blogging his experience as a young woodworker. You can keep track of his projects on his blog, Woodlearner.

Where To Begin?
Green Cleaning & Disposing Of Toxic Chemicals
Energy Efficiency Tax Breaks
Why I Bought A Wood Stove
Hiring An Architect
Where To Buy Reclaimed Wood
Kicking Off Construction!
Wires and Walls and Stairs, Oh My!
The Magic of Spray Foam Insulation
If These Drywalls Could Talk
What The Heck Is Tyvek?
Installing Wood Siding
Laying A Herringbone Hearth
Staining The Barn Red

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