How to Install Wood Flooring Over Plywood


An image showing how to install hardwood floors Wood flooring can transform your home into a cozy and elegant haven. But how do you install it like a pro? Don’t worry.

This guide demonstrates how to choose, lay, and finish your wood flooring step by step. You’ll learn the secrets of selecting the best timber type, preparing the subfloor, and acclimating the wood. Whether you want solid, engineered, or laminate wood flooring, we’ll help you achieve your space’s perfect look and feel. Ready to turn your floor into a masterpiece? Here is how to install wood flooring over plywood.

Let’s get started!

Also Read:

How to Install Wood Flooring Over Plywood

Wood flooring is a popular choice for home improvement projects, as it adds warmth, beauty, and value to any space. However, installing wood flooring can be challenging,

Plywood is an engineered wood comprising thin layers of wood glued together. It provides a sturdy and stable subfloor supporting solid or engineered wood flooring.

Materials & Tools Needed

Before installing the wood flooring, gather the materials and tools needed for the project. The materials include:

1.       Solid or engineered wood flooring:

This is the main material you’ll install on top of the plywood. Choose from different types, styles, and wood flooring colors, depending on your preference and budget. Solid wood flooring is made of solid planks, while engineered wood flooring is made of layers of wood with a veneer on top. Engineered wood flooring is more resistant to moisture and temperature changes than solid wood flooring.

2.       Flooring adhesive:

You’ll need This type of glue if you’re installing engineered wood flooring using the glued method. The glued method involves applying adhesive to the plywood subfloor and laying the wood planks on top. This creates a strong bond between the subfloor and the flooring.

3.       Flooring nails or staples:

You’ll need these fasteners if you’re installing solid hardwood flooring or engineered hardwood flooring using the nailed method.

The nailed method involves nailing or stapling the wood planks to the plywood subfloor through the tongue of the plank. This secures the planks in place and prevents them from moving.

4.       Underlayment:

This thin material layer goes between the plywood subfloor and the wood flooring. It provides cushioning, sound insulation, and a moisture barrier for the flooring. Some types of wood flooring may require an underlayment, while others may not. Check with your flooring manufacturer for their recommendations.

The tools:

1.       Circular saw, or table saw:

You’ll need these power tools to cut the wood planks to fit your room’s dimensions and shape. A circular saw is a handheld tool with a circular blade that spins rapidly.

A table saw is a stationary tool with a circular blade protruding from a table. You can adjust the height and angle of the blade to make different cuts.

2.       Pry bar:

This is a metal tool that has a curved end and a flat end. You’ll need it to remove any existing moldings or baseboards from your room’s edges before installing the new flooring.

3.       Nail gun or stapler:

If you’re using the nailed method, these are power tools to nail or staple the wood planks to the plywood subfloor. A nail gun is a tool that drives nails into the material with compressed air or gas. A stapler is a tool that drives staples into the material with compressed air or electricity.

4.       Tapping block and pull bar:

You’ll need these tools to snug the wood planks together if you’re using the floating or glued method. A tapping block is a wooden block with a groove on one side that fits over the tongue of the plank.

A pull bar is a metal tool with a flat and hooked end. Use these tools with a rubber mallet to tap or pull the planks into place.

5.       Rubber mallet:

This is a hammer that has a rubber head. You’ll use it with the tapping block and pull bar to snug the wood planks together without damaging them.

6.       Spacers:

These are small pieces of plastic or wood that you’ll use to maintain a gap between the wall and the first row of planks. This gap allows for the wood’s expansion and contraction due to temperature and humidity changes.

7.       Chalk line:

This tool consists of a string coated with chalk and a reel. You’ll use it to snap a straight line on the plywood subfloor as a reference for laying your first row of planks.

8.       Tape measure:

This tool consists of a flexible metal or plastic strip with markings for measuring length. You’ll use it to measure your room’s dimensions and plan your layout.

9.       Safety gear:

Wear to protect yourself from injuries while working with power tools and materials. They include knee pads, safety glasses, and ear protection

Step 1: Prepare the Plywood Subfloor

The first step in installing wood flooring over plywood is to prepare the plywood subfloor. The subfloor is the base layer of the floor that supports the flooring material. Ensure the subfloor is clean, level, and dry before laying the wood flooring. To prepare the subfloor, follow these steps:

  • Clean: Remove any debris, nails, or staples from the plywood subfloor using a broom, a vacuum, or a pry bar. A clean subfloor will prevent damage or interference with the wood flooring installation.
  • Inspect: Check the plywood subfloor for any loose or squeaky boards. If you find any, secure them with screws or nails. Also, check the subfloor’s surface for bumps, dips, or cracks. The surface should be level and smooth, with no more than 3/16 inches of variation in 10 feet. If you find any uneven areas, you may need to sand, fill, or level them with a leveling compound.
  • Moisture Test: Perform a moisture test on the plywood subfloor to ensure it’s dry enough for installation of wood flooring. Use a moisture meter or a calcium chloride test kit to measure the moisture content of the subfloor. The acceptable moisture level will depend on the type of wood flooring you’re installing and your area’s climate. The moisture content of the subfloor should not exceed 12% for solid hardwood flooring and 14% for engineered hardwood flooring. If the moisture content is too high, you may need to address it using a dehumidifier, a fan, or a vapor barrier.

Step 2: Lay Underlayment (if required)

Some types of wood flooring may require an underlayment to provide cushioning, sound insulation, and a moisture barrier for the flooring.

An underlayment is a thin layer of material that goes between the plywood subfloor and the wood flooring. If your wood flooring requires an underlayment, you need to lay it down before installing the flooring.

To lay the underlayment, follow these steps:

  1. Roll out the underlayment perpendicular to the direction you’ll lay the wood planks. This will help prevent seams from lining up with the planks and creating weak spots.
  2. Overlap the edges of the underlayment by about 2 inches and tape them together with duct tape or underlayment tape. This will create a continuous layer of protection for the flooring.
  3. Trim any excess underlayment with a utility knife or scissors.

Step 3: Plan Your Layout

Planning your layout involves arranging the wood planks on the floor to achieve the best appearance and fit.

To plan your layout, follow these steps:

  • Measure the width and length of your room and divide them by the width and length of your wood planks. This will give you an idea of how many planks you’ll need and how they’ll fit in your room.
  • Choose which direction you’ll lay your wood planks. The most common direction is parallel to the longest wall or perpendicular to the floor joists. However, you can also choose a diagonal or herringbone pattern for more visual interest.
  • Avoid having narrow plank widths at the walls or short lengths at the ends. These can look unbalanced and make cutting more difficult. Ideally, you should have at least half a plank width at each wall and at least 6 inches of plank length at each end.
  • Snap a chalk line on the plywood subfloor to start your first row of planks. The line should be parallel to your chosen direction and about 1/4 inch away from one wall (or more if your manufacturer recommends a larger expansion gap). This line will serve as a reference for laying your planks.

Step 4: Install the Wood Flooring

After preparing the plywood subfloor and laying the underlayment (if required), you can start installing the wood flooring. The wood flooring can be either solid hardwood or engineered hardwood, and it can be installed using different methods, such as nailed, glued, or floating.

The installation process will vary depending on the type and method of your wood flooring. Here are some general steps for installing the wood flooring over plywood:

  • Start with the First Row

The first row of planks is the most important, as it will be a reference for the rest of the installation. To install the first row, follow these steps:

  • Place the first board with the tongue facing the wall. Use spacers to maintain a gap between the wall and the board for expansion. This gap should be equal to or larger than your plank thickness.
  • Cut the boards when needed to fit your room’s dimensions and shape. Use a circular or table saw to make straight or angled cuts. Remember to measure and mark your cuts before cutting.
  • Stagger the seams for a more natural look. The length of end joints should be at least 6-8 inches apart between adjacent rows.
  • If installing solid hardwood flooring, nail or staple each board to the plywood subfloor through its tongue. Use a nail gun or stapler with appropriate nails or staples for your plank thickness and subfloor type. You’ll need to use an angle attachment or face-nail on the first and last rows, as there won’t be enough space for the nail gun or stapler.
  • If installing engineered hardwood flooring using the glued method, apply adhesive to the plywood subfloor and lay the board on top. Use a trowel to spread the adhesive evenly and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time and coverage.
  • If installing engineered hardwood flooring using the floating method, click the boards together along their edges. Some boards may have a locking mechanism that snaps into place, while others may need to be tapped with a rubber mallet.


  • Continue Laying Boards

After installing the first row, you can continue laying boards until you cover the entire floor. To install the subsequent rows, follow these steps:

  1. Use a tapping block and rubber mallet to snug boards along their edges. Make sure there are no gaps or overlaps between boards.
  2. After several rows, check to ensure you’re still parallel to your starting line and make adjustments as necessary. You can use a chalk line or a straight edge to check your alignment.
  3. Remember to maintain the expansion gap around all room edges. Use spacers to keep the gap consistent.

Step 5: Finishing Up

When you reach the final row, you may need to cut boards lengthwise to fit the remaining space. To install the final row, follow these steps:

  • Measure and mark the width of the final row, accounting for the expansion gap.
  • Cut boards lengthwise using a circular saw or a table saw. Be careful not to damage the tongue or groove of the boards.
  • Use a pull bar and rubber mallet to snug the final row.

Step 6: Add Moldings and Transitions

After installing all boards, add moldings and transitions to hide the expansion gap and create a smooth transition between different flooring or doorways.

To add moldings and transitions, follow these steps:

  • Remove spacers from the expansion gaps.
  • Install shoe molding or baseboards to hide the expansion gap along the walls. Make sure you nail into the wall and not into the floor, as this will prevent the floor from expanding and contracting freely.
  • Install transition strips at doorways or where the wood flooring meets another type. Transition strips are pieces of wood or metal that cover gaps or changes in height between different floors. You can use nails, screws, glue, or clips to secure them.

Once all moldings and transitions are installed, you can return furniture and fixtures to your room. However, if you used adhesive for your wood flooring installation, you need to wait for it to dry completely before moving anything on top of it.

The video shows how to install hardwood floors over plywood

Maintenance tips:

  1. Sweep or vacuum regularly to remove dust and dirt.
  2. Wipe up spills or stains as soon as possible with a damp cloth or a mild cleaner.
  3. Avoid using harsh chemicals, abrasives, or steam cleaners on your floor.
  4. Use mats or rugs in high-traffic areas or near entrances to protect your floor from wear and tear.
  5. Avoid dragging heavy objects or furniture across your floor. Use felt pads or coasters under furniture legs to prevent scratches or dents.


You’ve done it! You’ve installed your new wood floor over plywood and transformed your home. You’ve learned the secrets of choosing, laying, and finishing your wood floor like a pro. Now, you can enjoy your floor’s warmth, elegance, and value for years. Have any questions or stories to share? Let us know in the comments below. Your floor, your story. What’s next? Happy flooring!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top