Which Way Should Hardwood Floors Run?

Which Way Should Hardwodd Floors RunWhich Way Should Hardwood Floors Run?

Do you notice the direction hardwood flooring runs when you walk into a house? It can make a big difference in how it looks and how it behaves over time. Rule number one in laying hardwood flooring is the wood boards should run perpendicular to the floor joists below. This allows the boards to “span” from one joist to the next and be much more solid. If the boards were run parallel to the floor joists, most of the boards would sit only upon the plywood subflooring and not on any of the joists. The plywood is flexible and will “give” fractionally when walked upon. This is a recipe for squeaks and large gaps.

But another rule in laying wood flooring has to do with the aesthetics or look of the flooring. As a general rule, wood flooring looks best when running in the same direction as the longest dimension of the room. For instance, if the room is ten feet by sixteen feet, the wood flooring will look best when running in the sixteen foot direction. The narrower the room, the more important this is. So in a hallway that is only four feet wide, the wood flooring really needs to run the length of the hall and not crosswise, if at all possible. In rooms that are more square in shape, the direction of the wood flooring is not as critical.

Also consider the view you have of the floor when you enter the room. The wood flooring looks best if laid perpendicular to your view direction. This will disguise the cracks between the planks. If you are looking straight down the planks, the seams between the boards will be more obvious. And if the seams are not perfectly straight, you will more readily see that variation, too.

It’s not always practical to run the flooring in these optimal directions. But if you can do it, the benefits are real. If the floor joists below the wood flooring are running the wrong direction for the way you want the flooring to look in the room, ask your builder to install wood blocking beneath the floor from joist to joist to support a floor running parallel to the joists. This will cost a bit more, but it will be worth it in narrow spaces, like hallways.

Of course, selecting the right wood for your floor is very important. Consider the grain and color of the wood and how it will look with other wood items in the room, like kitchen cabinets and wood trim.

One other neat feature is to install flush thresholds between rooms. I show photos of this and describe it in detail in my book, Designing Your Perfect House.

If you would like to read more articles about house and home design, please visit my other website, www.about-home-design.com.

98 Comments

  1. bcchaus@yahoo.com'
    ladonna

    the ceiling of our home is wood planks–we are replacing carpet with wood–should the flooring run same direction of ceiling planks?????

    • Iadonna – I think it would be best if the floor ran the same direction as the ceiling planks. But that may not be possible. The flooring must run perpendicular to the floor framing so it is properly supported. If the existing floor joists are running the same direction as the ceiling planks, then the flooring will end up perpendicular to the ceiling. However, you could install blocking between the floor joists, if they are accessible, and then run the flooring parallel to the joists. The blocking would provide the proper support.

  2. pittmanlan@verizon.net'
    Lisa

    We have hardwood on our 1st floor all running perpendicular to the joists. We had the MBR hardwood and it is running in the same direction of the downstairs. We just had the stairs and upper hall done and the installer laid the floor longways down the hall instead of going with the flow of the MBR. He claimed the joists were different upstairs from downstairs but we can see the seams and nail pops underneath the MBR (which is our LR ceiliing) and it appears the joists go the same on both levels. What should we do about our hallway. It runs completely different from the rest of the house and looks terrible next to the MBR entrance. Should the installer be responsible for the repair??

    • Bill

      Lisa – This sounds like the installer took the easy way out when he installed the flooring. By running it the long way, he saved himself a lot of cutting and gave you an improper installation. Yes. He should be responsible for the repair, unless he can prove the joists run perpendicular to the flooring. If you have original drawings (blueprints) of the house, they may show the joist direction on them. But it sounds like your nail pops and seams that show in the ceiling below are plenty of evidence that your flooring is improperly supported. Hopefully the installer will do the right thing and correct this at no additional cost to you.

  3. kayj.gramling@vbschools.com'

    I am getting ready to have floors installed and the installer said it was best to have them running lengthwise as you open the door to the house which is what I believe you are saying above. He said it allowed the best appearance to the opening of your house and light- please advise??

    • Bill

      Kay – The wood flooring will look best if it runs the long direction in a room. This is particularly true in hallways where the length of the hall is much greater than the width. But the visual aspect is less of an issue than the structural issue. What I mean is it is important to have the wood planks properly supported on the floor joists. So first and foremost, the wood flooring should run perpendicular to the floor framing. If that would make your floor look choppy because the planks would be short and numerous, the remedy is to install blocking below the subfloor to support the wood planks. In an existing home, this may be impractical. You will have to weigh the benefit against the cost. Hopefully your floor joists already run perpendicular to the direction you would like the floor to run.

  4. gloriaandree@aol.com'
    Gloria

    I’m curious that no one ever mentions the existence of a subfloor when discussing laying hardwood flooring. We have a cabin and laid 3/4″ OS B atop the joists. I presume we can lay hardwood in any direction desired? Also, unfortunately nothing is level (it’s a cabin after all) and the floor slopes slightly toward one end of the house…possibly off as much as 1/2″ from the other end of the room (16 feet away). How do we best approach this when laying hardwood and are there any width restrictions due to this different?

    • Gloria – Do NOT lay the hardwood in any direction. The flooring must be laid perpendicular to the floor joists for proper support. All of the discussions presume a subfloor. But the subfloor itself is not strong enough to support the wood flooring properly. Any boards that run parallel to the joists, but are located above the spaces between the joists, will move fractionally when stepped upon. This will cause the floors to become uneven and the flexing will cause squeaks.

      Regarding your non-level floor, you can lay the wood floor on top of the joists and simply let it slope. Chances are the only way to remove that slope is to jack up the framing itself. And that may be more trouble and cost than it’s worth.

  5. elike7@gmail.com'

    I am laying flooring over cement subfloor in several rooms on ground level and also down a set of stairs into basement. First, will it look best if direction of lay be consistent in all rooms? If yes, the direction of lay will likely be in same direction as the longest dimension in the living room, unfortunately this will require that the 8′ entrance hallway be laid contrary to your advice. What is your advice concerning multiple rooms and how critical is it that planks be laid parallel to the direction of the hallway? Also, lay direction will terminate at the top of stairs and changed to go down stairs. Are there any issues with this that I am not seeing now?

    • Eugene – The general rule would be to lay all of the wood flooring in the same direction. But you can lay wood flooring in different directions in different rooms if circumstances demand it. It works best if there are defined openings from room to room. If I’m understanding you correctly, if you lay the flooring the long way in your hall, it will be perpendicular to the wood in the adjoining rooms. I would suggest making the transition in direction at the edge of the “room side” of the wall the doorway is in and not make the transition on the hallway side of the wall. In other words, make sure the planks run the long direction within the doorway opening. You want it to look logical when it’s all done.

  6. ken.kleinman@gmail.com'

    Hi Bill–

    Thanks for putting this up, it’s just what I needed.

    Unfortunately, I have a conundrum. My floor joists run in the long direction in my fairly long and narrow kitchen. I’m in the midst of a remodel– can I do the blocking you mention in an existing home, or does it have to go under the sub-floor, which would be impractical.

    Thanks for your help!

    Ken K,

    • Ken – Yes, the blocking should be installed under the subfloor and between the joists. If the room below the kitchen is unfinished and ductwork, pipes, etc. are not in the way, you could easily do it yourself. All you need to do is cut pieces of 2×4 the proper length and nail them up against the subfloor and between the joists (with the long direction of the 2×4’s going perpendicular to the joists. A nail gun will make the job easier. And some Liquid Nails glue will help prevent squeaks. But if you cannot get to the underside of the subfloor, another possible fix would be to install a second layer of subflooring over the one you already have. That should make the subfloor strong enough to support the wood floor boards and keep them from moving. Of course this option will thicken your floor and it may require some sort of transition threshold where the new floor ends and adjoins another flooring material. You’ll have to decide if that will be acceptable to you or not.

  7. ken.kleinman@gmail.com'

    Thanks again, Bill!

  8. bilgarn@yahoo.com'
    marilyn

    If I have my new floor laid according to your aesthetics, it would run vertically as you enter the living room from the entry way i.e., running in the same direction as the longest dimension of the room. This, however, is contrary to you suggestion as to how it looks best if laid perpendicular to your view direction as you enter the room. So which should it be?

    • Marilyn – In rooms that are not too narrow, the hardwood flooring can run in either direction. If the wood is laid properly and the joints are tight and straight, viewing it lengthwise will be fine. The more important question in your case would be what direction the underlying floor joists run. The hardwood flooring is best laid perpendicular to the joists so the planks are properly supported on several joists.

  9. wesa81@hotmail.com'

    Hi Bill,
    I’m wondering, after reading all the above, is it best that I lay my hardwood perpendicular to the joists? Sorry, couldn’t resist! But really, thanks for your helpful info and patience.

  10. cd@reward1.com'
    Citydweller

    Hello Bill,
    Thanks for the informative article. Here’s one for you…I’m getting the following wideplank engineered hardwood installed in an apartment: http://www.andersonfloors.com/flooring/VYM6296.aspx .
    It will be glued directly to cured/sealed cement (above grade, no soundproofing required). You mentioned the wood running parallel to the entrance hallway, but given the layout in link below, and an outdoor space which will be accessible via sliding doors what are your thoughts?
    Thank you in advance.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/counttrarian/6718427275/in/photostream

    • Citydweller – This looks like a case where it would be best to let the flooring run in the short direction in the entry hall in order to have it run in the long direction (north and south on your plan image) in the main living spaces. That will also let the flooring run parallel to the sliding doors. No rule is unalterable, depending on the circumstances.

  11. kiparis@windstream.net'
    George

    Hi Bill. I searched your site but couldn’t find an answer to this question. I have a long great room and I want to run the flooring parallel with the floor joist. Question is this ok to do because my subfloor is OSB and it is 1″ thick. I have an older home.

    Thank you

    • George – With one inch OSB, you might be okay running the flooring parallel to the joists. Try to make an assessment of how rigid the subflooring is. Most subflooring is only 5/8″ thick. Your one inch material is almost like having a double subfloor. Also, test out a spot or two to make sure the subfloor will hold a nail reasonably well. If nails begin to pull out later, you’ll be overrun by floor squeaks.

  12. micaheart@gmail.com'

    Hi Bill,

    I have a smallish open floor plan with cement floors with radiant floor heat. If I lay the floors long wise to the longest side of the front room (preferred, based on what I have read here, and aesthetically in this particular room would look better, I think), I will see them long wise when I enter the front door (not preferred from what I read here). Also, the hallway which is connected to the main room runs perpendicular to the long side of the front room. Does that make sense? So, then the hallway would be chopped into short pieces as opposed to running lenthwise which I think would look better in the hallway. Or do I go the other way? Lay them across the short way in the front room, which then I would be looking across the planks when I enter the front door and then they would lay long wise down the hall way? Any thoughts? Thanks.

    • Lynn – With a concrete slab, you have no restrictions on flooring direction in practical terms. For aesthetics, you might be better off doing what you suggest and have the flooring run in the long direction in both the hallway and the front room. Just install a flush transition board to make a logical change in direction. Sometimes when I do this I make the transition board out of a another species of wood to create a nice contrast. It makes the transition a design feature and not something done for shear utility. The key to good design is to make it look like you meant to do it and not let it look like a mistake. ;-)

  13. russp1@bigpond.net.au'
    Russell

    Hi Bill,
    I am laying floorboards over a concrete slab floor, and was wondering if it is ok to lay them diagonally, do they look any good that way or is that going to be a disaster? The reason I am considering this is to get around the problem of having to have the boards running different directions in the hallway and the living room. I know you have said that a transition can be made to look nice, but I am just trying to think outside the square here. Thanks for any advice, it will be greatly appreciated.

    • Russell – The only potential problem with laying the floor boards diagonally is they might look dated over time. Placing wood diagonally, even on siding, was popular in the 70’s. Now it can date a house. If you want to change the direction of the boards as you move from room to room, you can make the transition by installing a flush threshold board at the doorway. Sometimes I use another species of wood, often something darker, for this to make it an accented feature.

  14. steevywonder@hotmail.com'

    Hi Bill,

    We are planning to install wood flooring. Following the rules of installing perpendicular to the joists, the boards would also run parallel to the longest side of the living room, so that’s good. However, entering the dining room from the living room through french doors, if we continue the boards in the same direction, then the boards would run parallel to the shorter wall of the dining room which is about 11ft x 13ft. Do you think the dining room is “square” enough so that aesthetically it would look OK, rather than change direction and run the boards parallel to the joists? If not, about 15 ft of joist (living room) would have boards perpendicular, and 13 ft of joist (dining room) would have boards parallel – what do you thinK? Much appreciated.

    • Steve – Yes, your dining room is close enough to square for this to work well. No worries.

  15. mark_rachel@comcast.net'
    Rachel

    We are installing laminate flooring downstairs in our house. We have 1000sq ft L shaped downstairs. Which way do we lay the floors? When you walk into the front door you walk into a “formal living room”. There is a small wall separating this room & our family room (this being in the corner of the L shape. Then to the right is our kitchen. Since there is a small wall that separates the living room & the family room I don’t exactly see that as being the longest part of the space, even though you can see all the way to the back of the family room when you open the front door. Should we run them long ways as you walk into the house so it flows all way back to the family room? Or run them long ways from the kitchen to the family room. Making you walk across the planks as you walk in the front door, like a ladder?

    • Rachel – The general rule is to run the flooring in the long direction of the room, if possible. But in rooms that are not too narrow, this rule is not as important. In narrow hallways it is. That ladder effect you describe is what you should try to avoid.

  16. Cosmoog1@optonline.net'

    We are laying bamboo wood flooring in all 3 of our bedrooms. It is a darker color ( by choice) than our existing oak flooring running the length of our hallway. Should we lay it Running the long dimension of the rooms, which would make it perpendicular to the hall flooring? And if one room is installed perpendicular to the hallway, should all of the bedrooms be the same was?

    • Erin – You can change directions at doorways. But you should first determine which direction the floor joists are running. The flooring MUST run perpendicular to the joists unless you can add additional wood blocking between the joists to support the wood flooring. If you don’t do this, you will increase the flex in the floor and you’ll get more squeaks and possibly humps in the flooring.

  17. ba300parkecj@yahoo.com'
    Colin

    Hi Bill. Great Information, Thanks.

    I’m planning on putting in some hard maple in my house, and it looks like a portion of it will have to be run parallel to the joists. My wife would like all the flooring to run in the same direction. I realize this is a very open ended question with quite a few variables, but roughly how much extra blocking should I adding? Thankfully it’s mostly accessible. Any reading you can point me towards?

    • Colin – Spacing your blocking at 24″ on center should be plenty. If you are doing this in an existing house, you might want to add a bead of construction adhesive to the top of the blocking before you install it so it adheres to the subfloor. Then be sure to press it tight up under the subfloor. This will help limit squeaking potential.

  18. mrlhfloats@suddenlink.net'
    Brenda

    We are laying hardwood flooring in an oddly shaped hallway from the foyer, which already has hardwood flooring laid lengthwise. The hall continues in a straight line from there,but also turns left and continues for about 10feet (L shaped). How do we determine how to lay it so it looks right, but also meets the “perpendicular to moustache” requirement? Thanks!

    • Brenda – Since the direction of the flooring has already been established by the existing flooring, it is probably best to continue all of it in that direction. The flooring direction “rules” are not hard and fast. Consider them suggestions. Some exceptions have to be made from time to time.

  19. bgavinW@wavecable.com'
    Bart

    Expansion question. I am laying a unfinished 3/4″ red oak floor in a 1997 home located in Port Angeles, WA. We are close to the ocean so the humidity is fairly stable and temps from mid 60s to low 40s. Wood will be acclimated for at least two weeks and laid perpendicular to joist over 15# felt. The problem is I have a 32′ x17′ room and the 32′ is direction of expansion. From what I can gather this floor could expand up to 1.5″.
    First question is if the last boards move 3/4″, don’t the nails pull out?
    How do I deal with this much movement?
    And last do I dare do a boarder wrap of 12″ of oak and 3/4″ of walnut cut at a 45 degree in all corners?
    Maybe I should pin down our actual humidity change and this all will not be a issue. Thanks for your great Q&A

    • Bart – The entire floor would pull that far from the edge if it was all glued together to form one large slab of wood. That would be what is called a “floating floor.” In normal installations, each board is nailed to the subfloor independently. Each one shrinks on its own. So if the wood were to shrink 5%, a typical board that is 2 1/4″ wide would shrink about a twentieth of an ich. That would be the gap you would expect to see between each board. In reality, some boards “decide” to stick together. So you may see a few boards that have no gaps between them and then a gap of more than 1/20th of an inch. So there is no concern that the nails will pull out at the edges.

      I see no problem with the 12″ border. Keep in mind that these boards will be subject to shrinking and swelling with the season, too. So if your wood has acclimated before installation and the moisture content in the wood flooring and subfloor are similar and in the optimum range (make sure your installer checks with a moisture meter), you sould see only realatively small seasonal gaps that will go away in the summer. That’s just wood doing its thing.

  20. Kellywelsh@optonline.net'
    Kelly

    I have a foyer attached to very long hallway (30 feet). This current floor runs vertically and has a dark inlay border. We want the border to stop at a doorway at the end of this 30 ft hall, turning the boards 90 degrees for about a 3 foot space, then start again with the inlay and boards that run vertical, again for another 15 feet, just as they do by the door. We are, essentially, trying to separate the long hall from a newly created room prior to entering the kitchen. The floor in the kitchen runs perpendicular to the hall (just like the 3 foot area).

    Will that 3 foot area in the middle of a 45 foot hall look weird from the front door?

    I apologize if I didn’t describe the situation well.

    • Kelly – I’m not sure I completely understand your situation, but this sounds like it should work. If you have some reason to stop one pattern and start another, such as at a doorway, it will look fine. The key is to make it logical and have a reason for the change. One way to test this out would be to put some tape on the floor approximately where your inlays will go and look it over from all angles. You should know pretty quickly if this will be successful or not.

  21. kgran922@yahoo.com'
    Kim

    My mom is building a house, it is on a slab. Which direction should the wood floors run??

    • Kim – Without the consideration of the direction of the wood framing below, I would recommend running the wood floor in the long direction in the room, if at all possible.

  22. mara.a.fisher@gmail.com'

    Hi Bill – My 1.5m wide hallway has wood going length ways down it opening up into the middle of a large room (about 9m by 4m) in which a lounge will be on the left, a small dining/breakfast table in front, and kitchen on the right. The room has bifold glass doors opposite the hallway that open out onto the patio. Which way should I have the wood in the bigger room? If it is along the long part of it, then it will be different direction to the hallway. If it is along the width of it it will be same direction of the hallway so flow quite well, but be along the short length of the room. What do you recommend?

    Thanks heaps

    • Mara – It sounds like you should change the direction of the wood at the door to the larger room and let the wood run in the long direction in that room. The doors give you the perfect opportunity to make the transition.

  23. mara.a.fisher@gmail.com'

    PS – the large room has concrete base so no issue with joists etc. Thank you

  24. clasusi@msn.com'
    Clay Marston

    At what intervals should you run the 2×4 blocking underneath your subfloor to properly support your hardwood floor. Thanks for all the information and tips provided. C.M.

    • Clay – Ideally the blocking should be place at 16″ on center, just like the floor joists. But if nearly all of your floor boards are over two feet in length, you could use blocking that is spaced at 24″ on center.

  25. vanillasw1rl@yahoo.com'
    Danielle

    I’m hoping to have the wood flooring in our kitchen redone in the near future. Along with the kitchen I would like to add wood to the stairs leading from the ktichen down to the family room (quad level home). The wood runs lengthwise toward the family room. Do the steps need to run in the same direction? I’ve seen photos of others flooring and I really don’t think it looks good having say ten 12″ boards in a row for the steps.

    • Danielle – The boards that make up the stair treads should always go in the long direction on the treads regardless of the direction the wood is going in the adjacent rooms. In other words, the boards should be going from side to side as you walk up and down the stairs.

  26. billmeadus@gmail.com'

    Hi Bill
    I would like to install hardwood frooring over by existing vinyl floor. The vinyl floor is level, not torn, in good condition. There is 3/4 plywood under the vinyl. Would you have any advice on installing over vinyl?
    Thanks

    • Bill – I would suggest that you double check my answer with a wood flooring installer, but I believe you should have no problem installing the wood floor right over the vinyl. Usually wood flooring is installed over red rosin paper or even roofing felt (tar paper). This practice helps eliminate squeaks. The vinyl should do the same thing for you.

  27. vgreenb@yahoo.com'

    Hi, we are laying laminate flooring over our existing hardwood (which is almost 100 years old and runs perpendicular to the joists). We are laying a plywood subfloor over the existing hardwood to add support and hopefully eliminate some of the squeaks. Does it matter which direction we lay the laminate planks over the plywood? The laminate is a free floating non adhesive 8 mm brand.

    • Tori – No, your laminate floor can run in either direction. That’s because the old hardwood floor under it will give it ample support. In fact, I doubt you will need to install the plywood subfloor. I would suggest screwing down the old hardwood flooring, especially in places where it squeaks, and then installing the laminate over that. Chances are the squeaks are caused by the planks of the hardwood flooring moving and rubbing against each other or rubbing against the subfloor below the hardwood. It’s that movement you need to stop.

      Have you considered simply having the hardwood floor repaired and refinished? I did that in a ninety year old house we used to own In Delaware. We even had the stained boards replaced. When it was done, the floors were the best feature of the house. And a good polyurethane finish, like Bona Traffic, will be very easy to live with.

  28. kflores0306@yahoo.com'
    Karen Flores

    I’m having wood flooring put down on a concrete slab. The installer suggested laying the flooring on a diagonal to give the rooms a larger appearance. The livingroom, dinning, and kitchen are all one area. The house is really small only 1366 sq ft total with majority being down stairs. The flooring will be installed in every room down stairs, as well as being put on the stairs. Will the diagonal instalation actually make the house/rooms appear bigger? I’ve never seen this done.

    • William Hirsch

      Karen – The diagonal flooring was a bit of a fad in the 70’s, but you hardly ever see it anymore. I don’t think it makes the room loo larger. As a general rule, you would want to run the wood flooring the long direction of the room. This is more important in narrow rooms and less important in wide rooms. But make sure of the direction of the floor joist beneath the floor. Your hardwood flooring should run perpendicular to the joists so they can support the flooring properly. If you want to run the wood flooring parallel to the joists, you will need to install solid blocking between the joists to provide support. Otherwise, you will get a squeaky floor.

  29. robjoss@acsalaska.net'
    Jocelyn Juul

    Hi, We just purchased a home and are putting down stranded carbonized bamboo. It has a 2×6 sub-floor so the direction is not a problem. We do however have a “hump” that runs the length of the room so that when you look into the room the walls on the left and right are lower that the middle. We will be trying to lower the flooring from underneath the house but if this does not work in what direction do you suggest we lay the wood to reduce the visibility of the hump?

    • William Hirsch

      Jocelyn – The flooring should run perpendicular tot he direction the hump runs. If you were to run the flooring parallel to the hump, the boards would tend to tip and open gaps between the boards.

  30. cyndi111@mac.com'

    Bill:
    We have a new home we are installing wood floors on the first level. The hallway from the entry door runs about 20 feet where I would want the floors to run perpendicular to the front entry door. However when the hallway reaches the large room of kitchen and living room, I want to run the floors along the length of that room. Therefore, I have a transition at the end of the hallway into the kitchen/living room–what would you suggest to do at the transition point where the floors change direction? Or would you recommend something different?
    You have a lot of great advice on these Q & A’s!

    • William Hirsch

      I don’t think you need a transition. More than likely the difference will be quite subtle, and not very noticeable.

  31. anthonylopez85@gmail.com'
    Anthony

    I read each and every comment hoping to read the solution to my situation, but not exactly 100% sure yet. My question is based purely on aesthetics. We have concrete subfloors (no joist situation here). When I enter my home from the front door I want the boards to run parallel to my vision (I want to look across my boards not down the length of my boards). I desire this because I want the boards running length-wise through our great room and I don’t want to switch directions at all if I can help it. Here is my discomfort: That being said I want the hallway that leads to all 3 bedrooms to run the same directions as the great room, but that would give it the “ladder” effect and I’ve read against doing that…would it look that bad?

    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-OVQW-F-15j4/UwuceK97xCI/AAAAAAAAACY/jqkMRTQl6ZQ/w426

    • William Hirsch

      Anthony – Sometimes I think the worry about the ladder effect is overstated. If you have a wood species that is fairly uniform, you probably won’t wee too much of the ladder effect. And if you have a runner (rug) in the hall, you will diminish it even more. And just so you know, I have tiete rosewood flooring in my house and my entry flooring runs parallel to the front door. That means the boards run in the short direction of the hall. The boards are five inches wide. And I have to say, it does not bother me or anyone else in the least. Plus, by having your line of sight from when you enter the hall be perpendicular tot he boards, you will diminish the appearance of any seasonal gaps in between the boards. Good luck.

      • anthonylopez85@gmail.com'
        Anthony

        William, thank you very much for the shared information. I can’t wait until March 15 when our entire floor is new! Thanks again.

  32. gugie58@hotmail.com'
    María Isabel

    We are laying laminate flooring in our living room. The room is odd in shape. It has a tile line 15 ft. In length. I suggest the planks lay parallel to this line and work their way to the opposite point of the room. My husband suggests the planks lay following the horizontal or vertical grout lines of the adjacent tile floor for visual continuity. We need your expert advise.

    • William Hirsch

      Maria – It is hard to answer specifically without seeing the room. But I think your idea of following the long 15 ft. line of the tile sounds like the best way to go.

  33. valerie.coffman@verizon.net'
    Valerie

    Hi Bill,

    I have a family room with a large, 3-panel sliding glass door on the long side of the room. There is lots of light through this window area. So my question is: Would it be better to run the flooring along the direction of the long side of the room OR perpendicular so that it runs “parallel” with the direction of the light entering the room? I realize this is barely enough information but just wondered if you had any thoughts on this. Thanks!

    • William Hirsch

      Valerie – I would suggest the flooring run the long direction in the room and parallel to the door.

  34. gayle_hayes@yahoo.com'
    Gayle

    We are installing oak hardwood in our split-level home. There is about a 3’x4′ area at the top of the steps before the hall jogs to the left (picture an “L”). How do we decide where to stop laying the boards for the step and begin the hallway, which will run in the opposite direction?

    Thanks!

    • William Hirsch

      Gayle – If the house is already built, you need to run the flooring perpendicular tot he floor joists. I would suggest not trying to change direction when you “turn” the “L”. Keep it all running in the same direction.

  35. davekeating@hotmail.com'
    Dave Keating

    We are installing engineered wood floors in a large rectangle open concept space containing the kitchen, dining and living room. The basic dimensions are 16′ by 33′. There is an entry door at one end of the small side of the rectangle in the left corner and a French door to a deck in the right corner of the other end off the kitchen. There is also a hallway to bedrooms off the mid left of the rectangle. My question is which direction do you think would be most aesthetically pleasing to the eye? Also for the hallway would it be best to go in the same direction as the main floor?

    • William Hirsch

      Dave – In a room that size, I think you can run the flooring in either direction. But running it in the 16′ direction might be easier to layout nice and straight. And I would probably keep the hallway running in the same direction as the room.

  36. briangross@sbcglobal.net'
    Brian

    I am planning on installing a hardwood floor on my second level. As you go up the stairs to this level there is a long 8 ft balcony railing on each side of the stair case. I am planning on running my flooring parallel to balcony railings on each side of the stair case. I also plan on replacing the railing, balusters and landing treads on the left, right and top of the stairs. The wood flooring would then run perpendicular to the top of the stair landing tread and then down the sides of each balcony railing.

    My question is what considerations should I be concerned about. I am not sure where to start laying the flooring.

    • William Hirsch

      Brian – The major concern would be the direction the underlying floor joists run. You will want you hardwood boards to run perpendicular tot he floor joist to give them proper support and to avoid squeaks.

  37. Allan.Bagnall@verizon.net'
    Allan Bagnall

    I will be laying a floating floor and would like recommendations on how to do the transition between rooms (6 ft opening). Aesthetically speaking, it would look best to have the planks run in different directions (90 degrees). How would you sugets doing this kind of transition? I think I have a good idea on how to do it, but I am a little concerned about the transition joint since there will be nothing to lock things together.

    Any suggestions will be appreciated.

    Thanks
    Allan

    • William Hirsch

      Allan – Ideally, you would like to have a couple of boards run the long direction within the opening and the width equal to the thickness of the wall to make what I call a “flush threshold” in the doorway between the rooms. This gives a good look by allowing the wood to stop logically in each room. The ends of your boards should have tongues and grooves, however they may not all fit together as you might hope. You could end up with some cut edges that have no tongue or groove. This is where some advanced carpentry comes in. You could either cut in tongues and grooves where you need them or you could install biscuits to “lock” the boards together. An experienced floor installer will know how to do this correctly.

  38. Stankiewicz_Gail@comcast.net'
    Gail

    Hi Bill, I live in a condo on concrete. You enter the front door to the foyer and immediately to your left is a long living/dining area (approx. 13′ at the widest point by about 25′ long). About halfway into this area on the right is a long hallway down to the bedrooms. Originally i wanted to run the floor in the main living area the “long” way north to south; but then I would have the “ladder” effect going down the hall. My contractor suggests going “east to west” with the flooring in the main living/dining area which will mean the wood will go the long way down the hallway which may be more pleasing and he claims less “wasteful”. Do you think my living/dining area is large enough that this plan would work? Thanks for your time.

    • William Hirsch

      Gail – Yes, I think your room is wide enough to allow you the option of running the flooring either direction. Or you could simply change the direction of the flooring exactly where the hallway begins. if you align the transition with the corners of the walls where the hall meets the living/dining room, this can work out nicely.

      • Stankiewicz_Gail@comcast.net'
        Gail

        Thanks Bill, i’ve decided to have the boards run “lengthwise” in the main living/dining area and then switch direction down the hallway so they are also running lengthwise. And because of the wood i’ve chosen they are doing a “glue down” so there won’t have to be any transition piece when they switch direction; it will be flush.

  39. rogerscarolyna@aol.com'
    Carolyn

    We are putting in hardwoods in the liv. rm., t-shaped hall and dining rm. We are running the boards the longer length of the liv. rm & extending into the hall, but at the end of the hall, the back part of the hall is the top of the t-shape. We’re having a dispute about whether to continue in the same direction, which will make the planks shorter in length & require a lot more cutting. Is this the proper way to lay the hall boards?

    • William Hirsch

      Carolyn – You will probably need to keep the boards running in the same direction as you get into the “T” portion of the room. Unless you have a doorway in which to make a logical transition, any change in direction in the middle of a room will look odd.

  40. smileysara@whidbey.com'
    Sara

    I’m so glad I came across this Q&A and every other site. I will be installing a floating floor here very soon and need to make a final decision regarding direction. I know it’s best to run the flooring perpendicular with the floor joists, but that would mean a ton of waste, lots of cutting, and one hallway with many pieces of flooring. My house is very choppy with only a bit of open floor plan. I am still so lost as to what direction the flooring should go. Aesthetically pleasing and more money or long run potential and less money?

    • William Hirsch

      Sara – If you have a good, sturdy subfloor, your floating floor could run in either direction. As a general rule, floors look better with the boards running the long direction in the room. you can make transitions at doorways and everything will look just fine. But don’t makes lots of direction changes or everything will look too chopped up. Just try to make it all look logical and you will be fine.

  41. Adrian.filzek@bigpond.com'
    Adrian Filzek

    Hi there, just wondering if you can advise what I should do about laminate flooring that I’m laying when it transitions from one room to another, e.g a bedroom comes off the living room and the boards are the same direction as the entry. Do I stagger them as if the separate rooms weren’t there? My only concern is the total length of a complete row would be close to 40 feet. Should I stop at the entry to each room and add a separation piece?

    • William Hirsch

      Adrian – I like adding the separation piece, a kind of “flush threshold” at the door to the room. I think it helps define the room.

  42. jcl725@yahoo.com'

    Hi Bill,

    What would you recommend in my case. Here’s my floor plan.

    http://www.taylormorrison.com/new-homes/california/southern-california/irvine/springhouse-community/plan-3

    In case you can’t see the floor plan, it’s a short but wide house with a short entry leading to a great room that runs wide to the right. To the left, is a den and bedroom.

    We’re doing hardwood on a cement foundation on the entire first floor, including den and bedroom 4 but no baths. The model has it going straight through from the entry. But we’re thinking of doing it perpendicular to the entry so it runs the long way down the hall and in the great room. What is your advice? Greatly appreciate the help.

  43. Amedeomusic@aol.com'

    Hey there! It’s wonderful that you offer such help! We have 80 year old 1in strip oak that has seen its last days! We would like to put new engineered oak over the existing (perpendicular to the joists) and have had one installer tell us it was ok to go right on top and in the same direction and a second said we had to go in the opposite direction of the old floor, making the new parallel to the joists!!?? Advise please!!!! Thanks in advance!

    • William Hirsch

      Ak – It’s too bad you have to cover the old flooring. one inch strips are a great look. It’s something no one does these days because the labor is higher than with wider boards. More boards to install. Have you tried every option for repairing and refinishing the floors?

      If you have to cover it, you can run the new flooring in any direction you want. That is because the old floor will add strength under the new floor and you will not have the problem of the subflooring flexing like you would if you were installing the new floor right over a single layer of subflooring.

  44. Deerhun7er@aol.com'

    Hello Bill,

    My question regarding the direction of my floor is I will be installing 3/4 x 5″ wide solid Hickory in a 20×15 living room. I would like to run the floor parallel to the joist. The joists run the same direction as my longest wall which is 20′. My subfloor consists of 3/4 plywood with a 1/4″ underlayment on top. I also have what I believe they call cross hatching or cross braces. Is this considered the same as blocking. Is that sufficient to run my floor in either direction? Also my kitchen runs into the living room. I would like to change the direction of the floor at that point because this area is 10’x20′. Any thoughts on this would be helpful.

    • William Hirsch

      Paul – The cross bracing you mention is called “bridging.” It makes the floor stronger by letting weight placed on one joist be shared by the neighboring joists. It does not help with the support of wood flooring between joists. But the fact that you have an additional layer of underlayment does help some. That combined with the wide boards your are using for the flooring means you could probably get away with running the floor parallel to the floor joists. If you have areas of the floor that will get lots of foot traffic, and if you can access the floor from below, you might want to consider installing some solid bridging under those spots. These should be a solid piece of 2×6 or larger that goes perpendicular to the joists, fits tightly between the joists, and is place tight up under the subfloor. Use construction adhesive when you install it to prevent squeaking later on.

  45. rosalindgsmith@hotmail.com'
    ROSALIND smith

    I have two long lines due to upstairs plywood floorboards. It is on one wall of my staircase and even putting up heavy wallpaper it still shoes through.what should I use to conceal this

    • William Hirsch

      Rosalind – I’m not sure I understand how the plywood floorboards above could cause lines to appear on the walls of the staircase. It sounds more like the drywall had developed cracks. This happens often, especially if the wood framing behind the drywall had a high moisture content when it was installed. But this should be very easy to fix. A good drywall finisher should be able to re-tape, spackle, and sand this wall and make it as good as new.

  46. honeyandme2003@msn.com'
    Kim Cook

    Hi! Can you please tell me if I should run a hardwood floor threw out a one level home.. I mean the same colour.. Would it make it look bigger?.. Thanks

    • William Hirsch

      Kim;

      I’m not sure if it makes the house look bigger or not. But using the same wood floor throughout the house will give you a nice design continuity.

  47. wroberts@coloradocollege.edu'

    Hi Bill,

    Great site. We are about to install hardwood. In our living and dining room (all one room) we are planning on running the floor perpendicular to the joists. Next to the dining room there is a small rectangular fireplace room. It is separated from the dining room by a single step (down) and a 3 foot separating wall. The joists in the fireplace room run opposite of those in the dining/living room. Thus, to run perpendicular to the joists in that room will require that we change the direction of the flooring. Doing so would have the added advantage of the flooring running parallel with the longer wall of the room. Do you think that between the change in joist direction, the separation elements (step and short wall), and the flooring running with the longer wall, that the change in flooring direction seems like the smart move? We are divided on this. One of us wants the change in direction; one of us prefers all the flooring in the house to run the same direction. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • William Hirsch

      Wade – I think the step down and the partial wall give you plenty of “transition” to allow you to change the flooring direction. It won’t be a visually disturbing change. So running the flooring perpendicular to the joists is best. But if you can add some blocking under the floor, you could certainly keep the flooring all running the same direction, if you choose.

  48. sarahbcope@gmail.com'
    Sarah

    Bill,

    You have a great site. We are refinishing existing hardwood floors and adding new hardwoods to match the existing flooring. Our front two rooms have existing flooring running N-S. These rooms will open to a 15′ X 29′ great room which lengthwise runs E-W. My interior designer thinks I should run the wood lengthwise, but I will have some kind of obvious transition between the front and back of the house with the change of direction (there will be a slight step up to the back rooms because we cannot get the floors level). We have two attached short hallways to our great room – one with existing wood running E-W and other with new wood to be installed. I think we probably need to run the wood N-S through the great room (which would be meaning running along the shorter width) and into the hallway. What do you think? Also, when you enter the great room, you will look directly down the length of the room. I’m not sure which way to go. We are installing partially on slab and partially on tar and screed over slab. Thanks for any comments!!

    • William Hirsch

      Sarah – I’m not sure if I completely understand your room and hall arrangement. But with a room that is 15’X 29′ you can run the floor either direction and it will look fine since the room is not narrow. And as a general rule, you should try to run wood flooring perpendicular to the direction you enter the room. This is so you don’t end up looking straight down the seams.

      Keep in mind that you can change directions of wood flooring at doorways. It really works out just fine.

  49. Islandsilva@aol.com'

    I am installing hardwood floors in my family room, kitchen, formal dining and living rooms. The kitchen family area is a long room and the flooring is layed out east to west direction (the longetive direction). The formal dining is separated from the kitchen. Formal dining and living is ‘L, shaped room. As you enter the room, you will first enter the long living and to a square shaped formal dining room. Do you think it would be better if I change the direction of the formal dining from the rest of the area?

    The floor installers are here working on the installation, I want to make sure I make the right choice without any regrets.

    Thanks,
    Ruby

    • William Hirsch

      Ruby – When rooms are open to each other, I usually recommend keeping the flooring running in the same direction.

  50. scha66@gmail.com'

    Hi Bill,

    My husband and I will be installing wood floors in the living room, bedrooms and hallway. The joists are E-W throughout the house, which is perfect for all of the rooms, but the hallway runs N-S. My husband wants to transition the floor at the hallway so it runs parallel to the hall. I would prefer the floor to all go E-W for aesthetic purposes. Other than extra cuts and a little more work, is it wrong to lay flooring perpendicular to the hallway? I really appreciate that you continue to answer questions on your site…even 3 years later!

    • William Hirsch

      Amanda – Thanks. I’m glad you found my website helpful. Tell all your friends to visit. I want to build up the audience.

      Although in general, you would want the flooring to run the long direction in a hall, this is not a totally hard and fast rule. It can look fine going the short direction, especially if the hall is not too narrow. And it is easily possible to change the flooring direction at doorways. But before you do that, make sure you have proper support for the wood floor. If it sits on a single layer of plywood without crossing any joists, it will move and possibly squeak when you walk on it.

      If you absolutely must run the flooring parallel to the floor joists, you can do one of two things. One would be go get under the floor framing and install wood blocking between the joists to support the wood floor. In existing houses this can be nearly impossible due to pipes, wires, and ductwork in the way. Or a finished ceiling might make the framing inaccessible. The second solution is to add an additional layer of 1/2″ plywood or OSB board over top of the subfloor. This added layer will give you the strength you need for the new wood flooring. You may have to adjust the bottom of some doors, but that inconvenience may be worth it to you.

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