Wood flooring installation seems easy until you reach the fireplace. You need an expansion gap, and you can't fasten moulding to the fireplace because you can't nail to the fireplace. There are two easy ways to deal with the fireplace: Run the flooring right up to the fireplace and cover the gap with quarter round moulding, or build a pattern into the floor to enhance the beauty of the floor while accentuating the fireplace at the same time.
Select and install a long flooring plank directly in front of the fireplace (see illustration). The plank should span beyond the entire pattern equally on both sides if possible. If not, join two planks in the centre of the fireplace.
Finish the row on both sides of the plank that was installed in the previous step. Try out various patterns (see illustration for ideas) and select one according to your tastes.
Build the pattern symmetrically. The pattern should be equal around the fireplace on all three sides. It is usually helpful to work from the fireplace out. This way, the boards can be easily lined up for a good fit. Maintain the gap required by the flooring manufacturer.
Use spline to join boards where the tongue and groove are reversed. Install the row or column where the spine will be installed, then install the spline. The boards following can then be installed in reverse fashion.
Finish the flooring installation by filling in the rows around the pattern until you reach the back wall. Be sure to maintain the flooring manufacturer's gap requirements.
Run the baseboard right up to the fireplace along the back wall on both sides, butting it up against the bricks with a straight cut. Install quarter round moulding to match the flooring around the fireplace. Pre-drill holes on an angle for nails through the moulding and into the floor. The nails should miss the new flooring, going through the gap between the flooring planks and the fireplace. Mitre the two outside corners.
You'll need to face-nail some of the planks right near the fireplace. Fill in the nail holes with the same putty you use for the rest of the floor. Use a square to align a pattern with the rest of the floor. Make marks on the subfloor or underlayment to show where mitred frames go and align. This keeps gaps from showing up in the work as you finish. Finish nails make excellent drill bits. Just cut off the trim head, put it in the drill and make your holes. It is slightly slower this way, but you'll never split a piece of trim. The area around the fireplace may take a little longer to complete, but you'll be proud of it when you're done. You can undercut fireplace bricks and stone with an angle grinder and diamond blade. It is messy, and great care must be used to keep from damaging the fireplace. Then install the wood flooring right up and under the fireplace.
Wear safety glasses when cutting or nailing flooring or mouldings. Undercutting fireplace brick and stone may permanently damage the fireplace if done incorrectly. This job is best left to pros. If you tackle it, wear appropriate safety gear and do the job before you start the flooring install, not at the end of the job.