Should You Stagger Planks of Hardwood Flooring?

Updated February 21, 2017

Wood floors bring a little bit of nature indoors. Highly desirable, and welcome in most decor settings, wood planks lend a soft warm glow to your room. When you purchase the planks, they will come in bundles of planks, all cut to the same length. While you could install them to make the ends of the planks match up, for the best results, you'll stagger the planks.

Structural Integrity

The most important reason for staggering your hardwood flooring planks lies in the structural integrity of the floor. The middle of a plank is the strongest point. By varying the ends of the planks from row to row, you won't create a weak area in the floor, which can happen when the ends of the planks are side by side.

The Look

The look of staggered wood planks is traditional, and it adds variety and character to the floor. While some hardwood floors use distinct patterns, such as a parquet floor, the most natural look is to let the dimensions of the room dictate the plank pattern.

The Process

You will start in one corner of the room, along the longest wall that runs perpendicular to the floor joists. After inserting spacing blocks along the back and side edges of the wall, you will position the first plank and nail it into place. You will repeat the process with the next few pieces in the row, fitting each piece together snuggly at the tongue-and-groove ends before nailing the plank down.

At the end of the row, you will likely have a section of floor that is smaller than a full plank of wood. After cutting the plank to fit with a circular saw, use the leftover piece to start the next row. This reduces waste, since you're using the cut off pieces, and it gives your floor a naturally staggered pattern.

Installation Considerations

Before laying the hardwood planks, bring them into the room and let them acclimate for a few days. Temperature and humidity changes can cause in swelling and movement, which is more apparent if you install the planks before they adapt to the room environment.

Install felt paper or another cushioning barrier between the wood planks and the floor joists. This prevents the wood of the planks from making direct contact with the wood joists, which is a common cause of floor squeaking.

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About the Author

Glenda Taylor is a contractor and a full-time writer specializing in construction writing. She also enjoys writing business and finance, food and drink and pet-related articles. Her education includes marketing and a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.