How to lay hardwood flooring parallel to a floor joist

Written by sue-lynn carty
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How to lay hardwood flooring parallel to a floor joist
Take the proper steps when installing hardwood flooring parallel to floor joists. (Modern Asian inspired hallway with bamboo floors image by MAXFX from

When installing hardwood floors, you generally need to lay the floorboards perpendicular to the floor joists. Doing so gives the floor more support and helps to prevent it from sagging. However, you can lay hardwood flooring parallel to the floor joist, but there are a few preparations needed to make sure the subfloor can support the the new floorboards' weight. Attempting to lay the boards parallel to the floor joists without making the proper structural preparations can lead to separation of the floorboards and sagging of the entire floor.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Pencil
  • 5/8-inch subflooring sheets
  • Construction adhesive
  • 3-inch deck screws
  • Power drill
  • Underlayment
  • Staple gun
  • Construction T-Square
  • Circular saw
  • Floor stapler
  • 15-gauge staples, 2 inches by 1/2 inch

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  1. 1

    Mark the direction of the floor joists with a pencil. Go underneath the floor, into the basement or crawl space, and note of the direction of the joists. Mark this direction directly on the subfloor on which you plan to install hardwood flooring.

  2. 2

    Apply construction adhesive to the back of the 5/8-inch subflooring sheets. Apply it in a zigzag pattern for optimal adhesion.

  3. 3

    Attach the subfloor to the old one. Lay the subflooring sheets perpendicular to the old subfloor. Attach the floor with 3-inch deck screws, using a power drill. Continue installing the subflooring until the room is complete.

  4. 4

    Mark the direction of the floor joists on the wall with the pencil. To ensure the boards are installed parallel to the joists, mark their direction on the wall instead of the subfloor, which will soon be covered.

  5. 5

    Put down the underlayment. Be sure to overlap the seams of the underlayment slightly. Attach it to the subfloor with he staple gun.

  6. 6

    Mark the location of the first floorboard. Using a T-square, draw a straight line, parallel to the floor joist marking on the wall, for the first row of floorboards. Install the boards, tongue side facing out, using 3-inch deck screws.

  7. 7

    Continue to the second row. Slide the groove of the first piece of the second row of floorboard into the tongue of the already installed first row. Use a floor stapler to fasten the boards. Install additional rows, attaching with a floor stapler, until the floor is complete. Measure and cut floorboard pieces as necessary.

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure the floorboards fit tightly together. Use a pry bar and a wood block to push the boards at the end snugly into the previous piece of floorboard. This closes any gaps between boards.
  • Never rush the floor stapler. This will jam the staples. This can ruin the machine and cause severe personal injury.

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