How to Replace Carpet With Hardwood

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Does your carpet look a little worn, or does it no longer fit your needs? Installing hardwood flooring refreshes your space and provides a naturally beautiful, durable flooring option. Before installing the hardwood, you need to remove the carpet, prep the subfloor, and choose the right hardwood flooring material for your home improvement project.

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Removing the Carpet

Wear safety goggles, gloves, and a mask before you remove carpeting to protect yourself from flying debris, dust, fibers, and other floating remnants that get kicked up by the demolition. Take off the doors that open into the room. Remove the baseboards and molding using a pry bar.

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Remove the carpet from the tack strip along the edge of the room by starting at one corner and tugging on the carpet using pliers. Pull along all sides to remove it from the tack strips. With a sharp utility knife, cut the carpet into strips so it's easier to remove. Make sure you don't cut into the subfloor. Roll up the carpet to remove it from the room.

Remove all of the tack strips from around the room once the carpet and padding are gone. A pry bar can help you remove the tack strips.

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Preparing the Subfloor

Your hardwood flooring needs a level, sturdy, dry subfloor material to support it. If you're replacing carpet with hardwood, the room should already have a plywood subfloor that you can use. Inspect it to ensure it's sturdy and flat. You can sand high points or use leveling compound if the subfloor dips in some areas but is structurally sound overall.

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Types of Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring comes in solid and engineered wood options. Solid hardwood flooring comes from a solid wood log and is milled into a piece of flooring that connects to other pieces using tongue-and-groove construction. Engineered hardwood flooring has a thin layer of solid hardwood on top, but the lower levels use plywood and composite materials. The advantage of engineered wood is greater stability with less expanding and contracting, which can make it better suited for areas that could have some dampness.

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Both types of hardwood flooring come in a range of styles. Choose from varying plank widths, lengths, and thicknesses to get the look you want. Varying wood species, including oak, hickory, maple, and Brazilian cherry, affect the grain patterns and overall style of the flooring.

You also need to choose between floating and nail-down hardwood flooring. Engineered wood floating floors are easier to install because you don't have to nail them to the floor. You typically glue the planks to one another to form a floating floor. Traditional hardwood floors are nailed to the subfloor.

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Hardwood Flooring Finish Options

You can get prefinished and unfinished hardwood flooring depending on your preferences. Prefinished hardwood floors have all finishes applied. They're already sanded and stained to your preferences, and they have a factory-applied protective coating, so once they're installed, they're finished. The factory finishes are usually very durable and nearly flawless.

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Unfinished wood flooring is finished after it's installed. You might have more options for finishes, or you can get creative by applying different stain colors and finishes for a custom look. Unfinished flooring is cheaper up front, but you'll have additional costs for the sanding and finishing as well as the finish materials.

Whether you choose prefinished or unfinished floors, you can choose from a variety of finishes that affect the look. Varying gloss levels let you control how much shine your floor has. You can also choose specialty finishes for a custom look, such as wire-brushing, hand-scrapping, or distressed finishes.

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Hardwood Flooring Installation

Always refer to hardwood flooring installation guidelines from the manufacturer for specifics. You should acclimate the wood to the room by leaving it out of the package for a few days. Stagger the joints from one row to the next by at least 6 inches. Leave an expansion gap of at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch around the edges of the floor based on the manufacturer's recommendations.

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When installing unfinished flooring, nail each board in place, nailing through the top on the first few rows and moving to blind nailing on later rows. If you choose unfinished flooring, complete the finishing process.

If you choose a floating engineered wood floor, apply the glue before clicking the next piece in place. You'll do a rotating move while pushing the plank in place. The glue needs to dry for at least 12 hours before you complete the finish work of installing baseboards or other trim.

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