Now that the underlay is in place, you are ready to start laying the floor. Start by laying out the first row along one wall, and the row that will run lengthwise down the centre of the room. You'll take these rows up again, but for now the point is to make sure that the centre row looks straight (your room may not be square, especially if you have an older house like we do), and to check that you won't end up with a row that is too narrow along either of the side walls. As far as the latter point goes, you have two options. You can either start your flooring in the left hand corner (advantage: you only have to make lenthwise cuts to your flooring along one wall), or you can start it in the centre and make the space between the last row on each side and the side walls equal (this means you will probably have to cut the boards along both side walls - probably not worth the effort unless you would otherwise end up with a very thin strip along one side).
Not sure which direction to lay your flooring in? For us, it came down to wanting your new floor to run the same direction of the existing hardwood on the second floor. For you it might be helpful to know that usually floors are laid lengthwise parallel to the longest wall of the room, or they are laid perpendicular to the window.
Now for the things that I'm glad I knew before I started, and the things that I wish I had known before I started. My Aunt Lori, an accomplished DIYer who has laid more than her fair share of floors recommended a few things, and I will pass along her advice.
First, the floor manufacturer will recommend leaving a space for expansion between your new floor and any fixed object (i.e. wall, pipe, etc) of 1/4" to 3/8" (0.5 to 1cm), you should really leave a smaller space. That space should be equal to half of the depth of your baseboards. Planning to leave a smaller space will also leave more room for error when you make your cuts. I found that used (or unused) paint stir sticks and the metre stick that I had on hand were about the right depth, and they were easy to lie on their sides between the floor and the wall.
Second, Lori recommended that although we have a (very old, second hand, straight from the '50s) circular saw, we should invest in a mitre saw (aka chop saw) for this project. We decided that it was worth it for $130, since it would make this job much easier, and would likely come in handy for future projects. In retrospect, we're glad that we got a compound mitre saw with the 10" blade (instead of 7"), but we wish we had invested the extra $50 to get a compound sliding mitre saw. With a saw with a 10" blade that doesn't slide you can cut up to 10" deep, and about 6" across. The sliding feature enables you to cut further across, which is useful if your floor boards are 12" across, like ours are. In the end, we made one cut from each side and finished off the middle with a hand saw, which worked out fine.
Our new mitre saw, and James finishing a board with the hand saw.
Pull bar (red) in action!
Fortunately, I am not afraid that you're going to sue me, so I'm going to tell it like it is. You have two options. You can link a whole row of boards together, end to end, and then attach them to the previous row all at once. This is quick and a bit tricky, but not difficult especially with two people, unfortunately it is not effective for rows longer than 3 or maybe 4 boards. If you're working on a longer row, you can put the first 3 or 4 boards in place this way, and it will save you a lot of time over installing them all using option 2.
The first few rows were short, so we were able to lay them even without a
pull bar or tapping block (which we didn't know we needed), using option 1.
Once you've put the first 3 or 4 boards in the new row in place using the above method, you will have to use your handy tapping block to get each subsequent board in place. Attach the long side to the previous row first, then hold your block on a diagonal against the end of the new board, and hit it with your hammer. If you have a friend helping you (recommended!), one of you can hammer, and the other one can monitor the gap between the new board and the row that you're adding to to make sure that you stop once the gap is closed.
If you've read this far, you've earned a cute puppy picture!
With a little patience, a combination of these two methods should work pretty effectively.
Always lay out the whole row before you start fitting the boards together. If one end of your row is a very small piece, start with it instead of ending with it, because that way you can avoid using the pull bar on any piece that won't be hidden by the baseboards (it can leave a mark).
If you read the instructions for your floor you probably know this already, but be sure to start with boards of different lengths, so that your floor doesn't end up looking like a checkerboard. You want the joins to be at different places, because this will make your floor more durable, and it will look better.
Next up, Part III - Finishing!
Next up, Part III - Finishing!