Which Direction Should You Lay Hardwood Floorboards?

A close-up of natural bamboo flooring.

Choosing your hardwood floor board direction can seem challenging if you have never done it before. It may not occur to you at first, but the right direction can add a lot to the overall look of the floor. Here are a few things to consider before you lay your floorboards so you can achieve your perfect design.

Floor Joists

If you are working on a house that has a wooden subfloor, the first thing that you should consider the direction of the floor joists. The floor joists are what support the subfloor. In most cases, you should try and go perpendicular across the floor joists to allow the boards to span the gaps and be supported by them. If you go parallel with the floor joists, you will not have support under some portions of the wood. This can eventually lead to the subfloor sagging in between the joists. If the floor underneath the wood sags, it could cause buckling in the flooring and the joints in between the boards could break. When the joints break, you will have to replace the boards, which could be costly.

Front Entrance

Something else that you may have to consider is the location of the front entrance to the house. If you are installing wood into the area by the front door, you may want to consider running the boards perpendicular to the door. When you walk in the front door, you want to see the wood running in the same direction, away from the door. This allows the wood to go with the flow of traffic and look better when you come in the house.

Room Dimensions

If you are installing wood into one particular room, you will want to also think about the room dimensions. In most cases, you will want to install the boards parallel to the longest wall in the room. For example, if you are in a very long, narrow room and you installed it perpendicular to the longest wall, it would have the effect of looking like a ladder.

Design Considerations

You may also want to consider the direction of the floorboards for design purposes. Installing the boards in a manner other than straight across can add some depth to the room and make it look appealing. For example, you could run the boards diagonally and create something interesting on the floor. Another option is doing a herringbone pattern. This is a beautiful wood floor pattern that requires a talented installer to do effectively, but it is worth the cost if you have the money.

Light Source

If you are using hardwood in a room with a lot of natural light, you may want to install the wood in the direction of the light. This will help to provide the floor with a more uniform look because the light is not going across each individual joint. Any height differences in boards will show up and cast a small shadow if you run it perpendicular to the light. Therefore, running it parallel to the source will typically look better.