How to Install Herringbone Wood Flooring

Kim Wahlgren Headshot
Hf 0102 55 Main

Hf 0102 55 Main

Plenty of installers have gotten into trouble trying to install a herringbone floor. Stories abound of contractors like the one who tried to lay a herringbone floor in a mall—without snapping a single chalk line. If the layout veers off slightly, the mistake can grow exponentially into an installation disaster.

That's why, as with many wood flooring installations, the planning and measuring that happens before a single slat is laid is so vital. Herringbone merits extra caution, because it is an unforgiving pattern. If the floor is off, your customer will know it. Using a tape measure and a chalk line to plan for the best appearance of the final floor doesn't take much time, but it can spare you aggravation, such as when the floor begins to not fit together or seems to wander in a direction you don't want it to go.

The good news is that if you snap the correct lines, follow them and use quality material, herringbone is a straightforward layout that is a definite upgrade from the standard strip, and you can charge accordingly.

Necessary materials:

  • herringbone flooring
  • adhesive
  • plywood
  • spline/slip-tongue

Necessary tools:

  • tape measure
  • square
  • chalk line
  • drill and screws
  • nailer

Step 1:

Hf 0102 55 S1

Discuss with the customer which direction the herringbone should run. Typically herringbone looks best with the points running in the longest direction of the room or directed at a focal point. When that is determined, snap a line down the center of the room.


Step 2:

Hf 0102 55 S2

To establish working lines, figure out what the distance will be between the corners of the slats when they are laid out. To do this, dry-fit a few slats together and snap lines through the corners. Then measure the distance— here, 1 5/8 inches—between the lines.


Step 3:

Hf 0102 55 S3a

Hf 0102 55 S3b

Or, an alternate method is to use a framing square to mark 45-degree angles off each corner from the same end of a slat. Measure the distance from one corner to the intersection of the lines.


Step 4:

Hf 0102 55 S4

With either method, the distance for this particular floor is 1 5/8 inches. Divide that in half—13/16 inch—and mark that distance on either side of the line. For more accurate lines, you may want to consider using braided fish line instead of the traditional chalk line, which leaves a wider, fuzzier mark.


Step 5:

Hf 0102 55 S5

Snap lines 13/16inch on either side of the original line. Now the red line—the center of the room—will mark the center of the pattern, and the blue lines will be the working lines to use as guides to line up the points of the herringbone slats. Now would also be a good time to transfer some other parallel lines across the floor to use as reference lines later.


Step 6:

Hf 0102 55 S6

A good way to start the first row is to use a plywood backer board. It should be a square piece of the same dimension as the length of the pattern to be installed—here, 12 inches. Line up the points on one of the working lines. Double-check the plywood to make sure it is absolutely square.


Step 7:

Hf 0102 55 S7

Screw down the backer board. With it in place, dry-fit the first pieces to make sure everything is lining up as it should.


Step 8:

Hf 0102 55 S8

Recommendations vary as to how to attach herringbone to the subfloor. NWFA guidelines recommend nailing only; NOFMA recommends using only adhesive. Some manufacturers recommend both nailing and gluing the floor—check with the manufacturer of the flooring you are using.

Here, the floor will be both glued and nailed. Remove the dry-fit boards and spread adhesive for the first few rows, making sure to use the appropriate adhesive and trowel.


Step 9:

Hf 0102 55 S9

Place the first slat. To lock the floor together completely, insert a piece of spline into the end joint before placing the next slat.


Step 10:

Hf 0102 55 S10

Carefully place the next slat and nail it in place.


Step 11:

Hf 0102 55 S11

So that every end joint will be interlocking, insert spline again.


Step 12:

Hf 0102 55 S12

As the pieces are placed, pay careful attention to the working lines visible through the adhesive and adjust when necessary.


Step 13:

Hf 0102 55 S13

As you are working, double-check that the floor is going down straight.


Step 14:

Hf 0102 55 S14

Continue nailing the flooring. For 12-inch material such as this, use two nails per board. Watch for squareness. The way you nail can help adjust the pattern as necessary.


Step 15:

Hf 0102 55 S15

If you haven't already done so, transfer a working line over for the next row.


Step 16:

Hf 0102 55 S16

Start the next row by inserting the spline into the end joint, then carefully placing the next slat.


Step 17:

Hf 0102 55 S17

After you've laid at least three slats in the next row, check for squareness and screw down the first slat of the row. This will prevent the slats from being pushed out of square when you start nailing.


Step 18:

Hf 0102 55 S18

Before going any further, double-check the angles again with a square to make sure the slats didn't move while the screws were going in.


Step 19:

Hf 0102 55 S19

With the first slat screwed down, the rest of the slats in the row may be nailed in. Before the adhesive sets up, replace the board with the screws in it with a good board.


Step 20:

Hf 0102 55 S20

Double-check the distance between the corners and the next line. As you are installing the slats, check this distance periodically to help keep the installation straight. If there are variations in the distance, you'll need to make adjustments while nailing to get back on track.

Page 1 of 3
Next Page
Resource Book
Looking for a specific product or a company? Wood Floor Business has the only comprehensive database of the industry.
Learn More
Resource Book
All Things Wood Floor, created by Wood Floor Business magazine, talks to interesting wood flooring pros to share knowledge, stories and tips on everything to do with wood flooring, from installation, sanding and finishing to business management.
Learn More