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 685 Berne Rd. Columbia Falls, MT 59912
 (406) 892-4208

Wood Floor Installation & Finish Suggestions

There are MANY different ways to install and finish wood floors. Here are a few basic pointers, tips, and suggestions. Please use your own creativity and discretion to adjust to your unique application or situation.

Wood Flooring Installation Tips


Drying and Moisture Content*

The wood flooring you are purchasing from RBM Lumber is dried to 6-8% moisture content. Maintaining this moisture content is critical to the success of your finished floor. This can be achieved by simply taking the appropriate precautions.

  1. First, do not allow your flooring to get damp, rained on, or left in a humid environment.
  2. If you are transporting it home in inclement weather, it must be wrapped.
  3. Once transported, take it immediately into a warm (heated), dry, and enclosed area (home or garage). 


If the flooring is left in a damp, humid and/or unheated environment (such as an unheated garage), it will take on additional moisture. Then, when it is installed in a warm, dry, heated location, it will gradually lose this added moisture (dry out) and shrink, causing gaps between the boards.

When installing flooring in a newly built home, the flooring must be installed and finished immediately. New homes have high humidity due to the drying of new building materials.

*Please see note below concerning returns.


Wood Flooring Installation:

Flooring should be installed on a good, sturdy, level, smooth underlayment (3/4 plywood is preferred but not an absolute requirement).

  1. If possible, install across the floor joists. Fifteen-pound (15#) or thirty-pound (30#) roofing felt, red rosin paper, or 6 mil poly-visqueen should be spread evenly over the underlayment (Note that existing linoleum can be left as an alternative). This layer provides a moisture barrier, helps to even out slight unevenness, and can help to resist squeaking.
  2. The moisture barrier is imperative if you are installing flooring over an unheated garage, crawlspace or basement. It is inexpensive and well worth the cost.
  3. Start the flooring on the straightest wall possible and use a string line to determine the straightness of your walls. It is good to run a chalk line on the first run. The first and second run is face nailed. Each run thereafter is nailed through the tongue.
  4. For ease of installation, you should use a flooring nail gun designed for that purpose. RBM has pneumatic nail guns that you can rent. Most tool rental businesses also carry manual or nail guns. These nail guns are specially designed to easily slip the shoe over the face of the board. They are notched to perfectly position the head, allowing the nail to be countersunk into the tongue which hides it from vision. They also hold the flooring down securely allowing you to easily install the next piece.


The last run may have to be cut to the proper width and be face nailed. If installing in an irregularly shaped room, in a multiple room layout, or in a complicated pattern, placement of the starting boards is critical. If you are unsure of the proper approach, please ask - we will be happy to guide you. 

Excessive moisture is the most common cause of buckling floors. Moisture can come from leaking pipes, wet basements or crawl spaces, plywood exposed to the elements during construction, and houses left vacant without proper ventilation. Floors can also buckle if a proper expansion gap around each wall is not used.



Installing our flooring below ground level or over concrete is not recommended and will void any and all warranties….some installers have installed our flooring over concrete with radiant heat (glue down)……we don’t advise it.

  1. Above ground concrete slab installation over properly installed pressure treated plywood with moisture barriers both on the concrete and between the plywood and flooring will be acceptable…..be sure and use the proper fasteners for pressure treated material…..OR…..
  2. on top of a 15-20Lb moisture barrier use strips (minimum ¾” or thicker) depending on how level and flat the slab is, at 16” on center with ¾” plywood over, then a moisture barrier and then the flooring would be acceptable. 

Keep in mind when furring up a floor like this the rough opening door height needs to be taken into consideration. 


After the flooring is installed, the next step is sanding.

  1. If your floor is textured to circle-sawn, band sawn, wire-brushed or a combination, you will probably want to lightly skim the flooring with a floor buffer (a 10" by 16" heavy duty vibrating sander) and a 100 grit paper a sanding screen to remove burrs and unevenness.
  2. When sanding or buffing, always follow the grain of the wood. If your floor is a smooth face, you will want to sand in steps. Usually a belt or drum sander is used to level the floor but should be done by a professional since it is very easy to damage the floor with these tools.
  3. If sanding a smooth floor with a floor buffer, start sanding with 36 grit, increasing to 60 grit, then 80 grit, finishing with about 100 grit. Again, always sand in the direction of the grain of the wood. If you are not experienced with floor finishing equipment, we recommend using a square buffing sander.
  4. Finishing is the final step. We suggest that you carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the product you choose. RBM Lumber carries the Bona product line.


Although some manufactures have begun to make pre-finished softwood flooring, usually southern yellow pine, Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir is almost always unfinished. Typical board lengths will range from 2 to 12 feet and widths can range from 3-1/8″ to 6-7/8″. 

Floor Care

  • DO put pads on the bottom of furniture to prevent scratching or gouging in wood flooring.
  • DO NOT wet mop wood flooring. Use suggested wood floor cleaning products made specifically for SOLID wood flooring. Examples include Bona-Kemi and Holloway House products.
  • Many steps can be taken to help reduce scratches on a wood floor. First, you can put throw rugs down in any high traffic areas such as in entryways, in front of your sink or refrigerator, or down a highly traveled hallway. One of the best things you can do is dust, sweep or mop on a regular basis to keep any dirt or debris from collecting on the surface or the floor. You can also put felt pads under the legs of any chairs or tables. ALSO MOVE RUGS REGULARLY TO MINIMIZE DISCOLORING*


All requests to return flooring are subject to management approval.

We do not accept returned flooring that is not in its original bundle and/or packaging, and in the same condition (moisture content and cleanliness) as when it left our facility.
Try to avoid returning flooring by properly measuring for your specific application and ordering only what you will need. Returns are subject to a 15% restocking fee.



Grade Clarity

Softwood Flooring Grades are closely related to grading rules for lumber but can vary. The most common descriptions of pine or softwood flooring are as follows: 

  • VERTICAL GRAIN (VG) – This grade describes the most stable and cleanest appearance in fir/larch flooring allowing for small knots in limited quantity.
  • VERTICAL GRAIN #2 – This is Vertical Grain material with knots.
  • D Select – This grade describes the cleanest appearance in pine/fir flooring allowing for small knots in limited quantity. This is a flat grain product. 

  • #2 – These grades usually describe Ponderosa Pine or Douglas Fir in a “knotty grade” floor and are more rustic in appearance. Knots can be sizably bigger than the select grade and more frequent although they typically must be sound and tight. 


Be aware, sticker marks are allowed in #2 & #1 grade flooring… if you do not want any sticker marks in your floor be very aware of them and when you purchase your flooring it might be a good idea to pick up extra so on the rare board with a sticker mark you can high grade the sticker marked boards out.

General Note: RBM Lumber, Inc. is not responsible for shrinkage of lumber, splitting, or other issues caused by improper installation. If you have any questions about your particular application, please ask us. We are happy to help guide you. 

RMB Lumber Montana Wood Products and Lumber Mill


RBM Lumber Columbia Falls MT | Montana Lumber Products