DIY Guide to Installing and Finishing Beautiful Red Oak Flooring

Installing and Finished Red Oak Floors
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We recently installed red oak flooring in our kitchen and I am in love with the warmth it brings to this space! Today I want to share the entire DIY process with you in this guide to installing and finishing beautiful red oak flooring.

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Recently, I shared a post about our brand new honed granite countertops in our kitchen. I honestly was never in love with the orange tones of the slate floors in our kitchen, but once we had the countertops installed they really clashed. I considered several different options, but ultimately we decided on red oak hardwood flooring.

Beautiful Kitchen Transformation with Red Oak Floors
Gorgeous Red Oak Floors in Kitchen

Red oak flooring not only added warmth and character to our kitchen, but it also offers durability and versatility. It tied directly into the traditional hardwood flooring in our dining room, and after staining it was almost a perfect match!

I hope this blog post can serve as comprehensive guide for you on everything you need to know about hardwood floors in case you are considering adding them into your own home!

Where to Buy Red Oak Flooring: Understanding Grades

Red oak flooring comes in various grades and widths, each with its unique characteristics and price points. We opted for cabin grade, which offers significant cost savings but requires more effort in sorting through waste and imperfections. Other grades include select, natural, and rustic; all catering to different aesthetic preferences and budgets.

Where to purchase red oak flooring
Finding flooring and how to save money

The reason we decided on a cabin grade was because we found it at an incredible rate of $1.29/sq. ft. at an overstock hardware store about three hours from our home. They helped us load it up and we were able to purchase everything we needed for our kitchen for just over $200!

These types of stores aren’t always easy to find, but other budget friendly places to look for solid hardwood are local lumber stores and Lumber Liquidators. You can find other options online at big box stores like Home Depot, Lowes or Menards, but finding a store that focuses on flooring usually will offer you the best rate.

Preparing for Installation: Removing Old Flooring and Subfloor

Before laying down your new red oak flooring, it’s essential to prepare the surface properly and make sure it’s clear of moisture. If you’re replacing existing flooring, remove it carefully, and ensure the subfloor is clean and level. Dealing with slate or cement board can be challenging, requiring tools like a crowbar and sawzall for removal.

Removing older flooring in cottage style kitchen
How to remove older flooring in kitchen

As you know, we had to remove slate tiles from our space. This was a lot of work, and I am so thankful for my husband being willing to work as hard as he did with me to remove it all. The entire process took a few days and was quite the mess considering slate crumbles as easily as it does. Once he had everything removed, I helped him clean along the way.

One big tip I want to share with removing your older flooring is to be sure to seal off the area you are working in with a tarp or plastic. Removing the tile caused so much dust in our house that it instantly covered every surface and I was glad we kept it contained to the kitchen. Having the tarp up while we sanded the floors was helpful to keep the mess contained as well.

Working hard to remove old flooring in kitchen

Laying Red Oak Flooring: Tools and Techniques

Renting a flooring nailer and purchasing the right nails are crucial for a successful installation. Additionally, ensure the ground is level to prevent any unevenness in the finished floor. There are ways to level the ground by using different heights of plywood or wood subfloor that can either be secured with glue or nails.

Thankfully, our floors lined up perfectly and we didn’t have a hard time with the level, we just struggled with the tools. We live in a very rural area and my brother in law loaned us a flooring installer, but we weren’t able to find any nails to fit it. We ended up renting a different one to use that thankfully did the trick.

Floor nailer for hardwood flooring

There are a few other tools you will need for this process. One being a sander. We used hand sanders for our flooring and both worked together on it to achieve the desired smoothness. Our kitchen is a smaller area though. If you are tackling your entire home, you may want to rent a larger sander.

Another tool that is helpful is a rubber mallet to hit the pieces and secure them into the tongue and grooves of other planks during your wood floor installation. Besides this, you’ll need a saw to cut pieces and the equipment for the wood stain and sealing process depending on how you plan to apply it.

Installing Solid Hardwood Floors – The Process

The actual process of hardwood flooring installation isn’t as hard as it seems. First, bring in your wood flooring to acclimate it to the room’s temperature and humidity for at least 48 hours. This will ensure it won’t expand or contract too much on you after installation.

Be sure you have the layout of the space you plan to refinish planned out before you begin. Consider factors like the direction of the wood grain and the placement of boards around obstacles like doorways and, in our case, appliances.

Laying hardwood floors in a cottage kitchen

Begin laying the first row of flooring along the longest wall, with the tongue side facing the wall. Use spacers between the flooring and the wall to allow for expansion. Install subsequent rows by interlocking the tongue and groove edges of the boards, staggering the joints so each piece isn’t lined up too perfectly or exact.

We started at where the floors met our dining room because we wanted to tie in nicely to that, but in a blank space you will start along the longest wall.

Laying Hardwood Red Oak Flooring
Installing and Finishing Red Oak Floors

Depending on the type of wood flooring and the subfloor, you’ll either nail or glue the boards down. For solid hardwood flooring, nails are typically used, while engineered wood flooring may be glued or floated (attached to each other, not the subfloor). We used a floor nailer for ours.

Installing Red Oak Floors

Sanding and Prepping for Staining

Once again, depending on the roughness of the wood, you can choose to sand using a belt sander or opt for hand sanding. Remember to minimize dust and mess, cover cabinets and other areas with plastic sheets. Once sanded, thoroughly clean the surface with a vacuum and mop to remove any debris.

You can fill scratches that can’t be sanded out (if applicable) with wood filler and then sand over the spot to match it with the rest of the plank you are working on.

Sanding Hardwood Flooring

The wood we laid was unfinished, but if you need to strip flooring to prep it for stain, I have three different blog posts full of instructions that you can read that will walk you through that process!

Staining and Sealing for a Beautiful Finish

For a stunning finish, we chose a stain with green undertones for our red oak flooring – a combination of Aged Wheat by Varathane lightened by 50% with Mineral Spirits. Finding stain for your flooring can be quite the process, I definitely recommend getting sample stain to try first to see how it looks applied. The type and color of the wood will change how the stain looks when it dries.

Sealing Red Oak Flooring
Laying out flooring to prepare for install
How to stain and seal red oak flooring

For example, if we had white oak floors instead of red, the stain wouldn’t pull as many pink and red tones as ours does. Really research the right stain and be patient in the process. Thankfully, for this project we simply wanted to match the stain color we used in our dining room so it was an easy choice.

Once you decide on a color, be sure to apply the stain evenly and allow it to dry before sealing. We used a water-based polycrylic in a flat finish for its durability and easy application, but you can choose a polyurethane based on your preference. They come in satin, matte or flat finish depending on your preference.

Diy Red Oak Flooring!
Beautiful tones of red oak hardwood floors

Finishing Touches and Enjoying the Results

After sealing, lightly sand the surface once more before applying a final coat of sealer. Once dry, step back and admire the transformation of your space. This was truly an incredible change in our kitchen. Solid wood floors are definitely a lot of work if you aren’t using a contractor or carpenter, but DIY saves so much as homeowners.

Once the final coat was completely dry, I was so excited to get back into my kitchen and decorate. I still am using the same rug, one I found at Marshall’s a few years ago. I may look for something new since it is such a similar color to the floor but I am still unsure. If you follow me on Instagram, I am sure I’ll be asking for recommendations soon!

Gorgeous Red Oak Floors in Kitchen
Details in Red Oak FLooring in cottage style kitchen
Cottage Style Flooring in Kitchen

In conclusion, installing and finishing red oak flooring is a rewarding DIY project that adds value and charm to your home. With proper preparation, tools, and techniques, you can achieve professional results while saving costs. So why wait? We are SO happy we tackled this project in our kitchen! Dive into your own red oak flooring project and enjoy the beauty and warmth it brings to your space.


Installing and Finished Red Oak Floors

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