Which Way Should Hardwood Floors Run?

Hardwood Floor

Which Way Should Hardwood Floors Run?

Do you notice the direction hardwood flooring runs when you walk into a house? It can make a big difference in how it looks and how it behaves over time. Rule number one in laying hardwood flooring is the wood boards should run perpendicular to the floor joists below. This allows the boards to “span” from one joist to the next and be much more solid. If the boards were run parallel to the floor joists, most of the boards would sit only upon the plywood subflooring and not on any of the joists. The plywood is flexible and will “give” fractionally when walked upon. This is a recipe for squeaks and large gaps.

Which Way Should Hardwodd Floors Run

But another rule in laying wood flooring has to do with the aesthetics or look of the flooring. As a general rule, wood flooring looks best when running in the same direction as the longest dimension of the room. For instance, if the room is ten feet by sixteen feet, the wood flooring will look best when running in the sixteen foot direction. The narrower the room, the more important this is. So in a hallway that is only four feet wide, the wood flooring really needs to run the length of the hall and not crosswise, if at all possible. In rooms that are more square in shape, the direction of the wood flooring is not as critical.

Also consider the view you have of the floor when you enter the room. The wood flooring looks best if laid perpendicular to your view direction. This will disguise the cracks between the planks. If you are looking straight down the planks, the seams between the boards will be more obvious. And if the seams are not perfectly straight, you will more readily see that variation, too.

It’s not always practical to run the flooring in these optimal directions. But if you can do it, the benefits are real. If the floor joists below the wood flooring are running the wrong direction for the way you want the flooring to look in the room, ask your builder to install wood blocking beneath the floor from joist to joist to support a floor running parallel to the joists. This will cost a bit more, but it will be worth it in narrow spaces, like hallways.

Of course, selecting the right wood for your floor is very important. Consider the grain and color of the wood and how it will look with other wood items in the room, like kitchen cabinets and wood trim.

One other neat feature is to install flush thresholds between rooms. I show photos of this and describe it in detail in my book, Designing Your Perfect House.

I hope this information is helpful to you. You might want to get yourself a copy of my best-seller, Designing Your Perfect House. It is chockfull of valuable tips and advice that will save you many times the cost of the book on your house building or remodeling project. You might also like The Well-Centered Home: Simple Steps to Increase Mindfulness, Self-Awareness, and Happiness Where You Live. It will show you how to make your home a happy place.

Bill Hirsch | Architect

Bill Hirsch


  1. ladonna on April 12, 2011 at 11:55 am

    the ceiling of our home is wood planks–we are replacing carpet with wood–should the flooring run same direction of ceiling planks?????

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 15, 2011 at 8:33 am

      Iadonna – I think it would be best if the floor ran the same direction as the ceiling planks. But that may not be possible. The flooring must run perpendicular to the floor framing so it is properly supported. If the existing floor joists are running the same direction as the ceiling planks, then the flooring will end up perpendicular to the ceiling. However, you could install blocking between the floor joists, if they are accessible, and then run the flooring parallel to the joists. The blocking would provide the proper support.

  2. Lisa on July 26, 2011 at 8:51 am

    We have hardwood on our 1st floor all running perpendicular to the joists. We had the MBR hardwood and it is running in the same direction of the downstairs. We just had the stairs and upper hall done and the installer laid the floor longways down the hall instead of going with the flow of the MBR. He claimed the joists were different upstairs from downstairs but we can see the seams and nail pops underneath the MBR (which is our LR ceiliing) and it appears the joists go the same on both levels. What should we do about our hallway. It runs completely different from the rest of the house and looks terrible next to the MBR entrance. Should the installer be responsible for the repair??

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 26, 2011 at 10:50 pm

      Lisa – This sounds like the installer took the easy way out when he installed the flooring. By running it the long way, he saved himself a lot of cutting and gave you an improper installation. Yes. He should be responsible for the repair, unless he can prove the joists run perpendicular to the flooring. If you have original drawings (blueprints) of the house, they may show the joist direction on them. But it sounds like your nail pops and seams that show in the ceiling below are plenty of evidence that your flooring is improperly supported. Hopefully the installer will do the right thing and correct this at no additional cost to you.

  3. Kay on July 27, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I am getting ready to have floors installed and the installer said it was best to have them running lengthwise as you open the door to the house which is what I believe you are saying above. He said it allowed the best appearance to the opening of your house and light- please advise??

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 27, 2011 at 12:24 pm

      Kay – The wood flooring will look best if it runs the long direction in a room. This is particularly true in hallways where the length of the hall is much greater than the width. But the visual aspect is less of an issue than the structural issue. What I mean is it is important to have the wood planks properly supported on the floor joists. So first and foremost, the wood flooring should run perpendicular to the floor framing. If that would make your floor look choppy because the planks would be short and numerous, the remedy is to install blocking below the subfloor to support the wood planks. In an existing home, this may be impractical. You will have to weigh the benefit against the cost. Hopefully your floor joists already run perpendicular to the direction you would like the floor to run.

  4. Gloria on August 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I’m curious that no one ever mentions the existence of a subfloor when discussing laying hardwood flooring. We have a cabin and laid 3/4″ OS B atop the joists. I presume we can lay hardwood in any direction desired? Also, unfortunately nothing is level (it’s a cabin after all) and the floor slopes slightly toward one end of the house…possibly off as much as 1/2″ from the other end of the room (16 feet away). How do we best approach this when laying hardwood and are there any width restrictions due to this different?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      Gloria – Do NOT lay the hardwood in any direction. The flooring must be laid perpendicular to the floor joists for proper support. All of the discussions presume a subfloor. But the subfloor itself is not strong enough to support the wood flooring properly. Any boards that run parallel to the joists, but are located above the spaces between the joists, will move fractionally when stepped upon. This will cause the floors to become uneven and the flexing will cause squeaks.

      Regarding your non-level floor, you can lay the wood floor on top of the joists and simply let it slope. Chances are the only way to remove that slope is to jack up the framing itself. And that may be more trouble and cost than it’s worth.

      • Joe on January 11, 2018 at 8:59 pm

        It seems if the subfloor is 3/4″ plywood, it should provide proper support regardless or orientation.
        If it can support a carpeted floor, why would it needs the floor joists to help with planks?

        • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on January 16, 2018 at 9:01 am

          Joe – Theoretically, it should. But in reality, even 3/4″ plywood will flex. Try laying a piece of 3/4″ plywood on two 2×4’s and step in the middle. And jump up and down. Does the plywood flex a little bit? I’ll bet it isn’t nearly as stiff as you expect. With the floor boards running parallel to the joists, you will have lots of floor boards only supported by the plywood and not the joists. In places where you step all the time, like at the bottom of the stairs or near doorways, the boards can begin to move. Even a microscopic movement can allow the boards to squeak.

  5. Eugene on September 22, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    I am laying flooring over cement subfloor in several rooms on ground level and also down a set of stairs into basement. First, will it look best if direction of lay be consistent in all rooms? If yes, the direction of lay will likely be in same direction as the longest dimension in the living room, unfortunately this will require that the 8′ entrance hallway be laid contrary to your advice. What is your advice concerning multiple rooms and how critical is it that planks be laid parallel to the direction of the hallway? Also, lay direction will terminate at the top of stairs and changed to go down stairs. Are there any issues with this that I am not seeing now?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 2, 2011 at 6:04 pm

      Eugene – The general rule would be to lay all of the wood flooring in the same direction. But you can lay wood flooring in different directions in different rooms if circumstances demand it. It works best if there are defined openings from room to room. If I’m understanding you correctly, if you lay the flooring the long way in your hall, it will be perpendicular to the wood in the adjoining rooms. I would suggest making the transition in direction at the edge of the “room side” of the wall the doorway is in and not make the transition on the hallway side of the wall. In other words, make sure the planks run the long direction within the doorway opening. You want it to look logical when it’s all done.

  6. Ken on October 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Hi Bill–

    Thanks for putting this up, it’s just what I needed.

    Unfortunately, I have a conundrum. My floor joists run in the long direction in my fairly long and narrow kitchen. I’m in the midst of a remodel– can I do the blocking you mention in an existing home, or does it have to go under the sub-floor, which would be impractical.

    Thanks for your help!

    Ken K,

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 2, 2011 at 5:37 pm

      Ken – Yes, the blocking should be installed under the subfloor and between the joists. If the room below the kitchen is unfinished and ductwork, pipes, etc. are not in the way, you could easily do it yourself. All you need to do is cut pieces of 2×4 the proper length and nail them up against the subfloor and between the joists (with the long direction of the 2×4’s going perpendicular to the joists. A nail gun will make the job easier. And some Liquid Nails glue will help prevent squeaks. But if you cannot get to the underside of the subfloor, another possible fix would be to install a second layer of subflooring over the one you already have. That should make the subfloor strong enough to support the wood floor boards and keep them from moving. Of course this option will thicken your floor and it may require some sort of transition threshold where the new floor ends and adjoins another flooring material. You’ll have to decide if that will be acceptable to you or not.

  7. Ken on October 2, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Thanks again, Bill!

  8. marilyn on November 5, 2011 at 8:47 am

    If I have my new floor laid according to your aesthetics, it would run vertically as you enter the living room from the entry way i.e., running in the same direction as the longest dimension of the room. This, however, is contrary to you suggestion as to how it looks best if laid perpendicular to your view direction as you enter the room. So which should it be?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 7, 2011 at 8:40 pm

      Marilyn – In rooms that are not too narrow, the hardwood flooring can run in either direction. If the wood is laid properly and the joints are tight and straight, viewing it lengthwise will be fine. The more important question in your case would be what direction the underlying floor joists run. The hardwood flooring is best laid perpendicular to the joists so the planks are properly supported on several joists.

  9. Lisa on November 11, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Hi Bill,
    I’m wondering, after reading all the above, is it best that I lay my hardwood perpendicular to the joists? Sorry, couldn’t resist! But really, thanks for your helpful info and patience.

    • Ann on February 3, 2017 at 2:10 pm

      I had to giggle at Lisa’s post because I was thinking the same thing after reading your informative article.

  10. Citydweller on January 18, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Hello Bill,
    Thanks for the informative article. Here’s one for you…I’m getting the following wideplank engineered hardwood installed in an apartment: http://www.andersonfloors.com/flooring/VYM6296.aspx .
    It will be glued directly to cured/sealed cement (above grade, no soundproofing required). You mentioned the wood running parallel to the entrance hallway, but given the layout in link below, and an outdoor space which will be accessible via sliding doors what are your thoughts?
    Thank you in advance.


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

      Citydweller – This looks like a case where it would be best to let the flooring run in the short direction in the entry hall in order to have it run in the long direction (north and south on your plan image) in the main living spaces. That will also let the flooring run parallel to the sliding doors. No rule is unalterable, depending on the circumstances.

  11. George on January 23, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Hi Bill. I searched your site but couldn’t find an answer to this question. I have a long great room and I want to run the flooring parallel with the floor joist. Question is this ok to do because my subfloor is OSB and it is 1″ thick. I have an older home.

    Thank you

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 28, 2012 at 6:20 pm

      George – With one inch OSB, you might be okay running the flooring parallel to the joists. Try to make an assessment of how rigid the subflooring is. Most subflooring is only 5/8″ thick. Your one inch material is almost like having a double subfloor. Also, test out a spot or two to make sure the subfloor will hold a nail reasonably well. If nails begin to pull out later, you’ll be overrun by floor squeaks.

  12. Lynn on January 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Hi Bill,

    I have a smallish open floor plan with cement floors with radiant floor heat. If I lay the floors long wise to the longest side of the front room (preferred, based on what I have read here, and aesthetically in this particular room would look better, I think), I will see them long wise when I enter the front door (not preferred from what I read here). Also, the hallway which is connected to the main room runs perpendicular to the long side of the front room. Does that make sense? So, then the hallway would be chopped into short pieces as opposed to running lenthwise which I think would look better in the hallway. Or do I go the other way? Lay them across the short way in the front room, which then I would be looking across the planks when I enter the front door and then they would lay long wise down the hall way? Any thoughts? Thanks.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm

      Lynn – With a concrete slab, you have no restrictions on flooring direction in practical terms. For aesthetics, you might be better off doing what you suggest and have the flooring run in the long direction in both the hallway and the front room. Just install a flush transition board to make a logical change in direction. Sometimes when I do this I make the transition board out of a another species of wood to create a nice contrast. It makes the transition a design feature and not something done for shear utility. The key to good design is to make it look like you meant to do it and not let it look like a mistake. 😉

  13. Russell on February 6, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Hi Bill,
    I am laying floorboards over a concrete slab floor, and was wondering if it is ok to lay them diagonally, do they look any good that way or is that going to be a disaster? The reason I am considering this is to get around the problem of having to have the boards running different directions in the hallway and the living room. I know you have said that a transition can be made to look nice, but I am just trying to think outside the square here. Thanks for any advice, it will be greatly appreciated.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 18, 2012 at 10:13 am

      Russell – The only potential problem with laying the floor boards diagonally is they might look dated over time. Placing wood diagonally, even on siding, was popular in the 70’s. Now it can date a house. If you want to change the direction of the boards as you move from room to room, you can make the transition by installing a flush threshold board at the doorway. Sometimes I use another species of wood, often something darker, for this to make it an accented feature.

  14. Steve on February 14, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Hi Bill,

    We are planning to install wood flooring. Following the rules of installing perpendicular to the joists, the boards would also run parallel to the longest side of the living room, so that’s good. However, entering the dining room from the living room through french doors, if we continue the boards in the same direction, then the boards would run parallel to the shorter wall of the dining room which is about 11ft x 13ft. Do you think the dining room is “square” enough so that aesthetically it would look OK, rather than change direction and run the boards parallel to the joists? If not, about 15 ft of joist (living room) would have boards perpendicular, and 13 ft of joist (dining room) would have boards parallel – what do you thinK? Much appreciated.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 18, 2012 at 10:18 am

      Steve – Yes, your dining room is close enough to square for this to work well. No worries.

  15. Rachel on March 14, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    We are installing laminate flooring downstairs in our house. We have 1000sq ft L shaped downstairs. Which way do we lay the floors? When you walk into the front door you walk into a “formal living room”. There is a small wall separating this room & our family room (this being in the corner of the L shape. Then to the right is our kitchen. Since there is a small wall that separates the living room & the family room I don’t exactly see that as being the longest part of the space, even though you can see all the way to the back of the family room when you open the front door. Should we run them long ways as you walk into the house so it flows all way back to the family room? Or run them long ways from the kitchen to the family room. Making you walk across the planks as you walk in the front door, like a ladder?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 16, 2012 at 9:56 am

      Rachel – The general rule is to run the flooring in the long direction of the room, if possible. But in rooms that are not too narrow, this rule is not as important. In narrow hallways it is. That ladder effect you describe is what you should try to avoid.

  16. Erin on March 15, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    We are laying bamboo wood flooring in all 3 of our bedrooms. It is a darker color ( by choice) than our existing oak flooring running the length of our hallway. Should we lay it Running the long dimension of the rooms, which would make it perpendicular to the hall flooring? And if one room is installed perpendicular to the hallway, should all of the bedrooms be the same was?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 16, 2012 at 9:59 am

      Erin – You can change directions at doorways. But you should first determine which direction the floor joists are running. The flooring MUST run perpendicular to the joists unless you can add additional wood blocking between the joists to support the wood flooring. If you don’t do this, you will increase the flex in the floor and you’ll get more squeaks and possibly humps in the flooring.

  17. Colin on March 21, 2012 at 12:39 am

    Hi Bill. Great Information, Thanks.

    I’m planning on putting in some hard maple in my house, and it looks like a portion of it will have to be run parallel to the joists. My wife would like all the flooring to run in the same direction. I realize this is a very open ended question with quite a few variables, but roughly how much extra blocking should I adding? Thankfully it’s mostly accessible. Any reading you can point me towards?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 24, 2012 at 5:18 pm

      Colin – Spacing your blocking at 24″ on center should be plenty. If you are doing this in an existing house, you might want to add a bead of construction adhesive to the top of the blocking before you install it so it adheres to the subfloor. Then be sure to press it tight up under the subfloor. This will help limit squeaking potential.

  18. Brenda on March 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    We are laying hardwood flooring in an oddly shaped hallway from the foyer, which already has hardwood flooring laid lengthwise. The hall continues in a straight line from there,but also turns left and continues for about 10feet (L shaped). How do we determine how to lay it so it looks right, but also meets the “perpendicular to moustache” requirement? Thanks!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      Brenda – Since the direction of the flooring has already been established by the existing flooring, it is probably best to continue all of it in that direction. The flooring direction “rules” are not hard and fast. Consider them suggestions. Some exceptions have to be made from time to time.

  19. Bart on April 4, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Expansion question. I am laying a unfinished 3/4″ red oak floor in a 1997 home located in Port Angeles, WA. We are close to the ocean so the humidity is fairly stable and temps from mid 60s to low 40s. Wood will be acclimated for at least two weeks and laid perpendicular to joist over 15# felt. The problem is I have a 32′ x17′ room and the 32′ is direction of expansion. From what I can gather this floor could expand up to 1.5″.
    First question is if the last boards move 3/4″, don’t the nails pull out?
    How do I deal with this much movement?
    And last do I dare do a boarder wrap of 12″ of oak and 3/4″ of walnut cut at a 45 degree in all corners?
    Maybe I should pin down our actual humidity change and this all will not be a issue. Thanks for your great Q&A

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 10, 2012 at 5:15 pm

      Bart – The entire floor would pull that far from the edge if it was all glued together to form one large slab of wood. That would be what is called a “floating floor.” In normal installations, each board is nailed to the subfloor independently. Each one shrinks on its own. So if the wood were to shrink 5%, a typical board that is 2 1/4″ wide would shrink about a twentieth of an ich. That would be the gap you would expect to see between each board. In reality, some boards “decide” to stick together. So you may see a few boards that have no gaps between them and then a gap of more than 1/20th of an inch. So there is no concern that the nails will pull out at the edges.

      I see no problem with the 12″ border. Keep in mind that these boards will be subject to shrinking and swelling with the season, too. So if your wood has acclimated before installation and the moisture content in the wood flooring and subfloor are similar and in the optimum range (make sure your installer checks with a moisture meter), you sould see only realatively small seasonal gaps that will go away in the summer. That’s just wood doing its thing.

  20. Kelly on April 23, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    I have a foyer attached to very long hallway (30 feet). This current floor runs vertically and has a dark inlay border. We want the border to stop at a doorway at the end of this 30 ft hall, turning the boards 90 degrees for about a 3 foot space, then start again with the inlay and boards that run vertical, again for another 15 feet, just as they do by the door. We are, essentially, trying to separate the long hall from a newly created room prior to entering the kitchen. The floor in the kitchen runs perpendicular to the hall (just like the 3 foot area).

    Will that 3 foot area in the middle of a 45 foot hall look weird from the front door?

    I apologize if I didn’t describe the situation well.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 30, 2012 at 8:13 pm

      Kelly – I’m not sure I completely understand your situation, but this sounds like it should work. If you have some reason to stop one pattern and start another, such as at a doorway, it will look fine. The key is to make it logical and have a reason for the change. One way to test this out would be to put some tape on the floor approximately where your inlays will go and look it over from all angles. You should know pretty quickly if this will be successful or not.

  21. Kim on July 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    My mom is building a house, it is on a slab. Which direction should the wood floors run??

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 16, 2012 at 10:01 pm

      Kim – Without the consideration of the direction of the wood framing below, I would recommend running the wood floor in the long direction in the room, if at all possible.

  22. Mara on September 12, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Hi Bill – My 1.5m wide hallway has wood going length ways down it opening up into the middle of a large room (about 9m by 4m) in which a lounge will be on the left, a small dining/breakfast table in front, and kitchen on the right. The room has bifold glass doors opposite the hallway that open out onto the patio. Which way should I have the wood in the bigger room? If it is along the long part of it, then it will be different direction to the hallway. If it is along the width of it it will be same direction of the hallway so flow quite well, but be along the short length of the room. What do you recommend?

    Thanks heaps

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 16, 2012 at 10:09 pm

      Mara – It sounds like you should change the direction of the wood at the door to the larger room and let the wood run in the long direction in that room. The doors give you the perfect opportunity to make the transition.

  23. Mara on September 12, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    PS – the large room has concrete base so no issue with joists etc. Thank you

  24. Clay Marston on December 30, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    At what intervals should you run the 2×4 blocking underneath your subfloor to properly support your hardwood floor. Thanks for all the information and tips provided. C.M.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 7, 2013 at 11:40 am

      Clay – Ideally the blocking should be place at 16″ on center, just like the floor joists. But if nearly all of your floor boards are over two feet in length, you could use blocking that is spaced at 24″ on center.

  25. Danielle on January 16, 2013 at 9:36 am

    I’m hoping to have the wood flooring in our kitchen redone in the near future. Along with the kitchen I would like to add wood to the stairs leading from the ktichen down to the family room (quad level home). The wood runs lengthwise toward the family room. Do the steps need to run in the same direction? I’ve seen photos of others flooring and I really don’t think it looks good having say ten 12″ boards in a row for the steps.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 16, 2013 at 9:54 am

      Danielle – The boards that make up the stair treads should always go in the long direction on the treads regardless of the direction the wood is going in the adjacent rooms. In other words, the boards should be going from side to side as you walk up and down the stairs.

  26. Bill on February 2, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Hi Bill
    I would like to install hardwood frooring over by existing vinyl floor. The vinyl floor is level, not torn, in good condition. There is 3/4 plywood under the vinyl. Would you have any advice on installing over vinyl?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 9, 2013 at 12:48 pm

      Bill – I would suggest that you double check my answer with a wood flooring installer, but I believe you should have no problem installing the wood floor right over the vinyl. Usually wood flooring is installed over red rosin paper or even roofing felt (tar paper). This practice helps eliminate squeaks. The vinyl should do the same thing for you.

  27. tori on February 7, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Hi, we are laying laminate flooring over our existing hardwood (which is almost 100 years old and runs perpendicular to the joists). We are laying a plywood subfloor over the existing hardwood to add support and hopefully eliminate some of the squeaks. Does it matter which direction we lay the laminate planks over the plywood? The laminate is a free floating non adhesive 8 mm brand.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      Tori – No, your laminate floor can run in either direction. That’s because the old hardwood floor under it will give it ample support. In fact, I doubt you will need to install the plywood subfloor. I would suggest screwing down the old hardwood flooring, especially in places where it squeaks, and then installing the laminate over that. Chances are the squeaks are caused by the planks of the hardwood flooring moving and rubbing against each other or rubbing against the subfloor below the hardwood. It’s that movement you need to stop.

      Have you considered simply having the hardwood floor repaired and refinished? I did that in a ninety year old house we used to own In Delaware. We even had the stained boards replaced. When it was done, the floors were the best feature of the house. And a good polyurethane finish, like Bona Traffic, will be very easy to live with.

  28. Karen Flores on October 22, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I’m having wood flooring put down on a concrete slab. The installer suggested laying the flooring on a diagonal to give the rooms a larger appearance. The livingroom, dinning, and kitchen are all one area. The house is really small only 1366 sq ft total with majority being down stairs. The flooring will be installed in every room down stairs, as well as being put on the stairs. Will the diagonal instalation actually make the house/rooms appear bigger? I’ve never seen this done.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on November 5, 2013 at 9:03 am

      Karen – The diagonal flooring was a bit of a fad in the 70’s, but you hardly ever see it anymore. I don’t think it makes the room loo larger. As a general rule, you would want to run the wood flooring the long direction of the room. This is more important in narrow rooms and less important in wide rooms. But make sure of the direction of the floor joist beneath the floor. Your hardwood flooring should run perpendicular to the joists so they can support the flooring properly. If you want to run the wood flooring parallel to the joists, you will need to install solid blocking between the joists to provide support. Otherwise, you will get a squeaky floor.

  29. Jocelyn Juul on November 30, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Hi, We just purchased a home and are putting down stranded carbonized bamboo. It has a 2×6 sub-floor so the direction is not a problem. We do however have a “hump” that runs the length of the room so that when you look into the room the walls on the left and right are lower that the middle. We will be trying to lower the flooring from underneath the house but if this does not work in what direction do you suggest we lay the wood to reduce the visibility of the hump?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on December 10, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      Jocelyn – The flooring should run perpendicular tot he direction the hump runs. If you were to run the flooring parallel to the hump, the boards would tend to tip and open gaps between the boards.

  30. Cyndi on January 19, 2014 at 10:17 am

    We have a new home we are installing wood floors on the first level. The hallway from the entry door runs about 20 feet where I would want the floors to run perpendicular to the front entry door. However when the hallway reaches the large room of kitchen and living room, I want to run the floors along the length of that room. Therefore, I have a transition at the end of the hallway into the kitchen/living room–what would you suggest to do at the transition point where the floors change direction? Or would you recommend something different?
    You have a lot of great advice on these Q & A’s!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on January 24, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      I don’t think you need a transition. More than likely the difference will be quite subtle, and not very noticeable.

  31. Anthony on February 24, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    I read each and every comment hoping to read the solution to my situation, but not exactly 100% sure yet. My question is based purely on aesthetics. We have concrete subfloors (no joist situation here). When I enter my home from the front door I want the boards to run parallel to my vision (I want to look across my boards not down the length of my boards). I desire this because I want the boards running length-wise through our great room and I don’t want to switch directions at all if I can help it. Here is my discomfort: That being said I want the hallway that leads to all 3 bedrooms to run the same directions as the great room, but that would give it the “ladder” effect and I’ve read against doing that…would it look that bad?


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on February 24, 2014 at 10:09 pm

      Anthony – Sometimes I think the worry about the ladder effect is overstated. If you have a wood species that is fairly uniform, you probably won’t wee too much of the ladder effect. And if you have a runner (rug) in the hall, you will diminish it even more. And just so you know, I have tiete rosewood flooring in my house and my entry flooring runs parallel to the front door. That means the boards run in the short direction of the hall. The boards are five inches wide. And I have to say, it does not bother me or anyone else in the least. Plus, by having your line of sight from when you enter the hall be perpendicular tot he boards, you will diminish the appearance of any seasonal gaps in between the boards. Good luck.

      • Anthony on February 28, 2014 at 11:54 am

        William, thank you very much for the shared information. I can’t wait until March 15 when our entire floor is new! Thanks again.

  32. María Isabel on April 20, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    We are laying laminate flooring in our living room. The room is odd in shape. It has a tile line 15 ft. In length. I suggest the planks lay parallel to this line and work their way to the opposite point of the room. My husband suggests the planks lay following the horizontal or vertical grout lines of the adjacent tile floor for visual continuity. We need your expert advise.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on April 20, 2014 at 2:07 pm

      Maria – It is hard to answer specifically without seeing the room. But I think your idea of following the long 15 ft. line of the tile sounds like the best way to go.

  33. Valerie on April 24, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Hi Bill,

    I have a family room with a large, 3-panel sliding glass door on the long side of the room. There is lots of light through this window area. So my question is: Would it be better to run the flooring along the direction of the long side of the room OR perpendicular so that it runs “parallel” with the direction of the light entering the room? I realize this is barely enough information but just wondered if you had any thoughts on this. Thanks!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on May 4, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      Valerie – I would suggest the flooring run the long direction in the room and parallel to the door.

  34. Gayle on April 27, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    We are installing oak hardwood in our split-level home. There is about a 3’x4′ area at the top of the steps before the hall jogs to the left (picture an “L”). How do we decide where to stop laying the boards for the step and begin the hallway, which will run in the opposite direction?


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on May 4, 2014 at 5:52 pm

      Gayle – If the house is already built, you need to run the flooring perpendicular tot he floor joists. I would suggest not trying to change direction when you “turn” the “L”. Keep it all running in the same direction.

  35. Dave Keating on May 3, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    We are installing engineered wood floors in a large rectangle open concept space containing the kitchen, dining and living room. The basic dimensions are 16′ by 33′. There is an entry door at one end of the small side of the rectangle in the left corner and a French door to a deck in the right corner of the other end off the kitchen. There is also a hallway to bedrooms off the mid left of the rectangle. My question is which direction do you think would be most aesthetically pleasing to the eye? Also for the hallway would it be best to go in the same direction as the main floor?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on May 4, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      Dave – In a room that size, I think you can run the flooring in either direction. But running it in the 16′ direction might be easier to layout nice and straight. And I would probably keep the hallway running in the same direction as the room.

  36. Brian on May 18, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    I am planning on installing a hardwood floor on my second level. As you go up the stairs to this level there is a long 8 ft balcony railing on each side of the stair case. I am planning on running my flooring parallel to balcony railings on each side of the stair case. I also plan on replacing the railing, balusters and landing treads on the left, right and top of the stairs. The wood flooring would then run perpendicular to the top of the stair landing tread and then down the sides of each balcony railing.

    My question is what considerations should I be concerned about. I am not sure where to start laying the flooring.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on June 7, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      Brian – The major concern would be the direction the underlying floor joists run. You will want you hardwood boards to run perpendicular tot he floor joist to give them proper support and to avoid squeaks.

  37. Allan Bagnall on May 21, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    I will be laying a floating floor and would like recommendations on how to do the transition between rooms (6 ft opening). Aesthetically speaking, it would look best to have the planks run in different directions (90 degrees). How would you sugets doing this kind of transition? I think I have a good idea on how to do it, but I am a little concerned about the transition joint since there will be nothing to lock things together.

    Any suggestions will be appreciated.


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on June 7, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      Allan – Ideally, you would like to have a couple of boards run the long direction within the opening and the width equal to the thickness of the wall to make what I call a “flush threshold” in the doorway between the rooms. This gives a good look by allowing the wood to stop logically in each room. The ends of your boards should have tongues and grooves, however they may not all fit together as you might hope. You could end up with some cut edges that have no tongue or groove. This is where some advanced carpentry comes in. You could either cut in tongues and grooves where you need them or you could install biscuits to “lock” the boards together. An experienced floor installer will know how to do this correctly.

  38. Gail on May 29, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Hi Bill, I live in a condo on concrete. You enter the front door to the foyer and immediately to your left is a long living/dining area (approx. 13′ at the widest point by about 25′ long). About halfway into this area on the right is a long hallway down to the bedrooms. Originally i wanted to run the floor in the main living area the “long” way north to south; but then I would have the “ladder” effect going down the hall. My contractor suggests going “east to west” with the flooring in the main living/dining area which will mean the wood will go the long way down the hallway which may be more pleasing and he claims less “wasteful”. Do you think my living/dining area is large enough that this plan would work? Thanks for your time.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on June 7, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      Gail – Yes, I think your room is wide enough to allow you the option of running the flooring either direction. Or you could simply change the direction of the flooring exactly where the hallway begins. if you align the transition with the corners of the walls where the hall meets the living/dining room, this can work out nicely.

      • Gail on July 11, 2014 at 11:39 pm

        Thanks Bill, i’ve decided to have the boards run “lengthwise” in the main living/dining area and then switch direction down the hallway so they are also running lengthwise. And because of the wood i’ve chosen they are doing a “glue down” so there won’t have to be any transition piece when they switch direction; it will be flush.

  39. Carolyn on June 2, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    We are putting in hardwoods in the liv. rm., t-shaped hall and dining rm. We are running the boards the longer length of the liv. rm & extending into the hall, but at the end of the hall, the back part of the hall is the top of the t-shape. We’re having a dispute about whether to continue in the same direction, which will make the planks shorter in length & require a lot more cutting. Is this the proper way to lay the hall boards?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on June 7, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      Carolyn – You will probably need to keep the boards running in the same direction as you get into the “T” portion of the room. Unless you have a doorway in which to make a logical transition, any change in direction in the middle of a room will look odd.

  40. Sara on June 25, 2014 at 12:10 am

    I’m so glad I came across this Q&A and every other site. I will be installing a floating floor here very soon and need to make a final decision regarding direction. I know it’s best to run the flooring perpendicular with the floor joists, but that would mean a ton of waste, lots of cutting, and one hallway with many pieces of flooring. My house is very choppy with only a bit of open floor plan. I am still so lost as to what direction the flooring should go. Aesthetically pleasing and more money or long run potential and less money?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on June 30, 2014 at 8:42 am

      Sara – If you have a good, sturdy subfloor, your floating floor could run in either direction. As a general rule, floors look better with the boards running the long direction in the room. you can make transitions at doorways and everything will look just fine. But don’t makes lots of direction changes or everything will look too chopped up. Just try to make it all look logical and you will be fine.

  41. Adrian Filzek on July 18, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Hi there, just wondering if you can advise what I should do about laminate flooring that I’m laying when it transitions from one room to another, e.g a bedroom comes off the living room and the boards are the same direction as the entry. Do I stagger them as if the separate rooms weren’t there? My only concern is the total length of a complete row would be close to 40 feet. Should I stop at the entry to each room and add a separation piece?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on July 19, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      Adrian – I like adding the separation piece, a kind of “flush threshold” at the door to the room. I think it helps define the room.

  42. John on August 5, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Hi Bill,

    What would you recommend in my case. Here’s my floor plan.


    In case you can’t see the floor plan, it’s a short but wide house with a short entry leading to a great room that runs wide to the right. To the left, is a den and bedroom.

    We’re doing hardwood on a cement foundation on the entire first floor, including den and bedroom 4 but no baths. The model has it going straight through from the entry. But we’re thinking of doing it perpendicular to the entry so it runs the long way down the hall and in the great room. What is your advice? Greatly appreciate the help.

  43. Ak on August 8, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Hey there! It’s wonderful that you offer such help! We have 80 year old 1in strip oak that has seen its last days! We would like to put new engineered oak over the existing (perpendicular to the joists) and have had one installer tell us it was ok to go right on top and in the same direction and a second said we had to go in the opposite direction of the old floor, making the new parallel to the joists!!?? Advise please!!!! Thanks in advance!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on August 16, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      Ak – It’s too bad you have to cover the old flooring. one inch strips are a great look. It’s something no one does these days because the labor is higher than with wider boards. More boards to install. Have you tried every option for repairing and refinishing the floors?

      If you have to cover it, you can run the new flooring in any direction you want. That is because the old floor will add strength under the new floor and you will not have the problem of the subflooring flexing like you would if you were installing the new floor right over a single layer of subflooring.

  44. Paul on August 11, 2014 at 6:15 am

    Hello Bill,

    My question regarding the direction of my floor is I will be installing 3/4 x 5″ wide solid Hickory in a 20×15 living room. I would like to run the floor parallel to the joist. The joists run the same direction as my longest wall which is 20′. My subfloor consists of 3/4 plywood with a 1/4″ underlayment on top. I also have what I believe they call cross hatching or cross braces. Is this considered the same as blocking. Is that sufficient to run my floor in either direction? Also my kitchen runs into the living room. I would like to change the direction of the floor at that point because this area is 10’x20′. Any thoughts on this would be helpful.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on August 16, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      Paul – The cross bracing you mention is called “bridging.” It makes the floor stronger by letting weight placed on one joist be shared by the neighboring joists. It does not help with the support of wood flooring between joists. But the fact that you have an additional layer of underlayment does help some. That combined with the wide boards your are using for the flooring means you could probably get away with running the floor parallel to the floor joists. If you have areas of the floor that will get lots of foot traffic, and if you can access the floor from below, you might want to consider installing some solid bridging under those spots. These should be a solid piece of 2×6 or larger that goes perpendicular to the joists, fits tightly between the joists, and is place tight up under the subfloor. Use construction adhesive when you install it to prevent squeaking later on.

  45. ROSALIND smith on August 11, 2014 at 8:17 am

    I have two long lines due to upstairs plywood floorboards. It is on one wall of my staircase and even putting up heavy wallpaper it still shoes through.what should I use to conceal this

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on August 16, 2014 at 4:00 pm

      Rosalind – I’m not sure I understand how the plywood floorboards above could cause lines to appear on the walls of the staircase. It sounds more like the drywall had developed cracks. This happens often, especially if the wood framing behind the drywall had a high moisture content when it was installed. But this should be very easy to fix. A good drywall finisher should be able to re-tape, spackle, and sand this wall and make it as good as new.

  46. Kim Cook on August 18, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Hi! Can you please tell me if I should run a hardwood floor threw out a one level home.. I mean the same colour.. Would it make it look bigger?.. Thanks

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on August 25, 2014 at 8:17 pm


      I’m not sure if it makes the house look bigger or not. But using the same wood floor throughout the house will give you a nice design continuity.

  47. Wade on August 25, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Hi Bill,

    Great site. We are about to install hardwood. In our living and dining room (all one room) we are planning on running the floor perpendicular to the joists. Next to the dining room there is a small rectangular fireplace room. It is separated from the dining room by a single step (down) and a 3 foot separating wall. The joists in the fireplace room run opposite of those in the dining/living room. Thus, to run perpendicular to the joists in that room will require that we change the direction of the flooring. Doing so would have the added advantage of the flooring running parallel with the longer wall of the room. Do you think that between the change in joist direction, the separation elements (step and short wall), and the flooring running with the longer wall, that the change in flooring direction seems like the smart move? We are divided on this. One of us wants the change in direction; one of us prefers all the flooring in the house to run the same direction. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on August 25, 2014 at 8:20 pm

      Wade – I think the step down and the partial wall give you plenty of “transition” to allow you to change the flooring direction. It won’t be a visually disturbing change. So running the flooring perpendicular to the joists is best. But if you can add some blocking under the floor, you could certainly keep the flooring all running the same direction, if you choose.

  48. Sarah on August 26, 2014 at 5:11 pm


    You have a great site. We are refinishing existing hardwood floors and adding new hardwoods to match the existing flooring. Our front two rooms have existing flooring running N-S. These rooms will open to a 15′ X 29′ great room which lengthwise runs E-W. My interior designer thinks I should run the wood lengthwise, but I will have some kind of obvious transition between the front and back of the house with the change of direction (there will be a slight step up to the back rooms because we cannot get the floors level). We have two attached short hallways to our great room – one with existing wood running E-W and other with new wood to be installed. I think we probably need to run the wood N-S through the great room (which would be meaning running along the shorter width) and into the hallway. What do you think? Also, when you enter the great room, you will look directly down the length of the room. I’m not sure which way to go. We are installing partially on slab and partially on tar and screed over slab. Thanks for any comments!!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on September 8, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      Sarah – I’m not sure if I completely understand your room and hall arrangement. But with a room that is 15’X 29′ you can run the floor either direction and it will look fine since the room is not narrow. And as a general rule, you should try to run wood flooring perpendicular to the direction you enter the room. This is so you don’t end up looking straight down the seams.

      Keep in mind that you can change directions of wood flooring at doorways. It really works out just fine.

  49. Ruby on September 17, 2014 at 2:15 am

    I am installing hardwood floors in my family room, kitchen, formal dining and living rooms. The kitchen family area is a long room and the flooring is layed out east to west direction (the longetive direction). The formal dining is separated from the kitchen. Formal dining and living is ‘L, shaped room. As you enter the room, you will first enter the long living and to a square shaped formal dining room. Do you think it would be better if I change the direction of the formal dining from the rest of the area?

    The floor installers are here working on the installation, I want to make sure I make the right choice without any regrets.


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on September 17, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      Ruby – When rooms are open to each other, I usually recommend keeping the flooring running in the same direction.

  50. Amanda on September 24, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Hi Bill,

    My husband and I will be installing wood floors in the living room, bedrooms and hallway. The joists are E-W throughout the house, which is perfect for all of the rooms, but the hallway runs N-S. My husband wants to transition the floor at the hallway so it runs parallel to the hall. I would prefer the floor to all go E-W for aesthetic purposes. Other than extra cuts and a little more work, is it wrong to lay flooring perpendicular to the hallway? I really appreciate that you continue to answer questions on your site…even 3 years later!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on September 24, 2014 at 9:09 pm

      Amanda – Thanks. I’m glad you found my website helpful. Tell all your friends to visit. I want to build up the audience.

      Although in general, you would want the flooring to run the long direction in a hall, this is not a totally hard and fast rule. It can look fine going the short direction, especially if the hall is not too narrow. And it is easily possible to change the flooring direction at doorways. But before you do that, make sure you have proper support for the wood floor. If it sits on a single layer of plywood without crossing any joists, it will move and possibly squeak when you walk on it.

      If you absolutely must run the flooring parallel to the floor joists, you can do one of two things. One would be go get under the floor framing and install wood blocking between the joists to support the wood floor. In existing houses this can be nearly impossible due to pipes, wires, and ductwork in the way. Or a finished ceiling might make the framing inaccessible. The second solution is to add an additional layer of 1/2″ plywood or OSB board over top of the subfloor. This added layer will give you the strength you need for the new wood flooring. You may have to adjust the bottom of some doors, but that inconvenience may be worth it to you.

  51. David on October 25, 2014 at 6:00 am

    My questions is about orientation. I am putting floors in my entire house. I want them oriented the same throughout the house. When I enter the house I enter on the short side of the living/dining area i.e. the floors would run away from the front door along the long side of the room. However the hall is long an narrow and is perpendicular long side of the living/dining so the flooring would run perpendicular to the long side of the hall. I am concerned that it will look choppy looking down the hall. Is there a place I can find some photos of an installation similar to mine so I can see how my floors might look with the two different orientations in the hall/living/dining arrangement like I have? Also I am using engineered floors on concrete.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on October 26, 2014 at 11:38 am

      David – I don’t know of a particular place with photos like that. But you might try the websites of wood flooring manufacturers or on http://www.houzz.com. There are tons of photos on Houzz.

  52. sarah on October 26, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Hi, Bill

    I have no way to tell the direction of joists to my house which shapes as 7 with its length three times longer than the width.

    A long hallway from the entryway, living and dinning rooms to its right and staircase to its left leads to the second floor. Kitchen in the middle and family room at the end of the ground floor.

    A long hallway runs same direction of stairway with master bedroom at the end, and three bed rooms to its right.

    Can u tell me which direction the hardwood should go? By the way the grand floor entryway to the kitchen are tiled already.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on October 26, 2014 at 11:42 am

      Sarah – If you can see the subfloor plywood, the short dimension of the plywood would be running parallel to the floor joists below. If you can’t see that, you usually can make an assumption that the floor joists would be spanning the short direction of the house structure. So in you “7” configuration, the floor joists would probably be running from side to side on the leg of the 7.

      • sarah on October 26, 2014 at 12:40 pm

        So I should run the wood planks same direction as the hallway?

  53. sarah on October 26, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Hi, Bill

    They are gluding down the ground floor solid hardwood because the concrete and different heitgh of finished wood floor next to the existing tiles?

    In Southern California condition, is it ok?

  54. George on November 3, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Hi, Bill,

    I I am putting engineered wood floor in my living room with floating installation. I have heard that the new floor should be perpendicular to the joist. My subfloor joist is along the long dimension of the room. After removing the carpet, I found that there are two layers of subfloor. The bottom layer is 5/8″ plywood. The top layer is 5/8″ particle board and is nailed to the plywood. I know the particle board should not be considered structural. But I think it does add strength to the subfloor. So for this situation, can I run the new floor parallel to the joist?

    Thank you for your time.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on November 4, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      George – I agree with your thinking on this. It is true that particle board does not add much strength to the floor. But by thickening the layer of the subfloor, it does stiffen it to some degree. And stiffness, as opposed to actual strength, is what you need. So I think you should be fine running the flooring parallel to the floor joists with this double thickness subfloor.

  55. Jerry on November 4, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Hi Bill

    We want to fit 9″ or 10″ extra wide engineered flooring to our reception room that roughly measures 15′ x 35′. The french doors leading into the room are in the middle of the shortest wall and at the the far end there are 2 fixed sidelights and french doors leading out onto the terrace.

    The floor joists run parallel with the longest wall, fixed perpendicular to steel beams to give increased headroom to the converted basement below.

    The problem then is we can’t run the floorboards in the long direction you recommend down the room without providing a substantial ply sub-floor. We’d be prepared to do this but have been advised that 2 x layers of 3/4″ timber flooring would adversely affect the ‘wet’ underfloor heating. Either choice seems problematic.

    What would you advise?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on November 4, 2014 at 4:58 pm

      Jerry – Your in-floor radiant heating system adds another factor in this decision, doesn’t it? I agree that adding another layer of sheathing would significantly reduce the effectiveness of your heating system. So we don’t want to do that. The saving factor here will be the very wide planks of flooring you will be using. With the floor boards being 9″ to 10″ wide, at most, you would only have one board sitting on the floor sheathing without a joist beneath it. That doesn’t sound too bad. I think the risk of this floor flexing too much is rather small. I think you will be safe running the flooring parallel to the floor joists in this case.

      With an in-floor radiant heating system, it is even more important to check the moisture content of the wood flooring AND the subfloor before installing the floor. You want a moisture reading of close to 6.5%. Test the floor and the subfloor in multiple locations to be sure you get an accurate average reading.

  56. KK on November 8, 2014 at 8:55 pm


    We are putting HW floors on the entire 2nd floor. When the HW is laid perpendicular to the joist, it is parallel (and not perpendicular) to the line of sight as we enter all 4 bedrooms. The length of the beds are also the length of HW, creating what some would call as the “bowling alley” look. Ours is a 25 year old home. Would you recommend tearing up the entire OSB sub floor to add 2×6 between joists to get the aesthetics right? Thank you so much for your help.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on November 23, 2014 at 11:29 am

      KK – I would recommend installing the flooring perpendicular to the joists and accepting the direction the floor ends up with. Once the bedrooms are furnished, the direction of the hardwood flooring will be a minor element in the look of the room. It is more important to avoid squeaking floors.

  57. KK on November 10, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Also, if we just add 3×8 ply all over which way should it run compare to the existing sub-floor? Thanks

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on November 23, 2014 at 11:30 am

      KK – If you add the additional layer of plywood, you can run the hardwood in any direction you want. Just be sure to consider the effect of the added floor thickness at steps and where the hardwood joins another floor surface.

  58. MARLENE on November 24, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    We are installing a engineered wood flooring in a Rectangle Shape for our Dinning and Living room area, we want to know what is the best way to lay or which direction fits best for these type living room shape. Should the boards run parallel or perpendicular to the floor joist.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on November 28, 2014 at 8:27 am

      Marlene – Whenever possible, you would want to run the floor boards perpendicular to the floor joists for the best support and to reduce the chance of developing floor squeaks.

  59. AG on November 26, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    Hello, I have already hardwood on my hallway and I will install in the rooms. The problem is their entrances are diagonal to the hallway. Should I install the planks parallel to the door entrance or align them to the room itself, this would be nicer for the room but the entrance would have diagonal cuts in the entrance. Thanks!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on November 28, 2014 at 8:34 am

      AG – I would suggest installing the wood floor in the rooms so that they are aligned with the walls of the room. To make a good transition from the diagonal boards in the hallway, you should install what I call a “flush threshold” at the doorway. Install boards across the door opening from jamb to jamb. The width of the board or boards should match the thickness of the wall. After installing this flush threshold, you can run the floor boards in the room either parallel to the threshold or perpendicular to it, depending on which direction the floor joists under the room go.

      Of course, you always have the option of continuing the diagonal pattern of the hall through the rooms. But that may be a more contemporary look than you might want.

  60. Jennifer on January 11, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    We are installing engineered wood floors In the upstairs hallway. When you come to the top of the stairs, you need to turn right to get to the first bedroom, then turn right again to reach the second bedroom, then right again to reach the master bedroom. It’s basically an atrium style opening from foyer to the second floor. The downstairs foyer is tile but if you look down from the upstairs level, you can partially see into the living room on one side of the foyer and the dining room on the other side of the foyer (both rooms are also going to be wood floor). My husband wants to change the direction of the wood floors with each change of the upstairs hallways to run the long way in each section. Would it make more sense to run the entire upstairs hallway one direction regardless of the turns, perhaps even the direction that visually matches the direction we’re laying the floors in the rooms you can see below? I realize you’ll get the ladder look for some sections.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on January 23, 2015 at 8:58 am

      Jennifer – I think you could do this either way. Doing what your husband suggests might look interesting, but it would be a little more challenging for the installers and you would want to be sure you had proper support below the subfloor. I don’t think I would worry about the direction of the flooring on the first floor, though.

  61. Kate M on January 19, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    Congratulations on this well thought out, informative website. I’ve taken my first adventure into ” Reno world”. Saved my money and took the plunge. Just basic updating which included a new high quality laminate floor. The materials are beautiful. But from the pictures I was sent, it looks like it was laid parallel to the floor joists. Aesthetically, there is the main focus wall on the south wall with the fireplace. And the flooring runs horizontal to that. Small house, but could have been great if the flooring had been laid in the right direction. The line of sight goes down the narrow hallway. And the boards runs horizontal in the hallway instead of lengthwise. How would the contractor make the repairs. I,m sure he,d want to use the same wood. But how would that work with all the little pieces he,d have to work with. He has to make this right and I want to br fair. But I want to know what I,m talking about when I face him In 3 days when I meet with him. Than you for your advice

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on January 23, 2015 at 9:02 am

      Kate – My only suggestion for changing the direction of the flooring would be to stagger the end joints so that they do not align from board to board. This is what’s done with the lower grades of flooring that do not have many long boards. I usually looks okay and the casual observer would never notice it. But I would caution that if the installer has glued the laminate together, it cannot be removed without destroying it. Good Luck.

  62. Gary on January 21, 2015 at 12:44 am

    We have a 20×26 LR the joists are 4×6 on 6′ centers running with the 20′ length of room and 2×6 T&G running on the 26′ length with 1/2″ subfloor. We are installing solid 5/8″ bamboo. Could we run it any direction?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on January 23, 2015 at 9:06 am

      Gary – That is a long way between floor joist. Visually, you could run the flooring either direction in a room of those dimensions. But if you run the flooring parallel to the floor joists, you will want to at least install an additional layer of subflooring to strengthen the floor system. The better solution would be to install solid blocking between the floor joists to support the flooring. Of course, the area below the floor would have to be accessible to do that.

  63. Deb on January 29, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    We are removing carpeting and installing laminate flooring over an existing wood floor that runs perpendicular to the joists. As you walk into the living room (23’L X 13’W) from the front door, the floorboards run the same direction as your view into the dining room and the hallway that is off to the left of the dining room. My husband thinks that we should run the flooring across the house, which would be horizontally, and staggered. Is this the correct way it should run? He thinks it would be stronger since it’s going across the existing floor. Also, can the hallway run in a different direction than the other two rooms?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on January 30, 2015 at 9:04 am

      Deb – With an existing hardwood floor below the laminate, it really does not make a lot of difference which way the laminate runs in terms of strength. But if you existing hardwood floor has high and low spots, running the new floor perpendicular to it might be the better way to go. Can I ask why you want to bury an existing hardwood floor below a laminate floor? Even the most damaged hardwood floors can often be repaired and refinished nicely. And a hardwood floor adds more value to a house than a laminate floor.

      And yes, you can change directions on flooring from a hallway to a room.

  64. Jackie Timmerman on February 1, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    We plan to install a 3/8″ engineered wood in our bedroom and have read conflicting info on whether it should be glued or stapled. We have a cement foundation. Also, what should go under the floor? When we built our home we put Wilsonart laminate which has held up amazingly well, however under the flooring is just a thin blue plastic, and it’s just a noisy floor, sounds like plastic and when you drop something it’s extremely noisy. Maybe this is true with all laminate but we just want to make sure our new floor will be quieter as we eventually want to redo the laminate with the same engineered wood as we’re installing in the bedroom.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on February 2, 2015 at 9:41 am

      Jackie – I would think gluing is the better option, but you should check with the manufacturer. You do not want to install it in a way that might cause problems and might void the warranties. I’m sure they have a customer service department. Tell them about that hollow sound being a problem and see what they say.

  65. Tina on February 26, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Hi Bill,

    I am putting down new hardwood in a house built in the 1920’s. The subfloor is 3/4″ thick tongue and groove planks- about 3″ wide and is original to the house. The subfloor planks run perpendicular to the joists. Should I also run the hardwood perpendicular to the joists in this case? Or perpendicular to the subfloor? I am afraid if I run the new wood in the same direction of the subfloor, I will have gapping issues. Also, the flooring will look A LOT better from a visual stand point if it is run parallel with the joists (perpendicular to the subfloor). Regardless of looks, I want to know what is best over time. Thanks!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on March 10, 2015 at 8:47 am

      Tina – With a plank subfloor instead of plywood, you should turn the wood floor perpendicular to the subfloor planks (parallel to the joists) to get the wood floor to lay smoothly. The plank subfloor will give adequate strength to the wood flooring. You will want to install a layer of red rosin paper over the subfloor first. It will help eliminate most squeaks.

  66. Lee McLaughlin on March 27, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    OK, let me see if I can crudely lay this out and get some opinions. I have two rooms separated by a stair well and a single “Door way”. This is a basement so it’s on concrete. Here it is
    ________________ _
    | |
    | |_____|
    | X |_____|
    | |_____|
    | |_____|_______________
    | |_____| |
    | |_____| |
    | |_____| |
    | |_____| |
    | |_____| |
    | |_____| |
    | |_____| |
    | |_____| |
    | |
    |________________ |
    |_____________ |

    My two possible “Starting points” would be:
    1.) Lower right most corner running horizontal
    2.) Lower left most corner running vertical (along the longest continuous wall

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on April 17, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      Lee – Sorry. I don’t understand it.

  67. Raegen M. on April 27, 2015 at 11:19 am

    I don’t have any questions. I wanted to leave a note of “Thanks” for having such informative answers. I used your responses to decide on which direction my new floors should lay. It’s great to see a website where someone responds to questions with detail and honest feedback. Thanks for your assistance!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on May 7, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      Raegen M. – You’re welcome! Thanks for the nice note. Tell all of your friends to visit my site. The more people who visit it, the higher Google and other search engines will list and rank it. And that will let still more people find it.

  68. Naomi Vincent on June 3, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    We removed carpet and are having laminate floating floor put down.does it matter what direction it lays as it is a floating floor?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on June 5, 2015 at 8:14 am

      Naomi – A laminate floor can be installed in any direction, so long as it is installed over a proper subfloor and underlayment. Laminate floor do not have any real strength and need full support below.

      • Adam on June 9, 2015 at 12:27 pm

        To maintain structural integrity, I understand that hardwood flooring should be installed perpendicular to the joists. What do you do when you approach a staircase going down, where the hardwood floor you’re installing is parallel to the stair case? It would be simple if the stair case was perpendicular because you would install working away from the bullnose, but this is not the case for me. How do you transition the hardwood running parallel with the step?

        • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on June 12, 2015 at 1:26 pm

          Adam – If I understand your question correctly, the hardwood planks at the top of the stairs would be running parallel with the edge of the step. As you step down the steps you would be moving perpendicular to the floor boards. If that is correct, the floor installer would simply install a wood nosing on the edge of the wood floor just like the nosings on the rest of the steps. It is a very standard installation and should be easy to do.

  69. Lani on June 9, 2015 at 6:28 am

    I would like to run my laminate floors from the front door to the back door. If it measures about 36′, do I have to install a transition or can I run it the full length? What is the recommended run without having to use a transition?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on June 12, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      Lani – You can run the floor the full length without any transition strip. The joints at the end of the boards should be staggered and not in a row with the boards alongside. This way the end-to-end joints won’t be readily visible.

  70. Kim on July 22, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Bill, I am in awe! You are absolutely awesome! Thank you for being so generous with your knowledge and great design sense. I don’t have a question right now, but will be following your site to learn as much as I can. Thanks! Kim from Pa.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on July 22, 2015 at 11:31 am

      Kim – Thanks for your kind words. Tell all of your friends to visit my website!

  71. Wendy on October 15, 2015 at 2:29 am

    We are installing 3/8″ birch plywood strips in an apartment. Our subfloor is plywood but I don’t know how to find out which way the joists are running. Can I tell from the nailing pattern on the plywood subfloor? Thanks for your help.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on October 15, 2015 at 8:16 am

      Wendy – Usually the plywood is installed with the long dimension (the 8 foot direction) running perpendicular to the joists. You can use that as your clue to the floor joist direction. Hope your new floor turns out great!

  72. Angela Smith on November 2, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    I am doing a remodel on an older home and we are replacing all the flooring with tile and wood. It’s a split floor plan with 2 bedrooms on one end and 2 bedrooms on the other end. One end has the wood flooring running all in the same direction throughout our very long living room, hallway, dining room and both bedrooms. The kitchen is tiled and separates the other end of the house. The kitchen is attached to a short 9.5 foot hallway that has an entry into a laundry room, then the short hallway makes a right turn into a long hallway with 2 entrys on the left of the hall that lead to 2 bedrooms and 1 entry to a bathroom on the right at the end. If I want both hallways and bedrooms to be the same hardwood in the rest of the house what is the best way to make this look right? I originally though make all the wood run in the same direction but am worried it will look funny when the hall makes a turn. Any suggestions are welcomed and appreciated. THANK YOU!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on November 5, 2015 at 6:31 pm

      Angela – I think you can keep the flooring going in the same direction even though the hallway makes a bend. I think it will not be noticeable. But if you try to make the boards change direction, I think you will draw attention to it and you will notice it more.

  73. Deb Lane on November 18, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Hi Bill,
    Thank you for all of this great info. I am installing bamboo throughout my entire 1970’s track house. I have a scale drawing of the floor plan. Any chance I can send you a PDF of it and get your opinion on flooring direction? I understand the joist/length of room concepts but I have some contradictory issues and not sure where to change directions, etc. I’d prefer one direction throughout but may not have the budget for additional blocking.



    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on November 28, 2015 at 4:09 pm

      Deb – Sorry I can’t help you with planning your wood flooring layout. But I am sure there are local architects and/or interior designers who could. Good luck with your project.

  74. david on November 26, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Hi….great information. thank you!

    we are about to put 3/4″ x 2 1/2″ hickory an an office space.one of the hallways in the space is about 4’x42′. Would 42′ run be an issue( it will be perpendicular to the joists). someone told me that hardwood should not be run for more than 30′ without some transition

    thank you in anticipation

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on November 28, 2015 at 4:11 pm

      David – I don’t see any reason why your flooring could not run the entire 42 foot length. After all, it does just that on basketball courts and bowling alleys. You’ll simply have end joints between boards. But every floor has those.

  75. Jodi on December 6, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    Good morning!
    I have a question close but not the same as one above. We have the original floor boards throughout our house except for in the narrow galley kitchen. We want to lay wooden flooring in the kitchen and have gone for a grey stained look that goes with our kitchen and differentiates them from the original boards. The kitchen is open to the living area at one of the narrow ends. The living area has the original boards running North to South – if we maintained this direction we would have lots of short boards running across the kitchen floor which is quite narrow (the opposite of your advice). However, if we run them lengthways down the kitchen (which would look a lot better for the kitchen) there would be an area where they met the living area boards at a right angle. Would that look strange!? Thank you very much for your advice – great website!!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on December 10, 2015 at 11:11 am

      Jodi – I would suggest installing one or two boards parallel to the existing flooring at edge of the old flooring to make a sort of border for the new flooring to end against. Then you could install the new boards the in the direction you want, perpendicular to the existing floor, and those two boards at the edge will serve as a transition “flush threshold” to terminate the ends of the new flooring in a neat and purposeful way.

      I hope that helps. Be sure to tell all of your friends to visit our site and help us grow our audience.

  76. mandy on January 24, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    which way should l lay the wood look alike lino when l have beams in the bathroom, same direction or not

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on March 3, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      Mandy – The flooring direction does not have to match the direction of ceiling beams overhead.

  77. Elaine Oughterson on February 4, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    We have wood flooring running in one direction in four room of our downstairs. I want a new kitchen floor plank vinyl but I was told the floor is not level and the floor should run in the other direction. I am concerned that it will look odd. Should I settle for press and place tiles? Help !!!!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on March 3, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      Elaine – I don’t understand why the flooring direction has to change because the floor is out of level. Ask them if they can level the floor. If you have to change flooring directions, have them install an edge strip to visually close off the “dead ends” of the flooring and not let the cut ends of the new floor butt up against the side of the existing floor. good luck.

  78. Frank Muller on March 28, 2016 at 11:29 am

    I will have a wood to tile transition at the end of a hallway leading to open kitchen and boards will be running perpendicular to opening. Should the boards just be cut an angle to meet tile or should I run one board parallel where they meet?


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on May 11, 2016 at 8:34 am

      Frank – I would suggest running one board parallel to the tile edge and ending the other boards against it to make the cleanest transition between the tile and the hardwood.

  79. Todd on May 15, 2016 at 1:32 am

    We a situation where from the front door there is a long shot view down to the other end of the house, so following the rule of laying the floor as the eye follows makes great sense, however as you enter the front door there is an opening to the kitchen which runs long to the eye so the wood would need to change direction. Also, there is a long dining area to the right and a living space to the left all that are unobstructed by doorways. In general it is an open concept. Is it OK to change the direction of the wood flooring?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on May 17, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      Todd – Actually, the old carpenter’s rule is to install wood so your line of sight is perpendicular to the joints. That keeps you from seeing imperfections that might stand out if you were looking right down the seam. But the more important thing is to make sure your floor boards run perpendicular to the floor joists below. This ensures a solid, non-squeaking floor. If the joists allow it. It sounds like you could freely change the flooring direction in those large spaces. Sometimes laying out a few loose boards in the pattern you are considering will help you “see” the final result better.

  80. Dan on May 21, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Hi Bill,

    Thank you for all you information!

    We have a 1926 house with 6 inch subfloor installed perpendicular to the floor joists, then original fir floor installed parallel to the joists, then nasty asbestos tile glued to the fir. We want to install red oak on top of all of this but the floor joists run the long way of the livingroom. If we follow the rule of laying the new floor perpendicular to the joists, the floor will be running he short direction of the room. The livingroom is 12×25 and the long direction continues on through a tiled kitchen and into the back den which has wood floors already running the same direction. Does installation direction still matter with all of those layers underneath? We have a finished basement so we are unable to install blocking. We are afraid of the room looking too “busy” if the floor isn’t installed the long way.



    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on May 26, 2016 at 10:18 am

      Dan – It sounds like you have plenty of support for the flooring and don’t have to worry about laying the new flooring perpendicular to the floor joists. Good luck with your project.

  81. Jason Harrington on June 22, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    So it seems clear the options are lay perpendicular to joist or install wood blocking. The install area I’m looking at is located such that either option is doable.

    I’m curious if blocking is as good as perpendicular, or a subpar option, but workable. Outside of blocking probably being slower, is perpendicular to joints still the superior option? Or is it purely aesthetics at that point?

    Also, the upstairs runs opposite the way I’d like to run the boards. We have a bent L staircase, and boards go right to left, so downstairs stairs are opposite upper level stairs and flooring. What would up consider “same direction” in that case?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on September 19, 2016 at 8:44 pm

      Jason – Blocking should be just as strong as running the boards perpendicular to the framing below.

  82. Cheryl W on July 8, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Hi Bill,
    We are installing lament floors in our sunken living room (17 x 13) which is next to our raised dining room (10 x 13) which means if we run the correct way we would have a long living room and a short looking dining room. Is this ok or should we run the dining room perpendicular? Also, how should we cover the raise? It is about 6 inches?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on September 19, 2016 at 8:47 pm

      Cheryl – You can run laminate floors in any direction. They are not nailed to the floor and are a thinner and flexible flooring compared to hardwood. But if your subfloor is not completely smooth and level, you should install an additional layer of underlayment plywood the covers the subfloor joints so your finished floor will end up as level as possible.

  83. Shane Roberts on September 14, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    My front door and long narrow entry way opens straight ahead into my family room. On the left and right of my entry way is a formal living and formal dining, respectively. There are also entrances from the formal living and dining into the family room, left and right of the entrance from main entry way but on the same wall. Visually, the long view from the front door would be straight through to the back wall of the house in the family room. The family room, however, runs narrower left and right of the entry. In other words, the floors in the family room would look better running its full length which would be perpendicular to the entry way and best view from the front door. What the best solution, just maintain the straight through look and continue with the short run of the family room, or transition at the entry way end and change to perpendicular in the family room to draw out its best views for its long look?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on September 19, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      Shane – With rooms that are not too skinny and long, you really have the option to run the flooring either way. The visual difference in minimal once you have your furniture in place. I feel that making the flooring solid without squeaks is the critical factor. So I would always recommend running the flooring perpendicular to the framing below unless it is in a narrow hallway. But in existing houses, you probably don’t really have a choice. The framing is already there.

  84. Jackie on September 20, 2016 at 10:53 am

    I have a hallway which is 6x 2m which joins with an open plan kitchen where the laminate is running in the direction of the long wall. If I run with the long wall in the hall the flooring will be at right angles to the kitchen floor. Do I lay the flooring across the 2m so it meets the kitchen going in the same direction or is it ok for the hall to be laid in the direction of the long wall even though it meets the kitchen floor which runs in a different direction?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on October 5, 2016 at 12:16 pm

      Jackie – You can run laminate flooring in either direction since it does not depend on the structure below. You could change directions easily at a doorway. But if the change occurs out in the open and not at a doorway, I would suggest keeping it going in the same direction.

  85. Ruthann F on October 4, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    We have a similar issue to the one listed above. Our main area runs left to right as seen from the front door. The main area is large 30 ft. x 16 ft and has glass wall along the long side of it. I am thinking the flooring should run the long (30 ft) direction of the room but that will force the narrow entry way (4ft x10 ft) that dumps into the great room to run the “wrong direction”… So my question is, will it look better to run all the flooring in the same direction (long length of the 30 ft room which will make entry boards be sideways) or do a transition after the 10 ft hallway so that the entry way can run straight in giving the longer look? Installer is saying it will look choppy and not great if we do a transition between the rooms= but I can’t think of how else to make it look right.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on October 5, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      Ruthann – You can change directions easily if the change happens at a doorway or other logical location. I agree with your installer that running the boards in the short direction in a hallway will give you an undesirable “ladder” effect. But the most important consideration is the underlying structure. Be sure you have proper support for the floor planks.

  86. Karen Blackwell on October 8, 2016 at 12:38 am

    How do I run the wood plank tile in an open area entry. The front door opens onto a 9X7 step down entry of 12\” marble tile. The 5 ft. wide raised tile floor runs 30ft along the length large open room. The marble \”runway\” separates the living and dining areas, each a step down from marble. Large room 17×24 and smaller 13 x 17.Which way should I run planks in the two rooms, both in same open area?
    Symbols below show relation of areas

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on October 11, 2016 at 6:10 pm

      Karen – In rooms like yours that are not too narrow, you have the option of running the wood in either direction. But it is quite important to run the wood perpendicular to the framing below. This will greatly reduce the risk of having squeaky floors. Running boards parallel to the framing below will leave many boards only supported by the plywood subfloor. This will let them flex slightly and you will have noisy floors.

  87. Annette Ingui on October 16, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    I am having someone install hardwood floors on the second story of my colonial home. I will be doing all 4 bedrooms plus the hallway. Each room has a different color furniture. Do I choose one color wood floor and run it through every room, or choose different colors for each room?
    Additionally, I will be removing the rug off my staircase and plan to stain the wood (pine, never stained or painted before) and have a runner installed. I’ve been told that capping the existing stairs with a wood kit is not very attractive, yet, I have concerns about a pine staircase. I also think you mentioned the stairs and banister should be darker than the floor. Any suggestions you offer will be appreciated. Seems you really enjoy your work! Thanks

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on October 25, 2016 at 11:44 am

      Annette – It is usually best to use the same wood flooring throughout the house. The pine stairs could be stained and sealed. Pine is softer than oak and can get dented and dinged more easily. But it might not be worth the trouble and expense to replace the stairs.

  88. Annette on October 16, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    One question I forgot to add in above comment, do I run all panels the same way? I feel it would make the areas seem larger and less busy going all in the same direction.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on October 25, 2016 at 11:49 am

      Annette – I prefer to run the flooring in the same direction when possible.

  89. Kevin on October 20, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    I’m in the process of purchasing a three-story townhouse. I was able to enter the structure when the home was framed to the third-story. At the top of the steps (center of home, with a landing) two pieces of OSB were sitting over a truss and it was peaking where they met. The OSB sitting further back was staggered and showed a slight hump. In my opinion the floor truss is slightly raised at this point. This truss only runs halfway across the home due to the steps. I centered a 3-ft board over the peak and there was almost a 1/2 at each end of the board. Called the builder and brought it to his attention. He said the OSB must have got wet and swelled. I informed him that I didn’t think he’d be able to lay the hardwood over the peak without something being done. He said he’d have it ground down. I left it at that and just had another walk-through a month later and brought to his attention again. Once again he said he would grind it down. I feel that it’s too high to grind down. There will be 3-inch wide wood glued down over the OSB and I am very concerned about what will happen at that peak in the floor. I would think that over time the wood could come loose from the glue and “pop-up” from the stress of being laid over the peak. Am I being too concerned over something that can be easily fixed? Or should this situation have required the truss to be fixed properly prior to continuing the building of the home? The builder didn’t seem too worried about it. I would think a wood installer would balk when they come to this part of the floor.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on October 25, 2016 at 11:59 am

      Kevin – It is hard to say without seeing it. But I think the hardwood flooring installer could give you the best opinion on this. Grinding down raised edges of subflooring is standard procedure. But as you say, there are limits to that. Usually the grinding would be for a 1/4″ rise or less. Good luck with this.

  90. Alex Henry on November 19, 2016 at 8:52 am

    G\’day Bill
    I\’m laying vinyl plank flooring through the house. It\’s built in the shape of a reversed \’C\’ on a concrete slab. From the front entrance (wider than longer) there are 2 hallways each going off at a 45 degree angle (1 left, 1 right). Neither hallway has a door or frame. One hallway is 4 metres long then bends another 45 degrees, continues for 3 metres before it opens onto the main living areas (no door or frame here either). The house runs longer than it is wide, so I plan to lay the planks running in the same direction (i.e. length ways) through the whole house. Should I do this in the hallways as well (which would give a somewhat staggered ladder effect) and front entrance, or change the planks\’ direction in line with the hallways and entrance? They basically form an open \’U\’ or \’V\’ shape. The entrance is 3.5m W x 1.5m D.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on December 18, 2016 at 9:19 am

      Alex – It is hard for me to say without seeing the exact situation. But generally, if you have flooring meeting at an open angle like I think you are describing, you might want to place a board or two at the intersection where the boards would mitre together. This way you could run the boards the length of the hall and but them up to this board at the mitre. That would make for easier connections.

  91. Megan on November 22, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    We have a ranch style L-shaped house. We are putting hardwood floor in most of the first floor (minus the kitchen which is the L-shaped-part). It seems that we would run our hardwood the length of the house(perpendicularly to when you enter from the front door). The right side of the house is the kitchen (L part), and we want to do rectangular tiles in there which seem like they run from the front to the back of the house. This means that the hardwood and tile would be up perpendicularly. Is this weird?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on December 18, 2016 at 9:21 am

      Megan – Joining hardwood with tile at a 90 degree angle sounds like the best way to do it. You might want to lay down some loose tiles and boards as they would be when installed just to see if you like it that way.

  92. David on December 19, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Hi Bill,

    Your opinion on laying direction of laminate boards on a concrete garage pad (garage converted to livable area. Room dimension is roughly 11 by 22 feet. Entry door is on the 22 foot side. It has exposed structural ceiling beams which run the 11 foot span. Being a garage pad it is sloped and the walls are not true. As a result, it’s been suggested (as with the beams). I’m OK with the 45 however more costly and timing consuming. I’m not certain the latter option will look right. I would prefer to lay it along the 22 foot length but have been told that it will only highlight the floor slope and wall inconsistencies. What would you suggest?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on December 27, 2016 at 11:16 am

      David – Why not level the floor before you install the finished floor? You could install tapered cut framing (called “sleepers” and usually cut from 2×4’s) in the sloped direction to make the top level, then install a subfloor, and then install the laminate floor on top of that. In my opinion, it would be worth the added cost to have the finished room floor be level. That way things won’t slide off the table tops. If you do this, I recommend using construction adhesive to stick the sleepers down to the concrete floor to reduce chances of squeaking. And you might want to install foam board insulation between the sleepers to help keep the floor warm in winter.

      As far as the flooring direction goes, usually running the flooring in the long direction in a room looks best. If you don’t level the floor, I don’t think the floor direction will hide or highlight the slope. Good luck with your project.

  93. David on December 19, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Sorry Bill.. missing from my above question:

    As a result, it’s been suggested laying the floors at a 45 degree angle OR laying them shortest distance across the foot span (as with the beams).


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on December 27, 2016 at 11:19 am

      David – I think laying the floor diagonally might accentuate the slope of the floor. As I mentioned in my previous response, I think it would be worth the effort to level the floor before spending the money on the new floor.

  94. Leon Boyd on January 24, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    Our recently purchased home has different floating laminate flooring in the kitchen and adjoining dining area. The flooring is similar but the color is very noticeably different. It seems obvious that the flooring in one room was replaced but couldn\’t be matched to the other room. There is a transition strip which is rather high and aesthetically poor. Individually the floors look nice, but being adjacent don\’t look good. A counter with cabinets hanging above it extends from the back wall separating the two areas. An area about 40 inches wide and the width of the counter (22 inches) between the end of the counter and the front wall comprises the passage way between the rooms.

    Is there a way to make a transition that would significantly improve the aesthetics? Such could save us the cost of replacing the floors.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on January 30, 2017 at 9:13 am

      Leon – This is hard to answer without seeing the situation. But maybe you could install some sort of transition strip of another material. The strip might be a foot or two wide. this could make the transition appear to be purposeful. Of course, the trick will be picking the right color material for the transition strip. It would need to be compatible to both sides.

  95. Leon Boyd on January 24, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    Can vinyl plank flooring be installed directly over a floating laminate floor?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on January 30, 2017 at 9:15 am

      Leon – That sounds a bit tricky. I would think you would need a more stable floor underneath the new flooring to make a solid installation. But maybe a good flooring person can suggest a way to do what you suggest.

  96. Mike on January 28, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Hi Bill,

    We will be installing maple hardwood flooring. I have not determined the direction of the floor joist yet. On entering the front door about 4 foot in there is a right turn to a hallway to the bedrooms. If I am able to install the flooring perpendicular to the entrance the direction down the hallway will of course be running from side to side of the hallway instead of down the hallway. Is installing in a hallway like this aesthetically acceptable? Thanks for you advise.


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on January 30, 2017 at 9:21 am

      Mike – This “side to side” installation can make the hallway have a “ladder” effect visually. But you can get away with it if you are going to have a runner rug in the hall. If it is just bare wood, you might not like it. Still, if you have no other choice, it is not the end of the world.

  97. Jayne Elliott on March 2, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Hi Bill,
    I’ve looked through all of the questions, but didn’t see one relating to the lay of the wood floor in connection with a fireplace. Esthetically, should the flooring be parallel to the fireplace hearth or perpendicular? Or maybe it’s just a matter of choice. However, the rocks of the hearth are jagged around the subfloor. We have chosen 5″ engineered wood. Where the wood flooring will connect to the hearth, it will have to be “scribed.” I’m worried that if we run the wood parallel to the fireplace (which would be correct in two accounts in our case…running the length of the room and perpendicular to the joists) it’s going to look messy. I would think that scribing the ENDS of each piece of wood, if we ran it perpendicular to the fireplace, would look better (but then we are breaking two rules about joists and length of the room). What should we do? Is there a solution besides scribing? Like a straight line of mortar? Or should we just go ahead and have the length of the one piece of the flooring scribed?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on March 3, 2017 at 8:49 am

      Jayne – Thanks for visiting my website. Tell all your friends to do the same.

      You have a lot of questions in one, but there is actually one answer to all of them. You should always install a “picture frame” of wood flooring around any hearth whether it has jagged rocks or smooth edges. The wood flooring can run in either direction. The picture framed pieces of wood are mitered at the corners and then the wood flooring planks that are perpendicular to the picture frame boards will butt into them and the floor boards that are parallel to the picture frame boards will simply join side to side. This follows the age-old carpenter’s rule that you avoid leaving “end grains” uncovered in wood joinery.

      Regarding the scribing, it is really hard to get a clean scribe against rocks. I think I would prefer to install the picture frame with a straight edge and then “mortar in” the gaps with mortar that matches the stone hearth mortar. This would be the same as how tile joins hardwood flooring. As the mortar cures and the wood shrinks a bit. You will probably develop a small crack between the mortar and the wood. You could ignore this since it will enlarge and shrink with the seasons. Or if it bothers you a lot, you could caulk this in with sanded caulk, again in a color that matches the mortar.

      Hope that helps.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on September 19, 2017 at 9:32 am

      Jayne – You should create a “picture frame” of floor boards around the hearth with the boards running parallel to the stone edges. Then you can scribe that to the irregular stone and bring the perpendicular floor boards into the edge of the picture frame boards. That way you get a clean connection.

  98. LR on March 3, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    I need advice on which direction to install 10 mm vinyl plank flooring. I understand the floor joist direction but also understand that walking in the front door looks better running front to back.
    My issue is the floor joist run same direction as you walk into front door a hallway is to the right, long living room is to left dining room is straight ahead lenght running left to right. Kitchen is left of dinning room running lenght left to right. Step down of dinning room into den wich runs lenght front to back open floorplan except into kitchen. Not sure which direction would look best.if you walk in front door running left to right it would be perpendicular to floor joist and run long ways into livingroom, den and kitchen but may not look good as you walk in front door. Running other direction would be running parallel to floor joist but perpendicular to long walls. Any suggestions thank you. LR

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on March 18, 2017 at 9:21 am

      LR – The direction of a vinyl plank floor is not as important relative to the floor joists. Just run it in the direction you feel looks best. Often that is in the long direction of the room.

  99. Jeff Blackmon on March 5, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    William, I have a very old dog trot house with the dog trot enclosed on each end. It runs north-south. The front two rooms are 16×16\’ and the back two rooms are 16\’ east-west by 14\’. The left two rooms are connected by French doors. The joists run in different directions due to two rooms being older than the other two. So does the sub floors. There\’s plenty of sub floor with plywood on top of that, so visual effect is my main concern.
    I\’m confused between the look from the front and back doors, the main entrance doors to each room, and the look through the French doors. All rooms are connected by doors on at least two walls.
    If all my new flooring, on top of the old, runs in the same direction, which way should that be? Or should I change directions and transition that with flush thresh holds?
    Thank you.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on March 18, 2017 at 9:24 am

      Jeff – A general rule of thumb is to run the flooring perpendicular to the sightline as you enter the room. This way you won’t be looking into the gaps between the boards. This might be contradictory in some cases, so you will need to choose the best option given the circumstances.

  100. Suzanne on October 11, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    As you enter my front door, the entry and hall (running left and right) is travertine, with a marble inlay in the entry. Looking forward from the front door past the entry, there is a step down to the (squarish) living room (fireplace on left) and windows and backyard/view beyond. Since the wood floors will not come directly off the front door, should I still run vertically where your eye goes out to the view, or horizontally as we might if we were flooring the hallway too?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on December 5, 2017 at 10:05 pm

      Suzanne – First check which way the floor joists run and run the wood flooring perpendicular to the joists to avoid squeaks. But from a strictly visual opinion, I would suggest running the flooring perpendicular to the direction it is viewed so you don’t see “into” the seams between the planks or notice any wavering and not quite straight lines.

  101. Gregory Mullen on October 22, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Hello Bill,

    I am getting hardwood flooring installed in my Family room. I found a beautiful Hickory that my wife and I really like. The room is a 20\’ x 15\’ sunken room, and the boards will be be running lengthwise in the room, and also they will be perpendicular to the joists. In addition, the room is a step down from a narrow hallway which has 2 1/4\” oak hardwood that runs perpendicular to the proposed Family Room flooring. The color of the hallway floor vs. the proposed Family room floor is different enough that there will be a noticeable contrast (Family Room being darker wood), rather than a similar color wood which might wind up looking like a poor match.
    My main question is regarding the width of the planks. I would think that personal preference may come into play. I am leaning toward 5\” planks. I could get the same wood in 6, 7, or 8 inch widths also. In your opinion, and from your experience, generally speaking, might the overall size of a room suggest a width which would look more pleasing to the eye than perhaps another width? I imagine that the the species of flooring would also be a factor (e.g. rustic, formal). I would think that a very wide plank would look more rustic and casual, perhaps even looking like a barn floor? So, I would think there is a point where too wide of a plank would not look right in a certain room. Is there a general rule of thumb on plank width regarding this decision? The wood we are considering is a Hand-scraped 5\” Hickory with a beautiful, darkish hue, and rustic look Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on December 5, 2017 at 10:07 pm

      Gregory – You are correct that personal preference has a lot to do with this decision. Your room is large enough to handle the wider planks if that is your preference. Good luck with your project.

  102. Kara on October 22, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    There were a lot of comments here. This question may have already been asked so sorry if it a repeat. I am wanting to install hardwood on the second floor of my house. From what Iam reading it should be installed perpendicular to the floor joists. If I do this when I get to the hallway the floor will be running the short length not down the long wall. In this case is it okay to change direction in just the hallway and run the flooring parallel to the floor joists?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on December 5, 2017 at 10:10 pm

      Kara – Yes, you could change direction in the hall. Running the planks lengthwise would probably be best. But you should make sure you have enough support between the joists so that the planks that don’t sit over the joists will not flex and squeak when stepped on. You should also find a logical place to change the flooring direction so it does not look arbitrary or odd.

  103. Bob Browning on November 1, 2017 at 6:45 am

    William, I live in a condo with an open floorpan. It currently has an engineered wood floor on it that was ruined by a flood from an upstairs apartment. The largest living space (Living room, dining room, kitchen) is 14 X 29. The current flooring is installed vertically so the room looks like a bowling alley as it accentuates the length. I’m redoing the floors in the entire apartment and wondering if its better to install diagonally or horizontally. I bought enough engineered flooring to install diagonally but am having second thoughts because of the complexity and the fact that all rooms are interconnected and I’m not sure how they would handle hallways, closets, etc. Any input you can give me to help make my decision would be appreciated. Thank you. Bob

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on December 5, 2017 at 10:17 pm

      Bob – If you start running the floor diagonally, you should keep running it that way right into the closets. You could install a flush “threshold” at the doorways to let you transition to vertical or horizontal in the hallways. One consideration is that diagonal flooring can look a bit contemporary and might not be appealing to the next owner if you were to sell the unit. This may not be a worry if you plan to stay there a while.

  104. Bob Browning on November 1, 2017 at 6:52 am

    Hi William, I have another question. I’m installing engineered wood flooring in my condo that has a cement floor. The man who was going to install it broke his hand & I’m looking for a new installer. The original installer said it was best to float the floor with condo required soundproofing & moisture control underneath. The second installer said he won’t float a floor because it’s better to glue it down. He wants to glue the sound proofing down on the concrete & then glue the wood over the soundproofing material. He said he would be using special glue to deal with any moisture issues from concrete. Which is better? I was thinking that if another flood occurred in the unit, it would be easier to fix a floating floor than a glued down one. Price is about the same so I could use your advice on which direction to go. Thank you. Bob

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on December 5, 2017 at 10:23 pm

      Bob – If your concrete slab is on the ground, moisture could present a problem. If it is above the ground, moist would not be a worry except for plumbing leaks. I like glued-down installations because they feel really solid. But I don’t really know how they do it with a soundproofing board under the wood. If you can get a good bond between all layers, it should work.

  105. Misty on December 18, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Hello William,
    My husband and I are going to lay a wood laminate flooring in our living room on our concrete floor. 21×18. We know that the boards should run Parallel from the longest length of the room. However, my husband thinks we should run them perpendicular because One side of the living room butts up against a tile floor for 21 feet, and he is afraid it will rock or not be secure upon stepping on the transition board. Will this be a potential problem or can we go ahead and lay it the way it should look aesthetically?
    The Novotny’s

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on January 16, 2018 at 8:51 am

      Misty – Sorry to be slow in answering. With a room like yours that is nearly square, you could run the boards either direction. I would suggest that you lay the boards in the direction that gives you a board running along the “seam” with the tile. It will be a cleaner transition to the tile if you have the tile meeting a long edge of a board rather than the tile meeting the cut ends of many boards. If you do choose to run the wood in the direction that would give you a lot of ends against the tile, the installers should install a long board as described and then bring the cut ends of the rest of the floor boards up to meet the transition board. That way you will get clean transitions.

  106. RichardFerrante on January 7, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    Floor joist are running in one direction and my contractor says because the subflooring is diagonally placed, I can run the flooring anyway I want. Is that correct. Anything to consider?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on January 16, 2018 at 8:52 am

      Richard – He is correct. It sounds like you have an older house where the subfloor is stronger than the plywood we commonly use now. Good luck with your floor.

  107. Aaron on February 27, 2018 at 7:01 am


    Hi! I plan to lay laminate on the main level of my house and wanted to get your thoughts on which way to lay it and where to start it. The main level is on a slab. I have one area (that is completely open to the living room, kitchen, and dining area – I\\\’ll call this area A) that is 33\\\’ 4\\\” x 14\\\’ 9\\\” and then from the dining area there is a large open entry way that leads into the family room (area B) that is 16\\\’ 11\\\” x 11\\\’ 8\\\”. The 2 areas essentially make an L. The family room has a fireplace at the end that has a wall to wall brick mantel the entire 11\\\’ 8\\\” width.
    The family room also has a patio door in the middle along the 16\\\’ 11\\\” wall. Area A has the front door in the corner along the shorter wall. If I run the boards in parallel to the longest wall in area A, the boards would end up being perpendicular to the longest wall in the family room. The longest wall in area A is 24\\\’ 5\\\”, then a 6\\\’ opening into the family room and then another 35\\\” of wall. With running down the longer wall, I have a lot more to keep in mind with when determining how much, if any needs cut off of the initial boards. This is because the wall opposite the long wall in area A is not straight since the flooring extends in uneven amounts into the stairway going upstairs, the stairway going down to the basement, the closet, and where the fridge sits. The same would have to be kept in mind as I wrapped around the entry way into the family room and went to the fireplace. If the floor was done in parallel to the shortest wall in area A, then I would just have to make sure there weren\\\’t any short width boards at the opposite wall in area A and B. Any advice of where to start the flooring and which way to run it?

    • Bill on March 21, 2018 at 10:24 pm

      Aaron – I’m sorry this is just too complicated to answer in this comment section. I would give you the general advice that from a visual standpoint, flooring should be laid in the longer direction of the room. But if the room is not really narrow in either direction, you could choose either direction. Another good tip is to lay the flooring perpendicular to your line of sight from the point where you usually enter the room. This way you won’t be looking right down the seams.

  108. Brent on March 13, 2018 at 3:13 pm


    You have covered this from so many angles which has been very helpful. I do have one additional consideration I was not quite able to glean from your above responses. I have a 2500 sq ft ranch styled home that I am putting travertine into kitchen and utility room and carpet into each of the 4 bedrooms. The remaining rooms (TV room, Living room, Sun Room, hallway will all be oak flooring. The layout is as follows. As you walk through the front door (Center to front of house) you are immediately stepping into 20 x 27 ft living room (runs lengthwise toward back of house). At far end of living room toward back of house (and partially covered by brick fireplace) is a sun room you step down into (10 x 20 ft – same width at living room). The TV room is to your immediate left when you step through front door and the hallway is to your immediate right (as you step through front door). I have recently had the floor re-leveled (1969 pier and beam house) and had 2 layers of 3/4 inch plywood installed. Based on this last point and your descriptions I should be free to lay in the floor in what ever manner is most aesthetically pleasing. Based on your descriptions, I am opting put the flooring in perpendicular to my viewpoint walking in the front door. This will have the effect of having boards running in parallel to long walls in TV room, Sun Room and first part of Hallway. According to your description, the Living Room boards themselves should visually be fine running parallel to short wall(front wall) and fireplace based on large size of room (20 x 27). And now finally my one last question. The hallway is laid out in a reverse ‘F’. The vertical part of ‘F’ will look appropriate from living room in that the board will be running in parallel with long wall but what should be done with two other portions of hallway that change direction (horizontal bars of ‘F’). Should I also change direction of the boards for those portions of the hall or lay in the same direction as all the other rooms (and get some ladder effect for those two small portions of hallway – side note, these 2 portions of hallway cannot be seen from living room).

    • Brent on March 15, 2018 at 11:58 am


      Any comment, we start installing on Monday!



      • Bill on March 21, 2018 at 10:31 pm

        Brent – Sorry to be slow in answering. I hope things worked out for you.

    • Bill on March 21, 2018 at 10:31 pm

      Brent – I would probably not change the direction of the flooring for those two short sections of hallway. Changing directions might call undue attention to them.

  109. jim doyle on March 22, 2018 at 9:10 am

    i really love reading your articles and now i find i need your opinion
    i am putting down engineered board on an L shaped corridor
    i have the boards down lenght ways but at turn what do you suggest is best way to run board lenghtways oracross.
    Bearing in mind corridor across is only 41inches and boards are 5inches wide
    my worry if laid across will there be alot of boards /joints and if lengthways how will it look

    • Bill on March 22, 2018 at 9:43 am

      Jim – The “awaiting moderation” note just means that comments do not go “live” automatically until we look at them and approve them. You’d be shocked at some of the spam that might slip through.

      Regarding your floors, you could change directions at the turn in the hallway. Just let the first segment planks run all the way to the end wall in the first portion of the hall and then start the planks in the turned hallway area in the direction of that hallway. The “dead ends” of those planks will simply butt-in to the side-most plank of the main hallway.

  110. ayme on April 11, 2018 at 11:02 pm

    We just bought a house at the beach. When you walk in the front door, there is just one LONG room that goes directly back with windows overlooking a canal. To the right is a galley kitchen. Right now there are hardwood floors in there that are about 2” wide. when you walk in the front door, it looks like a bowling alley. We are putting in LVP wide board floors. i want to lay them horizontal so the room does not look so long and the kitchen won’t look so chopped up . Everyone is trying to talk me out of laying them that way! Any thoughts you can give me would be appreciated.

    • Bill on May 26, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      Ayme – I don’t see any reason why you can’t lay those boards cross-wise. It sounds like the room is plenty wide to let you avoid the “ladder” effect.

  111. Timothy Henrie on May 14, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    I have existing 3/4″ hardwood floors fastened directly to joists and want to install new 3/4″ hardwood floors on top. Do I need to install perpandicular to the existing hardwood?

    • Bill on May 26, 2018 at 7:14 pm

      Timothy – I would think that 3/4″ hardwood flooring would be plenty of support for your wood floors no matter which direction the floor planks go.

  112. Lianne on May 19, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Hi Bill – thank you for this wealth of knowledge! I have read through everything and have a question that I couldn’t quite answer, as there are many competing factors.

    We are finalizing details for a new construction home. The home overall isn’t very wide but the lot is deep. I gather that the main priority overall is to lay the floor planks perpendicular to the joists below. If this were the case, then we’d run the floor planks the length of the house and therefore the hallways would look good (as opposed to short/stubby).

    However, the first floor hallway terminates at the great room, which is much wider than it is long, so that room wouldn’t be laid in its ideal direction. Furthermore, the great room opens up to a wood covered patio that spans the entire width of the home and is therefore also much wider than it is long. Therefore, if the planks in the covered patio matched the planks in the great room, they would also be laid the “wrong” direction (i.e., laid across the shorter dimension of the patio).

    There are two small steps down into the great room that could provide a nice opportunity to transition (i.e., if we ran the floor boards perpendicular to the joists but then switched their direction to parallel to the joists in the great room and covered patio). However, I presume we’d need the wood blocking in order to make that work.

    What would you do in this case? Would you have the structural engineer add wood blocking (I believe you indicated 16″ oc ideally, or up to 24″ oc if floor boards are at least 2′ long) throughout to enable the transition in floor board layout at the great room and outdoor patio? Does adding wood blocking like that raise the height/thickness of the floor itself, creating other complications, as you mentioned would be the case adding layers of subfloor?

    Or, instead of adding all of this wood blocking and laying part of the flooring parallel to the joists, would you just run everything perpendicular to the floor joists throughout and deal with the non-ideal layout in the great room and patio? Or, would you indeed add all the wood blocking, avoid the transition at the steps into the great room, and just run everything parallel to the floor joists (even if it meant the ladder effect in the hallways)?

    I should add that, if the boards were run perpendicular to the joists, then they would be laid consistent with your view direction in the entryway (I believe violating the suggestion that they be laid cross-wise to your view direction upon entering a home).

    Thanks so, so much!

    • Lianne on May 19, 2018 at 11:21 pm

      Hi Bill – one correction – turns out the great room is square shaped, but the covered patio is indeed much wider than it is long. Separately, have also considered just running all planks in the home perpendicular to joists but then turning the direction of the planks on the patio the parallel way (this wouldn’t be a problem at all structurally, as it’s outside, and also would be following the natural transition where doors are). Just wanted to mention as another option we’re considering. Thanks!

    • Bill on May 26, 2018 at 7:33 pm

      Lianne – I don’t usually worry about the direction of the wood floor from a visual standpoint when the room is more than ten feet wide. There will be enough furniture and a rug or two that will prevent you from seeing the entire thing at once. Rooms don’t usually suffer from the “ladder” effect like hallways can. And I don’t worry about wood decking matching the direction of the interior floor flooring. In fact, it can be advantageous to run the decking in the short direction to limit the number of “butt-end” joints you will have. Even better would be to use deck boards that are long enough to go across the entire deck and avoid butt-end joints completely.

      And the top of the blocking I suggest would be even with the top of the floor joists. So no additional thickness of the floor would occur.

  113. Geoff Kirkbride on May 23, 2018 at 5:56 pm

    Hi Bill,

    This is a great thread and so helpful; thank you so very much!

    Now to my question…

    My home had hardwood in it already, but we took it out, along with the tile and laminate that it was attached to. The first floor is shaped like a T (The garage cuts into the rectangular shape of the house) and as a result has joists that run in 2 different directions. The hardwood in the front room runs perpendicular to the joists right now, and looks great as it leads parallel to the longest wall. Unfortunately, as I move towards the back of the house (picture the top part of the letter “T”), the joists change direction.

    I want to run the hardwood directly through into the back room, but that would make the boards run parallel with the joists. I want it to look aesthetically pleasing, but I fear running parallel with the joists will cause it to sag.

    I have considered changing the direction of the boards in the back room, as this would be more structurally sound. However, I do not want to make the house look chopped up by splitting the direction because you can see straight through when you walk in the entrance.

    Do I keep my boards running the same direction for aesthetics, or do I need to turn my boards to meet the joists?

    Here are the dimensions of the rooms

    Front Room: (Bottom part of letter “T”) 10×18
    Back room (Top part of letter “T”) 10×24

    If I keep the boards in one direction, the they will be perpendicular in the front room (unfortunately the smaller room) and parallel in the back room.

    Please, HELP!


    • Bill on May 26, 2018 at 7:24 pm

      Geoff – If you have a very strong subfloor, like old-fashioned diagonal planks, you could run the flooring parallel to the joists. The problems come when the floor boards are only supported by the plywood subflooring and never bear on the floor joists. The floor boards can flex and squeak. But if you can add a layer of subflooring to strengthen the subfloor, you won’t have to worry about that. Another solution, if you can access the joists from below, would be to add blocking (wood blocks between the joists) to give the floor boards something to bear on. If the entire floor is not accessible from below, maybe you can add blocking under the areas where the most frequent foot traffic is going to be.

      If you do have to change directions, another option is to add a flush, wider plank of another species of wood to make a purposeful transition point. I did this in my own house where we added on a new room adjoining an existing room and the underlying framing changed direction. It turned a problem into a feature.

  114. Victor on June 7, 2018 at 10:43 pm


    Thank you for this information. I have a 6″ wide T & G yellow pine subfloor that runs perpendicular to large white oak beams which act as joists. I would like to run my 5″ wide T & G quarter and rift sawn 3/4″ white oak floor in the same direction as the subfloor planks/ I read somewhere that I can do this but need to have a layer of plywood between the subfloor and the oak floor. Will this introduce a problematic height problem at the top of my stairs? Should I just lay the floor perpendicular to the subfloor? That would be disappointing.

    • Bill on July 3, 2018 at 7:48 am

      Victor – I would thing that running the flooring in the same direction as the subfloor would work if the flooring is tongue and groove. Once locked together with the tongue and groove, the flooring should act as a unified layer. And since the subfloor and flooring are two different widths, the frequency of one seam aligning with a seam in the subfloor is quite low. So I think you can omit the plywood layer. One good suggestion would be to put a layer of red rosin paper on the subfloor before laying the wood flooring. This paper can help prevent squeaks.

  115. Jill on June 20, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    I have a home that is mostly glass. It\’s open floor plan of about 700 square feet for the kitchen, living, dining and \”den\”. We have a tongue and groove ceiling in 1/4 of this space. And tongue and groove ceiling in outdoor lanai just off the kitchen. Should the wood floors run the same direction as the tongue and groove ceilings? Is there advice on if the floors should run perpendicular or parallel to a (10 ft by 5 ft) large kitchen island that faces the long part of the home (about 50 feet long open space includes dining, living and \”den\” space that the kitchen faces). The running bond of exterior stone work runs opposite of t&g ceiling–best to match running bond where flooring (exterior and interior) comes together (all along the mostly glass house) or to match the ceiling?

    • Bill on July 3, 2018 at 7:52 am

      Jill – I think that in wide open rooms you have the freedom to run the flooring in either direction. I don’t think that you need to match the ceiling board direction or the exterior stone direction. Because those surfaces are “detached” from the wood floor, they can be visually independent. And the kitchen island direction is of no consequence.

  116. Mary Monfort on July 6, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    Hi Bill,
    I have a concrete floor on which I plan to put hardwood flooring throughout the living & dining rooms, foyer, two adjoining family rooms (we removed an extra wide siding glass door to add a second family room), kitchen, laundry , bedroom off of kitchen, and hallway off family room to three other bedrooms. Yes, it’s a large ranch style house! My contractor keeps debating which way to run the hardwood. The entry foyer has dining room to right and living room to left, each with extra wide openings to the rooms. Then there is only a regular doorway into the family room. I currently have hardwood in the family room running from that doorway across the length of the two family rooms to the back of the house (windows across that wall). As you step into the family room from the foyer, you immediately have a (pocket) doorway to the kitchen at right. I had (until a leak) 25 yr. old vinyl wood-style plank flooring running across the long eat-in kitchen from that doorway – thus perpendicular to the current hardwood flooring. On the family room wall opposite the kitchen door is a door to the hallway, which runs from the front of the house to the back – so the doorway view is across the width of the hallway (looks right into the doorway of the middle bedroom). My question is whether to run the hardwood straight across from the living room through the foyer and into the dining room, and carry it on through the rest of the areas that way (which would make the hallway to bedrooms have the ladder look), or to run it the opposite way. Then the wood at the front door would give a line of site down the planks all the way across two family rooms to the staircase (in second family room) going up to second floor and to windows on back wall. The kitchen is laid out so that the cabinets & appliances are in a “U” shaped section (across from dining room and has a swinging door to dining room) and then the second half of the kitchen is an eat-in area. From the family room as you enter the kitchen, you see the laundry room door at the far end. And the extra bedroom is at the back left of the kitchen. The garage is behind the dining room and sharing a wall with the eat-in kitchen area and laundry room. All rooms are fairly large. First family room is longer going from kitchen to bedroom hallway. Additional family room is a little longer the other way. Hope this makes sense!

  117. Scott J on July 20, 2018 at 12:18 am

    My 15’ hallway had maple wood laid straight down the length 9 years ago (bought what I that would be enough to finish on a diagonal but there is not enough). At the living room and hall intersection entry the angel due to circular shape of room left the wood at the hall entry to living room at a diagonal. My living room is 12×17 – there is not enough of the same wood to finish the job diagonally. Which direction should the wood go? Concrete floors with cork and 3/4” plywood under. Have pictures if you need.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on February 13, 2019 at 8:14 pm

      Scott – Unless a room is particularly narrow and will not have rugs or furniture, and if the appearance of the floor is the only consideration, you can run the flooring either direction. The big issue with wood framed floors is the potential squeaking if the floor boards run parallel to the floor joists. With a concrete floor, you don’t have that issue.

  118. Tammy on August 28, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    My question has to do with installing different widths of HW that will be touching end to end. We have 1 7/8 inch maple HW in the breezeway that connects to our living room. We are removing the carpet in the LR and replacing with the same grade and color maple HW, although we couldn\’t get it in the same width as the breezeway because they no longer carry such a narrow width. The LR maple will be 4 1/4 inch. The problem is that in a small area, the HW will touch each other end to end. At first, I thought we must lay it in the opposite direction so that it looks intentional, but after reading the importance of running the HW perpendicular to floor joists, I think we should run it in the same direction as the other HW with a transition piece in between. Because the breezeway wood has aged for 15 years, it does look quite different than the new wood. My question is: are we better off to lay the new HW perpendicular to the joists in this case with the different widths next to each other end to end, risking such an awkward appearance? Or should we go in the opposite direction, which may end up with squeaky boards? Adding to the subfloor or wood blocking is not an option.

  119. Ellyn on January 10, 2019 at 6:18 pm


    I am about to lay floors but I am unsure of the direction… I was going to lay it long ways down the very large and open living room/dining area, but I am afraid that it will create the ladder affect in the front foyer as you walk in. What are your thoughts? I am putting the flooring in the whole house!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on February 13, 2019 at 8:24 pm

      Ellyn – In the large room, you could lay the flooring either direction. But the floor boards should lay perpendicular to the floor joists below to give the flooring more stability. In hallways, it is usually best to lay the floor boards in the long direction to avoid the “ladder” effect. But if that means the floor boards will end up running parallel to the floor joists, you should consider adding some blocking between the joists to support the floor boards that are on the subfloor only and not over any joists.

  120. Lisa on May 12, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    Hello. We live in a ranch style house 52′ x 30′ with the front and back doors being on the long wall. We are about to install laminate flooring in the basement. Upstairs in the main floor, we have laminate installed running along the long wall ( east to west) so that we did not get a bowling alley effect walking into the front door which has sight lines straight to the back of the house. The room in the basement is 30′ long by 15′ wide with the doors, windows and openings on the long wall. Someone is suggesting that we run the laminate north to south in the opposite direction of the upper floor to make the room look wider. Would it seem odd to have the flooring running in opposite directions from one level to another? Thanks for your insight.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on June 11, 2019 at 8:47 am

      Lisa – I don’t think anyone would ever compare the wood floor direction from one level to the next. And with those large rooms, you have freedom to run the flooring either direction. Once there is furniture in the room, The direction of the flooring becomes less critical, unlike in a hallway.

  121. Doug on June 10, 2019 at 5:39 am

    Hi, I’m installing engineered bamboo on the whole first floor on a concrete slab except the raised entry foyer. The foyer is 10’x14′ and steps down just one step into a 22′ long x16′ wide great room ahead of you, and also has a step down on the right leading down a narrow 10′ hallway passing by a powder room before heading into the kitchen. Great room extends to the end of the home. A large dining room is to the right of the great room. Basically the floor layout is foyer and great room on the west side, and dining room and kitchen on the east side. Contractor is encouraging me to install the floor in this raised foyer and hallway parallel to the front door, and the rest of the 1st floor perpendicular. Having a challenge wrapping my head around the suggestion. Would love your thoughts!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on June 11, 2019 at 9:00 am

      Doug – If I understand your description correctly, I think what he is suggesting would work well. The hallway is the critical space since you want the boards running in the long direction so you don’t get a “ladder” effect. Another general rule, which can be violated at will, is to run flooring perpendicular to the line of sight as you enter the room. But in narrow rooms, like hallways, this rule would be overridden by the “avoid the ladder” rule. In large rooms, the flooring direction is less critical since it will have rugs and furniture interrupting the view of the entire floor.

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