Installing a herringbone floor can instantly elevate the aesthetics of any space. Its distinctive pattern adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to any room, making it a popular choice among homeowners and interior designers alike. In this guide, I will walk you through the entire process of installing a herringbone floor, from the benefits of choosing this flooring option to the common mistakes to avoid. You’ll have all the information and confidence you need to tackle this thrilling assignment by the end.

Benefits of Herringbone Flooring

Herringbone flooring offers numerous benefits that make it a preferred choice for many. First and foremost, its unique pattern creates a visually stunning effect that instantly grabs attention and adds a sense of luxury to any room. The interlocking design of the planks ensures a durable and long-lasting floor, capable of withstanding heavy foot traffic. Additionally, herringbone flooring is versatile and can be installed in various areas of the home, including living rooms, bedrooms, and even kitchens.

Another advantage of herringbone flooring is its ability to make a room appear larger. The diagonal pattern creates an illusion of depth and width, making even small spaces feel more open and spacious. Furthermore, herringbone floors are compatible with underfloor heating systems, providing a comfortable and cozy environment during colder months. Lastly, herringbone flooring is available in a wide range of wood species, finishes, and colors, allowing you to find the perfect match for your style and decor.

Types of Wood Suitable for Herringbone Flooring

When it comes to herringbone flooring, the type of wood you choose is crucial in achieving the desired aesthetic and durability. Here are some popular wood species that are commonly used for herringbone floors:


Oak is a classic choice for herringbone flooring. Its natural grain and warm tones add timeless beauty to any room. Oak is also known for its durability, making it a practical option for high-traffic areas.

oak floor

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Walnut is a luxurious and richly colored wood that adds a touch of opulence to any space. Its deep brown hues and intricate grain patterns make it a popular choice for herringbone floors in upscale homes.

Walnut floor


Maple floor

If you prefer a lighter and more contemporary look, maple is an excellent choice. Its pale color and subtle grain give a fresh and modern feel to the room. Maple is also known for its durability and resistance to wear and tear.


Ash floor

Ash is a versatile wood that can be easily stained to achieve various shades and finishes. Its light color and straight grain make it a popular choice for herringbone floors in Scandinavian and minimalist interior designs.

Remember, when selecting the wood for your herringbone floor, consider factors such as the room’s lighting, existing decor, and personal preference to ensure a cohesive and harmonious look.

Tools and Materials Needed for Installation

Before beginning the installation process, make sure you have all of the necessary tools and materials. Here is a detailed list of things you will require:

Tape Measurement

To calculate how much flooring material you’ll need, you’ll need to carefully measure the size of the room.

Chalk Line

This is used to draw straight lines on the subfloor that will be utilized as guidelines while laying the flooring.

Trammel and Straight Edge

These tools can be used to create accurate lines and shapes on the flooring material, which is useful when cutting it to the required size and shape. If you’re working with pre-cut or pre-finished herringbone flooring, you might not require these items.

Framing Square

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This tool is useful for taking exact measurements and ensuring that the flooring is put at the correct angle. When establishing the basic layout of the herringbone pattern, the framing square can help guarantee that the pattern is symmetrical and properly aligned.

Miter saw

When installing a herringbone pattern, a miter saw can be used to make angled cuts in the flooring material. If you’re cutting your own flooring material or need to make precise cuts to fit the flooring into corners or around obstructions, this tool can come in handy.

Circular Saw or Miter Saw

These saws will be used to cut the flooring material to the required size and form.

Rubber Mallet

When constructing a herringbone floor, a rubber mallet can come in handy. It can be used to gently tap the flooring into place without disturbing the wood’s surface.

Router with 1 1/4-inch Flooring Bit

A router can be used to form a groove or channel in the back of the flooring material, allowing it to fit more securely. If you’re working with unfinished flooring or need to create a bespoke fit for the flooring, this tool can come in handy.

Rafter Square

When creating a herringbone pattern, a rafter square can be used to guarantee that the flooring is put at a proper angle. This tool can be useful if you are installing flooring without a pre-made template.


This tool can be used to pre-drill holes in the flooring material or subfloor, making it easier to fix the flooring with nails or screws.

Flooring Nailer

A flooring nailer is a tool that can be used to secure flooring material to the subfloor without compromising the flooring’s surface. This gadget can be useful if you have a significant volume of flooring to install or if you need to install the flooring rapidly.

Protective Equipment

Wear safety goggles, gloves, and a dust mask to keep yourself safe during the installation process.

Having all of the necessary tools and materials on hand prior to beginning the installation will save you time and ensure a seamless process.

How to Install a Herringbone Floor(Photo by Wendell T. Webber)

Make the Subfloor Ready

Ascertain that the subfloor is clean, dry, and level. Remove any existing flooring and repair any flaws or unevenness. If necessary, apply the underlayment according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

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Make a Mark on the Centerline

Draw a chalk line down the center of the room. Then, using a trammel, draw a perpendicular line: Draw a semicircle over the centerline with the trammel’s tip on one end and intersecting arcs from the other end, as illustrated. Connect the locations where the arcs intersect with a straightedge. You can now take measurements based on these perpendicular lines to build the rectangular field that the herringbone will occupy.

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Determine the Slat Length

Lay out the pieces to estimate the approximate length that will fit within your field; you want to land with a full-length slat on each side unless you’re a math genius. With a rafter square, cut the first piece at a 45-degree angle to the midline, then zigzag out to the side, overlapping pieces at 90 degrees to correct for length. Set the exact length and make a note of it once you’re in the ballpark. To fit with our 3-inch-wide flooring, we chose a length of 27 inches.

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Create a Test Panel

Once you’ve chosen the length of your slats, mark and cut one strip with a miter saw, leaving the tongue end as waste. With a rubber mallet, dry-fit the number of strips that equal the length of the test slat—nine in our example. Butt the test slat’s tongue into the panel’s end groove, as indicated, to confirm that the slat’s ends are completely flush with the panel’s edges. If they aren’t, size another piece and retest it.

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Slats Should be Cut

When you’re happy with the length of the slats, set up a stop block and cut the remaining slats, making sure to remove the tongue ends.

Tip: After each cut, sweep out any sawdust at the stop block; otherwise, the buildup will sabotage your efforts to manufacture slats of precisely equal length.

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Create Grooves in the Flat Ends

Herringbone slats require grooves on both ends to join effectively. Set the depth of the flooring router bit using the groove of a slat. Rout the cut end of one slat by clamping it to a worktop. To double-check your work, insert a tongue into the new groove. If everything looks good, rout the rest of the slats.

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Determine the Working Distance

To align the corners of each slat as you put it, draw parallel working lines on either side of the midline. For your first working line, use a rafter square to mark a 45-degree angle from one corner of a slat, as shown. Draw a line from the opposite corner to intersect the first line to calculate the distance to the second working line. Make a line perpendicular to the edge of the slat from the intersection of the T. To depict the centerline, draw a line parallel to the top of the T from that position on the edge.

Make a Mark on the Floor

As indicated, position the slat so that the last line you drew is across the centerline. Make a mark at many intervals along the midline at each corner of the slat. Connect the marks with a straightedge to produce two working lines.

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Set up the Nailing Blank

Cut the factory corner of a 34-inch piece of plywood into a right triangle with two sides that match the length of your slats using a circular saw. Mark the blank’s centerline and align it with one of the working lines. Screw the long edge of the blank to the subfloor at the upper border of your field. Create a groove along the two forward edges of the blank. During Step 14, the blank area will be filled in with herringbone.

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Create the Pattern

Align the first slat with the centerline of the blank, tongue pointing out. Place the second slat along the opposite side of the blank, covering the end of the first as indicated, with its corners aligned with the working lines and tongue facing out.

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Install the Slats with Nails

Apply a flooring nailer to the tongue edge of the first slat. Drive nails every 5 inches along the slat using the nailer and a mallet. Check the second slat’s alignment before nailing it in place.

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Completing the Course and Reversing the Blank

Install the third slat so that it overlaps the end of the second slat, then the fourth slat so that it overlaps the end of the third slat, and so on. Continue the process until the chevron’s point hits the border. Unscrew the blank, invert it, and put it flush with the end of the last slat laid. As demonstrated, screw it to the subfloor.

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Start the Second Course

Butt the next slat up against the blank with your tongue out. Examine the joint for tightness and nail it in place. Continue drawing the chevron until it reaches the opposing border. Continue to add slats until their ends reach the side borders.

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Fill in the Empty Triangles

Because you can’t nail into a slat’s groove, you must reverse the slats’ direction to cover the gaps created by the blank. A flooring spline, which allows you to butt two grooves together, is required for this. As shown, place a bead of wood glue in the groove of an installed slat. Insert the spline and secure it with nails as you would any other slat. Work off that “tongue,” adding slats until your field’s border is covered.

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Mark the Overlapping Area for Removal.

Trim the slats where they overlap the field’s borders to create a straight line. Mark a cutline with painter’s tape, as indicated. As you cut, the tape will prevent splintering.

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Remove the Excess

Screw a strip of molding or other material to a thin length of plywood, then rip the plywood to create a long cutting guide for the saw. Line up the guide over the tape and screw it to the subfloor using spacers where it extends past the installed flooring. Place the circular saw on the guide and set the blade depth to be slightly greater than the slat thickness. Trim the slats along the border as shown; repeat on the remaining three sides of the field.

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Edges Should be Grooved

Make a router groove around the perimeter so you can add an apron of long flooring strips to frame the herringbone.

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Add a Feature Strip

Insert a long spline into the groove along one side of the herringbone field, then tap the spline in place. Rep for the remaining three sides. Install a decorative accent piece to define the field’s edge; we used 114-inch walnut.

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Attach the Border Pieces

To guarantee a close fit, measure and cut the next layer of the apron as you go. Using the nailer, attach each strip in a frame around the field so that the end of one overlaps the end of the next, log-cabin style. Continue nailing border pieces to your apron until it is finished.

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Common Mistakes to Avoid When Installing a Herringbone Floor

Inadequate Subfloor Preparation

Neglecting to properly prepare the subfloor can lead to unevenness, squeaks, or even damage to the herringbone floor over time. Take the time to clean, level, and repair the subfloor before installation.

Incorrect Pattern Alignment

Failing to align the herringbone pattern correctly can result in an unprofessional and visually unappealing finish. Use a chalk line and take precise measurements to ensure the pattern is consistent throughout the installation.

Insufficient Spacing or Gaps

Improper spacing between the herringbone planks can cause buckling or warping over time. Use spacer wedges and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for spacing to ensure a stable and long-lasting floor.

Inadequate Adhesive Application

If using adhesive, it’s crucial to apply it evenly and thoroughly to ensure proper adhesion. Uneven adhesive distribution can lead to loose or squeaky planks, compromising the integrity of the herringbone floor.

By being mindful of these common mistakes and taking the necessary precautions, you can ensure a successful and visually stunning herringbone floor installation.

Maintenance Tips for Herringbone Floors

Once your herringbone floor is installed, it’s important to maintain its beauty and longevity. Here are some maintenance tips to keep in mind:

Regular Cleaning

Sweep or vacuum the floor regularly to remove dirt and debris that can scratch the surface. Use a damp mop with a mild cleaner specifically designed for hardwood floors to remove stains and spills.

Avoid Excess Moisture

Because herringbone floors are prone to water damage, it’s critical to mop up spills quickly and avoid excessive dampness. Use mats or rugs in high-traffic areas and near entryways to protect the floor from dirt and moisture.

Prevent Scratches

Place protective pads under furniture legs to prevent scratches when moving or rearranging items. Avoid dragging heavy objects across the floor, as this can cause deep scratches or dents.

Refinish When Needed

Over time, your herringbone floor may show signs of wear. When the finish becomes worn or dull, consider refinishing the floor to restore its beauty and protect it from further damage. Consult a professional if you’re unsure about the refinishing process.

By following these maintenance tips, you can ensure that your herringbone floor remains a stunning focal point of your home for years to come.


Installing a herringbone floor is a challenging yet rewarding project that can transform any space into a sophisticated and stylish haven. By understanding the benefits of herringbone flooring, selecting the right wood species, gathering the necessary tools and materials, and following the step-by-step installation process, you can confidently tackle this project. Remember to avoid common mistakes and maintain your herringbone floor properly to enjoy its beauty and durability for years to come. So, go ahead, unleash your creativity, and enjoy the timeless elegance of a herringbone floor.

If you’re ready to add a touch of elegance to your space, start your herringbone floor installation project today. Gather the necessary tools and materials, follow the step-by-step guide, and transform your room into a stunning masterpiece. Happy installing!

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