Order of Operations: The Best Time to Install New Floors

Akvavit white oak flooring by Stuga covered in colorful dried flowers

Photo: Hugo Landa Garcia | Design: KH Interiors | Floor: Ingrid

If you recently bought a home that’s been previously lived-in, you probably have a list of updates you’d like to make before moving in. When your inspector finds a leaky faucet or faulty wiring, it’s a no-brainer to have it fixed before your family settles down in the home. 

But what about cosmetic updates? It’s easy to think “I’ll get to that” when it comes to painting rooms or swapping out light fixtures. If you can, though, replacing floors before moving in is a great call that will save you from reno woes down the road.

The Reality of Living Through Wood Flooring Installation

My husband and I bought a fixer-upper in 2019 with a plan in place to slowly renovate as we lived in the home. We’ve since tackled all kinds of renovations in this house, but none has been as disruptive to daily life as our flooring installation

The reality of moving all of our furniture out for the process didn’t sink in until we started moving it (and had to get a temporary storage pod - the garage alone wasn’t cutting it). The result has been absolutely worth the chaos. But if I could do it all over again, I would have had our Stuga floors installed before a single piece of furniture crossed the threshold.

Brittni Melhoff of Paper & Stitch recently installed Greta in her home after living there for a year.  “We lived in the house during the entire demo and install and while the process was doable, it was not without stress,” Brittni said of the process.

“Moving furniture from room to room, closing things off to make sure our cat stayed safe and away from the install, and balancing our three year old son at the same time was a lot. But also, it was very, very worth it in the end. Our new hardwood floors have completely transformed our home for the better.”

Order of Operations: Flooring in the Grand Scheme of Renovating

Beyond the benefit of not moving furniture back out, doing floors early in your renovation can be a smart move from a construction standpoint. 

Traditional renovation wisdom says to leave the floors for last so that they are protected from damage. But with protective coverings like Ram Boards, you can safely continue renovating after new floors are installed. 

Here are some tips on where flooring fits into the renovation mix:

Wall Removal

Remove any walls before installing your floors so the floors can run seamlessly across your newly opened expanse.

Framing & Drywall

Framing should ideally be done before flooring as well, but drywall is up to you. It is traditionally installed before flooring, but does not have to be. 

Designer Amy Pigliacampo proved in her Boulder home that installing drywall after flooring can be beautiful. Amy was able to forgo baseboards by installing in this order, which resulted in a super clean profile.

Cabinets

If you are gluing or stapling your flooring, it can run underneath cabinetry. If floating, however, you need to install your floors after cabinets. Cabinet toe kicks and trim are typically used to cover the expansion gap necessary for floating floors.

Baseboards & Trim

If you plan to entirely replace your baseboards and trim, remove them before installing your floors. If you plan to keep them & undercut them for new flooring, they can stay put!

Tiled & Carpeted Areas

You don’t have to have new tile or carpet in place to install your Stuga floors. Say you want to renovate a bathroom down the line - install your hardwood flooring up to meet the tile, add a transition piece (or keep it flush with the tile) and remove/replace the tile later. Just be sure to consider the height of your existing vs. future tile when thinking about how to handle the transition. 

Paint

Paint should be last on your list! Your walls are bound to get a knick or two in the floor installation process, and baseboards and trim are often undercut to make way for flooring. Painting last lets you patch any imperfections on walls and trim for a beautiful finish.


Regardless of when you decide to install Stuga floors, the resulting transformation will be well worth the effort.