Installing wooden flooring is a project that can boost your home’s value and your enjoyment of it. However, many homeowners fail to realize that laying wood floors isn’t as simple as it seems and that direction is important.

Laying your wood floors properly and in the correct direction ensures they look great and last long. By doing it the right way, you are renovating your home and also investing in its future. If you want to make the most out of your wood floors, learn how to lay them correctly.

Aesthetic Considerations

The direction in which you lay wood floorboards affects the look and feel of the room. Paying attention to texture, shape, and stain is crucial for the desired aesthetic.

Most floorboards run parallel to the longest walls to create the illusion of more space. However, in certain cases, putting floors down perpendicular to the long walls enhances the appearance.

You can also lay your floors diagonally. While not common because of the higher cost, a slight angle sometimes improves the transition from one room to another. This technique is usually works for oddly shaped rooms.

You can also change direction from the rest of the floors in a room when you decide to add an inlay or when you have a need for a partial floor replacement. Because something about the existing floor already stands out, installing the boards perpendicular or diagonally integrates them.

To make your space appear larger and more welcoming, run boards away from the main entrance, no matter the shape. This direction also makes for smooth transitions between rooms.

Longer boards are more appealing than short ones. In small rooms, run boards unbroken, wall-to-wall. Try to stagger the boards randomly by one-third to two-thirds length. This variable technique prevents a noticeable pattern and maintains an organic yet seamless look across your floor.

diagonal floor
Image Credit: Canva

Structural Considerations

While laying wood floors requires primarily aesthetic planning, there are a few critical structural considerations that will affect the appearance and stability of your new wood floor. These factors can also affect the amount of work involved in laying the floor.

Floor Joists

When laying a new wood floor, you must consider your subfloor. Sturdy cement or stone subfloors support wood boards regardless of direction. Older floors with diagonal one-inch planks can also support boards in multiple directions.

However, a lighter subfloor, such as plywood, needs an added layer of at least ⅜-inch plywood to run the floorboards parallel to the floor joists. You can only run boards perpendicular or diagonal to the joists without a sturdy subfloor because boards need extra support to prevent sagging.

Uneven Walls

Your opposing walls may be uneven, and the angle of the room corners may not be exactly 90 degrees. In such cases, one side of the room is wider — or else longer — than the other side. This has an effect as you lay down floorboards. You may have to cut floorboards at odd angles.

For this reason, it is always best to measure a room first and determine whether the boards look better laid straight or at a slight angle to match the walls better.

Installation Cost

Installing hardwood runs $12.50 to $32 per square foot depending on:

  • Accessories: Accessories like transitions and barriers add additional costs.
  • Labor: Professionals run $3 to $6 per square foot to install.
  • Method: Nail-down boards require tools but are stable. Floating wood floors are good for a DIY project.
  • Wood type: Exotic wood costs more than traditional wood, such as oak or maple.

Expect to spend around $10,000 for 500 square feet. It is also a good idea to get multiple estimates.


Proper maintenance will keep your wood floors beautiful for decades. Here are a few things you can do to ensure your wood floors remain in good condition:

  • Daily cleaning: Vacuum and dust to prevent the buildup of grit that can scratch and damage the flooring.
  • Dirt management: Place mats at entrances to minimize the amount of dirt tracked in.
  • Long-term care: Consider sanding and refinishing your floors every five to 10 years to rejuvenate their appearance.
  • Moisture control: Avoid excessive water on your floors to prevent warping.
  • Periodic mopping: Use an approved wood floor cleaner for routine mopping to remove dirt and maintain sheen.
Today’s Homeowner Tips

Use only products specifically formulated for hardwood when cleaning your floors rather than multi-surface cleaners that may damage the finish.

So, What Is the Best Direction for Wood Floors?

As you install or replace your hardwood floor, remember that the direction of the planks matters for looks and stability. Laying the boards parallel to the longest walls will make your rooms appear larger. However, laying the boards diagonal or perpendicular could enhance the overall look depending on your space’s layout, flow, and shape. 

Remember, how you support the boards on the subfloor and joists is crucial, too. You will need to consider the direction to avoid any sagging and keep your floors looking like new. With careful planning and some expert advice, your new hardwood floors will deliver new beauty and transform your home.

FAQs About Which Way to Run Hardwood Floors

Do I have to run all wood floors the same direction?

All wood floors don’t have to have boards running the same way, but it looks best when adjoining rooms have a uniform direction. You can differ based on layout or partial replacements if transitions stay smooth.

Should you run north-south or east-west?

There is no design or construction rule regarding wood floors that run north-south or east-west. One guideline is to go parallel to the longest wall regardless of compass orientation for the best visual appeal.

Is perpendicular to joists bad?

Perpendicular needs sturdy ⅜-inch plywood subflooring to avoid sagging over time. Otherwise, go parallel.

Do all boards need staggering?

Yes, staggering creates an appealing random pattern. The only exception is small rooms that can run full boards wall-to-wall tightly. As stated earlier, you should stagger the boards randomly by one-third to two-thirds length.

How wide can boards be?

Early floors used narrow 2 1⁄4″ to 3″ planks. Modern wide planks can be 4″ to 7″ or wider to highlight grain and minimize seams.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Abbie Clark

Abbie Clark


Abbie Clark is a writer and blogger. She is the founder of "Hey She Thrives", where she writes about all things motherhood, coupled with expert cleaning tips that echo the warmth and order of a loving home. She is also the co founder of "RideRambler." There, you can find all of the info you'll ever need on DIY car fixes and Auto news.When not writing, you can find Abbie chasing her toddler, trying a new cookie recipe, or fishing with her husband.

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Sabrina Lopez


Sabrina Lopez is a senior editor for Today’s Homeowner with over 7 years of writing and editing experience in digital media. She has reviewed content across categories that matter to homeowners, including HVAC services, home renovations, lawn and garden care, products for the home, and insurance services. When she’s not reviewing articles to make sure they are helpful, accessible, and engaging for homeowners like herself, Sabrina enjoys spending time with her family and their two parrots.

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