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Determining the Direction of Wood Flooring Between Rooms

By Carrie Dixon, Blog Editor

Hardwood floors are a natural option for bringing out the beauty of any home. Installation of the floors can require lots of patience and skill, as can choosing the perfect flooring for a particular room or entire home. Nearly everyone who has decided to use hardwood runs into a question at some point along the way. ‘What direction should the flooring run in?’

The question might seem simple, but the answer is actually quite complicated and depends on many other aspects. However, there are some guidelines to use to choose the best direction for your own home.

Structural Concerns

Experts in flooring typically recommend that flooring boards are installed perpendicular to the floor joists, at least when it comes to a home with a plywood subfloor. The reason for this is because a parallel installation leaves the possibility that the floor may sag or gaps between boards will happen.

If you really want a layout with parallel boards to joists, you will need to do a bit more work before installing. Adding a layer of 3/8-inch plywood will alleviate problems later on. Or if you have an older home with 1-inch planks that are diagonal to the joists, parallel flooring will be fine. A concrete pad also makes it possible to use perpendicular or parallel flooring options with no problems.


When you are installing hardwood throughout multiple rooms, it requires more thought and planning than doing a single room. If you are installing in an open concept room, a nice flow can occur from installing from the long end of the space to the other side.

However, spaces that open into hallways or are strangely shaped may not work as well with this option. One option is to lay a small wood strip to define where flooring changes directions. If you do not like the aesthetic of that, you can choose a diagonal or pattern that you use through the entire house.

Visual Appeal

Sometimes personal taste may be most important when it comes to direction. To take advantage of pleasing visual impact, it’s a good idea to design the wood planks to lead the eye to a focal point, such as a fireplace. You should also consider various light sources and how they can change the perception of the size of the room.

If you want to make a room seem larger, boards from the entrance outwards can lead to that effect. If you want to shorten impact, laying boards from side to side can do that, resulting in a cozy effect. When it comes to hallways or rooms that are narrow and long, boards should run out from the doorway to avoid a choppy visual effect.

Other Considerations

Make sure you consider that walls may not be entirely straight. Take careful measurements of the walls to see exactly how things will line up. If you do not do so, you may end up having an angle to deal with at the end of your installation. This will cause you to spend more time doing the installation and will also affect the way the room looks.

The choice you make, in the end, will largely depend on your design taste and personal preferences. However, understanding the difference between styles and how installation can affect your home may change your ultimate decision.

The good news is that many laminates, hardwoods, and engineered woods are available in many styles to allow you the exact style you want in your home. Don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone when researching options, you may find the perfect floor for yourself and your family.