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Does Hardwood Flooring Have To Be Tongue And Groove?

Does Hardwood Flooring Have To Be Tongue And Groove?

There are a few different ways that hardwood flooring can be installed, so does hardwood flooring have to be tongue and groove or can you use another method?

While you don’t necessarily have to use the tongue and groove, it is the most preferable and commonly used method today for good reason. 

If you want to learn about the benefits of tongue and groove, and why it is used so often today, then keep reading this article.

Alternatives To Tongue And Groove

Despite tongue and groove being the most popular, there are other methods of installing hardwood floors that can be used.

Nailed Down

Nailed down is perhaps the easiest method to understand them all.

In this method, individual planks of hardwood are nailed directly into the subfloor through the entire thickness of the board. Nailed down is only used for solid hardwood flooring, as it is the only type of flooring that this method is suitable for.

Nailed down has some very clear pros and cons, so let’s have a look to understand why this type of installation is not very common today.


The main advantage of nailed down hardwood is the rustic aesthetic that it creates, as the nails can be left visible alongside the gaps that will form through different seasons and changing humidity.

You will typically find this type of installation method used in log cabins and other similar aesthetics.


The disadvantages outweigh the advantages in this case, however.

Nailed down hardwood is highly susceptible to gaps forming with changing humidity levels. Gaps provide spaces for moisture from spills to seep underneath the floor which can cause buckling, cupping and also mold problems.

While you can manage the humidity levels in the home, it is difficult and something that will change throughout the year anyway with the seasons.


Click fitting is very similar to tongue and groove, and different manufacturers have their own patented methods for the clicking system, however, the basic principle remains the same.

In this method, floorboards are attached together by a ‘clicking’ mechanism, which removes the need for glue, screws and nails. The joints are then machined onto the floor.


  • The click method is very easy to do which makes it suitable for those who are interested in DIY.
  • With the click method, it is quite easy to replace individual floorboards if they become damaged.


  • This method is not advised for hardwood flooring as it cannot be installed over every type of subfloor, including joists.
  • The width of floorboards available to be used with this method tends to be smaller than tongue and groove.

What Is Tongue And Groove?

Tongue and groove is the most widely used method for installing hardwood floors and involves connecting individual floorboards together via a tongue on one edge and a groove on the other.

An example of tongue and groove fitting

Tongue and Groove on an Engineered Hardwood Floor (Credit)

In the example above the left-hand floorboard has a tongue, which connects to the groove of the floorboard to the right. Tongue and groove has been used for hundreds of years and continue to be the gold standard for hardwood floor fitting today.

Benefits of Tongue And Groove

Let’s take a look at the major benefits associated with tongue and groove installation.

  • Nails or screws can be hidden easily which gives the surface a flush finish.
  • Can be installed over any type of subfloor, including joists.
  • Resistant to changes in moisture as there is space for movement within the groove. This also reduces noise such as squeaking and popping.
  • Will not show any gaps due to the space within the groove.

Drawbacks Of Tongue And Groove

There are some key drawbacks of tongue and groove, and it’s important to understand them to get the full picture.

  • More difficult to install – There is a lot of craftsmanship involved with installing hardwood flooring in the tongue and groove method, and you will need to hire a professional if you want it done properly which will cost a fair amount of money.
  • Hard to access individual floorboards – Unlike the click method, it is hard to replace individual floorboards if they have been installed with tongue and groove. For example, if a floorboard in the middle of your floor was damaged you would have to remove most of the floorboards around it for access.

Can You Screw Tongue And Groove Flooring?

We already hinted at this earlier, but it is possible to screw a tongue and groove hardwood floor without the screws being visible on the surface.

This is known as a hidden screw and is possible by placing the screw on a 30° angle into the corner above the tongue, where it meets the width of the floorboard at a right angle.

The screw then connects to the joists of the floor to provide a secure fit.

Final Thoughts

Hardwood flooring definitely doesn’t have to be tongue and groove, but given all of the benefits, it is clear to see why this method is the most commonly used.