How to lay floorboards in the right direction

Adding new floorboards to your home opens opportunities for a range of aesthetic possibilities. Whether wide or narrow, hardwood or synthetic, reclaimed or brand new, they have the potential to bring a sense of warmth and cosiness to any room. But despite their versatility, installing them and working out the finer details can be a rather difficult task. The aesthetic question we’ll be considering in this post is perhaps one of the most important in the whole process: in which direction should you lay your floorboards?

As with any design choice, the way you choose to structure and design your interior is completely up to you – there is no set of rules that you cannot break! However, it’s very important not to rush this decision, because ripping up your floorboards in a fit of regret will be no easy task (not to mention the makings of a stressful weekend). So here are some common considerations to help you ask the right questions and figure out what you want.


Consider room size and proportions

In order to achieve the best look with your floorboards, it’s necessary to take into account both the size and dimensions of the room in question. Generally speaking, laying floorboards in line with the length of a small room will accentuate its size, while boards running across a narrow room (i.e. a galley kitchen) will make it appear wider.

However, horizontal floorboards that run perpendicular to the length of a room can sometimes seem unbalanced and cluttered. In larger rooms where creating the illusion of space isn’t so much a priority, instead you should be looking at how the floorboards cohere with the room’s layout and furnishings. For instance, the floorboards in a sizeable open-plan kitchen would look best if they ran along the length of the island and counters.


Where are your entrances?

Allow us to let you in on a little secret kept by savvy interior designers: it sometimes looks more natural to have floorboards that follow the flow of traffic throughout the room, rather than conflict with it. As such, try laying your floorboards in such a way that they don’t cut across any of the main doorways. Although this may quite tricky to figure out in rooms with multiple entrances, having the boards point into your room gives it an undeniable sense of proportion.

Long vertical floorboards make particular sense in entrance halls and foyers, creating a visual effect similar to that brought about by high-quality stair runners. When the floorboards lead from your front door all the way to the other end of the hallway, they draw your eyes along the full length of the house in one continuous motion. Maintaining a simple sightline in this way is one of the most fundamental guidelines of interior design, and all you have to do is look ahead!


Align with natural light

The direction of your flooring can also impact the play and balance of natural light in your home. As such, there are many designers who claim that laying floorboards in line with the most prominent flow of light in a given room is the best aesthetic choice.  Sleek rays of sun coming through a big window or skylight can cast a uniform reflection along the individual floorboards and enhance their texture.


Floor joists

Lastly, if your flooring rests upon joists and a subfloor, many installers will recommend laying the floorboards across the joists. This works to guarantee the structural integrity of the flooring as a whole, preventing the possibility of it sagging or breaking. In such cases, aesthetic factors must of course take a back seat.

With more joists supporting each individual floorboard (as opposed to laying the boards parallel to the joists and leaving large gaps underneath the flooring), your flooring will be safer and more durable in practice. If this is not your preferred direction visually speaking, it’s also safe to run the boards diagonally across the joists in order to achieve a compromise.


Clearly there are no hard and fast rules here. It mainly comes down to whatever feels right and looks proportionate in relation to the design of your home interiors. If you need more help choosing a new floor or struggling to realise your flooring dreams, feel free to get in touch with a member of the Hudson Flooring team and we’d be delighted to help you out.