This is a post in our 2009 Back to School series. You can see all of the posts here.

Every once in a while we get guest post requests from odd sources. My younger brother, Blake, recently installed a hardwood floor in his dorm room at Notre Dame. I thought it was rather excessive, but it really brings the place together. Then my dad wrote up this instructional post on the lessons learned from the project. Enjoy! –Kelly

This idea is not as crazy as it sounds. Hardwood looks better than the default institutional floor. And after a party it will smell much better than a wet carpet.

Some ground rules for this project: It can’t be too expensive, it can’t be permanent, and the only tools allowed are a knife or scissors, and hacksaw blade.


  • A roll of underlayment. This is a thin layer of foam that cushions the floor.
  • A strip of wood for the edge. If most edges will be under furniture, you may only need one strip forthe edge near the entrance to the room.The official way to do this is to buy a “4-N-1” molding kit. These can be expensive. A cheaper way is to buy a “reducer” trim strip.
  • A roll of masking tape, some wood glue, and a hacksaw blade. You will use the masking tape to hold down the underlayment, and the glue to attach the reducer trim stip. Unless you have a real saw, you can use hacksaw blade wrapped in tape to cut the trim strip.

 Your dorm room might be a mess for a little while, but the class will pay off.


  1. Check the housing rules. You are probably OK since this won’t be permanent. Also the housing rule writers probably did not anticipate this one.
  2. Measure. The snap-together panels you will use are each 48 inches by 8 inches. Figure out some way to best arrange these pieces without making any cuts. Challenge a math or engineering major if needed. Remember throw rugs, beds, and other furniture will hide any gaps.

    The 48 inch by 8 inch panels are sold in boxes of 9. Four boxes will cover a space 8 by 12 feet. This works well for most dorm rooms if you don’t put it under the beds. You can adjust one dimension in 8 inch steps. You can measure by counting 12 inch floor tiles if you don’t have a tape measure.

  3. Go Shopping. You will need a car. All the big box home improvement stores carry this type of flooring at similar prices. The official name for this stuff is laminate flooring with glue-less interlock. Pergo is the best know brand, but there are other less expensive brands. A good price is $1.50 per square foot. A great price is $1 per square foot.
  4. Be prepared for a helpful store employee to offer advice on how to install this flooring. Expect them to recommend the high-end product, and warn that the flooring needs to sit days to “acclimate” before being installed. Thank them and then go for the cheap stuff that you will install today.

  5. Move furniture out of the way and sweep the floor.
  6. Unroll the underlayment foam. Cut it a little smaller than the floor. Use some tape to hold it in place.
  7. Start snapping together and laying down the floor panels. The instructions on the box explain how to snap the panels together. Some tips:
  8. Ignore any instructions to stagger each row Lego block style. Instead use a grid layout.

    Lay an entire narrow row at once.These panels snap together easily when there is only one edge to snap.It is hard to snap a panel into two adjoining edges.So add each narrowrow by first snapping 2 panels together along their short edge, then adding that row as one long piece.

  9. Add the molding or reducer strip to the edge. You can glue this onto the exposed interlock tab.

Enjoy your better-than-average dorm room.

Have you done tried to install a hardwood floor in your dorm room? Let us know by posting a picture or sharing a story.