How to Stagger Wood Flooring: Everything a Beginner Needs to Know

Your home renovation project is almost done. You have all your supplies, including gorgeous shiny wooden planks, as well as all your tools. What’s next? Do you just lay them down one after the other? Do you create elaborate patterns?

Or do you stagger the wooden planks like a pro? If you haven’t heard of this before, or aren’t sure how it is done, you might be asking: How to stagger wood flooring?

This article will go into staggering wood floors— why it needs to be done and how to do it right. If you want to learn all about staggering hardwood floors, you’ve come to the right place!

Why You Should Stagger Your Wooden Floor

How to Stagger Wood Flooring

You may be wondering if you can get away with staggering your wood floors. It may seem tempting to forgo this step altogether, but don’t skip it.

Staggering serves two important functions. The first is more aesthetic. When a flooring stagger pattern is done right, it makes your floor look better. Evenly distributed wooden planks are more aesthetically pleasing and make the floor appear smooth and cohesive. 

When staggering is done wrong, or not done at all, the eye is automatically drawn to the floor. Any imperfections in the pattern or individual planks will be amplified. In other words, stagger your floors to make the job look like it was done by a professional.

The other reason is function. If a floor is incorrectly staggered, it can cause the planks to move and separate from the floor. Moreover, poor stagger wood tile layout patterns can affect the structural integrity of your floor as the planks can bend or warp out of shape.

You may also like: Can You Use Pine Sol on a Wood Floor?

How to Stagger Wood Floor Planks/Hardwood Flooring

staggering wood floors

Here is an easy, foolproof guide to staggering your wooden plank floors. The key to proper staggering is to evenly distribute the tiles in a random pattern. Following an elaborate, extremely even design like the H-design will fit incorrectly and draw too much attention.

The best way to stagger the seams of your floor is by mixing up the lengths of the planks. If your planks all come in the same size, cut the planks to create the stagger effect. 

The first plank in each row will create the foundation for your stagger pattern. Begin your first row by setting full-length planks until the last plank, which you may have to cut to fit. 

When you place the first board of each row, check that it is longer or shorter than the plank beside it. If your first plank is properly staggered, the rest of the rows will follow the stagger pattern.

This is how to stagger plank flooring the right way.

You will need:

What you should do:

  1. Map out your wood planks in stacks according to their length. Separating them by length allows you to easily use different-length planks each time.
  1. Install the first row of wood planks, leaving around half an inch of space between the row and the wall. Set the wood planks in a loose pattern, for instance, going from right to left.

    Cut the final plank of wood in each row to fit using a table saw or knife. You can save the wood plank remnants and use them to fill up any gaps on the floor.
  1. Nail or glue the planks into the subfloor.
  1. Lay your second row of planks with wood from a different stack than the first row. Because the two rows use planks of different lengths, the seams will automatically stagger.

    Simply repeat, go through your stacks from right to left and cut the last plank to make it fit.
  1. Keep alternating stacks when selecting the first plank for each row. For a more pronounced stagger effect, begin some rows with the smaller remaining pieces you cut from the end planks.

Staggering Other Kinds of Flooring

You’re all caught up on staggering wooden plank floors, but there’s still wood-looing tile, vinyl, and laminate flooring. Staggering laminate flooring is certainly a thing, but do you stagger vinyl plank flooring?


You can and should stagger vinyl floors for the same reasons as you would with planks: appearance and structural integrity.

You will need:

  • Utility knife
  • Vinyl plank flooring
  • Replacement blades
  • Measuring tape and spacers
  • Straight edge/T-square
  • Safety gloves

What you should do:

  1. Start by mixing up your vinyl planks, so that they look even and cohesive.
  2. Measure the total width of the room and divide it by the width of the planks you. Now you know how many complete rows of planks will be needed to cover the floor.
  3. Calculate the width of the last row. If it is shorter than the width of your planks, trim the planks for your first row so they will be the same width as the final row for a symmetrical appearance.
  4. Lay a full plank to begin the first row.
  5. Make sure that the plank at the end of this row is at least 6 inches in length. If it is less than 6 inches, trim off enough from the first plank of the row so that the final piece is longer than 6 inches, which is the minimal length for structural integrity. Repeat this process for each row.
  6. When starting the second row, trim the first plank in half. The end should be at least 6-8 inches apart from the nearest seam in row one. This will stagger the seams between the nearby rows in a randomized pattern.
  7. To begin the third row, cut a full-width plank to the length of the trimmed piece at the end of the first. Repeat the previous steps to complete the row.
  8. Use the remnant of the plank from the end of row two to start row four and repeat the other steps to complete row number four.
  9. Continue this pattern until your entire subfloor is staggered with your vinyl planks.


Below you’ll find answers to questions I get asked the most about staggering wood flooring.

01. Why Do I Have to Stagger My Wood Floor?

Staggering a wooden plank floor makes it look more polished and professionally done. It also prevents the wood planks from separating from the subfloor or warping in the future.

02. What is the Key to Correctly Staggering a Floor?

Randomly placing tiles or planks is the most important aspect of staggering both wood and vinyl planks. Make sure each row begins with a plank that is longer or shorter than that of the previous row.

03. Can I Stagger Laminate Flooring?

Laminate floors should be staggered and in fact, manufacturers encourage that their laminate floors be staggered anywhere between at least 6 to 12 inches.

Packing It Away

Well, now you know the answer to the question ‘how to stagger wood flooring?’ Avoiding this step will make your floor look like it was done by an amateur, and no one wants their planks to get all bent out of shape in a few months. 

So, grab your measure tape and hand saw and jazz up your floor with the right kind of stagger!

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