Purchasing a new wooden floor is, by any means, a wonderful and smart investment. However, a major drawback for many people, considering buying a new wooden floor, is the misleading information lingering in our everyday life that the processes of installation and maintenance related to a wooden floor is all stress and hassle. Gone are the days, when this information was fairly true, mainly based on bad experience with installers and wood flooring service contractors with not enough knowledge, expertise and skills. Today, thanks to technical and industrial improvement as well as better and more consistent and higher quality training guaranteed by leading wood flooring companies and agencies for each member, wood floor installation is no more the stressful experience and process that creates a great disruption to your day-to-day life.
In order to help you understand how wood flooring installation works exactly, what is important to know about the process and how to prepare properly, how to get better at wood flooring cleaning and maintenance and more, we prepared for you and share an in-depth and helpful guide to wood floor fitting.
Wood flooring installation starts with the type of wood flooring you have selected to buy or already purchased. There are three main sorts of real wood flooring – solid wood, engineered wood and parquet. All three types of flooring usually require different approaches and ways of installation. But let’s go back to basics and talk about the differences between the types of real wood floors.
Types Of Real Wood Flooring
Solid wood – they are considered to be the ‘realest’ wood floors, because they are made out of a timber that is cut entirely from wood and is actually one massive wooden piece. Solid wood can be sourced from a number of wood species and come in an impressive range of colours, textures, grades. Once the timber is cut in planks or boards that can come in different widths, lengths and thickness, the planks are fitted down to a subfloor by nailing, screwing or gluing them down.
Engineered wood– it is wrongly considered to be a sort of laminate. Unlike laminate, engineered wood is made out of real lumber and wooden materials only, however, unlike solid wood, engineered wood is not made from one entire piece of wood. The real wood product is made from layers of softwood and lumber materials that compressed and glued together crisscrossed and finally topped with a layer of hardwood that is called lamella with a varying thickness. The structure of engineered wood is specially designed to be less sensitive to the effect moisture, humidity and temperature changes have on wood. Even when cut into pieces, wood remains having natural response to its environment and expands with increase of moisture levels, humidity and temperature and shrinks with decrease. However, engineered wood and its structure of layers make it highly resistant. Because of that feature, engineered wood can be installed in rooms and places, where interior humidity and moisture are often an issue and unlike solid wood, engineered wood works great in kitchens, basements and even bathrooms. There is one more advantage of engineered wood flooring – it can be installed floating, but we will introduce floating fitting below.
Parquet– it is more like a type of arrangement of the wooden planks and blocks than type of wood flooring. Parquetry blocks are usually cut from a hardwood timbers in different geometric shades, depending on the parquet pattern designed. Later on, these blocks are arranged in a particular pattern (the most popular out of them being herringbone, chevron, basket weave) by gluing or nailing them down to the subfloor. However, today’s market offers also engineered wood parquet option. In this case the solid wood pieces are arranged and glued to an engineered wood surface in the factory and prior to installation, later on installed at a room of your choice either with an adhesive, nails or floating.
Once you select the type of wood flooring that meets all your requirements, needs, desires and preferences, now it is time to think of the subfloor you work with. The type and condition of the subfloor is very crucial for the general condition and long-lasting power of the floor you are going to lay above it. Subfloors come in different materials and conditions, the most popular and commonly built of them being plywood and concrete subfloors. While plywood subfloor makes the installation process a bit easier and faster, concrete subfloors need a bit more attention. Overall, a damp, unlevelled and dirty concrete subfloor won’t make the perfect base for a wooden floor.
First things first, if your subfloor is damp for a reason, the moisture from it will usually transit to the floorboards and as you already know, wooden floors often struggle with moisture issues, since moisture makes wood expand and shrink and this movement can easily lead to major problems like loose wood adhesive, loose boards, cupping, ballooning, broken planks, even chipped and bubbling finish. In order to have a wooden floor in perfect condition and appearance that will last a lifetime, the concrete subfloor has to be completely dry. Wood flooring specialists know exactly how to measure the moisture level of the concrete subfloor and how to solve the problem with higher moisture levels. Newly built concrete subfloors need some time to get completely dry. You also would like to have your floor inspected for pipes that might be broken or leaking to prevent major problems later on and lifting the whole floor. In situations with existing moisture problems, even when these problems are solved, professionals recommend the fitting of an insulation underlayment that works as a barrier between moisture and the floorboards and usually prevents issues. If the concrete subfloor is dry enough, you need to pay attention to its surface that needs to be even and uniform. If it is not as required, you need to have the subfloor levelled, otherwise the floorboards fitted above it won’t be stable and make a solid construction. If your subfloor cannot be levelled for some reason, floating installation of engineered wood planks is another solution you need to consider. Finally, you need to clean or have cleaned the subfloor thoroughly, otherwise dirt and dust from the subfloor will mix with the adhesive of the wooden boards and weaken its power.
How To Prepare For Wood Floor Installation
Preparing your subfloor for the upcoming process of fitting is not the only thing you need to do. Generally, wood floor installation is not messy or time-consuming process at all, however it requires some specific preparation that won’t take too much time, energy or money, but will guarantee a long-lasting, durable and beautiful floor later on. Here is how to prepare for the service:
Acclimatization – solid wood or engineered wood planks and boards need to acclimatize to their new environment. A bit of a controversial topic, but acclimatization is often recommended by the professionals. As we have already mentioned, wood is a natural material and it responds to its environment and surrounding. With that being said, wooden planks and boards will need their time to get used to the room, where installation is planned. Once you buy the materials, be sure to leave the wooden planks out of their transportation package in the room, where installation will happen. Leave them like this for a few days and keep in mind that solid wood usually takes a couple of days more to acclimatize than engineered wood.
Schedule sanding and sealing service– If you prefer to buy an unfinished wooden floor that leaves the factory without a sanding treatment and without layer of finish applied prior to entering your home, you need to plan a sanding and finishing treatments right after installation, otherwise you risk having your floor distressed or damaged if you procrastinate for too long. Sanding will get rid of any fine imperfections due to transportation while preparing wood by opening its pores for the application of finishing product coats. Sealing or finishing is very important for adding protection to wood and preventing minor or major issues. Choose a finish that fits your lifestyle and answer to your requirements for hard-wearing power, appearance and maintenance.
Insulation and underfloor heating– Consider having insulation or sound-proofing underlayment or underfloor heating installed prior to wood floor fitting. While insulation underlayment and sound-proofing barrier are recommended for fitting under all types of real wood floors, underfloor heating is great with engineered wood flooring only.
Remove skirting boards and doors– Remove them prior to installation to save enough time throughout the process. Sometimes door frames need to be trimmed in order to allow the floorboard to fit under.
Measurements– Wood flooring materials are a pretty serious investment indeed, because of that you would like to know the exact quantity of hardwood planks you are going to need for the project and not be left with too much (and expensive) leftovers. In order to do so and save money, we recommend you having your room, where installation is planned, measured by professionals. Normally measuring the room size, estimating and calculating how much wood flooring do you need to purchase comes as a free bonus to the installation service, or when you are buying the materials at a showroom.
Buy trims and moldings– Trims and moldings are important for adding a finishing touch and a uniform look. There is a vast range of trims and moldings designs and styles offered on the market and you can find the right style to fit the entire conception of the room and interior design and guarantee a polished and put-together appearance.
Wood Flooring Expansion Gap Explained
In case you are a floor fitting professional or you have a certain experience with installing wooden floors you would know what expansion gap means and why it is that important. It might not be a rocket science, but we do not expect average people to know that. Expansion gaps and leaving them initially is a part of the installation process. They are left between the planks and the walls of the room to allow enough room for wood to expand due to the effect of moisture and humidity without wooden planks breaking and getting damaged. The gaps are normally 10-15mm wide and are practically invisible when you cover them with the skirting boards once the installation is finished. The best way to leave expansion gaps is by placing spacers around the perimeter of the room between the outer planks and the walls. Expansion gaps are required for solid wood, engineered wood and parquet fitting.
The way you would like to have the floorboards fitted is usually in the direction the sun light enters the room from the biggest source of light or the biggest window. This way you can visually increase the space of the entire room and make it look more airy and roomy. Although this is not a necessity, it is still a smart and beautiful way of laying down the planks or boards for solid wood and engineered wood floors.
Another important aspect of planning a wood floor installation in the kitchen area especially is whether or not you need to have wood boards laid underneath the bigger appliances. Overall, some people prefer to save extra money and skip having floorboards installed under the bigger appliances like ovens, fridges, refrigerators, washing machines, etc. Although this is a good way to save up materials, you have to also consider the fact that one day you might want to rearrange the space and that way you will be left with uncovered gaps in the floor. Later on, covering these patches with the exact same in colour and level of wear and tear wood planks can be a real challenge and there is almost no chance that your entire floor will look even and uniform.
Main Types Of Wood Floor Installation
There are three main types for the installation of solid wood, engineered wood and parquet wood flooring:
Nailing down– This method is commonly used for solid wood and parquet flooring when installed over a plywood or timber subfloor or over an old wooden floor. You cannot nail the wooden boards down to a concrete subfloor and if you have a concrete one, you will need to purchase a plywood underlayment and have it installed first. Nailing down the boards is considered to be the most complex and time-consuming method of all, but it ensures an incredible stability and sturdiness of the whole construction. Do not worry for nails ruining the whole appearance of the floor, because the boards will be fixed to each other through the tongue end of the board to the subfloor with a nail that will be then covered by the groove end of the next board.
Gluing down– Gluing down is a pretty popular method too, suitable for engineered wood, solid wood and parquet flooring over any type of subfloor. It is a pretty self-explanatory and straight forward method that consists of gluing each board down to the subfloor. There are four main types of wood flooring adhesive – water-based, solvent-based, urethane-based and powder adhesives. Water-based glue is the healthiest and safest choice and it does not contain any VOCs or other hazardous and toxic ingredients, but the range of application concerning certain types of wood species and subfloors is pretty limited. Solvent-based adhesives are time-proven with their durability and lasting power, but they contain non-hazardous solvents that will evaporate during the first week after installation. Urethane-based adhesives offer a vast range of application and high installation security, but they are the most expensive ones. Powder adhesives work the same way as water-based ones.
Floating installation– The floating fitting method does not require any gluing or nailing down. It is suitable for installation of engineered wood, especially over subfloor that cannot be even and levelled for some reason and also over underfloor heating and insulation. Generally, this is the most universal and flexible method as well as the easiest and less challenging one. Although it might not seem like a reliable method, floating fitting actually guarantees a highly sturdy and long-lasting construction.
Is DIY Wood Floor Installation Recommended?
Well, wood floor installation is not rocket science, indeed, but it still requires some skills, experience and knowledge. We are talking about solid wood and engineered wood fitting only, because parquet floor installation and arranging is a highly challenging and specific process that requires a great deal of craftsmanship and expertise! However, if you decide to lay your own engineered or solid wood floor, be sure to take your time and do a good research so you can be sure you can handle the whole process and all possible and unexpected issues popping up throughout the process. You have to be aware of all the tools you need to use for installing your own floor and make a checklist, while gathering everything you need prior to starting the process. You also would need to prepare the subfloor as advised by the professionals, remove skirting boards and trim or cut the door frames if needed. The most challenging part is how to properly arrange and lay the floorboards. It is important to start fitting the boards from the farthermost to the room’s entrance end and make your way to the door. Furthermore, you need to plan everything and ask for professional recommendation if needed. The ideal room temperature for the subfloor, flooring materials and products is 18 degrees, while indoor humidity should be lower than 60%. Do not expect to be done with the whole project overnight, wood floor installation requires caution and attention to details.
In case you are not that much of a DIY enthusiasts and you prefer hiring experienced floor fitters to do the job, here is what to expect a fitting quote to include and a few important questions you need to consider and discuss beforehand:
- If there is an existing flooring that needs to be removed, do the quote includes removal and disposal of the old flooring?
- Are subfloor inspection and preparation procedures and tests included?
- When planning wood floor installation in more than one room, has the difference in floor height in different rooms been considered? Would the new floor need to be built up in order to match the rest?
- What materials will the contractor be supplying?
Remember that the material cost should be based on the actual square footage of the room.
When it comes to installation of unfinished wood flooring your quote should include what type of finish will be used.
The contractor’s work must come with guarantees, insurance and responsibility and these should be stated in the quote.