Installing Hardwood Flooring - Preparation & Installation

Floating floors, glue down & nail/staple down

Installing Hardwood Flooring

Installing hardwood flooring needs careful planning and patience and should not be tried by someone with only limited amount of DIY experience.

Generally speaking there are three practiced ways of installing hardwood flooring. The actual installation will be discussed under these three headings, but it will also be necessary to look at preparing the sub-floor before any work is started.

Installing a Floating Hardwood Floor

The surface is said to be "floating" because it is not directly attached to any part of the sub-floor. The boards are instead connected to each other via glued joints over a thin sheet of padding. The advantage of this fitting method is that compared to the other two it can be laid over uneven surfaces, is quick to finish and very easy to clean up. There is also a reduction in noise and moisture damage by incorporating the padding.

Preparation: This is necessary before installation of the flooring can commence. Firstly you will need to accurately work out the width of the last row that will be fitted. The rule of thumb is if it is less than 1.5'' the difference will need to be distributed between the first and last rows. Regardless of the calculations though, you will probably have to cut the last row to fit.

Decide on a starter wall - usually it's a good idea to choose an outside one because it is more likely to be straighter and aligned with rest of the area. You now want to measure two board widths from this wall and mark a line with some chalk through these points. As previously stated not all walls are by default straight - so some boards may need to be shaved / sanded to fit.

You want a uniform surface i.e. color and grains need to compliment each other - so planning how you are going to blend the boards is vital.

Installation: Concrete sub-floors are prone to attracting moisture so it is necessary to fit a thin layer of padding to act as a barrier between any dampness and your hardwood flooring. It's at the padding seams you have to be most careful - overlap them by at least 6 inches.

Start with the first row, placing adhesive / glue on the ends of the boards you are joining, making sure to have the "groove" side facing the wall. You are then going to have to put a ¼'' spacer between the edge end of the board and the wall - this will accommodate for any expansion that may occur.

From here on in you will need to apply a waterproof adhesive along the entire lower lip of the grooves and on the top surface of the tongues. On the second row of planks and all subsequent planks, apply a bead of quality moisture resistant wood glue along the entire length of the lower lip of the groove and along the top surface of the tongue, applying glue to all edges. You will want to stagger each board from the adjacent one - no less than 12 inches. Once two rows have been finished give the glue about 3 hours to dry before carrying on.

The last board to be fitted will more than likely need to be cut so that it fits - don't forget that the ¼'' spacer still needs to be put down. Twelve hours drying time is recommended before any traffic is allowed. The spacers are then removed and you can start applying a base molding - nailing it to the wall and not the floor and not forgetting to leave room for expansion (¼ inch).

Installing Hardwood Flooring: The Glue Down Approach

This type can go over concrete and wood floors.

Preparation: Follow the same prep instructions as above. Make sure the sub-floor should is as dirt free as possible - you want the glue to stick to the sub floor not the dirt in between.

Installation: Using a v-notched trowel spread the glue from the chalk markings out to the equivalent width of two boards. The glue will then have to be left to set for about half an hour. After this the first row of boards can be fitted - be sure that the tongues are facing the chosen starter wall. Getting the boards perfectly aligned is crucial.

For a uniform surface you will need to pay attention to the joints (tongue and grooves) and you might benefit form using a wood block to tap them into place . Once the initial two rows are in place you will need to use the trowel to spread out more glue - 3 feet. The boards are then "tapped" into place. Try and use different lengths - this way joints will not be on top of each other (it is wise to have them no less than 6'' from each other.)

Finally once you have got several rows under your belt you may want to keep them from shifting by using strips of tape placed at right angles to the boards. Remember on the last row you will have to severe the tongue for it to fit - you might also have to get hold of a pry bar to slip it in.

Nail / Staple Down Hardwood Flooring

Preparation: First thing is first, we want to keep dust and moisture away so you will need to lay red rosin paper / asphalt felt over the sub-floor. This will also minimize the risk of any squeaks occurring. Then follow same guidelines set out for other two methods.

Installing: Lay the tongue edges of the first row of boards on the marked out chalk line. You want them perfectly aligned! With a drill you then want to place pilot holes on the face of each board and secure them with nails / staples to the sub-floor.

Once the initial row is secure, the following ones should be predrilled and then secured with nails that are hammered in at a 45 degree angle. Just like with the other two methods, to ensure a uniform surface, pay attention to the joins between boards and use a tapping block if needed to get them to fit snuggly. Try to mix the lengths of the boards. By doing this you avoid joints clustering together.

When stapling, try to staple boards from between 6''- 8'' on center and roughly 2'' from each end when fastening. Finally when it comes to the base molding; remember to nail it to the wall and not to the floor and also try not to forget to leave room for expansion (¾ inches).


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