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How should my wood floor be installed?

A: Nail Down - Solid Strip floors or Plank floors can only be nailed (or stapled) down, and only on or above grade on a wooden subfloor. This has traditionally been the most common installation method.

Glue Down - Engineered wood floors and parquets can be glued down. Manufacturer recommended mastic or adhesive is spread on with a trowel to adhere the wood flooring to the subfloor. Engineered floors can be installed on all levels, and on concrete. This is the most expensive installation method on average.

Floating - Some engineered floors and all Longstrip/Longplank floors can be floated. This is a very fast, easy and clean installation method. Floating floors are not mechanically fastened to the subfloor: instead, each plank is glued together with wood glue applied in the tongue and groove. A thin foam-pad is placed between the wood flooring and the subfloor to protect against moisture, reduce noise transmission, "soften" the floor, and to increase the "R" value. This is the easiest and most versatile installation method.

Q: How should the job-site be prepared?
A: The surface of the subfloor must be level within 1/8" in an 8 feet radius. The subfloor must be clean and thoroughly dry.

For wood subfloors on grade or below grade, use a 15 lb. or higher asphalt felt or rosin paper to retard moisture and to help alleviate subfloor variations. The wood subfloor must have 10% or less moisture content (MC). Concrete subfloors must have been installed and cured at least 30 days, and the concrete dry-weight must be 2% or less.
For floating installation, a moisture barrier must be used, such as a 6 mil polyethylene ("poly-film"), which overlaps 5" and is taped together with duct tape.

For glue-down installation, it is imperative that the subfloor is clean, level and dry. Fill low areas with leveling compounds; sand or plane high areas. Foreign substances may cause mastic to fail. Room temperature and humidity should be near living condition several days before installation.

Q: How should subfloors be prepared?
A: Installation instructions follows each delivered product. The following guidelines are general in nature:

In general, basements and crawl spaces must be dry and well ventilated. In joist construction with no basement, outside cross ventilation through vents or other openings in the foundation walls must be provided with no dead air areas. A surface cover of 6 mil polyethylene film is essential as a vapor retarder in crawl space construction.

The building should be closed in with outside windows and doors in place. All concrete, masonry, sheetrock and framing members, etc. should be thoroughly dry before flooring is delivered to the job site. In warm months the building must be well ventilated; during winter months heating should be maintained near occupancy levels at least five days before the flooring is delivered and until sanding and finishing are complete.

Because materials used to provide energy efficient structures trap moisture in a residence, it may be necessary to delay delivery and installation of flooring to allow the excessive moisture trapped during construction to evaporate. The average moisture content of framing members and subflooring should be below 10% before delivery of the flooring. Moisture contents above 10-12% can cause moisture related problems.

When job site conditions are satisfactory, have the flooring delivered and boxes placed into small lots and stored in the rooms where it will be installed. For solid flooring open or remove packaging for acclimation and allow 4 to 5 days or more, for the flooring to become acclimated to job site conditions. Engineered flooring should not be acclimatized nor opened until the time of installation.

From the time flooring is delivered and until occupancy, temperature and humidity should be maintained at or near occupancy levels. After occupancy, continue to control the environment. Extended times (more than 1 month) without HVAC controls can promote elevated moisture conditions which can adversely affect flooring.

Q: How can squeaks be minimized?
A: Thorough job-site and subfloor preparation, properly followed installation instructions, and constant temperature and humidity minimize the risk that squeaks will occur. In addition, one can use a foam underlayment which provides cushion and protects from squeaking caused by friction. Foam underlayments are recommended for all floating floors (but not for radiant-heated floors).

Q: Can wood floors be used in a bathroom or will the moisture be a problem? Are engineered floors better?
A: Wood and moisture is always a problem. Therefore wood floors are seldom used in bathrooms (especially not with bath and shower).
Engineered floors are much more stable to expansion and contraction that results from high and low humidity (winter-summer) than solid floors. However, they are as sensible to direct water-contact (spills etc) as solid wood floors. Moreover, a flooded engineered floor can potentially de-laminate when the glue is exposed to water. High-quality engineered floors range from $4-$10 (and more) depending on pattern (strip-plank) and species.

Laminate floors (Pergo, Formica etc.) are proven much better in bathrooms as the high-density fiberboard construction doesn't damage as severely if a flooding accident occurs. (it would swell 5-10% which causes heaving and buckling, but chances are it'll settle back somewhat, not totally ruined.) Laminates are a "fake" wood floor; it's a [paper] photo of a wood pattern fused to the HDF board and then coated with a very hard, scratch resistant plastic. Some people don't like laminates. Laminate floors range from $2-6 depending on quality and construction, thickness, whether it has the click-system or conventional tongue and groove (glue).

Now, there's a brand new flooring category being developed: veneer flooring. It's like laminate flooring (the HDF board construction and a really hard plastic coating) but it has a real wood veneer. The veneer is very thin, but it's sawn or sliced, not peeled (which looks tacky). In other words, a veneer floor looks exactly like a pure wood floor but has the advantages of a laminate (thin, floating, stable, more moisture resistant, very wear resistant). However, unlike a wood floor it can not be sanded/refinished or repaired. It's floated and cannot be nailed down. Veneer flooring ranges from $5-10. Most come with a "glue-less" tongue and groove design, i.e. you snap the boards together.

We sell all categories, and for a bathroom setting we really only recommend laminate or veneer flooring, and with caution!