How To Lay Wood Flooring
How is Wood Flooring Installed?
Whatever your choice, wooden flooring has proved to be an enduringly popular interior design choice, bringing an air of style, elegance and sophistication to a home. As well as being aesthetically pleasing, wooden floors are hard wearing, hygienic and easy to keep clean. However, if you’re considering a wooden floor for your home, you may be daunted by the task of laying it, especially if you’ve never done it before. Once you have decided on your choice of floor, we can provide guidance on installing and maintenance. In the meantime, here are some useful tips...
Can I put new wood flooring over an existing wooden floor?
Yes, a new wooden floor can be installed over an old one and is actually a good idea because you get the time-tested stability of the original floor with a sparkling new facelift on top. New flooring should be laid perpendicular to the original floorboards to provide the maximum strength, stability and durability.
Before installing the new floor, check that the boards of the original one are flat using a spirit level. If they aren’t level, line them with 8mm minimum thickness plywood to even them out. Use a moisture reader to make sure they are dry: a reading of 12% moisture content or below is required before you can install new flooring on top.
Can wood flooring be installed over concrete, ceramic tiles, lino or joists?
Concrete - as long as the concrete floor is firm, dry and of good quality, wood flooring can be laid directly onto it. If the concrete floor is crumbling or damaged, it is recommended that it is properly repaired first.
Ceramic tiles - if the tiles are in good condition and not cracked or damaged you can lay a wooden floor over existing ceramic tiles rather than going through the mess and expense of removing them. If you are glueing the wood floor directly to the tiles it might be a good idea to sand them first so that the adhesive has a rough surface to stick to.
Lino - if the lino is in good condition, clean, and has been securely glued to the floor beneath it, it will make an ideal base for fitting a wooden floor onto. However, if it’s dirty, damaged or coming loose, it is recommended that you remove it before fitting a new floor.
What are the site requirements for installing a wood floor?
As discussed briefly above, not all rooms and environments are suitable for installing a wooden floor. Boards that are installed in the wrong environment are prone to lifting, gapping, creaking or even splitting, and will require more money and time spent on them to repair the damage. The following site requirements are necessary:
Use a hygrometer to test air humidity. It needs to read between 45 – 65% and this should be maintained after installation to ensure your floor doesn’t lift.
Concrete sub-floors need to have a moisture content (MC) reading of 12% or less. Timber sub-floors should also have an MC reading of 12% or less.
The sub-floor must be level before the new flooring is laid on top of it. To test, place a long straight edge on the floor and use a ruler to check for height variance. If there is more than 3mm in height variation over a 1m length the floor needs to be levelled.
How do I lay the wood flooring?
Laying your floor should be the last stage of any work done, after building, heating, installation of windows, plumbing, painting etc.
In order to eliminate any risk of the flooring re-humidifying and resultant damage to the planks, the product should be stored several days before laying in the room on which the floor is to be laid in dry and clean conditions. The support onto which the floor is laid should be flat, clean, and dry. The three most common ways of laying a floor are:
The Glued Down method, as the name suggests, consists of glueing each plank onto the underlying support. This method is often used where the wood floor is to be laid on a low-temperature underfloor heating system. In general, this method is equally well suited to engineered and solid wood floors.
The Glued/Floating method is where the wood floor is actually floating on (not stuck to) the support but the individual planks are stuck to each other by applying glue along the tongues and grooves of each plank. This method may be equally well used for both engineered and solid wood floors.
The Floating method does not use glue and should only be used in cases where the flooring is equipped with a clip system (as opposed to those with tongues and grooves). This method of laying the floor is achieved simply by rotation of the clips and is the easiest and fastest way to lay a wood floor.
Whatever installation method you choose, it is essential to leave an expansion gap around the floor. This allows the wood to expand and contract naturally with seasonal changes in temperature and humidity. Typically, it should be 1.5mm per metre width with a minimum of 0.8mm. The flooring should not be in contact with any obstacle (pipes, other flooring at door thresholds, stairs, etc.). In places exposed to high humidity levels (such as kitchens and bathrooms), we strongly advise to leave a slightly larger expansion gap and to fill it with a waterproof silicon compound to avoid water getting underneath the flooring.
How do I stop my wood flooring from gapping?
Wood is an organic fibre, which is one of the reasons it looks so great in your home, but this also means that it is sensitive to the surrounding environment, and constantly changing in tension, flexibility and solidity. Changes in temperature and humidity cause wood to expand and contract and typically in winter when the heating is on regularly, your floorboards lose moisture, get smaller and gaps may appear. You can help prevent gaps in your wood flooring by:
Acclimatising the flooring. This is the process of leaving the flooring for a period of time to acclimatise to the moisture content of the environment it is going to be installed in. Whilst this can be inconvenient and many people cheat by leaving it in a garage or shed, the flooring will perform much better and be less prone to gapping if it is properly acclimatised. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines for advice on how long the flooring should be left before installation.
Stacking the flooring. Boards should be left unopened in their original packing to reduce the risk of warping. Stack the packages carefully so that air and humidity can be evenly distributed and make sure at least every half a metre of board is supported so it doesn’t bow in the middle.
Through efficient planning, careful preparation of your sub-floor and proper acclimatisation, installing your wood floor should be a simple and satisfying process. If you don’t rush to get the job done too quickly, you will end up with a floor that is beautiful, practical and very hard-wearing. Careful maintenance through regular cleaning and occasional polishing will keep your floor in great condition for many years to come.