Hardwood Flooring Installation Tips

by Calyn Ehid

A hardwood floor brings beauty, warmth and nature into a room. Hardwood floors, by the way, don’t really describe how hard the wood is but is a term used for lumber from deciduous trees such as oak, birch, maple, hickory and walnut. Each of these woods has its own attributes.

Hardwood flooring can be installed by a layperson who has moderate flooring skills, but the job, admittedly, can be arduous. Following are some tips to help with hardwood floor installation:

Buy Prefinished Flooring

Finishes on hardwood flooring protect it from moisture, enriches the wood’s color and brings out the beauty of the grain. The finishes applied at the factory or home improvement center are stronger than any a layperson can buy, so make sure the wood is prefinished.

Place the New Floor Over the Old One

The old floor may not need to be removed, and the new floor can simply be installed over it. First, the installer needs to smooth out rough spots or sags with compound. If the old floor is too dinged up to be smoothed over and is too difficult to remove, the installer can place a new underlayment over it. Remember that if the new floor is put over an old floor, the floor is just that much higher than it was. If the floor is in the kitchen or the bathroom, old cabinets should be shimmed at the same time the underlayment is installed.

One word of caution about an old floor. If it was installed before 1980 or thereabouts, it might contain asbestos. In that case, it should not be taken up by a layperson. Asbestos is only dangerous when its fibers get into the air and are breathed in.

Do a Dry Run

Lay out the hardwood planks or tiles in the room without securing them to make sure that they fit. Move the boards or tiles around the room to create attractive patterns and make sure that there aren’t any startling differences in the grain or color of the pieces that are placed next to each other.

Follow the Instructions

If a homeowner is doing their own installation, they will have received instructions from the manufacturer of their flooring. They should follow the instructions to the letter.

Let the Wood Acclimate

When the hardwood flooring is delivered, let it sit in the room to acclimate to the room’s humidity level. Some floors only need to sit for a few days while others need to sit for weeks. The installer should use a water meter to check the humidity levels in the room. Ideally, the moisture level of the floor planks should not exceed 6 percent. If it does, the planks may shrink during a dry period and leave gaps between them, or swell up and warp during a wet period.

Should Solid or Engineered Wood be Used?

People love solid wood floors because they are made of a single piece of high quality wood and can be refinished multiple times. However, engineered wood is more stable and can be installed in a basement without warping. However, it can only be refinished a few times. The choice is up to the homeowner.