How to Install a
Solid Wood Floor?

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Follow these 10 commandments and you’ll be OK

1.0 Preparation – Moisture Testing and Wood Acclimation.

It’s all about the preparation.  Like building a house – if the foundations are wrong then the house will never be right.  It’s a critical element for a successful job.  The moisture content of the substrate (normally Plywood, OSB, 2*1 or concrete) must be below 5%.  This is normally tested with a Moisture Meter.  If the substrate is above 5% there is a likelihood that moisture will cause cupping to the floorboards over time.

Wood is a hygroscopic material which means that it is affected by moisture throughout its life.  The solid floor must acclimatise (get use to) to your living conditions.  This normally takes about 2 weeks but check with the Wood Supplier and always follow the Manufacturer’s instructions.  Acclimation depends on the region, grade and environment, from rainwater management to the water table level. If the subfloor’s moisture content is higher than the flooring’s moisture content by 4percent or more, cupping may occur.

Any contractor worth their salt should carry the full Moisture Kit so they can measure the moisture in the air (called the Relative Humidity), the moisture in the wood and the moisture in the substrate.  Only by knowing all these factors can you determine if the site is ready to accept wood flooring.

 

2.0 Preparation – Flatness and stability of the substrate.

If the substrate is not completely flat then squeaks may occur which cannot be removed thereafter.  Take extra time to flatten the subfloor. If you are using a latex leveller, the substrate must be clean, dry and sound. Be sure the levelling compound is dry before flooring installation. Look for weak spots and bounce in the substrate before installation begins.

Also, inspect the substrate for subfloor thickness, approved subfloor materials and correct spacing of the floor joists. When working with concrete, be sure to use appropriate adhesives that will bond correctly to the concrete.

 

4.0 Face-nailing & Secret nailing.

Only top-nail the first two and last two rows.  Try to hide the nails in the grain of the board but if not then fill those holes afterwards. Watch the sequence of top nailing as often nails are too close together, which looks unsightly. Also drill and hand blind-nail the first rows. Do the same with the last boards—hand-nail as much as you can, and hide top nails. Glue down the last few rows under skirting/scotia/shoe moulding and areas where you can’t use a nail gun or hand nail.

 

5.0 Leaving dead joints and loose ends.

When adding borders, custom inlays and direction changes in the boards, always use a slip tongue/spline and glue to hold the joints tight. This helps prevent imperfections in the floor during sanding and prevents the ends from moving during seasonal changes. Good examples of loose ends and bad joints are boards that rock as you walk on them and mitred corners that rise over time. This also applies to both unfinished and factory-finished wood floors.

 

6.0 Rushing through work

Wood floor installation is a very unforgiving trade.  If a mistake is made half way through the installation and you are at the end of the installation, then usually, all the boards need to come back up to fix the problem.

Never rush the job and taking extra time with the layout, especially for custom installations which can be a costly mistake, waste time and materials and ruin your street credibility! Double check the layout with the blueprint and be sure you have a working knowledge of the installation.

 

7.0 Inspecting the wood.

Be extra careful at focal points like the fireplace and entrance hall.  Always check the grade, colour, specie and character marks in the boards, unsightly grain can be look terrible in a floor. Inspect the surface of each board before laying it. If you are not pleased, then leave to one side and use for cut-ins at the end of the floor.

 

8.0 Over-nailing and mixing fasteners.

Never mix staples with cleats. Each fastener has a different holding power.  Not allowing the boards to work as a system will cause different rates of expansion, probably resulting in gapping and may even cause the floor to “pop”.

The nailing sequence should be maintained throughout the installation. Over-nailing can split the tongue, increasing the seasonal movement and causing popping and creaks in the floor.  Under-nailing will cause the floor to become loose, squeaking under foot and may result in popping

 

9.0 Periphery Details

Periphery details are critical to a professional wood floor finish.  The easiest way to rate a craftsman is to look at the attention to detail of the periphery items.  It can also be detrimental to the life of the floor if not enough room is left for seasonal expansion and contraction of a solid wood floor.

Door frames, architraves and stair stringers must be undercut.  Door thresholds (saddle boards and T-bars) must leave room for expansion underneath.  Expansion must be left at Fireplaces and covered with a solid wood strip.  Use metal L-bar against the weather strip of front and back doors, ensuring they match the general ironmongery. Pay close attention to the focal points and overall appearance of the floor.

 

10.0 Miscalculating waste factors.

Many times the job can’t be completed because you do not have enough wood to finish the last few meters. The normal waste factor on most jobs is 5% to 10%, depending on the amount of wood contained in each box. When the job is laid on angles, the waste factor increases to 15%. Custom borders and installations can have 20%+ waste factor.

Not being able to complete the job because you did not calculate the waste factor will cause huge frustration as acclimatisation of the new wood will now take a further two weeks.  Only then can you finish the floor, replace the skirting’s, paint & touch-up and eventually get your furniture back in. 

 

In Summary

These simple recommendations may seem like old hat, but it’s the simple things that are most often overlooked. Never cheat the job; it will always come back to get you.  For further advice and information, just drop me a line on 087-6268100, russell@rhwoodfloors.ie or via the website www.rhwoodfloors.ie  

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