To install an engineered wood floor requires that you acclimate the flooring to the environment in which it’s going to be used. With engineered flooring, however, you need to condition the space to meet the guidelines of the manufacturer. Typically, manufacturers require a range between 35 and 55% relative humidity (RH), but not all guidelines are the same. Some manufacturers may have a range of 40 to 60% RH, while others may require 30 to 50% RH. Check the RH in your house and ensure it is within the range specified by the manufacturer before you purchase the floor.
Just because the product is engineered doesn’t mean that you can skip taking moisture readings on the flooring or subfloor, either. The RH range and equivalent moisture content (MC) applies to the conditions where the flooring is stored, as well as installed. If there’s a fluctuation at the storage site or excess moisture on the subfloor, problems can occur with the floor later. Knowing the recommended RH range and keeping the flooring within that range for the life of the product ensures the best performance of the product.
Whether you should unpackage the flooring at the job site and “acclimate” it in the traditional sense of the word depends on the manufacturer. Many engineered products are intentionally boxed in a manner intended to reduce airflow and moisture transfer; manufacturers of these products will tell you not to acclimate the product at the job site, as it may distort or affect the product in some other way prior to installation.
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 the engineered wood floor?
The first rule for subfloors is that they be firm—with little or no movement. Check the installation guide for the manufacturer’s tolerance for subfloor deflection, or for the required construction of a wood subfloor.
The next rule is that subfloors must be flat. This can be measured by using a long straightedge to check for high or low spots that lie outside the manufacturer’s requirements. High spots need to be ground down and low spots need to be filled. Low spots usually can be filled with any non-compressible media such as floor levelling patch.
All floating floors include an underlay. Although there are many features built into underlays today, (cushioning and sound absorption, for example) the most important function of an underlayment is to be a moisture barrier. Make sure to wrap the underlayment up the walls to encapsulate the flooring with the moisture barrier. Trim this level with the floor after installation to stop it pushing up the periphery detail (skirting or beading).
In a floating installation, the individual boards are simply attached to one another and not to the subfloor. Whether the floor you’re installing uses a traditional tongue-and-groove joint or a new mechanical joint, make sure you’re using the proper tools and techniques. Note that tools and techniques for assembling the boards vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. All manufacturers sell tools specific to their floors and installation methods. These tools are not only designed to simplify the installation but also to protect the floor as it is installed.
Before you install an engineered wood floor pick the room feature. In a sitting room this will normally be the fireplace. For aesthetics you need a full, straight board at the fireplace. Fit the next two boards to the end joints of the first board and so on until you hit the wall on either side. To ensure the strongest joint possible when you install an engineered wood floor, the middle of the boards on the next row should align to the joint in the first row.
As you reach the end of a row, use the cut-off piece from the end of that row as the first board in the next. Pay attention to the stagger of the end joints in adjoining rows. Make sure they comply with the manufacturer’s requirements. Continue this process until the room is complete.
Since the installed floor will behave like one large piece of wood, the expansion that normally happens between individual pieces of flooring is transferred to the perimeter of the room. Before you install an engineered wood floor, calculate how much expansion space is necessary, based on the size of connected areas. This space usually ranges from 1/2 inch up to as much as 3/4 inch.
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.
To install the last row in a room, use a “last board puller” to pull the board into place.]
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. Cover the expansion space with appropriate mouldings that will either match the floor or existing mouldings as follows:
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%.
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 may now be required. Only then can you finish the floor, fit the edge mouldings, paint & touch-up and eventually get your furniture back in.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org or via the website www.rhwoodfloors.ie