Hardwood flooring installation
When talking about hardwood flooring installation we are referring to solid wood flooring installation (3/8, 1/2, 5/8, ¾ inch thick) of any type or species of wood, with an unfinished or a factory prefinished face. In this category the only major difference will be between the unfinished and the prefinished hardwood floors, as the thickness or the width of the wood planks does not affect the process of installation very much. In the unfinished category the most common wood is Red Oak followed by White Oak, Maple, Cherry, Walnut, Hickory, Ash and Pine. Hardwood floors are typically installed with nails, staples or cleats onto a wooden subfloor base and over a layer of felt paper used for sound proofing. In planks wider than 3 ¼ inch construction glue is required to compensate for the distance between the nails. Even though the wood installation looks like a very complex process, for the flooring professional it is quite an easy task. As soon as the type of the wood is determined by the home owner, they will look for a starting point (straight line wall), calculate the necessary space for expansion and start laying down the wood. The prefinished wood floors are going to take longer to be installed because the installer has to make sure the prefinished face is protected at all time to avoid dents or scratches.
Laminate floors are very popular due to their easy installation and inexpensive price and ultimately for their wood look-a-like quality. A good quality laminate product will really trick the eye and make the floor look like the real deal. Usually, laminate floors are made out of recycled paper and are installed with a quick click locking device. The result is going to be a floating floor as the installation does not require any nails or glue. Before installing a laminate floor, the installer is going to check if the leveling of the subfloor (concrete or plywood) is good or at least fair. They will install a sound barrier that will reduce the noise and add comfort when walking on the floor, after which they will proceed with the laminate floor installation. Some expansion space is required, but humidity and moisture doesn’t affect the laminate flooring as much as the real hardwood. That is why laminate is preferred in basements and garden units.
This type of wood is called Engineered because it is made out of layers of different types of wood with a thin layer of the desired species on top. The engineered wood is preferred for the glue down installation in situations where raising the floor to accommodate a subfloor is not an option. It can also be nailed down to a wooden subfloor. The engineered wood is usually prefinished in the factory but you can also find it in the unfinished option. When shopping for a prefinished engineered floor you have to always keep in mind that time and traffic will ultimately affect the finish and the floor will have to be refinished. That is why you have to buy the engineered wood that has the thickest top layer, because that is the sanding layer. With the economy down, some of the manufacturers are making the top layer thinner to lower the cost of production. From ¼ inch a few years ago, now we find products with 1/8 inch and even 1/16 inch top layer. The last option is impossible to refinish without exposing the lower layers. The most common engineered wood installation can be found in buildings with a concrete slab. This type of wood will keep the level closer to the slab making the transition from wood to carpeted rooms or tiled areas nice and smooth. If a regular hardwood floor will raise the level with about 1.3/4 inch, the engineered will stay within the ½ inch to ¾ inch range. The way the wood is designed will keep the boards straight for the duration of the installation until the glue hardens.
GLUE DOWN FLOORING
The best wood floor for glue down installation is the engineered wood. The multiple layers of different woods used in fabrication will keep the wood straight after it is removed from the box for a longer period, just enough time for the glue to dry. For smaller areas, gluing regular hardwood to a concrete slab is possible. The engineered wood comes in a prefinished and an unfinished version. To install glue down floors, the installer will check the moisture level of the concrete using a moisture testing kit. After determining that the concrete has the right moisture they will proceed with the floor installation. In some buildings a sound barrier installation will be required prior to the wood installation. The glue has to be an oil based product to avoid cupping on the floor after installation. A fair amount of glue has to be used that will cover the subfloor evenly to assure a solid quality installation. The boards are going to be secured in place with masking tape until the glue is dry and a special glue cleaner might be used after the tape is removed to clean any glue spots or residue existing on the floor surface.
FLOATING FLOOR – QUICK CLICK
A floating floor with a quick click mechanism could be either a Laminate floor or an engineered floating floor. Floating floors are usually installed on a concrete slab over a sound barrier. The quick click installation does not require glue or nails. The floor will be installed like a puzzle with a snap in place mechanism. The quick click floating floor is preferred in apartments and high rise buildings where space will not allow for a major construction project.
SUBFLOORS AND SOUND BARRIERS
When installing a solid or engineered nail down flooring a wooden subfloor is required. The most common wooden subfloor is ¾ inch plywood. Depending on the situation a 5/8 inch or ½ inch plywood could also be used. On a concrete slab the subfloor will be secured with concrete nails or screws. Some high rise buildings will not allow securing the plywood to the concrete but instead they will require a floated subfloor consisting of two layers of 3/8 inch sheets. The top layer will be secured to the bottom layer with nails or screws. In some cases a sound barrier could be required to be installed under the subfloor. The sound barrier could be anything from inexpensive plastic foam to a high end rubber material that will be in compliance with the most excessive building requirements. Cork is the most common sound barrier and widely accepted in any wood floor installation.
When a staircase is covered by carpet 90% of the time the wood under the carpet will be plywood or any other inexpensive material. If a wooden staircase is desired, the carpet will be removed and the existing structure will be covered with the wood of choice. The treads can be made out of a single solid piece of wood or by installing regular strips of hardwood with a round edge nose. The risers can also be made out of a single solid piece or, if required, made out of regular hardwood boards. When the installation is done the wood will be sanded stained and coated.