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"floated" floors

In respect of engineered wood floors which are "floated" on an underlay, the floor is still subject to expansion and contraction, but because the boards are glued to each other and not physically fixed to the sub-floor the gapping and closing between individual boards that solid floors are prone to doesn't occur. Instead, the floor, as designed, expands as a whole into the expansion gap left at the perimeters.




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Installing a wood floor for yourself might on the face of it seem a daunting task, and certainly it is not something that you should embark upon without the correct tools and knowledge to hand. However, it is not beyond the capabilities of anyone with moderate DIY skills. On this page, we shall try to offer some general advice on floor preparation and techniques, but it should be emphasised that you should always read and adhere to the fitting instructions that will be included in each pack of flooring.

You will need to leave a 10mm expansion gap around the perimeter of the room. To maintain this gap during installation spacers should be used, which are removed once the floor if finished, at which point the expansion gap can be covered either with scotia or beading, or alternatively, with new skirting boards. Remember that the expansion gap must also be left in doorways where the floor follows through from one room to another; a jamb undercutting saw should be used to trim the door jambs where the floor might bind, and where required, an appropriate threshold bar should be fitted, again with the expansion gap allowed for.


Firstly, it is important to realise that all hardwood flooring, whether it is solid or engineered, is susceptible to the presence of moisture. This moisture may be in the sub-floor or even in the air.

In the winter months when you are likely to have your central heating on, wood flooring can lose moisture, causing the floor to contract slightly. In the case of solid hardwood floors, where the boards are fixed to the sub-floor, this can sometimes leave unsightly gaps between each floor board. In the summer months though, when your central heating is off and the ambient humidity is higher, the solid wood flooring will expand and the gaps will disappear.

If there is too much moisture in the subfloor it will cause the wood planks to cup, or buckle. Nearly all problems related to solid wood flooring are due to either the presence of moisture, improper installation and sub floor preparation or all three. This is why it is important when installing solid wood flooring that you follow the recommended installation methods.

If you are laying over concrete or screed it is essential that you at check the moisture content of the subfloor. If the sub-floor has an inappropriately high moisture content then you have two choices; 

The most obvious, if the concrete or screed is relatively new, is to wait until the subfloor dries out. The time this takes will on the depth at which the concrete / screed has been laid. For new concrete slabs and screeds, a very broad rule of thumb for drying time is approx 1 month per inch of depth. 

Alternatively, it is possible these days to use liquid 2 part epoxy damp-proof membranes such as F Balls F74 or F75 which are brushed or rollered onto the sub-floor. These form a waterproof skin over which a flexible smoothing compound can be laid to give a surface that can be glued to.

As a sidenote, it is worth pointing out that if you are going to be laying a new concrete floor upon which the wood floor is going to be laid, and haven't yet commenced, that it would be worth considering using a rapid setting and drying cement product like Ardex A35 which can receive floorcoverings after only one day, irrespective of thickness.

glue down installation

Glue-down installation requires the use of special flexible adhesives applied directly onto the subfloor. Wood floors can be laid onto both concrete and wooden subfloors, but if you are laying over concrete or screed it is essential that you at first check the moisture content of the subfloor (see "moisture" above)

If as a consequence of the presence of moisture in the sub-floor you have had to apply a liquid damp-proof membrane, it is important to use flexible smoothing compounds to present a surface appropriate to glue the floor to, because if the wood expands and contracts, a standard latex compound can often be too rigid, and could simply shear away from the sub-floor.

Concrete sub-floors should be dry, smooth, level and free of structural defects. If the concrete sub floor is uneven, again we recommend using a flexible self levelling compound to level the subfloor out.

The concrete must also be free of any paint, oil, adhesive residues, grease, and dirt. These may be removed chemically or mechanically, but it is important to not use solvent-based strippers. The residue of these solvents present a strong risk of reacting with the wood floor adhesive and can kill the bond of flooring adhesives. It is crucial to ensure a proper bond between the adhesives and concrete and wood panels.

If you have a wooden subfloor you will need to lay at least a 9mm plywood base over this before installation to give you a smooth and level surface for you to install you wood flooring onto.

Another important consideration in using glue-down installation is your choice of adhesives as some are only suitable for floors up to a small width.

nail down installation

Nailed down installation is the traditional way to install solid wood floors to timber sub-floors or joists, or in the case of concrete subfloors, with the use of battens. If fitting battens over a concrete floor, check first that the fixings for the battens won’t penetrate any surface or sub-surface damp-proof membrane.

Wooden Subfloor

Solid wood floors can be nailed into existing wooden subfloors such as floorboards or plywood but not into chipboard floors as these are not strong enough to hold the nails. The floorboards must be in good condition and level. If this is not the case, it is advisable to lay 9mm plywood to ensure an even laying surface.

To avoid the risk of floor-creak, carefully check the subfloor and securely fasten any loose floorboards. If soundproofing is required, it is also advisable to use a polyfoam underlay as a barrier. Please note however that impact sound will still be transmitted through the nails into the sub-floor.

A solid wood floor is fixed using a tool known as a Porta Nailer. This device drives the nails at a 30 degree angle through the tongue and into the subfloor or joist. The next row of boards then cover the nailed tongue of the previous row, and so on. Porta Nailers can be hired from any good hire shop.

Installing onto Battens

You can nail down a solid wood floor over a concrete subfloor with the use of battens. A damp proof membrane sheet must first be laid over the concrete subfloor before the battens are laid out at centers of 450mm. The battens must be a minimum of 40mm in depth to avoid them bowing. The solid wood floor can then be nailed down as described above.