Prepping for Headache-free Hardwood Flooring Installation

Installing new flooring right the first time can save you time and money. Here's how to prepare for an easy and successful installation

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Do you know the differences in installing solid-wood and engineered wood floors?

Installing new flooring right the first time can save you time and money. Here’s how to prepare for an easy and successful hardwood floor installation

Every successful DIYer knows that preparation is key. You’ve done the research on what type of flooring suits the room, how much it costs and how to care for it once it is in place.

Now you need information on how to install your newly purchased hardwood flooring, and avoid calling in the experts to dismantle the mess that was supposed to be your living room floor. Read on for tips and tricks to lay the groundwork for easy(er) installation.

Tips for Installing Hardwood Floors

• Do it Last: In larger-scale renovation projects, plan to install new flooring after all other messy renovations are finished. Paint splatters, excessive dirt and dust, and scratches from work boots, ladders and equipment can mar an otherwise perfect new floor. Why take the risk?

• Prep the Subfloor: Before getting started, make sure the subfloor is clean, dry, secure, level and free of squeaks. Screw down any areas that are squeaking before the flooring is installed as it will be much more difficult to do later.

• Measure the Moisture: It’s a good idea to bring the flooring in a few days prior to installation to allow it to adjust to the home’s normal humidity. Use a moisture meter to determine the levels, as it is important that the difference in moisture between the subfloor and flooring is not greater than four per cent. Once the flooring is ready to be installed, check the levels again – the optimal moisture content is between six to nine per cent depending on your location.

• Add a Vapour Barrier: If moisture is a concern, particularly in below-grade areas like the basement, you might consider adding a vapour barrier between the subfloor and flooring material. The most inexpensive and relatively simple vapour barrier method comes as a roll of paper that you can staple directly to the subfloor. Allow at least a four-inch overlap when installing.

• Know Your Wood:
There are differences in installing typical solid-wood flooring and engineered wood flooring, so make sure you prepare for the right materials. Engineered wood flooring consists of layers of wood sandwiched and bonded together, which allows for more flexibility, stability and ability to withstand temperature and humidity changes than a solid-wood floor. It also means you might be able to glue the flooring to the subfloor instead of nailing, or even avoid attaching to the subfloor altogether using a “floating floor” system. There are advantages and disadvantages to these alternate methods but the floating floor, in which the wood pieces snap together like a jigsaw puzzle, can be appealing to the first-time renovator.

• Allow for Extra Time:
Timelines and budgets often have to be adjusted during the renovation process, as any contractor or renovator will attest. It’s important to be realistic when planning for flooring installation – what a seasoned contractor can do in two days may take you a full week. Don’t get discouraged! That’s why it’s called sweat equity – what you lose in time and the occasional thumbnail, you will more than make up for in pride once the project is complete.