Nothing comes close to matching the beauty and elegance of new hardwood floors. The classic wood look provides a warm and comfortable atmosphere for any room. It’s also a chunky investment that you don’t go around making every day. Which is why you should be well informed and know the installation process to ensure that your floors are installed properly and will serve you for many decades. Not following the proper rules or allowing your hardwood installer to compromise on certain aspects of them may actually prove to be detrimental to the longevity of your once beautiful floors. Let’s highlight some key “need to know” facts.
What in the world is it? Acclimation is a process where the moisture level of the wood is adjusted to the environment where it is to be installed. Hardwood expands and contracts with the weather (and many other factors) depending on where it was stored prior to installation. The danger of this; once the wood is installed it may result in abnormal gaps when the humidity or temperature changes. Even worse it can result in crushing when the hardwood expands.
Tips for ideal hardwood acclimation
- Bring the wood into the area of install (not a garage or basement)
- Maintain the building and room in normal living conditions (temperature & humidity)
- Ensure that AC/Heating is functioning during acclimation process
- Allow the wood to sit for at least three days or until properly acclimated (installers can check this)
- Have moisture measurements taken when wood is delivered and prior to installation
The purpose of acclimation is to reach equilibrium between the moisture content level of the hardwood in relation to the surrounding environment (the subfloor). Not all wood types acclimate at the same rate, make sure to follow manufactures recommendations.
Did you know that engineered hardwood flooring is less likely to have problems with acclimation and moisture content levels because it is more stable than solid hardwood?
In order to install hardwood flooring you are going to have to get rid of all of the current flooring material in order to get to the subfloor. This will require prying any of the current material up as well as removing the baseboards. Some flooring is more difficult to remove than others so keep that in mind when you are discussing removal costs, estimates, and timelines with your installers. Once you get down to the subfloor you will need to make sure that it is free of any debris, particles, or old adhesive that creates an uneven surface. A clean, flat, dry, and level surface is key to the perfect conditions for hardwood. Ask your installer for help with preparation as well as recommendations for creating an ideal subfloor environment.
Here are a few key things to remember when preparing the subfloor
- You can use a sander to clean the subfloor of adhesive, paint, wax, or other old material
- Some types of hardwood can be installed over pre-existing flooring, ask your installer for suggestions
- Repair any lose boards or damages in the subfloor before installation
- Ensure that the subfloor is flat, clean of debris, and dry
- Discuss with your installer in advance; charge of old floor removal, subfloor preparation cost, estimated length of acclimation.
Layout, Direction, & Starting Point
Proper hardwood installation requires loads of planning. When you disregard the need to properly analyze the floor plan of your home as well as the dimensions of each room you will experience uneven pattering, awkward angles, and plenty of wasted material. Inexperienced installers will begin installation at any random corner of the room and will work out following the pattern. Once they run into doorways, hallways, or transitions they will be forced to continue with the direction and pattern they began with (resulting in wasted material and subpar looks). Especially if your home has unconventional corners and oddly shaped rooms. Mistakes like these cause hours of wasted time and a floor that could have easily turned out much better if adequate time was spent planning. Planning in advance (together with your installer) will create an efficient layout minimizing the amount of leftover pieces.
The traditional methods used for solid hardwood is nailed or stapled down hardwood. Both are effective and equally well get the job done. More depends on the quality of the subfloor rather than on the nail or staple itself. Some installers prefer nails others staples, both work. Historically hardwood has been installed using nails through manual labor (hammer in hand). Today with modern pneumatic air pressurized tools, installation is simpler and quicker.
Glue down is a popular method for engineered hardwood installation. The adhesive is spread onto the subfloor and the hardwood is laid down on it. Hardwood flooring adhesive is one of the most expensive installation methods and can get messy and difficult.
Floating hardwood is not fastened and doesn’t require adhesive or nails to attach it to the subfloor. Although it does utilize adhesive (wood glue) in between the hardwood planks to hold them together. Floating hardwood uses a soft pad in between the wood and subfloor as a cushion. This pad also reduces noise and increases comfort. Floating a hardwood floor is a very quick and simple installation process.
Click-Loc is an engineered method of holding planks together. Groves are created in between planks that allows them to simply snap together. Completely bypassing the need of even using wood glue as a standard floating hardwood floor uses. The Click-Loc method is the fastest and easiest method of installation for hardwood & laminate.
Hardwood installation always results in a dust problem. The process of hardwood installation requires cutting and sanding of wood which often releases large quantities of dust particles right within your home. Dust particles can actually result in respiratory problems and thus should not just be left alone. Cleaning dust up after any construction projects is a must, especially hardwood. Clean up can be a long and tedious project (even if your installers used a dust free installation method). You may have to mop, dust, and vacuum multiple times/days in a row in order to eliminate the majority of dust.
Another important thing to do is to swap out your air filters after installation. Your air system will suck in a lot of dust from the installation and will be fairly dirty. It isn’t a good idea to simply leave it be because it can result in health and breathing problems later. Air filters are fairly inexpensive and are easy to replace, but will guarantee a cleaner environment afterwards.
Here’s a tip: During installation to prevent the widespread of dust into your air system try to keep your furnace off. This will prevent dust from being spread through out the house.
After the hardwood installation process is over its all downhill. But, you don’t want your installer to simply finish the installation and run away leaving you with all of the hard work of cleaning up. Make sure you discuss with your installer before hand how the furniture is going to be moved back. Also know how the installer is disposing of your old material and whether or not that is an extra charge as well.
Before you even sign a contract or ask for a proposal make sure you discuss warranty information. Hardwood is a tricky material and can be damaged easily if not installed properly. It is always important to know what the warranty covers ensuring you keep your floors in tip top shape for years to come.
Here's a downloadable hardwood installation checklist just for you
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