“Wood” you? (snort.)
Well gang, we have done it – we have reached the end of the series on wood flooring installation – I know, I know…you have been waiting each week by your computer with baited breath for each new installment, you have longed for the joy of my erudite commentary and are terrified that you shall have to survive somehow bereft of my pithy prose, but FEAR NOT! I shall return with more posts about flooring and stuff. If anyone has a suggestion or a question for my next topic please click the title of this post and you can send me a message at the bottom. By the way, have you ever looked up the definition of “Pithy”? The second definition says “it is a state of being filled with Pith.” Anyone know what Pith is? Me either, I looked it up too – “the soft, spongy central cylinder of parenchymatous tissue in the stems of dicotyledonous plants.” Yep, that’s me alright….
Okay, so we are going to install some hardwood floors. We found our awesome name brand engineered wood floor that we bought from a reputable dealer (like http://www.yourflooringwarehouse.com for example, just sayin) and we have found an installer
so we are ready to put the floor down! I’m going to assume that we are putting this floor down over concrete and talk about three methods of installation. The first method is a direct glue down. This also assumes that the moisture test has been done and there is zero indication of ANY concrete vapor emissions what so ever. Two things to keep in mind here – just because your slab looks flat doesnt mean that it is flat. The first thing a good installer will do is to take a ten ft straight edge and lay it across every part of the subfloor, marking off where there are dips and high points. He is then going to come to you and tell you that there needs to be some self leveling compound poured down to make the floor level. I get it – this is the point where you as the consumer starts thinking “RIP-OFF ALERT!!RIP-OFF ALERT!! This Joker is trying to play me for a sucker!” –Chill out, it’s okay. This is what’s called “unforseen floor prep” and it is going to happen from time to time. An un-level slab will make for a bad install, there is no getting around that. You will have peaking joints, humps and dips, the final install will look like crap and you wont want to pay him. Do not ruin your install by getting cheap on the floor prep, the flatter he makes it, the better its going to look. The second thing to keep in mind is the glue. You want what ever adhesive the manufacturer of the wood tells you to use. Use something else and you void your warranty. Most of the time they are going to tell you to use some type of branded moisture cured urethane adhesive, be sure to get this from your retailer, do not let the installer supply it. When your installer starts be sure he is using the correct trowel – it will say which on the bucket. 2 more tips – Never use a water based adhesive, because it is made with water it is not resistant to water. that’s a bad thing. Second, When he is spreading the glue, leave. Not because of fumes, it is safe, but because the glue itself is not to be trifled with. This glue cures overnight and is literally impossible to remove – seriously, impossible. No one wants this stuff accidentally stepped in and walked all over the house (shudder).
Okay what is the next method then? Well let’s say that the moisture test came back positive, or you live near the water, or you are maybe just a nervous nilly – you need to install a moisture barrier over your slab. There are basically two systems I professionally recommend – The first is glue based and the second is an epoxy solution. The Glue based system goes like it sounds, you are just using the glue in two applications. The Urethane glue is impervious to moisture and when applied with a flat trowel or roller makes a very effective moisture barrier. You then use a standard trowel to put more glue down to install the floor. We have been using these systems for years and have always had zero call back success, plus you get the added benefit of a moisture warranty that will replace the floor if it fails. Now what if your installer comes to you and says your moisture test came back and is really high? Assuming you were a good homeowner and eliminated the possibility of any active pipe leaks etc. I suggest you get a little more aggressive with the barrier by using the Sika epoxy system. In my opinion this is the mother of all moisture barriers – you are actually rolling a coat of epoxy onto your concrete that penetrates and permanently bonds with it. The final result looks like a sheet of glass and stops subfloor moisture in its tracks.
This glue is pricey. You can expect to pay .60 to $1 a sf for just the glue, double that if you opt for the moisture barrier systems. In addition, the glue is hard to work with and pretty much eliminates the possibility of a do-it-yourself-er taking on a glue down hardwood floor so you have to factor in the cost of the hiring a pro as well. That’s what you get when you want a Hardwood floor put in over a slab right? Not anymore.
You can float that puppy.
Many of the leading hardwood manufacturers have started to produce hardwood floors that have a “Locking” system that allows the planks to click together, and are “floated” over a padding/moisture barrier – Just like a laminate floor works. In my humble opinion this is the future, especially here in Florida. Why? 1. No glue and no glue expense. 2. no moisture worries -this floor floats, air is circulating under it to allow vapor disbursal, plus the padding you put down is a very effective barrier. 3. You can save – A LOT. Let’s break that down -you save a ton by not using adhesive, you save on floor prep because this type of floor is much more forgiving to an unlevel floor, and you save on labor. If you use a pro he should charge you less because he is not working with glue – or you can eliminate the pro all together. If you consider yourself fairly handy I suggest you go to you tube and put “floating floor installation” into the search. Watch a few and see if you can do it yourself. 4. No “clunkclunk” hollow noise like a laminate floor. that is the biggest complaint about laminate floors, that hollow echo noise it makes when you walk on it. don’t forget that hardwood is cellular and is structurally better in terms of sound resonance, plus the underlayments have gotten much much better lately and they do an excellent job of mimmicking a glue down installation in terms of noise and feel underfoot.
So let’s say you decide to do it yourself and go with a floating hardwood floor -how much can you save? I can show you a nice variety of floating hardwood floors including exotic species and hand scraped textures if you want right now for under $4 a sf. add in .50 for the underlayment, a bit more for transition pieces and trim and wham – you got a beautiful hardwood floor for well under $5 installed. Added bonus? Hardwood floors are one of the few flooring options that increase the value of your home, so you can reasonably expect to get your money back out when you sell. You can’t say that with carpet, that’s for sure.
- Flooring Moisture series #2 : WOOD + WATER = BAD. (floorsforflorida.com)