As engineered wood continues to grow in popularity, it’s often the first flooring option homeowners and home inspectors choose for remodels and new construction. While many homeowners with a bit of DIY experience can lay it themselves, it’s still a highly skilled job that’s best left to professionals for whole-house projects and complex installations such as stairs.
If you’ve never laid an engineered hardwood floor before, the process can seem intimidating. But with a little bit of preparation, this type of flooring is actually fairly simple to install. Regardless of which installation method you choose—nail-down, glue down, or floating—it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and carefully prepare the subfloor before installing the flooring.
Before you even touch a plank of your new engineered wood flooring, you need to remove all carpeting, padding, and staples from the area. Then clean the floor and ensure that the plywood subfloor is flat, smooth, and free of dips and dents. Then reinstall baseboards or shoe molding (the small, rounded trim that sits in front of the baseboard) if desired, using appropriate caulk and wood adhesive.
Once the floorboards arrive, carefully open and inspect them to make sure they’re the correct color and finish. Remember that while engineered wood is very moisture resistant, wood is a natural product and each batch can have color and texture variations. Once you’re happy with the condition and color of your floorboards, secure the box and let it acclimate for a few days in the room where it will be installed.
Starting in the corner of the room, lay the first row of floorboards, fitting the tongues together. Then, if your floorboards come with a pneumatic floor nailer, line up the pneumatic nailer and staple every 3 to 4 inches along the tongue of the board. Be sure to countersink and fill any resulting holes with wood filler.
Once you’ve got all the boards in place, use an expansion spacer between each wall and the floorboards to keep a 10mm expansion gap. This is to allow for the wood’s natural shift in size due to temperature and humidity changes.
You can also use a special foam underlay to help with expansion and contraction issues, but it’s important to ask your flooring supplier what the manufacturer recommends. They will be able to provide you with the right underlayment for your specific project.
It’s important to note that floating engineered wood floors are not meant for heavy fitted units or furniture. This can restrict the natural movement of the floorboards and cause them to peak in places. It will also void most manufacturers’ warranties.