Installing A Floating Wood Floor
Wood flooring was one of the most popular finishes in pre and post World War II homes in America. The love affair with wood flooring lasted well into the late 1950’s when wall-to-wall carpet became an affordable and stylish alternative.
While carpet remains the most predominant floor covering in American homes, wood flooring is again the rage and has been since the early 1980’s. One major factor that is driving the demand for wood is the vast array of product that is now available for do-it-yourself installation. One such product is a floating wood floor.
Unlike traditional solid wood flooring planks, a floating floor consists of thin layers of plywood laminated together. The uppermost layer consists of a wood veneer such as oak, maple or another specie. To make the product yet more user-friendly, it is pre-finished which eliminates the arduous sanding and finishing process which goes hand-in-hand with traditional wood flooring.
Another characteristic of the floating wood floor is its ability to be installed over a concrete slab. That is precisely why the floor has been dubbed a “floating” floor. In sharp contract to traditional glue and/or nail wood flooring, the floating floor planks are edge glued to one another, but not to the substrate. A half-inch gap is left at all walls. This allows the floor to expand and contract in conjunction with the environmental conditions of the space. Movement occurs at the perimeter rather than resulting in unsightly gaps between the various planks. Decorative baseboards are installed to conceal the expansion gap.
And because the manufacturing and finishing process is so superior, the planks fit together with a smooth monolithic appearance that was once only achieved through hours upon hours of sanding.
The installation process is pretty straight forward. A table saw, cut off saw, casing saw, mallet, tape measure, pencil and razor knife are the tools needed. The flooring material generally comes in boxes containing 20 square feet. It helps to have some extra on hand to accommodate an occasional error.
Prior to commencing the installation process, the area where the product is to be installed should be clean and level. Use a floor scraper and a vacuum to remove any surface debris that may exist. The floor should be level to within one-eighth inch in ten feed. Low spots should be filled with a leveling compound to avoid a bouncy floor. Also, remove doors and use a casing saw to undercut door frames and trim to make space for the wood flooring and pad.
The installation process is the same for a wood subfloor or a concrete slab with one exception. When installing the product over a concrete slab, a vapor barrier consisting of one layer of six mil plastic sheeting must be installed directly over the slab. In the case of a wood subfloor a building felt of kraft paper is used in place of the plastic sheeting. An eighth-inch thick foam pad is laid atop the vapor barrier. It is on this foam pad that the entire glued-up floor “floats”.
With the vapor barrier and foam in place, the wood flooring can be installed. Start by placing shims against the starting wall. This will help create a straight row of planks. Glue is applied to the groove along the edge and one end of each strip. The strips fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Use a mallet and a scrap of flooring to tap joints tight. Be sure to have a moist sponge handy to wipe up excess glue.
A tip on gluing. Don’t use any glue. Most manufactures of floating floors have a brand of glue that can be purchased along with the flooring. Use it. It is yellow or “aliphatic” glue which is virtually the strongest glue available for use on wood.
Also, when applying the glue to the groove, don’t run a continuous bead. It is best to alternate approximately twelve inches on and twelve inches off. Aside from saving glue, this will prevent excess glue from oozing up and out of the joint.
Once the entire floor is installed allow the glue to set up over night. Complete the project by installing baseboard to conceal the expansion gap at the perimeter. Also, special thresholds and transition strips are available for installation at locations where flooring changes occur.
Care and maintenance can be a breeze with this type of flooring. Most manufactures of floating floors make a cleaning product designed to be use specifically with their flooring. We strongly recommend that you use their product in strict accordance with the directions. This will ensure that your floor receives maximum protection and continues to look good for years to come.
The floating wood floor isn’t just for home installation. One of our wives recently opened her own beauty salon. She wanted wood flooring, but was concerned about the cost and the fact that the space has a concrete slab. We found that the cost of the floating floor material (about $5. per square foot) was about the same as traditional types of wood flooring, but that there was lots to be saved in the installation and finish. An added bonus is that the foam pad makes the floor more giving which the girls in salon say is great when they’re working on their feet all day.