How To Install Floating Engineered Wood Flooring

July 7, 2017

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to everything. This is especially truen when choosing flooring for your home. Whether it’s a brand new floor or a replacement of the existing one, you need to factor in your needs and your budget.

Hardwood flooring is the best choice in terms of warmth and durability. However, it is quite costly. It would also be difficult to install hardwood floor over old flooring in your room.

This is where engineered wood flooring comes in. It is the less-expensive alternative, and easier to install. It’s also important to note that it is a more sustainable material. Instead of chopping more trees to create a thick hardwood floor, engineered wood only uses a 6mm veneer per board.

Approximately 1 to 2 cm in thickness, it is composed of a top veneer of real wood and layers of plywood underneath. Because of how it is made, engineered wood flooring can withstand higher levels of moisture

Installing engineered hardwoods can be accomplished in many ways.

  • Floating Installation - planks are glued side by side, but not glued to the floor
  • Glue Down - planks are glued directly to the concrete or floor
  • Nailed Down - over a wood subfloor

The floating installation is the best choice for a fast and easy installation without the need to remove the old flooring underneath.

What Is Floating Floor?

Why exactly is it called a “floating” floor when it isn’t exactly levitating in mid-air?

It’s a term that simply illustrates the way it’s installed, as the planks sit on top of an underlayment. They are attached side by side, but are not attached or nailed to the subfloor.

Engineered wood floors are secured in place through a tongue-and-groove connection. If you want to visualize this better, imagine a jigsaw puzzle. They connect to each other, but not to the table. Of course, the tongue-and-groove connection is the sophisticated version that locks the floor in place, allowing you to install it over old floors.

Aside from engineered wood, there are other types of flooring that can also be installed using a floating floor method, such as laminate and vinyl flooring.

Now that you know what a floating floor is, here are the steps on how to install engineered wood flooring

#1. Measure and Check

How much engineered wood do you need to buy?

The sure way to know is to measure the length and width of the room. Get the total area and divide it by the area per plank. And then add 10% to the total as allowance for waste.

Next is to check if the floor is level. If it is not level you will need to see if you can remedy it by sanding the floor

#2. Clean and Acclimate

Vacuum the floor to remove dust and debris. You would also need to remove moldings if you have any.

Once the wood flooring you ordered has been delivered, it has to be acclimatized for at least 48 hours before you begin installation.

Why do you need to do this? So the material becomes adjusted to the new climate condition.

To do so, you only need to place the boxes in the middle of the room without opening the boxes. Lay them flat, not standing or on their sides. If you can avoid it, don’t stack the boxes one on top of the other

#3. Measure and Check Again

Upon opening the boxes, check if the boards have warped or if they have any defects. Inspect for chips, splinters and other forms of damage. Replace the ones that have been damaged.

Now it’s time to decide the direction of the run of your floor. In laying engineered hardwood floors, the common rule of thumb is to run the planks parallel to the long side of the wall.

You would also want the width of the first plank row to be equal to the width of the last row. To achieve this, measure the width of the entire room, subtract the space needed for the expansion gap on both sides, and then divide by the width of the engineered wood plank.

Then you have to calculate the desired width of the first row plank and the last row plank. Chances are, you will need to trim both planks so they will fit the measurement.

#4. Trim Door Jambs

Upon opening the boxes, check if the boards have warped or if they have any defects. Inspect for chips, splinters and other forms of damage. Replace the ones that have been damaged.

Now it’s time to decide the direction of the run of your floor. In laying engineered hardwood floors, the common rule of thumb is to run the planks parallel to the long side of the wall.

You would also want the width of the first plank row to be equal to the width of the last row. To achieve this, measure the width of the entire room, subtract the space needed for the expansion gap on both sides, and then divide by the width of the engineered wood plank.

Then you have to calculate the desired width of the first row plank and the last row plank. Chances are, you will need to trim both planks so they will fit the measurement.

#5. Install the Underlayment

Now you’re ready to install the underlayment or foam padding below the engineered wood planks. It also helps level minor imperfections of the subfloor.

Beginning in one corner of the room, unroll the underlayment in the same direction as the flooring. You need to place one layer next to another, instead of overlapping them.

Continue laying the underlayment until you have the entire room covered. If you are installing a floating floor over concrete, extend the underlayment up the wall by about two inches.

Next is to trim it around irregular boundaries like columns and door jambs. It can be cut with a utility knife, so don’t sweat!

Tape the seams with a polyethylene tape or duct tape.

#6. Install Engineered Wood Floor

If you look at other DIY articles, some would say work from left to right, while others say right to left. I’d say choose whatever works best for you.

When installing the first row, the tongue should face the center of the room. Add a spacer to separate the plank from the wall. Place wood glue on 3 sides, except for the side facing the wall.

The most common laying pattern is the staggered one. You can attain this by starting each row with the remaining cut from the previous row. Just make sure that it’s at least 8 inches long.

Place spacers against the wall when starting a new row and add glue to the tongue and groove of each plank. When connecting the boards, angle the succeeding plank so it will fit snuggly. Tap the plank gently using a hammering wood block to have a tighter fit. Immediately wipe off any excess glue in between boards.

Now comes the slightly challenging part: the last row.

Measure the edge of the board, not the tongue, to the wall, minus the thickness of the spacer. By doing this you get the exact width for the last row of planks. Trim the plank to achieve the desired width.

Insert the final row while still maintaining the required expansion gap. You might need to use a pry bar or a hammering block to fit the last row in place tightly.

With a little patience, you’re done!

#7. Install Finish Trim

For the final step, you only need to install the molding or transition pieces after you remove the spacers. Remember, the baseboards and molding should be nailed to the wall and not to the floor.

Leave the room as is for 24 hours before bringing in the furniture.

And that’s it. Now you have new flooring and a different look for your room

Which Is Better: Float or Glue Engineered Wood Floor?

I encounter this question a lot, and like many questions, the answer is: it depends. It all boils down to what you need and what limitations you have.

A glue-down installation is more firmly attached to the subfloor. It is more durable and you get a more solid feel underfoot. However, it is more costly and it takes more time to install. You would also have to check if the wood will stick to the subfloor. Try gluing a piece of engineered hardwood down to see if it works successfully.

On the other hand, installing floating engineered hardwood flooring is faster to install, and cheaper. It is ideal for installations where adhesives won’t work on the existing floor. If you already have floor tiles, for example, or asphalt subfloor.

When in doubt if the glue will stick to the subfloor, the floating installation is the safest way to go.

Another tip would be to choose thicker engineered wood floor, at least 3/4" for a floating installation, so it will almost feel like they are nailed down

Even if you don’t have previous experience in installing floating engineered wood flooring, you can easily take on the task by following the steps I showed you above.

Choosing the type of flooring and type of installation can be confusing and complicated. It can take quite some time before you make a decision.

It would be wise to take all factors into consideration. Once you know that floating wood floor will work for you, then go ahead. The outcome will be worth it.

If you’ve had any experience, questions or tips on floating wood installation, feel free to express them in the comments section

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