How to lay wood flooring

Laying a solid wood floor is a job that can quite feasibly be carried out on a DIY basis, but obviously not everyone has the time or inclination to do this.
If you want to get someone else to lay it for you, you’ll need to ask either a builder or local carpenter or joiner to do the work.

When your flooring arrives, you must let it acclimatise to the room before it is laid. The flooring should be taken out of packaging while they acclimatise but can leave the plastic straps on for easy handling. We recommend 5-7 days depending on season for the flooring to acclimatise in room and preferable with some heating on to take any extra moisture that maybe taken on during warehouse storage so any possible shrinkage takes place before being fitted.

When you are laying a solid timber floor, it is best to lay it using a fixed method, as opposed to ‘floating’ (commonly used for engineered boards). This is because solid wood flooring has a higher tendency towards movement and needs to be fixed to the sub-floor to avoid problems in the future. You can fix it to concrete, to the floor joists or to an existing timber floor.

If fixing to concrete:

  • Ensure the concrete is sound and level. If it’s not, then screwing a chipboard or plywood sub-base on top, then nailing or gluing the new wood floor to it, is the best way forward.
  • If you are fixing the floor directly to the concrete, gluing it down is the way to go. But first you must check the concrete sub-base is free of any moisture before laying any wooden floor on it.

If you are fixing solid wood flooring to existing timber:

  • Nailing will be the best option. Although it is good to lay the new board at a 90° angle to the old, it is not imperative. That said, this is essential if you are nailing directly to the joists.
  • Because you are likely to be fixing your solid wood boards to the sub-floor, underlay is not usually used, but there are slatted underlays you can buy for the purpose, with pre-cut slots that allow the floor to be glued directly to the sub-floor (try Acoustalay slatted glue through underlay, available from Screwfix).
  • Before beginning work, skirting boards should be removed to achieve the neatest finish. Some homeowners do, however, choose to leave skirting in place and use quadrant beading to cover the gap between the floor and skirting.
  • Most solid wood flooring comes with tongue-and-groove edges and can be either glued or secret nailed, but before you begin, remember you will need to leave an expansion gap around the walls of around 15mm to allow for movement. You can pick up plastic spacers to do the job for you.
  • Depending on the size of your room, it should take around two to three days to lay wood flooring, although it has to be said that laying a fixed solid floor is a more time-consuming task than installing engineered wood. The results, however, speak for themselves.

Step-by-Step

  1. Acclimatise the boards and decide which direction you are going to lay them in. If you are fixing them directly on to the floor joists, they will have to run at a 90° angle to them. Remove any inward-opening doors.
  2. Remove the skirting boards using a crowbar (place a wooden or cork block between the wall and crowbar to avoid damage.
  3. Vacuum and clean the sub-floor and, if using, cut and fit underlay.
  4. Position plastic spacers along the longest and straightest wall.
  5. Fix the first row of boards — if the boards have tongue-and-groove edges, ensure the groove is facing the wall and start from a corner. Nail or glue depending on how you have decided to fix the boards and remember that the expansion gap will need to run around the edges of the entire room, including at the ends of the boards.
  6. Lay the second row starting with the section cut off the board at the end of the last row you laid. Stagger the end joints of the adjacent rows by around 30cm. You can buy fitting tools to push the ends of the boards together. Work your way across the room, tightening each joint with an edge block.
  7. When you get to pipes, mark the position on the board that is being laid around it, drill a hole about 5mm larger than the diameter of the pipe, and make two saw cuts running from the edge of the board to the sides of the hole. Fit the board into position and glue the off-cut piece of wood back into place behind the pipe.
  8. When you get to the final row, you will probably have to cut along the length of the boards. Measure the gap between the boards and the wall, deduct 15mm and saw the boards to fit. Fix the joints and force into place.
  9. Refit the skirting, or fit new.

Engineered Timber Flooring

Many people these days opt for an engineered timber as opposed to solid. It is more stable than solid timber and therefore far less prone to movement. It is made up of a layer of solid wood veneer (standard thickness 4mm) bonded to several layers of hardwood or softwood plywood and comes with tongue-and-groove edges. It can be laid as a floating floor, over your existing floor (timber, concrete, tiles — you name it) and is designed to be used with an underlay. Its ideal if you want to install over underfloor heating and only needs a few days to acclimatise in your surroundings.

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