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February 2007

January 2007

Installing a wooden floor on joists

Andrew Baker asked us the following question (see here for his original comment):

It's a 200-year-old listed mid-terrace cottage. The majority of room still have the original boards, which are in a serviceable condition (which is a great testament to the use of oak in itself). The room I am looking to work in has a few original boards but the majority of it is new ply or pine boards, all covered with carpet.

The existing boards are laid directly on joists. Joists have centres of around 400 to 500mm. All boards nailed to the joists. The underfloor void is about 300 to 400mm high above bare ground. This void is not currently ventilated with airbricks, and while this isn't causing too many problems it is something we are looking to rectify. We are also looking at ways to enable ventilation between the room and the underfloor void...... Read more

How to lay a wooden floor: Keep it Simple

Installing a wooden floor (solid or wood-engineered) as DIY-er isn’t rocket science, more a case of common sense, patience, buying the right quality, using the correct materials and making the correct preparations.

Some things are so obvious we won’t go into them in detail (like buying wood that is suitable to be installed as floor and dry enough, meaning: timber wood – 15% moist or more – isn’t suited and that the room is wind and weather proof, wet decoration work finished etc).

(Update March 2010: many, if not all, tricks of the trade now available in the "Wooden Floor Installation Manual", 160 pages!)

Correct materials and correct preparations:
Quality products might be a little bit dearer; in the end it will save you time, aggravation and possibly even regret and money.

  • Make sure you have one type of underfloor and the underfloor is ready (dry, level, - remove existing floor-covering timely enough to make good any defects or unevenness in time)
  • Buy the correct underlayment (with the ‘floating-method’)
  • Have all the materials in house before you start, make a list of everything you need at least one week beforehand and make sure it can be delivered or collected on time (because some materials just run out of stock, you’ll know Murphy’s Law)
  • Make sure all tools you need are in the house, are working, sharp and safe (if you have to hire specific tools, place a reservation on them with the hire company so you’re not going to be disappointed)
  • Store the wood in the same area you plan to lay it (or in an area that has the same ‘climate-conditions’ – garages are a definite No No) 2 – 4 days before you start the installation; leave the wood in the packs (if wrapped in packaging material and according to manufacturers instructions, some do differ, most not).
  • Clear all furniture out of the room beforehand, dust from sawing will get in anything!
  • Remove – if needed – skirting boards, mark them when you do so you know which one to place back where to avoid mix-ups and extra cutting work when placing them back.

Preparations on the day (floating method with standard T&G fixing)

  • Ban little children from the room! (And cats, dogs or other pets.)
  • Check again if all materials and tools are there.
  • Materials: wood, underlayment, pvac-wood glue, spacers, beading or scotia, radiator-pipe-covers, thresholds, cloth (to remove excess glue as soon as you notice) and felt pads (for underneath furniture)
  • Tools: hand saw or Jig-saw, tape-measure, square, Stanley knife, pencil (at least three, they disappear in thin air), knocking block + Jemmy bar (both can be part of any DIY installation kit you buy - but are not always of the best quality), hammer, heavy duty bin bags, work bench (tool box should do fine also as bench, watch out for sawing into it).
  • If needed, remove doors and undercut architrave and/or doorposts (chisel out the last bit).
  • Open two packs of wood, check for any damages to the surface, tongue and groove or click-system. If any and on more boards, re-pack as best as possible and return every pack straight back to your supplier for new material or re-fund. In no circumstances open more packs to check for damages, this might render your guarantee useless.
  • Check if the boards are straight by laying them with the groove side on the (level) underfloor. Also check for bowing – cupping. Slight bowing (middle doesn’t touch the ground) of long boards is normal, extreme cupping (the ends stand up and leave a gap of over 5cm if turned up side down i.e. top surface faces floor) not.

If everything is OK and in the wood-type, grade and finish you selected mix the two packs to get a natural look and colour, shade mixture (all boards differ in colour and characteristics). During the works, keep checking for surface damages before you install a board, once down and between other boards/rows it’s a pain to remove it. (Murphy’s Law: it will always end up in the middle of the room where you would notice it most - afterwards.)

Do read the fitting instructions (if any) the manufacturer supplied with the floor, some might differ on some points and not following their instructions could render your guarantee worthless. When in doubt, call your supplier.

Installation tips, READ MORE HERE.......

Great news from us, thanks to the confidence that I got from your brilliant book our beautiful floor is now finished.

Although I see myself as a competant DIYer, I was a bit worried that things could turn out to be tricky. Thanks to meticulous planning and the wisdom from the book- everything was really very straight forward.

I spent time ensuring the floor was flat before I started ( using a self levelling compound) and from there things were plain sailing. I will recommend your book to anyone I know and will also consider more projects for myself!

I will try and send some pictures when I get the chance
Thanks again
Neil S


(Already have a wooden floor that needs restoring? See our "7 steps to repair/restore your original floor" guide)

Climate Change: From Parish to Planet

CEPS (Chilham Environmental Protection Society) is inviting everyone to their workshop:

"From Parish to Planet"

on Saturday 10 February (2pm to 5pm) in Chilham (Kent, near Ashford and Canterbury) Large Village Hall (entree free)

"Come and hear what the experts have to say and discuss practical ways that communities like ours can make a difference"

Children are welcome, there will be supervised play activities in the small village hall.

For more information, contact details are on the CEPS workshop website

Case-study: Duoplank on Underfloor Heating

"As self-builders, we are very involved in specifying the materials used in our house.  We wanted the look and feel of real oak planks but without too many of the difficulties associated with the shrinkage of natural oak.  We quickly identified the Duoplank product through its UK distributor Wood-You-Like in Kent. This is an Engineered Board made with a wide top solid layer of natural oak and a high-quality birch ply substrate, critical to us because we were installing on concrete with UFH embedded in the floor. ................. Read more