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March 2008

The ongoing battle of the floor installation methods: which is best?

Like "which is the best finish type for a wooden floor", this is a question that 'pops-up' frequently in our inbox:
Why does one professional (camp of professionals even) says:

"NEVER try to float a t/g glued solid plank floor. Whether you use slip membranes etc and gaps at edges there is a good chance it will eventually split in a zig-zag fashion following the line of least resistance of a board or a joint. Stresses within the floor do this and makes no difference that the whole thing can move. Apparently called "rafting"

Quiz1

and the other professional (again a whole camp of professionals) says: no problem.

Mr Ray Turner ends his questions with:

"I have 4 months to wait for concrete to dry so hopefully will they have this sorted out by then?"

Afraid not Ray - this is one of those 'battle of the methods' - which one is best? One camp will always follow one method - through own personal experiences with the method that gives them and their clients the least problems and/or the way they have been taught by their mentors during their apprenticeship - and the other camp will keep following their preferred other method of installing solid floorboards.

The best method? As long as the chosen method is done the correct way any method is fine, depending of course on the circumstances, the product and the preference of both fitter and client.

The example above on floorboards splitting when using the floating method is mostly down to incorrect glueing of the T&G's. Wood works and will indeed find the 'weakest' link in the whole construction. T&G's should be glued completely, not just with drips and drops. (See our own article on "The correct way of glueing T&G's").

We have seen fully bonded to the underfloor (concrete or sheet material) wooden floors come away because the adhesive was applied incorrectly - spread out flat instead of using a notched trowel - and we have seen whole floors 'rattle' on their battens when not thick enough battens (installed on concrete) were used with the secretly nail (50mm nails) method.

Will there ever be the one method that is followed by all camps - don't hold your breath I'm afraid. Manufacturers of solid floorboards have their own preferences too, but more and more they give various options in their instructions (fully bonded, floating, secret nailed) as suitable methods of installation, depending on the specific circumstances in your home.

Again, as long as your situation allows it any method is fine ONLY when done the correct way.

All modern installation methods are explained - including tricks of the trade - in the "Wooden Floor Installation Manual"

Wood You Like's Wooden Floor Installation Manual - everything you need to know about DIY wooden floors



Q: Should I sand down a cupped floor?

Wood works, always. It adjusts itself to the moist-content in your home: expands when there is an increase and shrinks when there is an decrease. That's the reason why we recommend to leave a sufficiently wide expansion gap around the whole perimeter of your wooden floor - it gives your floor 'room' to move - and it will, no matter which installation method you use.

Cupping of a floor happens when the floor absorbs so much moist it fills its expansion gap completely - or is 'stuck' in one spot due to very heavy furniture, faulty installation method - and has to go somewhere - up.
Excessive circumstances can happen to everyone: a leak, a flood etc, but those are temporary circumstances. 9 times out of 10 it's a case of 'removing' the cause and the cupped floor will settle again to its normal state.

However, we frequently get the question: "Should I sand down a cupped floor?"

The picture underneath explains what will happen then (click on the picture to see its full size).

Cuppedfloor

It will 'look' fine temporarily, but as soon as the normal house climate is restored the floor will 'crown' - forever!

Best solution to resolve cupped floors: find the cause first e.g. leak, heavy downpour causing more moist than normal in the void beneath the wood floor, new appliance in the room or connecting area that causes more moist than normal - think of a tumble dryer, dish-washer etc - sudden and hefty increase in air humidity outside due to the seasons.
Some of the causes you can resolve, some you can't - or not easy or quickly. But if you don't know what causes the cupping then you can keep having the same problem over and over again.

To reduce the strain in your wood floor that is causing the cupping-effect: remove beading or skirting along one side of the room that runs parallel with the direction the floorboards are installed - wood hardly expands lengthways - and saw or chisel off a small strip of the last row. You'll be amazed how little you need to cut off this way for the floor to 'settle into place again - so start 'tiny', you can always redo the procedure.
A circular plunge-saw comes in very handy in these cases - quick and simple.


Enter the "DIY-Triumphs" Contest

Did you install a wooden floor yourself and are you Darn Proud of it?

Then enter Wood You Like's DIY-Triumphs Contest
(update 01.07.2010, contest now closed, see note below)

Honest and high quality products together with honest and high quality information is always a winning combination. Our own growing band of proud DIY-clients - as far as Scotland - show that time after time.
Installing a natural wooden floor is a labour of love - you'll have to take the right preparations, make sure you have all the right materials and tools at hand and you'll have to take your time: this is not something you can rush. Not if you want a result to be proud of and one that will increase the comfort and the value of your home.

Our own webpages are filled with honest high quality products and high quality honest advice for everyone. We are always more than happy to answer any remaining questions and have installed a very simple online question form for this very reason.

Every time we finish the installation of a wood floor for one of our clients we leave the job with proud feelings and experience tells us that most of our clients who install their own floor feel the same. Job well done!

We are now giving every DIY-er the chance to show-off their DIY-Triumphs in our dedicated photo gallery. Wood You Like is inviting you to enter our "DIY-Triumph"
contest.

UPDATE 01.07.2010: contest is now closed for new entries. But...... the gallery is still there as a show-case of DIY-ers who used the Wooden Floor Installation Manual to assist in the installation of their floor. The gallery (and this category "Hall of Fame") shows the pictures of the end-result and where possible a story behind the installation.
(The pictures and stories from the DIY-contest are also still "live")

Did you install your own wooden floor with help of the Wooden Floor Installation Manual? Then feel free to email us your pictures and story.