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February 2010

Do you like the taste of a bargain?

This week we had the following conversation (by email, through our "Ask Personal Advice" system).

Question: I am a DIY-er who has laid a solid wood floor onto timber batons successfully (secret nailing 15 years ago and no problems). I have also laid a couple of floating laminated floors successfully.

However, I have been asked to lay a solid oak floor onto a concrete base. The boards are of variable lengths from 400mm to 1000mm. I have only seen one pack opened and it contained 17 @ 400mm, 4 @ 500, 4 @ 800, 4 @ 900 and 6 @ 1000mm. What would be the best method of laying the floor. Would Elastilon self adhesive underlay be OK.

I am concerned that there are a lot of small pieces. What is the minimum overlap of the boards? Thank you.

Our answer:

You are absolutely right, this type of product (cheap offer?) should not be installed floating. Due to the many short lengths it will have many too close together joints (300mm apart is the minimum when dealing with a "normal floor that has all long length, but a lot of 400mm long boards does not make it better)
You're best bet is indeed Elastilon, giving it the best support. You have to install a DPM first (sheet) because the Elastilon does not contain one.

On which we received the following reply:

Hi Karin,
Thanks for the advice you gave. The floor is for my brother-in-law and I have told him that I am not happy doing the job, because of all the small pieces. I don't think it would look very good, even if Elastilon solves the problem of it being unstable.

I would prefer him to take it back and buy engineered wood with a real oak surface and all of the same length. His problem is buying this for the same bargain price he paid for the oak.

Thanks again.

We know it is the best advice he can give his brother-in-law and these stories always remind us of one of our favourite quotes:

“The bitter taste of poor quality remains much longer than the sweet taste of a low price.”

Buyer beware, cheap offers are often just that: cheap with 9 times out of 10 an awful end-result.
Good quality wooden floors will give you value for money for a very long time and will be your trusted assistant during the installation.

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UFH and wooden flooring: it's all in the preparation!

Last week we received a question from a rather frustrated home-owner:

"Hi, I am having trouble in getting my floor leveled. Got the builders to remove the floor joists and lay concrete layer. I went on holiday post this and when i returned, builders suggested this was topped with insulation, and then followed by the UFH pipes. They say it was then topped by Latex screed, which by the time i came back was very unleveled and had cracks all over.

To get it to level, builders use self leveling compound wherever it was needed (in large parts), but to my dismay just after 10 days, the floor has started cracking and unleveling again because of these cracks.

I am so damn frustrated with all this leveling thing, and we have already got the engineered wood we want to lay on top of it. But my floor layer says, if he lays the wood on top of this floor, it will move quite a bit and be wobbly and also showed me the movement by placing a few pieces together.

I have no clue as to what we should be doing now, even though builders are very nice i guess they are clueless as well. They are thinking of topping it with another layer of some kind of mixture, and I am just concerned that with 2 layers already on top of UFH, a third layer of a compound, which if everything works ok will be topped by engineered wood - which will make the UFH pretty useless or extremely expensive to heat up the floor in my view.

Would you be able to advice what you think we did wrong and how can we get our floor to be leveled so the wood floor doesn't wobble and UFH remains effective too.

Thank you for your question and sorry to hear about your problems. However, very glad to read that your wooden floor fitter refuses to install the wood floor on this crumbling underfloor, 'cos he's absolutely right.

If the crumbling layer is patched up again your UFH system will never work properly - as I fear it will not do this anyway at the moment due to the cracks (patching up solutions on patched up solutions never works!)

A floor can be unlevel, but only 3mm maximum over 1 meter and only in one direction. Presumably your fitter plans to fully bond the floor to the concrete with flexible adhesive and if the floor is too unlevel (dips and hills) this will never work: there will be air-gaps underneath the wood everywhere, rendering your UFH system useless indeed.

I'm afraid you have to re-call your builders and tell them to start over with the screed - preferably back to the insulation. Your concrete/screed ontop of the UFH needs to be smooth and whole (no cracks!) in order to work and in order to provide a proper surface for your wood floor fitter.

Sorry we don't have better news for you and I recommend you also get advice from the manufacturer/supplier of the UFH system.


An installation of a wooden floor starts with the correct preparations, especially when there is new concrete or screed involved. Like in the case above, when you also add Underfloor Heating to the fro - a sound, dry and level concrete/screed surface is even more important. A defect surface will definitely mean a defect or at least inefficient working of the UFH.

Always get advice from the supplier/manufacturer of the UFH system about the correct preparations, follow this (have this followed by you builder) and prevent aggravation, frustration and extra costs and/or delays.

And never accept patching up solutions, no matter how nice or hard working your builder seems: it is bound to end in tears.


If you are thinking of using Underfloor Heating and install a wooden floor, request our start-up tips here.

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From underlayment, to direction and thresholds

An 'live' example of "asking personal advice on wood", a conversation by email - see our form here

At 21:41 13/01/2010, you wrote:

Question: Hi I hope you can help me. This is a really stupid question and one that you'll be telling your mates down the pub for weeks to come!!! I'm about to lay an oak finished engineered floor in my hallway and I've bought some Timbermate Silentfloor Gold underlay. But I'm standing here scratching my head because I can't work out whether the gold side should face up or down!!!! Please could you help??? Thanks Ian

Hi Ian

Stupid questions don't exist, only stupid answers and even worse: not asking when you're in doubt

Rest assured, we scratch our heads too once in a while when thinking the manufacturer would make life easier for a fitter and produce the roll in such a way it is being rolled out with the bottom side down (and not as happens with some products you have to roll out the length you need and then turn it over because the roll is produced with the topside under!).

In your case the gold side should face down (according to the image of the manufacturer itself in their catalogue).

Hope this helps and here's hoping they rolled it up to make your life easy, because Timbermate can be quite heavy to handle.

At 13:24 14/01/2010, you wrote:

Hi Karin

Thank you very much for your advice and your very prompt reply. You’re right this stuff is very heavy! I had enough trouble carrying it from the car into the house, so laying it probably isn’t going to be much fun!!

Thanks again for your help.

Hi Ian

How are you getting on with the installation for your floor? Any problems or queries?

At 11:07 18/01/2010, you wrote:

Hi Karin

I intended to make a start this weekend but I’m afraid my ‘better half’ had other ideas and we ended up entertaining her family instead – ah well, maybe next weekend!!

But, since you ask, I’m wondering if I could perhaps ask your advice once more?
The hallway I am intending to install the timber flooring in is L-shaped. Obviously, the timber boards will fun lengthways along the longer branch of the ‘L’ and widthways along the shorter branch. At the end of the shorter branch is a small cloakroom in which I am also intending to install the new flooring. Do I stop at the flooring at doorway to the cloakroom install a threshold and run the boards in the cloakroom lengthways or do I keep the boards running width-ways in the cloakroom to match the part of the hallway immediately outside???

I’d be very interested in your opinion.
Very many thanks once again.

At 11:16 18/01/2010, Wood You Like Ltd wrote:

Hi Ian

The best plans to tend to go haywire during weekends

We always recommend to install a thresholds especially in small areas and cloakrooms (different temperature and humidity). Because of this you can decide for your self how to run the boards in the cloakroom, what looks most aesthetically in you (your wife's) eyes. The door of the cloakroom will be closed most of the time no doubt, so no 'clashing' with how the floor looks in connection areas.

Hope this helps

Have you had a look at our Installation manual?

Hi Ian

Any progress on the decisions about directions or have you completely finished the job already? If so, are you happy with the result, any problems encountered and tackled?

At 14:41 03/02/2010, you wrote:

Hi Karin

At last the job’s all done!!

I think it’s turned out OK and I’m really pleased with the results – it seems a shame to walk on it!!
The main problem I had was getting the individual boards really tightly together. I’d bought some ratchet clamps made for the purpose, so that when I had glued the tongue and put the boards together I could tighten everything up and let it set. Although the clamps were really tight, some of the boards were still not as tightly together as they could be. In the end, I found the best way was to knock the boards together using a hammer and an offcut of flooring. This seemed to get everything really tightly together. The problem here is that when you get close to the wall of the room you don’t have enough room to use a hammer. I tried using a ‘pull bar’ without much success – it just seemed to damage the boards too much. But all in all I’m pleased with the job and wouldn’t hesitate to put timber flooring in the other rooms of the house.

With regard to the direction of the boards in the cloakroom, I decided to keep them running in the same direction as the hallway and to use a threshold too. Having laid the flooring in the hall, it looked a bit odd when you opened the cloakroom door to see the boards going the other way. The chances are nobody else would ever have noticed, but I know it would really have got to me after a while.

Many thanks for all your advice – I couldn’t have done the job without you.

Ian R

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Why Wooden Flooring: keeping out the draft

Keeping out the draft

Many older homes (still) have existing old fashion floorboards over the void: causing draft and dust because these boards do not have a 'modern' Tongue and Groove' construction. Gaps between the boards cause draft and dust coming through.

Knowing that exposing wood will add to the value of your home, it would be a shame to cover this old floor covering with carpets to make your home look and feel warmer. If needed new floorboards with T&G and at least 18mm thick can take the place of your existing floorboards.

If that is too much work and hassle you can quite easily install new (thinner) floorboards on top of your existing drafty floorboards to stop the draft and dust devaluing your home.

Plus in all circumstances it will reduce your heating bills!

(Filling the gaps between existing old floorboards is a very temporary - and 'ugly' - solution: due to the natural movement of the wood any filling material will drop into the void underneath the boards within a matter of weeks!
And no matter what you do: DON'T block any ventilation - air-bricks - in walls, your house needs ventilation to remove excess humidity. Blocking air-gaps can cause damp and the rotting of joists.)

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New: Planning to Install a Wooden Floor?

Planning to install a wooden floor?

"How do I install the last row?"..... "My room is part chipboard, part concrete. What do I do?".... "Can I install a wood floor in a kitchen?".... “I've got underfloor heating, can I have wood flooring?".... "Do I glue or float my wood floor?".... . "The pack says to glue it, the supplier says nail it. Now what?".... "I've got two dogs and four kids, my wife likes wood flooring, what do you suggest?".... "How do I know how much wood to buy?".... "There are Marley tiles, can I glue a wood floor on them?”....

Wood You Like's Wooden Floor Installation Manual - everything you need to know about DIY wooden floor installation Just a small collection of questions that has found its way to Wood You Like's inbox over the last 5 years. After answering all questions individually the owners/directors have now created a comprehensive manual on installing natural wooden floorboards for diy-ers based on these frequently asked questions. The manual covers all basics from what to note when selecting your own natural wooden flooring, the schedule of works, three different installation methods to the easy maintenance principles that will keep your floor healthy and beautiful and much, much more.

Installing a wood floor isn't rocket science - all it needs is some common sense, patience, the right preparations at the right time and of course quality materials and the right tools. Wood You Like's Installation Manual for Wooden Flooring covers it all: including tricks of the trade to install your own floor like a professional!

Read on.....
and order your copy today!

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Why Wooden Flooring: lifetime value

Lifetime value

Standard carpets last around 5 - 7 years, standard wooden flooring already comes with a manufacturers guarantee of between 10 - 30 years.
High quality carpets will set you back around £50 - £70 per sq m supplied and last around 10 - 15 years. Highest quality wooden flooring costs around £50 - £70 per sq meter supplied and even without the manufacturers promise will definitely last around 30 - 50 years.

Translated in 'costs per year':
high quality carpets between £ 3.33 - £ 7.00 per sq m per year
highest quality wooden flooring between £ 1.00 - £2.33 per sq m per year.

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