Solid hardwood flooring is beautiful and lends an element of class to every home. They are warm, easy to clean and very popular today. If you are considering installing hardwood flooring over concrete, here are some things to consider before you begin the project.
Installing Hardwood Flooring Over Concrete – Check Moisture Levels
Humidity and excess moisture are a solid wood floor’s enemy. If you are installing hardwood floors in a new home, be sure to allow two months to pass before even testing for moisture levels in the concrete. New concrete needs time to dry before hardwood can be installed.
If you are installing a hardwood floor in a humid area like a basement, you’ll want to make sure the moisture levels are not high enough to cause buckling and warping of your finished floor. Nearly all homes built after the 1980s have a vapor barrier under the concrete foundation of a home, which are typically required by local building codes. If this is the case, these barriers can help minimize the amount of moisture a concrete slab tends to pull up from the soil.
You should check moisture levels in multiple areas where you plan to install the hardwood. Duct-tape a small piece of polyethylene plastic, a little larger than a standard sheet of paper, to the basement floor. Be sure the duct tape runs completely around the plastic to form a good seal. After 24 hours, check to see that the plastic is not moist, damp or cloudy. If your concrete floor passes this test, you can proceed with your hardwood floor installation.
Installing Hardwood Flooring Over Concrete – Prepare Slab, Add Sub-floor
Take the time to inspect your concrete slab to ensure that it is level and clean. Perform any necessary housekeeping or make any repairs to the slab before adding a moisture sealant.
Standard home improvement stores sell both moisture sealant products that can be painted onto a concrete slab to form a moisture barrier as well as 6-mil polyethylene plastic that can be layered and taped carefully to the slab. You can also use asphalt felt or building paper to seal the concrete.
Once the moisture protection is installed, build a sub-floor with pressure-treated plywood sheets or studs. Both of these methods of installing a sub-floor provide more space between the concrete slab and the hardwood floor itself. Once this sub-floor is added, hardwood planks are then nailed or stapled to the plywood.
If you prefer using an adhesive, check your home improvement store for the proper type of glue for hardwood floors. Follow the directions on the adhesive packaging as it tends to dry quickly. Typically, you will apply the adhesive, lay down the hardwood planks and tap into place with a mallet.
Prepare the Rooms, Acclimate Hardwood Boards
Hardwood planks tend to contract and expand at varying temperatures and moisture levels. As a result, it’s important to mimic the typical conditions of a room receiving hardwood flooring before it is installed. For instance, hardwood flooring in Chicago will acclimate differently than in warmer climates.
Before hardwood flooring is delivered, the home or building should be closed with all windows and doors installed and sealed. All other building materials should be dry. Heating, cooling and ventilating systems should be in place and operating as they will once the floor is completed and residents are using the home or building. Keep temperatures constant for about a week before the flooring planks are delivered.
After this period, have the hardwood flooring planks unwrapped and placed carefully in each room where you will be installing the flooring. You will need a moisture meter or have a professional check the moisture levels of both the subfloor and the hardwood planks after several days to ensure that the levels are within acceptable ranges before installation occurs.
Consider Engineered Hardwood
While traditional hardwood floors are made from planks that are cut from individual hardwood trees, engineered hardwood fuses different layers of wood together and adds a durable coat. Installing engineered hardwood flooring over concrete provides much of the same beauty and warmth that traditional hardwood adds with greater durability and less maintenance.
For those considering installing engineered hardwood over concrete, you have three different gluing options including edge glue-down, full glue-down and double-glue down methods. The edge-glue down option is the fastest, least expensive, and easiest installation method. It allows boards to be replaced easily later, but the downside is that the floor can shift and squeak. If you want a more permanent installation, both the full glue-down and the double-glue down methods are good options.
After the adhesive and floor is laid over an acoustic barrier, it should be allowed to bond for at least two full days.
Consult the Professionals
Although it can be tempting to install hardwood flooring on your own, it may save you time and money as well as minimize problems later if you select a professional who understands hardwood flooring in your area. They can help you select between maple and oak hardwood flooring, navigate all the details in installation and provide all the tools and equipment needed, not to mention the expertise and experience. Here are some key reasons why a professional might be important when you installing hardwood flooring over concrete.
* Professionals come armed with moisture meters and have the knowledge to know where and how to test for moisture in the concrete, sub-floor and indoor environment.
* Professionals can build sub-floors that quickly and efficiently, ensuring that they are clean, level, dry and designed correctly.
* Professionals can manage the installation schedule, ensuring that the acclimation process and timeframe is adequate to complete the project on time.
* Professionals understand the best place to start a hardwood flooring project and the most efficient way to navigate corners, doorways and built-in furniture.
* Professionals bring years of experiencing in measuring properly and cutting carefully so that little of the hardwood planks are wasted and labor is held at a minimum, saving time and money.
* Professionals can offer a wealth of information about care of the hardwood floor after it is installed by suggesting the right kind of humidifier and dehumidifier, depending on the local climate and weather projections.
* Professionals will make fewer mistakes than an inexperienced contractor or homeowner. This can result in time and money savings as well as fewer problems in the long run.