Installing Floating Hardwood Floors
Our project begins begins with removing carpet, padding and tack strip
Starting The Installation - Underlayment
Types will vary from one manufacturer to the next and it is important to follow specifications set forth by the manufacturer. Some manufacturers will void a warranty if their products are not used, regardless of whether or not it was the determining factor of a failure. In this case a 3 in 1 foam underlayment supplied by Bruce is used. On one side we have the moisture barrier that is laid on the concrete slab. The reverse side is the foam cushioning, with the third element being peel off sticky tape to attach each row together.
Roll out the underlayment as shown in the image to the right and lap the sides up the wall a few inches to provide the moisture barrier. Cut any excess off with a utility knife after the installation is completed. This underlayment is provided with sticky removable tape, thereby not requiring taping of the seams. Watch carefully if you have the right side up and the other one down. We discovered this type of underlayment should be flipped over after it is rolled out. Why? We've found some of Bruce's ideas questionable to say the least.
Starting The Job
Glued floating floors are probably one of the hardest floor types to start as the boards want to move around on you in the starting area. It's imperative the first few rows be straight and gap free. Otherwise the gaps will repeat across the entire layout. Preferred starting areas should be along the longest parallel wall of the job. It is also suggested to find a starting area that will require no or very little backfill¹ of the layout.
Once we've found to be aligned and square with the rest of the layout (plus or minus 3/8") it's time to begin. Working from left to right stagger the starting boards as far apart as possible; 18-24 inches will suffice. By placing scraps or wedges in our expansion areas this should keep the first few rows from moving apart of one another.
Applying The Glue
Once again follow the manufacturers specifications. In this case, Bruce requires a bead of glue on the top of the tongue of all boards. We are unsure of the reasoning as other manufacturers call for filling the groove or partially filling. Frankly this method requires more cleanup as you go because a good portion of the glue squeezes out when the boards are tapped into place. It reminds us of glued laminate installations that would require some work to keep clean of glue residue and haze. Keep a few clean damp rags aside, rinse with water and squeeze out often .
Keeping The Installation Aligned
Once the glue is applied, align the boards by hand engaging as much as possible before a tapping block is used. Some products will be easier than others. At all times keep an eye on the spacers being used as they can fall out of place. It's important with floating floors to keep a consistent expansion area around the perimeter. A good rule of thumb to use would be the same expansion area as the thickness of the product. In this case we're using 3/8"
Go Easy & Careful Tapping
In the next step (below and right) a tapping block is used to engage the tongue and groove for a snug fit. Frankly we've found a good straight two foot 1" x 4" does the trick. Be extremely careful not to allow the block being used to hit the finished edges. Weight should be applied downward on the block, then the board tapped into place. Always double check to see if the boards have engaged or left any gaps, wipe with damp rags often.
To insure a good mix of color during the installation, open product from at least three boxes and use at random. Not doing so can create light and dark colored areas throughout the installation as hardwood flooring is a natural product and with two boards are alike.
Moving along, to engage our boards it's best to slide into place as best possible, then tap into place going from right to left. Once again keep an eye on boards already placed as they have a tendency to loosen up as others are tapped into place. Inspect the end joints often as they are more likely to separate than side joints. Adjust accordingly with a pull bar seen on the next page.
Measure, Cut & Fit
Once we near the opposite starting wall it's necessary to cut and fit the last piece. Rather than using a tape measure, turn the piece to be cut opposite where the tongue and tongue will face each other. Place a mark approximately 3/8" away from our installed piece to allow for our 3/8" expansion area after the piece is installed.
Some products will be easier to install and others can often be difficult. It seems the thinner the material the easier the install, as we noticed in the case of the Bruce 3/8" Coastal Woodlands. Mentioned numerous times on our site, product fit or ease of installation will depend on the milling quality set forth by the manufacturer.
Damage Prevention Tips
Always keep an eye on hand tools. There's nothing worse than stepping on them and having dear wifey come home and see the damage. You'll be sleeping on the couch for a few days guys! Keep tools out of the way or place them nearby on a scrap piece of carpet for example, with the fluffy side down.
Tips We Learned From This Job
While most long strip type floating floors of the glued variety are more difficult to install, we found this product easier because of the breakup of board lengths. By way of explanation, we encountered some shorter pieces or not the standard eight foot lengths. The latter can be more difficult to install as they can be bowed vertically. In effect you have a banana board. Weight sometimes has to be applied to both ends to engage the tongue and groove.
Three In One Underlayment Easier To Use
The three in one underlayment used on this job also made for easier goings. Two in one underlayments have one common problem; that being the application of tape. Some tape products cannot be ripped apart by hand but require a knife or scissors. By not having to reach for one more tool (remember that hammer and tapping block you left at the other end?) there are fewer times up and down. Additionally, some tape products cannot be removed if an error is made. Instead they can rip the padding, requiring patchwork to keep the moisture barrier intact.
Better Quality Pull Bars
The job was started with a lower quality pull bar as the better one was left on another job. This did cause some frustration in getting the end joints tight; notably ones that were more than a few feet from the wall.
Manual Undercut Saw or Electric?
We know most of the big home improvement centers sell a manual undercut saw. Conversely, an electric jamb saw (shown above) cuts down on time and greatly improves the quality of the cutting when door casings are trimmed. These tools can also be rented in many locations.
Trim Installation. Floor Moved!
Keep a watchful eye on your expansion areas once wedges are removed when installing quarter round moldings. Some floors can move or accidentally get butted without knowing it. One example can be constant foot traffic in one direction without furniture that helps to keep the floor stationary. This also widens the expansion area at the other end.
Let's use an example. You've finished the floor and didn't have the time to install the trim. Several weeks pass and you're determined to get the job done. In that time, the floor has moved ever so slightly. Let's say one quarter of an inch. In starting the trim at one end it doesn't look unusual or out of the norm, but the other end has moved to the point the quarter round will not cover the gap. In your haste, half of the quarter round gets installed until you discover the big problem. What do I do now? Two options are offered, though one may not work depending on the size of the job.
Larger Jobs Harder Than Small To Fix
Option number one. Find a few neighbors or friends. In tandem, try to push the floor back into place by jumping in the direction you want it to move. Wow, this is hard to describe! Incidentally, make sure they have sneakers on. Let's try that again. The floor cannot be pried back into place (quarter round has covered the gap at one end) with common methods or with the use of the pull bar, or pry bars. In effect we're pushing it back with our weight. Play with it, you should get the idea, but don't go overboard. Otherwise the other area may become gapped too far.
Option number two has already been discussed but here's one tip. Again, smaller areas will be easier to fix than larger due to the overall weight of the floor. For the smaller, the pull bar will work with ease by pounding the toe area of the tool. Larger will require a pry bar or two. Nonetheless, some protection is needed so the baseboard doesn't get dinged up. Simply use a piece of scrap against the base then pry back.
¹ Backfill is described as taking the installation in the opposite direction.
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