A flooring installer’s trade is intricate as needlepoint, and physical as erecting drywall. (And kind of loud, with that nail gun!) The hardwood nailing, tile setting, and carpet laying work of a renovation often yields the head-spinning smell of glue and ear-piercing sounds of a race track, but behind the floor installation process, there is strategy and planning.
Danen Daniel, our flooring specialist and installer from Edge2Edge, says one of the most important steps in floor installation is making sure the job-site conditions are just right.
“Moisture in the air, the wood, and the underlay, and the state of the sub-floor all affect the lifespan and longevity of your floor. All types of floors, from hardwood to vinyl can buckle, mould, cup (rise at the edges) or dish (lower at the edges and higher in the centre), have excessive gapping or wood splitting if moisture is not considered and subfloor is not adequately prepared.”
Test your hardwood knowledge with this quiz!
1. Which of these hardwoods are hardest?
Beech, red oak
2. Which one is softest?
3. Which one of these woods is considered exotic, or not native to Canada?
*Answers are at the bottom of the page
Floor installation begins with these job-site prep steps.
1. Subfloor preparation. Excessive gapping and splitting wood occurs if a subfloor is not leveled prior to the floor going down. Before installing hardwood, engineered hardwood, laminate and tile, installers drop a laser and string level the floor and build it up where it needs leveling.
2. Humidity check. Humidity in the air varies, depending on time of year and also varies with grade of the home—there is often more moisture below grade (in the basement) than there is on ground level and above. Below grade, a higher level of alkalides in the soil below the home can also deteriorate the floor and leave it moulded if it is not installed with the right adhesives and membranes.
Common misperceptions about floors.
1. Wide plank boards take less time and cost less to install than thin. Wide plank boards actually cost more to install because of the time involved in making sure they stay in place. Prior to nailing or stapling a 7-inch board tongue-in-groove, a thorough installer will add an adhesive to the middle and ends of the boards to give them extra strength—work that is not required with a 3-inch board, hence the extra labour.
2. Wood can be made harder or more dent resistant with a different finish. One finish may be harder than another, but it does not change the fact that if something is dropped on your maple or oak floor, it will dent, no matter what finish is on it. There is no way to make a hardwood more dent resistant with a finish, unfortunately; however, the emergence of hand-scraped and distressed engineered hardwood floors eliminates the nail-biting stress of keeping hardwood pristine.
3. Hardwood or laminate flooring are superior to carpet when trying to avoid allergens. This widespread belief goes only as deep as the bristles on your broom. It is not uncommon practice to pull out a broom once or twice a day to sweep floors, but to pull out the vacuum that many times just seems tedious and excessive. We tend to clean what we can see, and of course, those crumbs and debris underfoot are much more annoying than plush carpet. If we cleaned our carpets with the same frequency as our floors, they would stay as clean.
A few tips before you install a new floor.
1. The cost to level a floor can sometimes outweigh what home owners want to spend. Make sure your renovation contractor includes subfloor preparation in your estimate and budget. There is no way for your contractor or salesperson to know what is under your existing floor, and what amount of time will be needed to prepare the job site for laying floor that will last its full lifetime.
2. All your flooring products should spend some time onsite before installation—longer in the rainy season—and your installer should measure the humidity in the wood to make sure it matches the environment and the subfloor they are installing on.
3. On average, only 25% of installers out there are trained and use proper installation practices. Don’t be fooled. Laying floor requires the same workmanship and years of experience as any trade to be good at it. Look for certification and, especially, years of experience. Keep in mind, a great tile setter isn’t necessarily going to be as good at laying hardwood, and vice versa. Ideally, your home renovation crew will include one tradesman/woman who is great at each type of installation.
4. Make sure your installer is using the right products for the right floor. For example, the adhesives for engineered hardwood are different than for regular hardwood, and more expensive in some cases. Also, the glue used at sub terrain levels is different than the main level depending on moisture levels. Make sure they are not cutting corners when it comes to the products that are going to keep your floors looking great.
When floors go down, anticipation rises; a room lights up with a new contrast of colour and a homeowner can finally envision laying on their new carpet reading a story to the kids, or entertaining guests on a beautiful swath of hardwood. It’s best to get off on the right foot when it comes to laying it down.
Answer #1: Maple, Answer #2: American Cherry, Answer #3: Acacia