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Frequent Pitfalls And How To Avoid Them

Installing a wood floor without the necessary experience / know how.

A wood floor installation demands expertise and it is strongly advisable to employ the services of an experienced wood floor fitter.  Money spent on the services of an expert will often prove to be a very good investment, given the cost of repairs and even re-installation, in the event of a botched d.i.y. project.

There are many critical considerations and potential pitfalls to a d.i.y. installation. A good wood floor fitter will be conversant with all of them.

Installing a wooden floor in unsuitable areas.

In appropriate situations a real wood floor provides a beautiful flooring option that is practical, economical and hard wearing.

Conversely, in inappropriate situations it will not perform properly. Such inappropriate situations include the following:-

1) Where there is high humidity / damp such as in steam rooms / cellars etc. It is the sole responsibility of the flooring installer to ensure that humidity / moisture levels on site and in the sub floor are appropriate to the installation of a wooden floor which will typically have a moisture content of 8-10% when delivered to site. The fitter can only determine this with the use of appropriate measuring instrumentation.

2) Where there is excessive heat, for instance in a South facing conservatory or over high temperature electric underfloor heating.

3) Where there is very heavy footfall.

4) Where there are abrasive materials present – for instance in a nursery where there may be play sand in use.

5) In areas that require mopping, such as play rooms / nurseries.

Laying wooden flooring without the provision of suitable expansion breaks

All solid and engineered wood floors expand and contact with changes in humidity and, to a lesser extent temperature. For this reason it is critical that suitable expansion gaps are provided around the full perimeter of the floor. The expansion gaps against walls are covered by either skirting boards or trims, such as scotias or quadrants fixed to existing skirting boards [never fixed to the floor], door casings etc. In doorways, expansion gaps are covered by door threshold or ramp trims.

Where large aggregate widths of flooring are being laid, expansion breaks must be provided – the regularity of these will depend on several factors such as whether the floor is solid or engineered and what humidity conditions and variations will be experienced.

Using the wrong fixing method

The type of sub-floor will often dictate or guide as to the most appropriate method of fixing to be employed. Again, expert advice should be sort in this regard. Common DIY errors include nailing into a chipboard sub-floor. The nails “blow out” the underside of the chipboard which results in a creaky floor.

Regarding floated installations, another very common d.i.y. error is to apply glue to the top of the tongue rather than on to the bottom of the groove – doing the latter will minimise the occurrence of glue squelching up onto the face of the board. This is a particularly frustrating problem where an unfinished floor is being installed for site finishing.
Another common DIY installation error is to use several methods of fixing in the same installation – for example a fully glued down floor should NOT have tongues glued into grooves, they should be left dry. A floating floor over say plywood or chipboard should never be face fixed or secret screwed / nailed.

The client’s dissatisfaction with the installed flooring, in hindsight

At the beginning of the project the installer should open and loosely lay out two or three full cartons of flooring and check with the client that the species, grade, texture, colour and finish meet with their approval. They should also verify with their flooring supplier that all the cartons are from the same production batch of flooring.

Damage to the wood floor during or after installation

Common sense measures should be taken here in order to protect the floor and minimise the risk of scratching. During and after installation the floor should be swept with a soft dry brush. Felt pads should be applied to the feet of all chairs, tables and other unfixed items of furniture prior to being placed on the floor. Wood floor boards should never be mopped just wiped with a barely damp soft cloth where necessary then towel dried. Grit, sand and dirt trodden in on outdoor shoes will soon damage any wood floor and stiletto heels will definitely indent the surface of the boards. Bleach, household detergents and furniture polishes should never be used on a wood floor – only specialist wood floor soaps, oils and waxes – and in the case of lacquered floors specialist lacquer care products.