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How to Lay Engineered Wood Flooring?

Engineered wood flooring is a popular flooring option for many homeowners due to its durability, ease of installation, and attractive appearance. Unlike solid wood flooring, engineered wood flooring has multiple layers of wood veneers laminated together, making it more stable and less prone to expansion and contraction. Installing engineered wood floors yourself can save money compared to hiring a professional, if you have some DIY skills and tools. This comprehensive guide will teach you how to lay engineered wood flooring to transform any room in your home.

What is Engineered Wood Flooring?

Engineered wood flooring consists of multiple thin layers of wood veneers laminated together in a cross-grain construction. The top layer is quality hardwood, usually oak, maple, hickory or exotic woods like Brazilian cherry. This top layer, called the wear layer, is attached to plywood layers below, acting as a stable substrate. Many engineered floors have a thick enough top layer to allow sanding and refinishing.

The cross-layered construction makes engineered floors highly stable, minimizing expansion and contraction from humidity changes. This allows installation in areas like basements and bathrooms. Prefinished engineered wood floors have a factory-applied finish, avoiding dust from on-site sanding. With proper care, engineered floors can last decades.

Benefits of Engineered Wood Floors

There are many good reasons to choose engineered wood floors:

  • Stability: Cross-layered construction prevents excessive expansion and contraction from humidity changes. This allows installation in moisture-prone areas.
  • Durability: A multi-layer build resists dents better than solid wood. The thick top layer can often be refinished.
  • Ease of installation: Engineered wood can be floated over plywood or concrete slabs. No nailing is required, making it ideal for DIYers.
  • Various looks: From light to dark stains, domestic to exotic wood types. Prefinished options have a smooth, uniform factory finish.
  • Cost-effective: Engineered floors cost less than many solid woods, especially exotic species. DIY installation also saves on labor.

Things to Consider Before Installing Engineered Wood Floors

Installing engineered wood floors is a doable DIY project for many homeowners. But before beginning, keep these key things in mind:

  • Existing floor removal: Remove old carpets, nail down wood flooring, debris and bumps from the subfloor. This creates a smooth, clean surface.
  • Subfloor preparation: Subfloors must be flat, clean and dry. This may require patching or leveling. Test moisture content before installing.
  • Layout planning: Map out the floor plan and plank direction. Calculate the room’s square footage to buy sufficient flooring.
  • Climate control: Maintain consistent room temperature and humidity before, during and after install. Let floors acclimate to the room’s conditions.
  • Safety: Use proper safety gear like dust masks, knee pads and safety goggles. Follow all tool safety guidelines.
  • Time requirement: Schedule enough time for subfloor prep work. The flooring install itself can take 2-3 days for DIYers.

With proper planning and preparation, engineered wood floors can transform the look and feel of any residential or commercial space. The following steps will guide you through the installation process.

How to Lay Engineered Wood Flooring – Step-by-Step

Follow these steps to ensure your engineered hardwood floor installation goes smoothly from start to finish:

1. Prepare the Subfloor

Proper subfloor preparation is crucial for ensuring your new engineered floors look great and last a lifetime.

  • Remove existing floor coverings completely, including nail down hardwood, carpets, debris, staples or adhesive residue.
  • Check that the subfloor is flat and even. Look for bumps, holes, protruding nails or screws. Sand or grind down high spots.
  • Fill low spots with a self-leveling floor patch compound. Ensure the subfloor is smooth and flat within 3/16″ over 10 feet.
  • Test subfloor moisture content with a moisture meter. Wood or plywood subfloors should be below 12% moisture content.
  • For concrete subfloors, test relative humidity using calcium chloride kits. RH should be below 75%.
  • Install an appropriate moisture barrier like 6 mil plastic sheeting if needed.

A clean, flat, and moisture-free subfloor prevents issues like creaking and wood movement later on.

2. Acclimate the Engineered Wood Flooring

  • It is extremely important to let the engineered flooring acclimate and adjust to the room’s temperature and humidity levels prior to installation.

    • Store unopened boxes of engineered flooring horizontally in the room where it will be installed for at least 48 hours beforehand.
    • The room should have a consistent temperature between 60-80°F and relative humidity of 35-55%.
    • Leaving the heating/cooling system running maintains proper conditions.
    • Open the ends of 2-3 flooring boxes to allow air circulation while acclimating.
    • Only install flooring once its moisture content is within 2 percentage points of the subfloor moisture content.

    Allowing the wood to acclimate prevents defects like gaps, cupping or buckling after installation.

    3. Plan the Floor Layout

    Take time to map out the floor plan for the most professional looking results:

    • Determine the direction the flooring will run. Planks typically run the length of the room.
      • For irregular room shapes, use the longest, straightest walls as guides.
      • In narrow hallways, run flooring parallel to the length.
      • Calculate the room’s square footage and add 5-10% extra for cutting waste.
      • Mix and match boxes of flooring during install for best color variation.
      • For plank-style flooring, stagger end joints by at least 6 inches between rows.
      • Plan where flooring will need to be cut to fit – e.g. under door jambs.

Laura Kassovic

Laura Kassovic, a former engineer at Intel SOC, now dedicates her efforts to mentoring startups in the realms of Wearables and AI. As a co-founder of New Tech Brake, she spearheads a wireless sensing solution enterprise catering to diverse applications including product development, research, location tracking, and people monitoring, as well as asset and cargo supervision. The platform empowers developers to craft an array of innovations such as fitness trackers, temperature-monitored cargo systems, medical trial tools, smart running garments, or even straightforward transmission of unprocessed accelerometer data to cloud-based repositories.

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