How to install an engineered hardwood floor

How to install an engineered hardwood floor.

Before someone goes about learning how to install an engineered hardwood floor, it may seem overwhelming. But, in fact, it is not complicated. But there are a few things to learn so that the project will yield quality results. Below, you will find a video and text to help guide you through the project. Enjoy!

If you know how to install an engineered hardwood floor, you can dramatically change an interior space. Before we can begin, lets start with some flooring basics.

Engineered hardwood is a great choice.

There are several different types of flooring geared towards different environments and purposes. Engineered hardwood gives the look of hardwood and the flexibility of composite construction. The engineered hardwood floor is made with a veneer top over a composite substructure. The veneer top portion of the floor looks and acts just like a solid hardwood floor. Typically, an engineered hardwood floor holds up well against water spilled on it. The hardness of the wood species used for the veneer top will determine how well the floor resists scratching and is an important consideration when choosing a floor.

Raise the sunken living room.

The first thing we did at this house was to raise this whole side of the floor which was sunken. It involved putting 2 x 12’s on the far side and two by sixes in the near side. Then we put a 5/8 subfloor above it all. Here is a photo of our raw starting space.

sunken living room for how to install an engineered hardwood floor
starting place

We then discovered a low spot or a slight dip on the kitchen floor that needed to be leveled. Before laying down an engineered floor, you want to make sure things are level. We used a floor leveler mix to fill in our low spot. Floor leveler is basically a fine concrete mix in a bag. It dries very smooth and can have a feathered edge. After drying overnight this whole surface is level and ready for flooring.

Preparing the flooring.

After choosing the flooring for a particular setting, you typically get the wood delivered. Before doing anything else, the wood has to be acclimated to the environment where it will eventually be installed. To get the floor adjusted to the humidity and temperature of room, the ends of the boxes of the flooring are opened. Stack the boxes 3 levels high with each layer on top of and perpendicular to the layer below. Then let them sit for three or four days resting at the same temperature and humidity of the room which are laying the floor .

Install the underlayment pad.

The next step we will do is to lay the underlayment pad. We purchased “quiet walk” underlayment. It’s a relatively thin 3/16 of an inch thick. It functions as a vapor barrier as well as a way to deaden the sound when walking on the flooring. The entire room is first covered by the pad. Tape the ends and seams to join them. Once the pad is down and the floor has acclimated for 3-4 days, it is time to put your knowledge of how to install an engineered hardwood floor to the test.

A straight line is essential to a well laid floor.

If you want your floor to look like it was professionally installed, you need to start with a straight line. This line will also show you how straight the room walls are. We prefer a laser level to get a straight line, . The laser level is a marvelous tool to quickly obtain a true straight line. The goal is to have a straight line the same distance from the wall at the start as it is from the wall at the farthest end. From that straight line you can check the final fit of the floor in the room. The starting straight line can be adjusted to minimize the crooked wall layout.

Stack the flooring pieces by size.

Once that’s all done (pad down and taped, and the starting straight line was marked), start pulling wood out of the boxes placing them in stacks of the same size board. You can ensure that if there are any similarities in the batch color or grain pattern, the boards are mixed together with other boxes. This provides a random look as you lay the pieces down. This particular manufacturer has nine different lengths of board sizes. Typically the manufacturers of hardwood flooring that we’ve used in the past have only had six different lengths.

Start by laying down the first row.

Lay down the first row –  brick style –  across the room. You can see it very easy to do. You have one board that you lay down. Then the next board simply clicks in, end to end, and then for the next board etc. So it is just a matter of getting a different size board and simply slide it in. It clicks down and you are done. That’s as hard as it is. 
The complicating parts of the job are when you have lay out a section with an odd shape in it like a bay window or a vent cut-out. Usually a jigsaw or chopsaw will help you cut it to the appropriate dimensions. When we get to this point, we will lay a board here, draw a line, and cut out the square so that it will just drop right in. Then it’s just a matter of putting in the time. There are 24 pieces per box and we have 60 boxes so thats about 1500 pieces of wood. That typically will take the two of us a day or two to lay down.

Finish the job by covering the floating floor edge with trim.

Then we just have to do trim and final finishing because the floating floor can’t go exactly against the wall. There has to be a gap of typically quarter of an inch for expansion. Molding covers this gap.

Laying the floor is an even mix of preparation and actually laying the floor.

What follows is a time lapse of us laying down the floor. Pay particular attention to how the floors are laid.Things move very fast as the boards are placed. But you’ll also find lulls in the time lapse. You’ll see that there’s still plenty of prep work involved throughout the installation. You have to continually make sure that you can lay the pad, open the boxes, stack the wood and then lay down the wood pieces. The preparation time takes about as much time as the actual laying of the floor. After we’re all done with that time lapse, we’ll show you a few tips and tricks to make sure you get a really good final finish.

Tips and tricks to complete your ” how to install an engineered hardwood floor” tutorial.

Here we have a simple trick when you’re cutting the floor. Rather than having to pull out a tape measure to stop and measure every piece, you can try this. These floors going from the left to the right, click and locking next to each other. When you get to the end of a run your next board is going to want to go into that last available space.

One option is to take a tape measure and measure from the end of the last board to the edge of the wall. You can then flip the last board and expedite the process. Leaving the appropriate gap next to the wall, just simply come to the back and make a mark you can then transfer that mark and cut on it. The remaining piece will fit perfectly in that spot without ever stopping to use a tape measure.

How to hide board cuts under walls and door jambs.

Some other challenges are getting a board under a wall or under doorjamb. It is a bit of a complicating factor. First I’ll show show you how it’s gonna work and then I show how we got to this point.Here we undercut the drywall so this floor piece can slide underneath the drywall. I had to cut the doorjamb so the board will also slide underneath. Engineered hardwood flooring does not always slide once the flooring is locked in place. But this particular floor allows the pieces to slide somewhat.

Removing the locking mechanism.

If you’re flooring piece doesn’t slide, the solution is to shave off the locking mechanism with a multi-tool. The locking mechanism is a tongue that fits into a groove. Removing the tongue allows the piece not to lock, but rather slide into place. The wall or doorjamb will overlap the wood sliding under it. It saves you the work of having to remove the jam to put the board in place and then re-installing the doorjamb.

Finish trim is very time consuming.

These are the hard parts. They are very time-consuming. Undercutting the doorjamb on both sides could take a half an hour to do on both sides. Once that groove or the tongue is gone, you slide the piece into the groove.  The piece of flooring can then slide under the doorjamb because the locking mechanism shaved off. But so that the board will stay in place, you have to make sure you add a bead of glue on the connect point of the two pieces. Otherwise it’ll want to pop out and gap open.

Enjoy the savings!

Knowing how to install and engineered hardwood floor will doubtless save you thousands of dollars on a typical living room install. If done well, not only will you save a lot of money through DIY work, but you can add value to your home. Hardwood floor installation will definately take time and effort.  However, one can certainly argue that the rewards outweigh the efforts.

With a little common sense and a few tools, knowing how to install an engineered hardwood floor is also achievable.

Typical tools you’ll need for this kind of and installation are:
Saw ( preferably a chop saw, table saw, or circular saw)
Multi-tool ( these allow you to make smaller, more precise cuts, undercutting doorjambs, and trimming off locking mechanisms)
Box cutter ( for cutting under-layment pad and opening boxes)
Tape measures

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