5. Comparing Hardwood Installation Methods

5. Comparing Hardwood Installation Methods

You’ve done your research. You’ve measured your room. You’ve spent hours looking at Pinterest boards and interior design blogs searching for that AHA! moment. Finally you’ve found the hardwood floor of your dreams! It matches your color scheme. It’s in your price range. There’s only one question: How does it install? We’re going to give you a quick and easy rundown of hardwood installation methods, their pros and cons, and how to know which one is right for you.

First off, what type of wood flooring are you looking at? Is it solid hardwood, or is it engineered? Not sure? Here’s how to tell:

That's solid hardwood on the left, with engineered hardwood on the right.

That’s solid hardwood on the left, with engineered hardwood on the right.

Solid hardwood is made from a single piece of wood, whereas engineered hardwood is composed of layers. Each confer their own benefits to your home and both make gorgeous long-lasting floors. Watch our very own Brian take you through the basics of solid and engineered floors here:

Both solid and engineered hardwood floors can also feature tongue and groove plank design:
Tongue and groove planks are a bit like puzzle pieces: they’re designed to fit together! Of course, installing a floor goes beyond just sliding the tongue into the groove and hoping for the best. For solid hardwood floors, tongue and groove planks need to be nailed or stapled. Engineered hardwood tongue and groove planks have a few more options: in addition to nailing or stapling, engineered hardwood can also be glued down or floated without glue. Still with us? Great! Let’s break it down a little further.

Nailing a hardwood floor involves…you guessed it, nails. Flooring nails look like the nightmare lovechild of a golf tee and a bobby pin, and can be found at your local big box hardware store.

Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions for more specifics on exactly which flooring nail your floor needs.
If a hardwood floor includes nailing in its installation options, odds are it includes stapling too. There are a couple of factors to look at when you’re deciding whether to nail or staple your hardwood, like:

Moisture. It’s a well-known fact that moisture is hardwood Enemy Number One. Stapled floors are fastened tighter to subfloors than their nailed counterparts; if you live in an area prone to humidity you’ll need to account for hardwood’s natural expansion and contraction in order to prevent cracking. Nails allow for some more give.

Hardwood Species. A wood’s hardness (measured on the Janka scale) varies from species to species, i.e., maple has a different hardness rating than walnut, which has a different hardness rating than ebony, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Exotic wood tends to be harder; you’ll want to nail exotic hardwood flooring planks because the force needed to get a staple through a piece of exotic hardwood can cause your plank to split.

Floating installation takes its name from the way hardwood planks “float” over the subfloor instead of being directly attached to it. It obtains stability by acting as a unit; each plank joins together to form a single surface. It’s worth noting that the tongue and the groove still need to be glued together if you opt to float a T & G floor. Why float a hardwood floor?

Cost. Since it’s less labor-intensive to float a floor than it is to glue it, nail it, or staple it, floating engineered hardwood floors tends to have a lower overall price.

Mobility. Since floating hardwood is not attached to the subfloor, it has a little more wiggle room for hardwood’s natural expansion and contraction.

Ease of Installation. This is a great method for those who are looking to DIY! Of course, it’s still critical to do your research and read the manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly, regardless of which installation method you choose.

While the thought of gluing down your hardwood floors might not sound appealing when floating installation is an option, glue-down installation instills a pair of important benefits:

Longevity. Gluing your flooring down adds an element of permanence. It will stay in place for many, many years to come.

Sound Reduction. Glue eliminates that little bit of space left between floor and subfloor, creating a solid, cohesive surface. This means there’s no bounce when you step on the floor, and no sound of the hardwood making contact with the subfloor.
As to glue type, this will depend on your subfloor.

Not all engineered hardwood is tongue and groove: some clicks together! Click together installation is a floating method, so it’s not going to be attached to your subfloor. The best part about click together installation is…you guessed it…that it clicks together! Unlike floating a tongue and groove hardwood floor, click together hardwood is genuinely glue-free! This is another really great option for the weekend warrior looking to install their own hardwood floor. Click together installation may be called by different names depending on the brand of flooring you purchase, so (and I know I’m getting repetitive here…) be sure to check your instructions.

Do you have questions about the perfect hardwood installation method for you? Call 1-800-804-5251 or click on FloorsToYourHome.com to chat with one of our flooring experts today! For customers in the central Indiana area (or anywhere else, if you’re up to a road trip!), visit our retail stores in Indianapolis and Noblesville.