Preventing & Troubleshooting Problems pt. II: Preparation Before Installation

Preventing & Troubleshooting Problems pt. II: Preparation Before Installation

Scheduling Your Installation

While we try to rush your flooring to you, you should not schedule your installation to happen immediately. If we say, “Your floor should arrive by next Tuesday,” don’t schedule installers to arrive on Tuesday to put your flooring down. For one thing it must acclimate to the room, which always takes a few days, but it is usually best for no schedule to be establish at all until the flooring is actually in your hands. This allows for the unlikely, but still possible late arrival of your flooring. For instance, as I write it’s winter 2014 and 2/3 of the country just got buried in snow and well below zero degree temperatures. Most trucking routes just stopped for a day or two. No one can plan on this, so it’s best to allow for it.

Acclimate the Flooring

It means letting the material adjust to the humidity and temperature of the specific place where it will be installed. It’s a piece of flooring jargon, but one so important that you cannot not hear it if you endeavor to have a new floor. Almost every kind of material one could install as a floor must be left in the room where it will go, relatively exposed to the atmosphere, for a few days. If a laminate is not acclimated, the planks may be difficult to lock together which may cause the installer to damage them. If they have to adjust after they’ve all been locked together, they’re also more likely to expand and buckle or squeak.

Your floor needs to be placed in the actual room where it will go. It can’t go in the next room over, even if you use a fan to cleverly blow the air from room #1 right at the flooring in room #2. Same room.

This is just one way - check your directions.

This is just one way - check your directions.

It’s unlikely that the flooring can be left stacked in a big cube, as it arrived on the pallet, but you also may not need to open every box and lay planks out everywhere. Read your instructions when the flooring arrives (there should be a printout in every carton – just pick one) and they will tell you how to arrange your cartons, and whether they need to be opened or not.

Make sure the room’s environmental controls are set to their normal levels for the full duration of this process, and go the full amount of time. You can’t warm up the boxes faster by boosting the heat and therefore save a day. Normal temperatures, normal heating/AC, full recommended length of time – these are the good things to do.

Your Subfloor Must Be Dry (this is mainly for concrete)

Any concrete subfloor needs to be tested for its moisture content before you install any floor over it. Usually this should be done by professionals with proper experience and equipment. All recently poured concrete needs to be left alone for at least 60 days before anything is installed over it. It’s a big rock. It takes time to fully set and release its excess moisture. Then you would test it to make sure it falls under the listed numbers in your instructions.

This is bad for any floor.

If you plan to be cavalier and ignore this step, let us give you a Poor Jack’s Almanac style test you can do on the cheap at the very least. Here and there throughout your room tape down 2 foot by 2 foot squares of plastic, preferably your moisture barrier, preferably using big, thick duct tape, and leave them for 3 full days. Then take them up. If the concrete beneath is damp, then you need to do the professional testing at the very least.

Your Subfloor Must Be Level


Even the most resilient of floor materials (like vinyl – it’s pretty ‘bendy’) must be installed over a very clean, very even subfloor. They do not all have the same standard, so make sure you get your numbers from your specific instructions. To give you an idea though, very generally anything more than a 3/16″ slope across any 10 foot span of the surface is considered too much unevenness. Your subfloor needs to be flat, or level, with no high or low spots (exceeding the stated limit). You can have this checked professionally, use a laser level, lay something you’re certain is perfectly flat & level across it – there are many methods.

If you find discrepancies from the limit, they will need to be taken care of before the floor is laid. Generally this is done with a floor leveling patch, or compound, basically a liquid made to be poured into the lower area. It fills it up then hardens. These exist for concrete, plywood, just about any subfloor you can have, and are usually available at your big home and hardware stores. If you leave these unlevel spots, especially on a floating floor, your planks can separate and the locking mechanisms can even disengage.

Your Subfloor Must Be Clean

For mostly the same reasons, you need your subfloor to be as clean as it’s ever been, as well as completely dry before you have the flooring installed. Concrete will need to have been tested to see that it meets the manufacturer’s moisture requirements. If you’re renovating the whole room, plastering and painting should be done first (this is drippage management), doors, windows, cabinetry and anything else that requires installation should be in place before the floor goes in.

Instructions will vary.

Instructions will vary.

Your Instructions Rule Over All Else

We keep bringing these up. Floors are very non-interchangeable. We aren’t just referring to differences between hardwood and laminate, but to differences between Supreme Click laminate and Pergo laminate, or even between one Pergo product and another Pergo product. While there are very basics that apply across the board in terms of installation techniques (of which there are still at least three broad categories), every manufacturer has their own mill, their own cutting tools, their own patterns for the locking mechanisms, and they may change these out from product to product, or with a later production of the same product.

Especially if you plan to install your floor yourself, know that your instructions will be specific, very specific to the exact floor you choose. There could be differences as subtle as the angles at which the locking mechanisms finally click together, or how much padding, to the millimeter, may go under your flooring. We have tips in articles and videos all over this website designed to help you get started, keep going, solve problems and finish well, but they are just our tips. Your instructions are the rules and details. If you don’t follow them, you can void your warranty, if not ruin a good bit of your floor before you catch something important.

…next we cover some extremely general helpful tips to follow while you install your floor to your instructions’ exact decrees.
The rest of this series (this is pt.2)

pt.1: Arrival and Inspection
pt.3: Care During Installation
pt.4: Living with Your Floor

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David is has written and made videos about flooring products and installation since 2011 at Floors To Your Home (.com), where he is also the PPC Manager, a Researcher, a Website & Marketing Strategy Team member, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jito. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, put together a podcast, explore film history, and mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’). Connect with  W. David Lichty


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