Solid Wood Flooring Installation Guide

Most of the problems reported with solid wood flooring are as the result of poor subfloor preparation or incorrect installation so it is essential that your new hardwood floor is fitted properly. There are several methods which you can choose from but remember to read the manufacturers instructions before commencing and, if you are in any doubt, seek professional advice.

Installation Guide Contents:

  1. Acclimatisation
  2. Glue Down Installation
  3. Parquet Flooring
  4. Adhesive Backed Underlay
  5. Nailed Down Installation
  6. How to Install on Stairs
  7. Finishing or Refinishing Hardwood Floors


Always Acclimatise your New Floor

Moisture is an issue for wooden flooring because the material will expand with heat and damp. The wetter it is, the more the floor will swell. While wood floors are dried before being sold, they can become damp when being transported or stored before sale. For this reason, you should make sure your new floor is exposed to the atmosphere of the room it is to be laid down in for 48 hours before installation in order to acclimatise. If you do not do this, the wood may be too dry when laid and then swell, which can cause distortions known as cupping and crowning, or even buckling.


Full Glue Down Installation

Preparing a Concrete or Wooden Subfloor for Glue Down Installation

Glue-down installation requires the use of an adhesive applied directly onto the subfloor and can be laid onto both concrete and wooden subfloors.

If you are laying over a concrete subfloor you will first need to check the moisture levels of the concrete. If the floor has a moisture content reading of more than 4% then either wait until the sub floor dries to meet this level or use an appropriate moisture barrier. This is to ensure that no damp rises up into your new floor.

Also note that new concrete slabs require a minimum of 60 days drying time before covering them with a wood floor.

All concrete sub-floors must be dry, smooth, level and free of structural defects. If the concrete sub floor is uneven we recommend using a self leveling compound to level the subfloor out, these will be available alongside the flooring accessories range.

The concrete must also be free of paint, oil, existing adhesives, wax grease, dirt and curing compounds. These may be removed chemically or mechanically, but do not use solvent-based strippers under any circumstances because the use of residual solvents can prohibit the satisfactory bond of flooring adhesives.

If you have a wooden subfloor you will need to lay a 1/2" plywood base over this before installation, this will then give you a smooth and level surface for you to install your wood flooring onto.

Applying the Adhesive

With your concrete or wooden subfloor prepared, you can trowel on the adhesive and sealer. Simple apply it to where you're planning on putting the planks. Be careful not to needlessly pack it with too much. Try to even it out as much as possible.

Another important consideration in using glue-down installation is your choice of adhesives as some are only suitable for floors up to a small width. To avoid warranty issues and the possibility of future problems we recommend seeking advice if you are unsure which product is best.

Install the Solid Wood Flooring

Starting at the longest wall, begin placing wood directly onto your adhesive, pressing down hard to ensure that the board and subfloor develop a strong bond to each other. Continue laying the hardwood down, making sure that the sides are always pressed tightly together and make sure to wipe away excess adhesive before it dries.

You will need to leave a 10mm expansion gap around the perimeter of the room. To maintain this gap during installation spacers are provided in flooring installation kits (purchased separately). After you have installed the floor you can cover this expansion gap with scotia or new skirting boards.

The 10mm expansion gap also needs to be left in doorways where the floor follows through from one room to another and door profiles are specially designed to cover these spaces and compliment your solid wood floor.

Test Walk the Floor

Walk around the entire room to test out how well the hardwood and adhesive are meshed. Afterwards, let the area dry for 12 hours without any foot traffic to allow the floor to settle.


Glue Down Parquet Flooring

Not all hardwood has to be installed starting along the walls and working your way across to the other side. Parquet hardwood is installed beginning in the center of the room and working your way outward to establish a visually interesting pattern and make installation a bit easier. When installing parquet hardwood floor, it is easy to make mistakes, so you should be sure to purchase about 10% more flooring than you'll actually need to finish the room to account for any mistakes. If you don't need any extra at the end, save it for future repairs as wood colours are sometimes difficult to match.

  • Measure and find the center of the room.
  • Lay out your tiles without adhesive first so you can be sure of where you want them; work in quadrants.
  • Once you are sure of your placement, spread your adhesive material out on the area of the floor you're working on with a trowel.
  • Immediately place the tiles over the adhesive. Do not allow it to dry before placing the tiles down. Remember, the first tiles placement is very important because it will effect the entire floor installation.
  • Work in areas from the center to the wall and come back to the center to start another area when the pattern has been laid correctly. Repeat these steps until the room is complete.

It is important not to hammer the tiles as it could cause damage.


Floating On An Adhesive Backed Underlay

You can also install a solid wood floor over a concrete subfloor by floating it on an adhesive backed underlay such as Fast Fit Peel & Stick Underlay. This has adhesive on one side which the solid wood floor is laid onto. Before you lay down the underlay you will need to first lay a damp proof membrane.

Fast Fit Peel and Stick:


Damp Proof Membrane (sheet form):


Nailed-Down Installations

Preparing the Subfloor for a Nailed-Down Installation

Solid wood floors can be nailed into existing wooden subfloors such as floorboards or plywood but not into chipboard floors as these are not strong enough to hold the nails. The floorboards must be in good condition and level - if not it is advisable to lay 1/2" plywood down first.

To avoid creaking, check over the subfloor and securely fasten any loose floorboards. For added soundproofing it is also advisable to use a polyfoam underlay to provide a barrier.

Alternatively you can nail down a solid wood floor over a concrete subfloor with the use of battens. A damp proof membrane sheet must first be laid over the concrete subfloor before the battens are laid out at intervals of 450mm. The battens must be a minimum of 40mm in depth to avoid them bowing.

Tips for a successful Nailed-Down Installation

When you nail down a solid wood floor you should use a nail gun to drive the nail in to the floor at a 30 degree angle through the tongue and into the subfloor. A nail gun can be hired from any good hire shop and a quick internet search will help you to find one in your area.

Like with glue down installation methods you will need to leave a 10mm expansion gap around the perimeter of the room. These gaps are best created using spacers which are available in solid wood flooring installation kits and the unsightly spaces are easily covered with skirting or door profiles.

To help you plan a nailed down installation in advance, Red rosin paper can be laid down and stapled on top of the sub-floor; points can be chosen for the baseline and marked onto this paper. A straight line can be drawn to join the points using a straight edge.

Using the longest straight wall, place the end of the board at this baseline mark and nail it down with a hammer and one nail. After this first board, a nail gun may be used, and each board can be fitted together and nailed to the floor. It is important to set the nail gun carefully so as not to go too deeply into the floor and damage the wood.

As you lay the next piece of wood, end-to-end with the first, use a rubber mallet to gently, but snugly, hammer the two pieces of wood together. A tight fit is important to the durability and beauty of the floor. The last piece of wood will need to be cut to fit properly. A carpenters crayon can be used to measure where the piece will need to be cut, and a circular saw will finish the job nicely.


How to Install Hardwood on Stairs

Many home owners are replacing their carpeted stairs with hardwood stairs, because hardwood looks elegant, and is easy to clean compared to carpet. Installing hardwood on stairs requires skill and patience, and many home owners prefer to hire professionals to do the job for them, but with the right instructions and determination, average homeowners can do a good job laying hardwood on their staircases too.

The tools required to install hardwood on stairs include pliers, hammer, belt sander, level, chalk line, construction gloves, circular saw, jig saw, and nails. Before the hardwood is laid on the stairs, the carpet or the old flooring needs to be removed. Carpet is one of the most common types of flooring for stairs, and it can be easily removed by taking out the tack strip. After the carpet is removed, use the belt sander to clean the steps on the stairs. Make sure that the steps are properly cleaned, because any remaining dirt or material can make the steps squeak after the hardwood flooring is installed.

Check to see that every step of the staircase is level. If there are steps that are not level, make them level by sanding them. Use chalk to make a line on each step to indicate how much nosing should be cut off. Then, take the circular saw and cut the tread along the line. Make sure the saw is always parallel to the step. When the circular saw reaches a point where it cannot go any further, change to a jig saw. The risers should be sanded and painted before the hardwood is installed, so that the paint will not drip on the new flooring.

The installation of the hardwood flooring should begin at the bottom of the stairs. Cut a piece of hardwood according to the width of the first riser. Then, apply adhesive to the board and put it in place, with the tongue facing up. Hammer three nails along the bottom part of the board. Put some adhesive on the next board and place it on top. Tap the board so that the groove will be locked to the tongue. Repeat the same process for the rest of the steps.

Installing hardwood on stairs requires very precise cutting of hardwood boards. Make sure that the boards are cut to the exact sizes as needed. Be patient, and exercise extra caution when cutting the boards.


How to Finish/Refinish your Hardwood Floor

Over time, even the renowned beauty of hardwood floors can suffer from the ordinary wear and tear of daily life. Regular maintenance and cleaning can do much for keeping wood floors looking like new, but eventually such cleaning will not be enough to restore the original sheen and color of the floor. Refinishing the floor will be required if the floors are going to look like new again.

It is recommended that wood floors not be refinished too often, as each time a refinishing occurs the floorboards are made slightly thinner. At some point, the boards will become too thin to be useful for flooring, and avoiding too much refinishing is perhaps the best way to delay this inevitability. In any case, nearly any person can refinish their floor if they are willing to put the time and effort into the project that is required.

Preparing your floor for refinishing

Refinishing the floors should begin with a thorough cleaning of the existing flooring, followed by an inspection of the floor itself. Cracks should be filled, ruined boards should be replaced, and any exposed nails or protrusions should be hammered into the boards so that they are flush with the exterior of the flooring. This will prevent you from damaging the equipment that is needed to refinish the floor.

Sanding is the next step, to be accomplished with a large, motor-powered drum sander and a smaller end sander, both of which you can to rent. Beginning with coarse sandpaper and moving progressively to a medium grain and finally fine grain sandpaper, the drum sander should be run over the floor three times. Make sure that you wear goggles and ear protection while you sand so that you do not damage your ears or get sand into your eyes. Also, close off the room you are working on from the rest of the house to keep dust in your home to a minimum. You should be careful not to let the sander sit in any one place for too long, as that will make your floor uneven. The edge sander is used for those areas that a drum sander cannot access.

You will want to clean the floor with a vacuum and broom following the sanding process, but do not use any water lest it seep into the flooring and damage the newly sanded floorboards. Once the cleaning is finished, you will want to buff your floor with a buffer, which is another machine you can rent.

Applying Stain and Finish to Hardwood

It is now time to stain the floor, which must be done in a room with sufficient ventilation. Open windows and doors so that you can apply the stain and avoid damaging your lungs with the fumes. There are several colors of stain that are available, so take your time in choosing the one that is best for your needs. After you are finished applying the stain to the floor, let it dry for twenty-four hours before you put the finish on the floor.

A professional floor finish will seal your floor and keep stains from penetrating into the floorboards. Most people will want to use a water-based finish applied with a clean brush and smoothing tool. Allow the floor to dry for another twenty-four hours after this finish is applied.

Though refinishing a hardwood floor takes several steps, the beauty and cost savings that come with doing it yourself makes all the effort well worth it. With a little care, refinishing a hardwood floor will lengthen the life of your floor and improve the value of your home.


Inspect all materials carefully before installation. Wood is a natural product containing variations in colour, tone and graining. Some variation in colour is to be expected in a natural wood floor.


It is the responsibility of the owner/installer to determine if the jobsite sub-floor and job site conditions are environmentally and structurally acceptable for wood floor installation. The installer/owner is responsible for wood failure resulting from or connected with sub-floor, subsurface, job site damage, deficiencies or using inadequate accessories after the hardwood flooring has been installed.


This page is designed to offer guidance about the different options when it comes to installing a solid wood floor. Always read the full manufacturer recommended installation guides before installation which you will find in every 3rd pack of flooring.

Solid Wood Flooring Advice Centre

Solid Wood Flooring Maintenance  Guide




Submitted by Jason Ashby, UKFD