Be sure to test concrete for moisture content to determine if the slab is at an acceptable level. Check with the wood flooring manufacturer to determine the recommended test method.

Use a pin-type moisture meter to ensure that moisture in the subfloor does not exceed the specifications recommended by the manufacturer.
When I think back to the first wood floor installation that I observed, I recall the trainer making a reference to installation instructions as the "dustpan in every box." Over the years, I continued to hear that statement and I must admit to using it myself in training seminars. Yet in truth, wood floor installation instructions are vital to anyone -- whether he be a well-trained installer or a weekend warrior attempting to install a DIY floor project.

The fundamentals of installing a floor covering are basically the same, but manufacturers' instructions do vary and many require certain specifics that need to be followed. If they are not followed strictly, the performance and warranty of the floor may be put in jeopardy.

To stress the importance of reviewing and following installation guidelines, allow me to relate a story that happened several years ago. What began as a normal installation of a new hardwood floor for vacationing homeowners became a complete replacement of the new floor once they returned from their trip.

The flooring contractors installed approximately 1,600 square feet of a maple engineered flooring. The floor was completed and the homeowners returned from their vacation to find their brand new floor had been installed. As the homeowners turned on the lights, they noticed something was not quite right with the appearance of the new flooring material.

What they saw were raised bumps that appeared approximately 3 to 4 inches apart and were found scattered throughout the floor along the seams. As they walked around the house and turned on more lights they continued to find more and more of these bumps.

Once they reached the kitchen, they found a set of installation instructions sitting on the counter. As the homeowners read the instructions, they got to a part that mentioned the use of pneumatic staplers -- what to use and what not to use -- along with a description of what problems that could occur in the event the stapler was not used correctly.

Just by reading the instructions, the untrained homeowners were able to quickly determine the cause of the problem and promptly called the retailer the following morning. Two days later, after the floor was removed and the second new floor was to be installed, I met with the flooring contractors at the job site.

I asked several questions and found out the following: first, the flooring contractors were not full-time wood installers and only occasionally installed wood flooring; and second, of the four installers present, not one had bothered to read the installation instructions prior to, during or after the floor was installed.

What began as an ordinary installation turned into a rather expensive lesson for the flooring contractors. Had they read the instructions, a costly mistake could have been avoided.

Installation guidelines are important and should always be reviewed prior to installing any floor covering. They contain relevant information that applies specifically to the product for which they are written and help to ensure that the floor is installed correctly. In addition, the instructions are included to reduce or eliminate problems that are a result of improper installation. When reading installation guidelines, there is a basic format that most follow. Listed below is a summary of the main points.

It's also important to use a pin-type moisture meter to determine whether the wood flooring is within the specified range of moisture content in relation to that of the wood substrate. Generally speaking, the flooring should be within 3 to 4 percent of the substrate moisture content.
The instructions list the tools needed for the installation.This allows the contractor to know firsthand what to use and what not to use. Not all floors are the same, and some manufacturers may require specific tools and/or equipment for use when installing their product.

Pre-installation and/or job site requirements. This is probably one of the most critical parts to the guidelines, as they require specific parameters for proper job site conditions. Following these requirements is important to the performance of the floor itself and if these conditions are not met or followed the product warranty may be voided. One of the most important requirements relates to moisture -- a critical consideration when dealing with wood. Failure to check or test subfloors for moisture can be a costly mistake for those involved.

Subfloor surfaces. Most installation guidelines provide specific recommendations for various types of subfloors and/or existing floor covering surfaces. Much of the information for specific installation over various substrates is the result of extensive testing and research. Dealing with subfloors can be a very challenging situation for the installer and can create substantial room for error if the guidelines are not followed closely. Again, it is important to follow these guidelines because improper subfloors or a lack of subfloor preparation can result in a failure of the flooring product.

Installation guidelines. Whether you have the choice of gluing, stapling or floating, the installation guidelines offer step-by-step instruction, from getting started to the final completion. By following them, one increases the odds of having an easy and trouble-free installation. It is important at this point to follow the manufacturer's recommendations for the proper adhesive and trowel requirements, use of the recommended staplers/nailers and, if floating the floor, the proper use of a two-in-one underlayment where required.

Completing the job. Once the floor is completely installed, it is important to use the proper trim and mouldings. Be sure that where required the proper trim and mouldings are put in place and securely fastened. When cleaning or removing adhesive from the finish, always use the correct products to minimize the risk of damaging the finish.

Maintenance information. Once the job is finished, remember to discuss with the consumer the necessary information on how to properly care for and maintain her floor. Recommend the proper floor-care kit and show the consumer how to properly use it. A considerable investment has been made by the consumer. If the wrong information is given, the result can be an unhappy consumer.

Remember installation instructions are more than just a dust pan in every carton. Always read them prior to starting the job and make sure to follow the recommendations contained within them. The guidelines and information included with the instructions are invaluable when installing a floor and, if followed, can offer an efficient and trouble-free installation that benefits the installer and consumer alike.