The manufacturer specifications that accompany wood flooring products requiring adhesive for the installation are pretty fundamental. But they are also very precise, leaving little room for error. Working with an adhesive can be unforgiving and correcting a mistake can become a very “sticky” situation. Also, if you do not properly “adhere” to these instructions you can void the manufacturer’s warranty-whether it is expressed or implied.
Engineered hardwood flooring is usually installed with adhesive in lieu of the mechanical fasteners typically used to install solid hardwood flooring. Engineered flooring has become the product of choice for residential construction erected on concrete slabs. Obviously, the driving force behind the popularity is the manufacturer’s ability to maximize their yield from a supply of raw timber. Another interesting stat: Over 40 percent of new homes in North America are constructed on slab foundations. It is clear that hardwood flooring has now ascended to its rightful position in residential construction without the limitations and additional prep required for solid flooring installations.
The challenge of successfully installing a quality hardwood floor begins with the expertise of the salesperson. Today’s customers are zealous in their demands and yet far too often, the salesperson is too timid in responding to the customer’s actual needs. A “sell, sell, sell” mentality will only increase the potential for a “fail, fail, fail” conclusion with an inappropriate installation system.
This brings us to the big “new” trend in engineered hardwood flooring: Specialty products that do not require adhesive for installation. The concept originated with laminate flooring. Originally, laminate required an adhesive application between the joints of the planks. This concept originated in the “hardwood” flooring industry and was termed a “floating” installation, but the products didn’t take off as well as manufacturers had hoped. Although the laminate industry also originated in Europe, those involved took note of the earlier terminology issues and focused on the product rather than the installation procedure. Ultimately the term “floating” was finally “sunk” and rightfully so. Marketing any flooring product with a word that seems so temporary or removable just wasn’t going to “sail” when people are looking for permanent installations.
Laminate flooring had its own initial problems. For one: Too much adhesive applied to the end and side match could cause swelling and cupping within the plank. Also excess adhesive was extremely tough to remove. Unlike hardwood flooring, which can expand and contract, the “raised joints” or peaks seen in laminate remained. Often the floors were rejected by the end-user.
Laminate floor makers got the message and began introducing various forms of “click” type products. What followed was the revival of our engineered hardwood flooring specialty products which had previously been set adrift. Engineered soon became a viable hardwood flooring alternative when designers “snapped” to attention.
Currently, engineered products are available in two variations of thickness: 3/8” five-ply and 1/2” three-ply. As with any traditional engineered hardwood, they can go below or above grade installations. (Still, keep in mind that such installations should include a 4 to 6 mil. plastic sheeting and that normal testing requirements for moisture still apply.) A key reason is the sophistication of the underlayment specified by manufacturers for installations. The success of any installation rests on this fundamental “foundation” requirements. Subfloors need to be relatively flat and properly prepared before installation begins. A straight edge and/or chalk line should be used for verification. (You notice I said “flat” and not “level.” It’s the highs and lows in the subfloor that can get you into trouble.)
While both variations of engineered wood flooring can obviously be recoated, another plus that comes with 1/2” engineered wood flooring is you can sand and refinish it if so desired. This gives homeowners the luxury of “renewing” their investment.
So where do you install click wood flooring products. Consider these two types of jobs:
- High Rise residential construction: We are in a boom era with old warehouse buildings being converted into “loft” condominiums. These units are a challenge for traditional hardwood flooring installations, but the glueless installation provides a viable alternate for the homeowner to add to the ambience of the structure. If they were raised on wood in a single family dwelling, they don’t have to leave that experience behind in the move. Also, sound transmission has always been a concern in any multi-family dwelling; these specialty wood flooring products meet or exceed the requirements of BOCA.
- Heated Subfloors: Once considered an extreme challenge because of the potential for shrinkage during the heating season, glueless hardwood flooring can accommodate seasonal changes and minimize complaints about separations and/or cracks that are considered normal with traditional hardwood flooring installations.
Once again, the captains of hardwood flooring industry are offering viable option that lets you proclaim “a full speed ahead” on an installation procedure. Besides, Wood or Wood Knot knows that you would rather be the “skipper” and not just another “deck hand.” What are you waiting for? Come on “aboard.”