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Installation Methods Explained

When you are buying a new hardwood floor it is important to think about the installation method you will use.  There are a few methods to choose from, including: floating over an underlay, gluing down, nailing down or screwing down.  The method you choose is usually dependent upon the type of flooring you are buying and your existing subfloor.

Once you have established which method of fitting is most appropriate, you will the need to know more about the process of installation.


Floating hardwood flooring over an underlay

You can only float an engineered wooden floor, not solid hardwood.  Firstly, you should measure and cut the underlay to the size and shape of the room.  It should just be laid over the floor; there is no need to glue or fix it into position.  Then, starting with the longest wall, lay your planks of flooring into place.  You should leave an expansion gap of approximately 12mm around the perimeter of the room (see below for more details). If you have engineered wood with a click fitting system, just simply click and lock the planks into place.  If you have tongue and groove engineered flooring, you will need to use a WPVA glue along the full length and width of each board to provide a tight and secure fit.

What is a loose laid floor 2 Floating hardwood over an underlay

Gluing down hardwood flooring

If you choose to glue down your solid or engineered hardwood you will need to use flexible flooring adhesive and ensure you create a full surface bond.  Simply add the adhesive to the subfloor, using a notched trowel. Do this in meter squared areas at a time.  Then place the flooring planks on top of the glue and repeat. There is no need for additional glue along the edges of the flooring planks. Pull the flooring tightly together to avoid gaps.  You could also use flooring straps to help with this.  They will help to pull the flooring together to obtain a tight fit. Once the adhesive is dry, it is fully flexible so allows the wood floor to naturally move with changes in temperature and humidity, without cracking or splitting.

Gluing down hardwood flooring


Nailing down hardwood flooring

If you decide to nail your hardwood floor you will need some specialist equipment.  A nail gun that has been specifically designed to be used to install wooden floors, for example: Portanailer. The nail gun will use flat nails that have teeth on either edge which grip into the flooring plank and subfloor tightly.  Please do not use a Paslode nail gun or a Bradnailer as they do not have the correct toothed nails.

You can only nail your floor if you are installing over a wooden subfloor (not chipboard or concrete), as the nails need something to grip into.  The nails will go into the tongued edge of the flooring plank at a 45 degree angle, so will be hidden from sight.  This is why it is sometimes called ‘secret nailing’.

Nailing down hardwood flooring


Screwing down hardwood flooring

Screwing your hardwood floor is very similar to nailing it.  You must have wooden floor boards or plywood so that the screw has something to attach to securely.  Always use screws designed specifically for floor fitting, such as Tongue-Tite screws.  These will need to be screwed into the tongued edge of the flooring at a 45 degree angle. This means that they will not be visible once you floor has been installed.

Things to remember when installing a hardwood floor


Preparing your subfloor

Before you start to install any type of hardwood or bamboo floor you need to prepare your subfloor correctly.  This is a very important part of installing your floor.  If your subfloor has not been properly prepared and checked, it can lead to irreparable damage to your new wooden floor.  The main questions to ask yourself when checking over your subfloor are:

  • Is your existing subfloor flat and level?
  • Have you checked that your existing subfloor is dry using a wooden floor moisture meter?
  • Is your existing subfloor clean?

These are all really important questions to ask, and you should not start to install your new floor until you are certain that your subfloor is, flat, level, dry and clean.  For further information on subfloor, please have a look at: How to prepare my subfloor before installing hardwood.



All types of wooden floor, whether solid or engineered wood, need to be acclimatised to its new surroundings.  Wooden flooring is a natural product and will react to changes in temperature and humidity in its environment.  This is a natural process and there is nothing to worry about if you have looked after and installed your wooden floor correctly.  You should always let your new wooden floor acclimatise to its new surroundings before you install it.  Here are some tips on how to do it:

  • Solid wood flooring needs to be left for at least 7 days.
  • Engineered wood flooring needs to be left for at least 72 hours.
  • Have your flooring delivered in plenty of time before installation.
  • Put the flooring, still packaged, into the room where it will be installed.
  • Never leave the flooring in a damp room. All plastering work or screed should be fully dry.

For more information on acclimatising your hardwood floor, please see our article: Do I need to let my hardwood floor acclimatise?

Do I need to let my hardwood floor acclimatise Acclimatising your hardwood floor

Expansion gap

As mentioned above, all types of wooden flooring will adjust and change according to the temperature and humidity.  This will naturally happen throughout the year with warmth, cold, dryness and moisture in the air.  This is why you should leave an expansion gap around the edge of your room so that your floor has space to expand into when it needs to.  The gap itself will need to be around the whole perimeter of the room, including doorways, walls, fireplaces and radiator pipes.  If you do not leave an expansion gap, your floor will try to expand but will have no space, resulting in it warping or lifting up.

You should leave a gap of between 12 – 15mm.  To make sure the correct sized gap is used, you could use flooring spacers, which are removed once you have fitted the entire floor.

Please don’t worry about having a gap around the edge of a room, it can easily be covered over by flooring accessories and mouldings.  Skirting boards or beading help to cover over the gaps at the perimeter of the room, while door bars and pipe covers can hide the rest.  You should be able to find a wide range of flooring accessories which will match or complement your hardwood floor.


Expansion gap

If you are still unsure about any part of installing your wooden floor then either visit our Installation Guide or contact us.  We will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have, and we can give technical advice and guidance.

Please note that this information is a guide only.  You should always consult a professional floor fitter to ensure the best results.

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