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How to Lay Engineered Wood Flooring

One of the many reasons engineered wood flooring is so popular among our customers is the fact that with a little bit of knowledge and planning, it’s perfectly feasible for many people to lay their flooring themselves. Fitting engineered wood flooring is not particularly difficult to install provided you have the right tools and follow the right steps. That’s why we’ve put together this helpful guide, in conjunction with our experts, to help you through the process and ensure your new flooring looks fantastic for years to come.

An introductory guide to installing an engineered wood floor

For fitting engineered wood flooring, you’ll need the following:
 
  • Pencil
  • Square / Sliding Square 
  • Measuring tape
  • Hand saw or electric saw
  • 2m long spirit level
  • Flooring pull bars
  • Mallet
  • Jigsaw
  • Floor tensioners or ratchet straps
  • Moisture meter
  • Underlay (for floating installations)
  • PVA glue (for floating tongue & groove installations)
  • Solvent Free High Tack Adhesive (stick down installations)
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Dustpan and brush
  • Adjustable spacers
  • Sponge / Cloth for Glue Installations
  • Electric Multi Tool or Wood Chisel
  • Mitre Saw
 
If you don’t have any of these things, you shouldn’t have any problems finding them at any DIY or hardware store.

Preparing to install engineered wood flooring

As the saying goes, “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. This is very true when it comes to installing engineered wood flooring. There are several steps to take before you even lay the first plank. It’s important not to skip these as it can affect the overall outcome, and in extreme circumstances even lead to your brand new engineered wood floor cracking or splitting:
 
  • The first step is to check the moisture levels in the room. Being an organic product, wood is sensitive to changes in moisture, temperature and humidity. Checks should be made to ensure not only that the subfloor is dry but that the relative humidity within the subfloor and room itself is suitable for installation.  Please see manufacturer guidelines for recommendations.
  • Check the condition of your subfloor. Preparation is key to the performance of your new floor, so take up your old flooring and make sure your subfloor is dry, smooth, level, and free from debris. You might also need to add a damp proof membrane, depending on the type of subfloor. Our guide on how to prepare your subfloor will offer guidance on what you need to do.
  • Once you’ve checked the subfloor and moisture levels, it’s time to acclimatise your flooring.  Place the boxes flat in the room it is to be installed with space in between the boxes allowing air to circulate.  Leave for at least 48 hours so the product can relax into the environment.  The room temperature should be between 18˚C - 27˚C and the floor temperature above 15˚C.
  • If you fail to do this, you run the risk of your new floor changing shape once it’s installed and potentially bowing, splitting or cracking.
  • It is possible to install your engineered wood floor with underfloor heating (UFH)  systems.  What is important is that the UFH system has been tested thoroughly before beginning an installation.  Acclimatisation steps must be followed and the air temperature be at 18˚C.  Once installed it is important to commission the UFH system in small increments of 2˚C every 24 hours until the desired temperature is reached.  The UFH temperature (not the ambient room temperature) should not exceed 27˚C.  In all circumstances we recommend checking the manufacturers guidelines of the selected flooring and UFH system for further guidance.

Laying engineered wood flooring

  • Always read the manufacturers fitting instructions thoroughly before commencing installation. 
  • Remember that as wood is a natural product, there is likely to be some variation in colour and grain. While this variation makes your floor unique, review the boards for characteristics that you may wish to place in less prominent positions.
Top Tip: Some boards may have larger knots and aesthetically these may be better located at the edge of a room rather than centrally.
 
  • Before starting the install take a few boards to familiarise yourself with how they will fit together and consider where you’re going to have to make cuts. Bear in mind you will have to leave around a 10mm gap between the floor and the walls to account for how the wood may expand. Take note of any radiator pipes or anything else that will require cutting around. We recommend ensuring that you don’t have a plank narrower than 60mm at the edges of the room. Measure this beforehand and if necessary, cut the first plank you lay slightly narrower to accommodate this, allowing for the 10mm expansion gap around the perimeter of the room.
Top Tip: Engineered wood flooring looks best when it’s laid parallel to light entering the room, it brings out the characteristics of the grain.
 
  • If you’re laying underlay, do this first. You can use your pencil to mark the underlay of where the joins are likely to be to help guide you. We recommend using an underlay with floating installations. Read our Guide to Engineered Wood Flooring for more info. 
  • Starting in one corner, begin to lay your flooring. If you’re using tongue and groove flooring, the ‘groove’ side goes against the wall. Use spacers to keep the expansion gap against the wall consistent. If you are glueing the planks together, we recommend placing the glue on the groove and not the tongue. This gives a better spread and a stronger joint.  Attach the floor plank by fitting the tongue in at around 30 degrees and then lowering it into place. Wipe away any excess glue with a sponge or cloth.
  • Eventually, you will reach the end of the room and will have to cut one plank down to size. To ensure that your next board is the right size, take a new one, turn it 180 degrees and lay it up next to the previous one. Use your pencil and square to mark the area to cut. Use the offcut to start the next row to create the staggered effect. 
Top Tip: We do not recommend using planks shorter than 300mm at the end of any row. You should also try to avoid two header joints being within 300mm of each other.
 
  • Repeat the process checking as you work that all the joins are correct and neat until the whole floor is covered, and you get to the last row of planks. 
Top tip: To ensure your floor looks natural, we recommend opening a few packs and randomly selecting planks from them when laying your floor.
 
  • When you get to the last plank, it’s quite likely that you will have to cut it lengthways to finish up the room. Use the pull bar to fit the last plank ensuring that the plank is secure and in place

Laying engineered wood flooring around door frames

Taking the time to properly fit your flooring around door frames will result in a much better finish. While it’s tricky, it’s definitely worth it.
 
  • Firstly, make sure the door will open with the floor and the door bar in place… you don’t want to do all this work just to have to redo it! If it doesn’t, remove the door and plane a few mm from the bottom so the door can open freely.
  • If the architrave extends further than the skirting, to achieve the neatest possible finish, trim the architrave to allow space for the underlay and flooring below.
  • To do this, place a piece of upside-down board on a piece of underlay next to the door frame and use that to set the level you need to cut. Use a wood chisel and mallet or multi tool to remove, remembering to leave the expansion gap still.
  • You should now be able to lay your engineered wood floor with a much neater finish.

Finalising your installation

  • If you’ve not removed the skirting boards, then use our complementary engineered wood beading to finish up the edges, concealing the expansion gap and achieve a neat, finished look.
  • When you encounter corners, cut the beading to the required angle, approximately 45 degrees, using a mitre saw for a professional finish. Remember, when you’re gluing these in place, they are glued to the skirting board and not the floor to allow for that all-important movement.
  • We recommend giving the floor time to settle before you start moving heavy furniture and belongings back into the room. 
Top Tip: Protect your floor by applying felt pads to the underside of your furniture and entrance matting where necessary.
 

If you’ve got any questions or need any advice regarding your engineered wood flooring then don’t hesitate to contact us. In the meantime, check out our further guides to choosing and maintaining engineered wood.

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