There's more than one way to fit a floor.
Technical Flooring Tips

There’s More Than One Way To Fit A Floor; Why It Matters To Your Project.

Many people don’t know you can fit a floor floated, glued down or nailed. Here we discuss how to choose the best strategy.

As a family, we occasionally try to have a conversation over dinner. So, the other evening, I recently posed some questions to my 7 and 4 year old.

“Is there more than one way to bake a cake?”“Yes, most definitely,” came the reply.

“How about eggs, is there more than one way to cook them”“Yes, poached, scrambled and fried.”

“Is there more than one way to fit a floor?” “Daadd, we really don’t care how a floor is fitted…”

And it’s true. Nobody cares how a floor is fitted…………..if it’s fitted well. 

But, trust me, they do care if it’s fitted badly. 

So, before you fit your wood floor is fitted… agree your fitting strategy with your contractor, as this can have a big impact on the outcome of your flooring project.

There are two main ways to fit a wood floor;

Floated or glued – there’s a third “nailed..” but it’s pretty rare for us to do this.. so we won’t go into too much detail here. Note, also, Laminates are always floated.. so no decision there!

A floated floor involves joining the edges of each board together and then simply “floating” the floor on top of an underlay, which in turn sits on top of your base floor. Your base or subfloor is the structural floor that sits beneath our floors (which are normally cosmetic….). In many houses/flats this is 18mm plus thick wood, and sits on joists. In kitchen extensions, it is often concrete. 

For floated, there is no glue that sticks underneath the floor to the base floor, but the weight of the floor holds it in place. Most of our engineered wood floors are tongue and groove floors, which means to join them together, the tongue has to be glued into the groove with PVA glue. Some of our laminates are “click systems”, so no PVA glue required, and you can also get engineered wood products in “click systems”. PVA is pretty damn strong, so whether it’s “click” or “T&G”, from a fitting outcome it will make no difference to you as a consumer… although click systems can be quicker to fit.

For a glued down floor you bond the bottom of your boards directly to your base floor. The tongues slot into the grooves but you do not glues these in. You cannot glue a floor to everything; you have to have a flat surface the glues will bond to. For Kite, we work in a lot of Victorian houses. Typically, they will have floor boards, so to glue a floor here, you have to fit 6mm ply on top of the floorboards, and then bond to this. Technically, you also shouldn’t glue to particle board (…or OSB board…), which is a cheap form of base floor sometimes used by builders. Again, the strategy is 6mm ply. 

So. which should you do?

At Kite, we don’t just want to sell you a floor. We want to help you have a perfectly fitted floor, and this means advising on the fitting side, even if we don’t fit. We know there are other blogs on the internet on this topic, but they generally list the advantages and disadvantages of the different methods… but don’t actually help a consumer (or somebody with no flooring expertise…) to actually make a decision. In other words, they don’t explain why it actually matters how you fit your floor!

We think it comes down to four questions.

Is your floor a patterned floor, such Chevron or Herringbone, or straight board?

There are some contractors that will float a patterned floor. We don’t advise it, and our fitters will always glue it down. There is far less tolerance for unevenness with a patterned floor, so if it’s not glued down, and the subfloor isn’t perfect, you will get a poor outcome from your fitting. It is also far easier to fit a patterned floor glued down; you can set up the flooring lines, without them moving during fitting. Examples of patterned floors can be found in our Kent Range.

Is your subfloor uneven?

The majority of floors in the UK are fitted on a floated basis. The advantage is it’s easier to do, and marginally cheaper (you don’t buy glues but an underlay instead..). The disadvantage is if there is any unevenness in your base floor, the floor can creak. The bible for floor fitting in the UK is something called the British Standard – BS 8201:2011. Here they specify a flat floor as having a flatness tolerance of “a maximum of 3mm gap showing under a 2m long straight edge”. So, you’re pretty unlikely to get creaks if the floor can meet this condition. This is a pretty conservative viewpoint, along with most of the other standards, but it’s a helpful starting point. 

If you are levelling the floor (such as in a building project..) or you are in a new-build property where your base floor is super flat…  floating will be ok. If you’re working with a more uneven base floor, then you can still float, but it’s pretty likely you will get some creaks. 

Will you be annoyed by creaking in your floor?

If you have unevenness in your subfloor, there’s the chance you may get creaking. But will this actually bother you? Many people don’t even notice, and think it’s part of the character of a wood floor; those creaks will not damage the floor.

As flooring geeks, we can tell when a floor is glued; it has a more solid feel to it when you walk on it… but really only people in the trade notice this. If you’re the type of person that will notice creaks, and there is unevenness in the subfloor, then glue the floor down. 

Many contractors (…our fitters included…) prefer gluing floors, as it is deemed a superior way of fitting a floor. The floor in a floor fitters house, will always be glued down, as guess what, they are annoyed by creaking floors!

What is your contractor comfortable doing?

Speak with your contractor. Generally, they have a preferred way of doing things, and ultimately, it is they who are responsible for completing the project, so they should be comfortable with the strategy. But, if you have an uneven floor, and the contractor wants to float the floor, be aware, they may install a floor that creaks!

Do you have an underfloor heating system?

If you’re having underfloor heating, check if it is water based or electric? With water based systems, you generally enclose the system in a screed. When you fit the flooring, to glue the floor down, you have to apply a thin layer of levelling compound, so there is a base floor that is super smooth to glue to. If you float the floor, you can simply use an underlay that is compatible with underfloor heating. With electric systems, the strategy can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so make sure you check their installation guidelines (if you float on an electric system, you often don’t need underlay….). Glueing on an electric system can get complicated, so speak to us about this.

Of course, fitting is just one aspect of the flooring journey. You also need to decide on the product. Here are two helpful blogs that looking into this aspect of the business –

You want a wood floor and don’t know what to choose.

And

Is a wooden floor right for your home

Happy project planning.

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