Technical Flooring Tips

Want your project to be on time and on budget?

Hello, refurbishment projects! We know at some point you’ll have “Fit Flooring” listed in your project plan (probably towards the end). But here’s the cold hard truth. Sometimes, for reasons we’ll explain, you can’t fit flooring. 

And when you can’t fit flooring, your project delays, and it’s no fun for anyone.

So, we’ve written a blog, listing several common challenges that delay fitting and/or cause cost creep. 

The good news? All these themes can be managed, provided you plan for them in advance.

Moisture levels in concrete.

This is our biggest challenge, as moisture levels are almost never tested by contractors. Chemistry tells us that wood floors don’t like moisture and unfortunately, concrete can take a very long time to dry, especially when the property is not sealed, and the screed is deep. The industry guidance is 1mm per day, but if the property is not sealed, it can be the case that the screed will simply not dry at all. For all our projects we professionally test the moisture levels with a Tramex meter, and if it’s above 4%, we can’t fit the floor.

If you have underfloor heating, moisture levels can also be reduced by “commissioning” your system (provided it is concrete screed, and not a quick drying levelling compound). This is the process of turning on the system, and then gradually increasing the temperature, leaving the system on for a few days, and then gradually turning it off again. All underfloor heating manufacturers will have a slightly different process, so check with them, they’ll always have technical guidance. If the system hasn’t been commissioned, we almost always find the moisture levels are too high to fit flooring.

Readings of over 4% are very common when the property hasn’t been sealed or the underfloor heating system hasn’t been commissioned.

Get the rip out done early.

This is not always possible, but if you’re removing an existing floor, tiles, or skirting boards, it’s best to do this in advance of the fitting. To achieve the perfect floor, you often can’t finalise fitting strategy until this is done.

On rip out, you may discover the subfloor is more uneven or unstable than expected. You may also discover moisture issues, especially in basement flats or old properties. If these are discovered early, additional costs can be minimised, and factored into your budget. If you can’t do the rip out until the day of fitting, allow for a contingency in your budget.

If we’re gluing a floor down, it must be level… and we mean level.

In a previous blog, we covered fitting strategy; whether you should glue or float a floor. If we’re going the glue down route, the subfloor must be completely flat and structurally sound. With concrete screeds, it is very rare for them to be finished in this condition, especially when they have been open to the elements.

We almost always then have to apply a levelling compound, with the costs associated with this. This also raises the height of the subfloor by c3mm, which can cause challenges with doors. Where there are floorboards, you must staple sheets of 6mm ply, but if the floorboards are very uneven, thicker ply can be used, but no thicker than 9mm, then stapling no longer works. If the floorboards are very uneven, ply can be fitted, and  levelling compound applied on top (we cover this in a previous blog on Herringbone floors). Note, the level of tolerance listed by British Standards for a glue down floor is 3mm across a 2m rule. At Kite, we sometimes take a view when it’s at 5mm, in very small areas, but if it is more than this, the area will need to be levelled.

How to fit a Herringbone floor…
This is how level and flat the floor needs to be for glue down…here the a levelling compound is drying.

You cannot glue floors to everything

We’ve already covered floorboards, but another common scenario we come up against, is when a subfloor is OSB or particle board – again with a glue down floor, we cannot bond directly to this, so ply needs to be fitted. Alternatively, make sure your builder uses ply for the subfloor, rather than cheaper forms of wood.

Other contractors

When we fit floors we insist on a clear site, with no other tradespeople working. We realise this feels like a big ask, but there are some pretty good reasons. Firstly, floors, once glued, take a while to settle, and if you walk across them, before this has happened, they move, and create unsightly gaps. The floor then needs to be refitted. We’ve had this scenario a couple of times, and it’s not ideal for anyone involved.

Our teams are super-efficient, so it’s best to let them have a clear run. On completion of works we’ll always take extensive photos, to show you the finished floor. In the event the property is still a building site, we recommend the floor is then covered using a professional Correx material; there is nothing worse than a contractor dropping a tool on your newly fitted floor.

Anything sitting on the floor?

If we’re fitting a new floor, it may seem obvious, but there can be nothing sitting on top of it. This applies to heavy furniture, but also appliances, free standing radiators, and toilets. If these items are flagged in advance, we can almost always plan, but it’s far trickier if we discover them on the day of fitting. We can recommend a good plumbing service, that will remove plumbed in appliances, but as with all these themes, this needs to be planned.

Not one of our better days…. when we turned up to fit a floor here..

So, there you have it. 6 challenges you can now plan and budget for, which will help make your project run smoothly.

Of course, if you have any further questions on project planning, just let us know.

Other blog posts to help you achieve the perfect floor

How to fit a Herringbone floor – what you need to know if you’re having one fitted.

6 factors that determine the price of your floor.

Do I need a professional fitter?

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