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Wood Flooring Installation Types

There are a variety of ways that different hardwood floors can be installed in a home including “nail down,” “glue down,” “staple down,” and “floating”.

Which installation method you choose depends mostly on the construction of your “subfloor”. The “subfloor” is what exists under the existing carpet, vinyl, or hardwood floor you have today. For example, if you pull up a corner of the existing carpet and discover concrete, you’ll want to go with a floating installation type as you will not be able to use either a nail down or staple down method without a lot of hard work.

A more detailed description of each installation type follows:

  • Floating – Floating floors can be installed over any type of subfloor because there is no need to directly attach the floor to the floor below. A protective pad is placed between the hardwood floor and the subfloor which protects the hardwood against moisture and reduces the transmission of sound to your neighbors as you walk along the floor. The floor boards are then joined together by means of a “click” system or an adhesive between the hardwood boards themselves. From a do-it-yourself standpoint, floating floors are the easiest to install.

  • Nail Down / Staple Down – Nail down and staple down floors are essentially the same thing in that the hardwood floor is affixed to the subfloor using a nail or staple fastener. Nails are used when the installed flooring is thick and where a staple won’t penetrate the wood. Staples are used when the flooring is thinner and where a nail would blow right through the tongue.

    From a do-it-yourself standpoint, nail down and staple down floors are easier to install than glue down, but harder than floating floor installations. However, the cost of the machinery needed to install a nail down or staple down floor is significant and as such, it is not recommended that you use this method yourself. Nail down and staple down floors can not be installed on a concrete subfloor.

  • Glue Down – With a glue-down floor, a mastic or adhesive is spread onto the subfloor to adhere the flooring to it. With this method, it is important to use the manufacturer’s recommended adhesive, and the manufacturer’s recommended trowel size, to ensure glue transfer and not void the manufacturer warranty.

    Glue down floors are potentially the most difficult to do from a do-it-yourself standpoint because of the level of skill involved. For this reason, it is not recommended that you try to install a glue-down floor unless you have had extensive experience installing hardwood floors. While glue-down floors can be installed over concrete, it is still a lot more difficult to do than floating.