Is glue down or nail down better?

Q: Is glue down or nail down better for engineered wood flooring? This is for a 2nd floor/upstairs.

A: Clearly it is much easier to nail down a floor than to glue it down. The adhesive approach is generally used when installing over concrete. Also some adhesives act as acoustic barrier and some as moisture retardant. This latter should not be an issue on the second floor and if sound transfer is an issue their are membranes that can be laid out first, such as cork.

Remove the attached underlayment and use my own?

Q: I’m interested in using FloorMuffler or cork as an underlayment but the Pergo 10mm laminates I like happen to have an attached thin foam underlayment already. Should I just remove the attached underlayment and use my own? I’m going for a solid, non-hollow feel and sound. Thanks for your time!

A: I would definitely not remove the foam from the Pergo flooring. This is meant to slow moisture transfer, while cork helps lessen noise transfer.

Wormholes in #1 common red oak hardwood flooring

Q: Is the presence of multiple wormholes acceptable in #1 common red oak hardwood flooring (up to 39 holes in one 47” plank)?

A: It is a lower grade of wood. The lower the grade, the more (character) marks are permitted, including knots, worm holes, wide colour variations and black mineral streaks. I don’t recall ever reading of a specific number of worm holes being aloud. If they are tiny holes they could be filled or just set that board aside. If it has already been installed it can still be removed and replaced.

Acacia wood smells?

Q: I have boxes of both Bellawood Ash and Short Leaf Acacia, both 3/4″ prefinished hardwood. The ash, from the US, has virtually no aroma. The acacia, an exotic hardwood, prefinished in China, has a strong aroma which I am attempting to vent. What is the aroma? Could it be just the wood scent, the poly, the aluminum oxide? Or something else?

By the way, the acacia is carefully packaged, with foam between the layers of boards and the whole is wrapped in plastic inside the wooden box. The ash has no foam or plastic packaging.

A: I’m not aware of any strong odour from this wood. Even if one could be smelled for example when cutting as can be the case with some woods, products made and finished in China are coated on all sides. So I don’t see how a wood odor could be the cause of this. I don’t know what finish they used either. But they typically will receive an order with the required specs which they must fulfill. After such a long trip across the ocean the finish is long dried. My suspicion will fall to the packaging. That foam wrap they used.

Can I store hardwood flooring in a cold house?

Q: Can I store hardwood flooring in a cold house?

A: Sure. Just make sure when the time comes to install it that the rooms are at living conditions with 4% or less moisture difference between the sub floor and hardwood. Always a good idea to check the moisture content in the flooring before installing it too.

I think I would put a couple of sleepers on the floor and lay the bundles across them. If there is any chance of moisture coming from below lay down a sheet of plastic first.

Is walnut durable?

Q: I am going to put hard wood in my entrance way and kitchen. I do not like the grain in oak. I do like walnut. Will it be durable enough for a hallway and kitchen?

We are a small family with one small cat, no heavy usage, but I am concerned with denting it if I drop something.

A: Walnut of course is very beautiful wood but like any natural wood product it will dent to one degree or another depending on the weight of the item dropped. Walnut is somewhat soft. If it is finished with a good product the finish itself will hold up well, but it won’t prevent denting. Hickory is much harder but is prone to gapping with large swings in humidity.

Your cat won’t hurt your floor but I think you need to realize that it is a floor to be walked on. it isn’t a dining room table top. Otherwise, you will always be stressed out about every little dent or mark and will end up becoming a slave to what you are walking on. This is probably why some have chosen to distress their floors such as pine from the start so other dings aren’t a big deal.

Size of cleats or staples for 5/16 hardwood

Q: I got this 2-In-1 Flooring Nailer/Stapler (link here: It worked fine with 3/4 thick Bellawood Brazilian cherry hardwood.

Now I am using 5/16 thick Bellawood Brazilian cherry and the tongues are getting damaged. I was using 2 inch staples. What is the size of cleats or staples recommended for 5/16 hardwood? Thanks.

A: I would go with 1 1/2 inch cleat.

Industrial, brick pattern plywood look

Q: I want wood flooring in my basement home office. I would like the industrial look of plywood (cut into 2’x 2′ squares) laid in a brick pattern then stained and sealed with acrylic polyurethane. Can this be done?

A: Absolutely! Go for it. I’ve seen that once before, but they didn’t cut the plywood down that small.

Fear of water vapor when installing hardwood floor

Q: Our house was built in 1976. I am unsure of how thick the slab on grade is, but my wife is concerned about the emission of water vapor now after cruising the internet as I just started to lay down the hard wood floor. THANK YOU INTERNET, THANK YOU. Before I go any further, I need some re-assurance to ease her worries or a slap on my wrist with re-education to what I have been taught.

My preparation:

1) Carpet in living room and hallway removed to expose the concrete slab. No cracks were visually present and no visual defects with the exception of about 40 years of spill stains that washed right up.

2) Vinyl tiles in kitchen and dining room removed to expose the concrete slab. The tiles were not terribly difficult to remove, but it was quite a job with pry bars and scrappers.

3) 3/4″ tongue and groove OSB was laid down and ram set into the concrete with about 16 to 20 nails per sheet. 2 weeks exposed to allow the moisture levels to equalize to the relative house levels.

4) #15 roofing felt rolled over top of the sub floor.

5) 700 sq ft of reclaimed 3/4″x 2-1/4″ hardwood flooring moved into a neat stack in the living room and allowed to sit for 1 week before installation began. About 80sq ft of floor laid down so far.

Insert Internet fears here and I will now list my findings of readings from different methods of moisture readings.

1) Plastic sheet method – 18″x18″ plastic sheet was laid down on the concrete and taped down around the edges using t-rex tape. To further seal, I sprayed the edges of the tape with hair spray.
*Result – Removed the plastic 24 hours later to reveal visually dry concrete and plastic with no signs of water droplets on the plastic and no color variance between the covered and exposed concrete.

2) Moisture Meter – A moisture meter was then purchased and readings have been taken from every room after re-exposing the concrete in spots.
*Results over a 2 day period:
Doorwall in kitchen – 10.2%
Dining room – 9.8%
Living room – 9.2%
Hallway – 8.9%
Bathroom – 7.6%
Doorwall in kitchen – 10.9%
Dining room – 10%
Living room – 9.6%
Hallway – 9.1%
Bathroom – 8%
Now that I have a new toy, I have been testing the moisture percentage in everything I can. The upper cabinets have a moisture percentage of 10.7%. The OSB sub floor fluctuates between 3.6% and 4.8%. Hardwood floor is 5.9%. Now having the meter, I will do another plastic sheet test and then take a reading directly after pealing the plastic up.

3) My next test is to purchase a hygrometer and then seal it under plastic for a few days and take the RH readings while it is sealed under the clear plastic.

I do not know what the exact RH of the house is because I do not have the hygrometer yet. We do have a humidifier that is turned off during the summer and has recently been turned on for the winter and set to the lower end of the comfort level setting. I have been through a wide variety of the building trades throughout my employment history, but with all my experience and knowledge, my points of the argument does not ease her mind.

Husbands point of the argument:

1) If there were a high abundance of moisture vapor, the kitchen tiles would not have been so hard to pull up.

2) What is the point of laying down 6ml plastic over the concrete when I am going to put thousands of holes in it from the flooring spikes?

3) If there is a problem with cracks in the slab with an abundance of water coming through, your floor covering doesn’t make a difference. your problems are bigger than she realizes and a 6ml sheet of plastic is not a magic layer to protect.

ANY advice on my current situation is more than welcome!

A: I agree with husband. You’ve not seen any evidence of moisture anywhere. Not on the carpet or tile. Not on the OSB. Not with all your tests. I think it is safe to say, your concrete does not have a river running under it.

Super seal water proof membrane

Q: There are new products out there, designed as sub floor material (ex: Super Seal) to be used instead of the typical plywood sub floor. These are cheaper and easier to install than plywood, but are they as good as plywood?

A: Super seal is a water proof membrane, not a sub floor. I would think this would be used in conjunction with plywood on concrete/below grade installations.

Should I give couple of weeks for wood (installed over concrete) to expand before finishing?

Q: I am in the process of installing hardwood floor with 3/4 plywood nailed down to concrete and 3/4 red oak stapled on. I have been running the heater at 80 degrees for past 10 days. How long should I wait before I start the finishing process such as sand, stain and seal?

I was told that, I should give couple of weeks for the wood to expand before finishing it.

A: I hope you checked the concrete for moisture seepage first, and that you had the hardwood on site, in the area to be installed for a week or more to allow it to adjust to the climate of the space. If you did these things there shouldn’t be appreciable expansion.

If the basement is not really dry then you are going to have a problem. No hardwood manufacturer will warranty solid wood installed below grade.

Stains and coatings will also likely be slow drying also regardless of how hot the air in the room is because the concrete slab is cold and that transfers up into the flooring.

Floor you can coat but doesn’t need nailed down

Q: I am installing a dance studio floor. The owners have a laminate in one of their studios but it is hard on the dancers shoes. They would like some type of floor they can put a topcoat on, but we cannot nail the floor down. It will be going over a tile floor. Any suggestions?

A: I’d probably look at an engineered floor with a click joint for installation so it floats. See what Torly’s or Quick Step has to offer.

Soft cushion-y underlayment?

Q: I am looking for an inexpensive real wood flooring that might be a good bet in Salt Lake City, Utah. I DON’T want really hard stuff that won’t get beat up. (I would prefer a “worn”, very informal, cottage-type look!) All the info I can find relates to hardwood, so I guess this is a strange idea. But if I don’t spend a fortune on the wood, I can always re-do it in 10 years if I want better wood by then, right?

Also, is there any kind of under-flooring moisture barrier that we can install that would also help give wood flooring a softer, more cushion-y type feel so it’s not as “hard on feet”?

A: I’m rather partial to quarter sawn white oak. You might want to contact Timberline Hardwood Dimensions in NY state to see how their prices are. If you wanted something softer, you might be able to get pine or similar from a local mill cheap.

Cork or other sound barrier underlayment can be installed to soften up the floor some, but I wouldn’t call these moisture barriers.

Installing so two rooms transition at the same level

Q: I have laminate tiles in my mud room. I want to replace with tile. The room is next to hardwood floors (kitchen) and I would like to have the transition at the same level as the kitchen floor. What do I have to do to the subfloor of mud/laundry room? How thin could it be to withstand the weight of washer and dryer and sink?

A: If the floor in the kitchen is 3/4 thick you would probably have to peel off the mud room down to the sub floor. Then the concrete-mesh or which ever base method is used for the tile is about half an inch and the tile is 1/4 to 3/8 thick – and that should get you very close to the same level.

Clean off the varnish from the top side of the tongue of salvaged boards?

Q: We salvaged some 7/8 quarter sawn, hard pine flooring. We would like to know how to clean off the varnish from the top side of the tongue edge of the boards? We have a scraper, however we are wondering if there is any easier way, as it seems that the varnish has turned to cement.

A: I would think if you have a router and router table with a straight bit, you could set it up so it will cut up to but not remove any of the tongue. Once it is set up, you can just run the boards through fairly quickly.

Hardwood that holds up to the wear and tear cats bring?

Q: I have 4 cats, 1 of which is sick and has some accidents. I am looking to replace my carpet with hardwood floors. Friends tell me hardwood will be easier to maintain and will hold up better than carpet, with pets. Can you tell me what you would recommend in hardwood that would hold up to the wear and tear cats bring?

A: I feel bad for your pets and for you, as, like us, they get old and ill and need special attention. Certainly a solid wood floor finished on site will repel accidents for the most part, if it is finished well. Avoid pre finished floors. If your situation requires a laminate, look at Torlys laminates.

Gaps due to the head of the nail not bedding all the way

Q: I am in the middle of a DIY floor using prefinished 3/4″ gunstock and using a blind hammer. This being my first time, I started in the den, but now almost done I look back and find gaps due to the head of the nail not bedding all the way.

I have been correcting this by cutting off the excess or tapping it in, but how do I fix the spots that are already too far back to pull up? I can see the nail in the gap but was not sure if putty or likewise would work.

I don’t want to call in a Pro since it is almost done (350 of the 400 sq ft). I may have a pro do the rest of the house, but now one half looks perfect and the first half is the problem zone.

A: Installing this with hammer and nail? You should have been setting the nail flush with the top of the tongue using a nail punch. It would have been much easier to have rented a power nailer firing cleats.

You can get colour matched putty for the gaps. Color-Rite comes in hundreds of shades and is easy to work with.

Should I glue wood planks together as I nail the wood floor down?

Q: Should I glue the wood planks together, as I nail the wood floor down? If it is a bad idea, what could happen if I do?

A: I don’t think it is a bad idea. Maybe not necessary. What type of adhesive are you using? How wide are the boards?

The biggest issue with a wood floor is moisture control. Control that and you won’t have any problem with expansion.

Otherwise, if the sub floor you are installing to is not the best and you want adhesive for better hold, go for it. Probably a polyurethane adhesive is best.