Hardwood flooring can be installed in numerous ways. The installation methods will vary based on the different types of hardwood floors and the conditions it will be installed in.

Solid Wood Floors:

Nail-down installation with a plywood subfloor:

Solid hardwood floors tend to be ¾” thick, varying in width and length. These floors are typically nailed down atop a 5/8” thick plywood sub-floor. Beneath the plywood, a moisture vapor barrier is installed consisting of plastic sheeting and mastic sealant, all fastened to the concrete using ¼” spikes. The hardwood flooring gets nailed into the tongue of the board, concealing the nails. The total floor thickness using this application is 1 ½” up from your concrete slab.

Pro:

The benefits of a naildown installation include:

  • Tighter fit for a sleek, modern look
  • More impact absorption; easier on the joints when walked on
  • Superior moisture vapor barrier from below

Con:

  • More expensive than a gluedown installation
  • Takes more time to install

Glue-down installation directly to the slab:

Solid hardwood floors can also be glued down. A rubberlike liquid moisture vapor barrier is applied directly to a concrete slab to create a moisture seal. Once dry, the hardwood floor is then installed using a compatible adhesive. Straps and wall jacks tighten the fit and are removed the next day once the adhesive has dried.

Pro:

  • Less expensive than a plywood subfloor installation
  • Shorter installation time
  • Lifetime warranty through manufacturers against moisture and adherence failure
  • Ideal for remodels; keeps the floor at ¾” thickness, making it easier to transition to a different flooring surface

Con:

  • Future repairs are more difficult
  • Cannot walk on newly-installed floor until the adhesive dries, typically 12 hrs.

Engineered Wood Floors

It is uncommon to install an engineered wood floor over a plywood subfloor application because engineered hardwood floors already have a plywood core designed for stability. This allows them to be glued down directly to the concrete slab, which represents the most common installation practice for this type of a floor. 

When there is a plywood subfloor in place, the engineered hardwood floor can be nailed down or glued down as well.

Pros:

  • Time. It takes half the time to arrive at a finished product in comparison to a solid unfinished installation.
  • Thickness. Some engineered wood floors can be as thin as 3/8” and can go up to as thick as ¾”. This allows for flush transitions to another flooring in the home when remodeling.
  • Price. Engineered wood floors can cost as little as half of what a solid wood floor may cost.

Cons:

  • Color and finish selection is limited to what is produced by a manufacturer
  • Colors are discontinued every few years due to trend changes, making it difficult to add more flooring in the future or make matching hardwood floor repairs
  • Most often, the floor cannot be refinished. Once worn down to bare wood, the floor must be replaced.
  • Edges are beveled on most pre-finished hardwood floors due to a very slight unevenness.
  • Specific attention is required when installing engineered hardwood floors in our dry climate. The potential of failure with engineered wood floors is greater than with a solid wood floor.