Wooden floors have an inherent timeless beauty unmatched by any other floor finish, but for maximum impact and longevity, they must be properly laid.

There are various potential problems associated with laying a wooden floor but, with care and proper preparation, they can be avoided. It is essential to use experienced installers and work to the recommendations of BS 8201:2011.

Moisture and Humidity

Wooden floors are particularly susceptible to damage from moisture. On a typical construction site, moisture can be present due to a number of factors including:

· Curing of concrete and screeds

· Wet trades

· Drying out from water ingress before the building was watertight

Wooden floors should not be installed until all wet trades have finished and the building has properly dried out. Installers use hygrometers to measure moisture content in the work area. For screeds and walls, this must not exceed 2%. Air moisture content should be between 45-65%.

Subfloor

The construction of the subfloor determines which installation method can be used. The most common are:

· Concrete screed

· Chipboard

· Plywood

· Joists

· Existing floorboards

Preparation

Having established that moisture levels are okay, the timber should be brought to site, unpacked and left to acclimatise for at least 72 hours. Room temperature should be maintained at 15-25°C.

All subfloors must be checked to ensure they are in a suitable condition. The surface must be dry, clean, level and smooth. For uneven concrete subfloors, a self-levelling compound must be applied first.

Where underfloor heating systems have been installed, the wooden floor should not be installed until the system has been commissioned and run for 14 days.

Installation

The new boards should be checked for colour variation before fitting starts. It is important to ensure a mix of shades across the floor.

New floorboards will be either glued, nailed or screwed in place depending on the surface being fixed to. For continuous flat surfaces, such as concrete, chipboard or plywood, boards are glued using a flexible adhesive. Fixing to joists requires nailing or screwing. When laying on top of existing floorboards, either method can be used. Tongue and groove boards can be secretly nailed, and this is best done with a nail gun.

A minimum 10mm expansion gap should be left around the floor perimeter with skirtings fitted after the floor to allow the gap to be covered.

Protection

If there is any risk of the floor being damaged after installation, it must be properly protected. This is particularly important on sites where other trades are still working. The procedure for putting protection in place is:

1. Vacuum floor

2. Lay cloth dust sheets

3. Cover with 3mm hardboard

Using only corrugated plastic sheets causes scratching of the surface if any dust is trapped underneath. Hardboard is preferable to plastic sheet because it reduces the risk of moisture becoming trapped and affecting the floor.

Most problems with wooden floors occur because they were laid before site conditions were suitable. With proper planning and good site management, they should be avoidable.

For more information on commercial wood flooring visit https://www.wfa.uk.net