Laying down flooring materials on concrete can make extra living space and add value to your home! You may be wondering whether you can float a hardwood floor! Whether it's your basement or your garage, or an upstairs bathroom, we have thoroughly investigated this popular question and found some answers.
You can float a hardwood floor over concrete as long as special attention is paid to the unique challenges and aspects of each type of flooring. The most common and recommended flooring for covering concrete is engineered hardwood. To install hardwood flooring over concrete, the best practice is the following:
- Inspect and prepare the concrete floor
- Trim the door casings
- Lay down a moisture barrier and or subfloor material
- Install the flooring using the manufacturer recommendation
We know that seems like a simple list of steps, and you might be wondering how to go about accomplishing each one. We have more details! Keep reading as we break down each step in the flooring process and discuss different flooring types and methods for installing them.
How To Float Hardwood Flooring Over Concrete
To float a floor means that the floor has been locked together by glue or interlocking grooves that are clicked together, resulting in a one-piece floor that is not attached to the subsurface or walls. This method is becoming popular due to its low-cost, easy installation. It's great for concrete floors.
Inspect And Prepare The Concrete Floor
The first step that needs to be done when considering floating a hardwood floor is to get to know your concrete! You will specifically want to know if moisture is a problem and at what grade is the floor.
Determining The Grade Of Concrete Sub Floor
The grade is a term that is used for describing if your floor is at ground level, sub-ground level, or above ground level. Being at grade means that your floor is at ground level. You will want to reference your manufacture's warranty and instructions as installing your flooring below grade as you would in a basement can void some manufacturer's warranties.
The Concrete Floor Should Be Level
Use a grinder to grind down high spots and bumps.
See an example of a grinder for concrete on Amazon.
Use a concrete patch to fill in cracks and low spots.
Click here to see it on Amazon.
Generally, the concrete surface should be level to 1/8″ in a 6-foot area or 3/16" in a 10-ft area to begin the floor installation.
Moisture Testing For Concrete Floors
Concrete is thought of as a waterproof substance since its been long used to hold water and build dams. It is very porous, and this can be an issue for any floor. Test the moisture to avoid problems later on and to see what type of floor you can install.
There are three tests to choose from for moisture. Flooring should never be installed over concrete less than 30-days old. Make sure you are testing after the 30-day period for the best results.
Calcium Chloride Test
If you are curious about the exact moisture emissions from your floor, you can use a calcium chloride test kit. If the emissions rate is more than the recommended 3-5 pounds in 24 hours, then you would need to seal your concrete or consider another material for your concrete floor.
Click here to see the calcium chloride test kit on Amazon.
If you want a general electronic meter with a display, then you could use a moisture meter. It works by laying on top of the concrete surface and reading the moisture. The test should read below 4%. If your concrete floor tests higher, then you will need to apply a sealer and test again.
Click here to see this moisture meter on Amazon.
Plastic Square Test
The most low-tech, accessible test for moisture is the plastic square test. Cut a square piece of plastic 2 feet by 2 feet and seal all edges on the floor. Check it after 2 to 3 days. If there is moisture, then you will want to use a sealer and then retest.
Click here to see this concrete sealer on Amazon.
Trim The Door Casing
The choice of whether to remove baseboards or trim them up or leave them intact will be a personal one. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the type of wood you choose to allow enough expansion room. Once you have calculated the expansion space, mark off where you will be removing the trim. Whatever you choose, it is best practice to trim the door casings from any doorways.
Use a dovetail saw if you will only be trimming doorways.
See this dovetail saw on Amazon.
For cutting around the bottom of baseboards, an oscillating saw is a good safe choice for a beginner installer due to its ease of use.
Click here to see this saw on Amazon.
Lay Down A Moisture Barrier And Or Subfloor Material
If you are installing an engineered hardwood floor, you will most likely only need to lay down a moisture barrier first. Some choose to lay down a section then install the flooring section by section. This will help avoid having to walk or move other tools over it and can keep it intact. If you are using a heavier material, then you may choose to lay it down all at once.
Click here to see it on Amazon.
Install The Flooring Using Manufacturer Recommendations
It is essential to read the manufacturer's specs, instructions, and recommendations. They will let you know where you can install the floor, whether you can glue it down or it has to be floated, and how much expansion room to leave at the edges and under base trim for the material you have chosen. Some floors will require glue to hold together, while others will not.
The manufacturer's recommendations will also tell you how long the wood needs to sit in the environment before it can be installed. This is usually three or four days at least but can be longer for different types of flooring.
Use painter's tape to secure the pieces of wood together as you go while the glue is drying if you have opted to use flooring that requires glue. Make sure you stagger the wood if it comes in the same size planks for a stronger floor and a pleasing visual.
Click here to see it on Amazon.
This short video shows the simplest method for beginning and ending your floor installation.
What Is The Best Type Of Wood Flooring To Put Over Concrete?
While concrete floors can be found on any level, they are most commonly found in the basement, base of a house, or garage. Since these conditions are high targets for moisture and concrete is porous, the best type of wood flooring would be a composite, allowing versatility while appearing to be solid wood.
Can You Float Engineered Hardwood Over Concrete?
Engineered hardwood is the best type of flooring for concrete and can be installed at any grade. This is a type of flooring that combines a composite backing like plywood with a real wood surface.
Click here to see this floor on Amazon.
Can You Float Solid Wood Flooring On Concrete
Floating solid wood floor over concrete is possible, but many find it more complicated than floating a floor. Due to the added materials and skill level needed, generally, professionals no longer recommend solid wood flooring on concrete since using engineered wood is much simpler and gets the same luxurious feel.
To float solid wood flooring over concrete, the floor must be at or above grade. Some manufactures will void the warranty if the floor is installed over concrete.
Do You Need Underlay For Solid Wood Flooring On Concrete?
If you do choose to install solid wood flooring on concrete, you will need an underlay. You may choose either plywood or use sleepers combined with plywood or 3/4 board. Sleepers are a pattern of 2 by 4 planks spread out over the floor in intervals, providing a surface for nailing the wood down. Another moisture barrier or insulation is then spread over the sleepers below the wood.
Is It Better To Glue Or Float Wood Floors?
Now that you know that you can float a hardwood floor concrete and the best type of flooring to use, you may be wondering if it's better to glue down your floor. If your floor is at grade or above and you wish to glue it down, it is best to use vinyl plank or laminate flooring. For that real wood feel, we recommend floating your engineered wood on concrete for floors that will be easy to replace, easy to repair, and look beautiful for years to come!
For more discussion on flooring options, please see the following:
Is Vinyl Flooring Good For The Garage?
Is Wood Laminate Flooring Real Wood? Here’s What You Need To Know
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Can you float a 10 inch wide engineered oak plank over slab or is that too wide?