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Flooring Installation Workshop: Glue Down Hardwood Floors

Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Installing glue down hardwood floors is actually an older method of installation. It offers advantages and potential pitfalls, but in the right application, glue down hardwood floors can be your best choice.

If this is your first foray into wood floors, you definitely want to think twice about glue over nails for a few reasons:

  • First is the mess. Flooring jobs are like any home improvement project-they involve a lot of mess and clean-up. This is compounded with glue.
  • Second is the risk of a failed installation, meaning failed adhesion to the subfloor.
  • Third, is the constant need to clean the area being prepped. Any kind of dust or waxy residue in the subfloor can interfere with the result.

There are pros to a glued-floor however, that make it worth considering.

  • It is more stable and less prone to buckling due to expansion and contraction.
  • It offers an alternative to floating floors when applied over a concrete slab. Floating floors need a very flat slab surface or a premium underlayment to compensate for unevenness.

The most important single choice with glue-down floors is adhesive. This is not a choice that you can fix easily if you choose poorly. Manufacturers recommendations should be followed, and can cost $.80 or more per square foot. A bargain here is no bargain.

Also carefully consider the flooring thickness you choose. Because you are not using nails, it is risky to use 3/4" flooring. It will have trouble conforming to the contours of the floor. For this reason, engineered hardwoods ranging in thickness from 1/4" to 5/8" work better. Many products intended for glue-down include relief cuts in the back of the flooring to allow it to better conform. These also provide better surface adhesion.

Glues come in a variety of types, including water-based, urethane based, and acrylic. Urethane is the common choice for pros. All of the products available today are lower in VOCs than their counterparts of yesteryear.

The tools for glue-down flooring are mostly the same as for nailed or stapled, except you will need a shop vacuum to keep each area clean as you work it, a good supply of appropriate solvent, and a grooved flooring trowel. You will also want to plan to make your cuts in another room to keep dust out of your work area.

Once you're finished, you'll be pleased with your glue down hardwood floors and the stability it offers.