Installing an Engineered Wood Floor – 10 Steps To Follow

A photograph of a man installing an engineered wood floor. He is dressed in a light blue T-shirt and tool belt. The engineered wood planks have been installed over about half the floor in the room and the subfloor is visible across the rest of the image. The subfloor has foil-backed insulation laid across it that has been taped together along the joins. The man is using a hammer against a plastic block held against the latest plank to be laid to ensure a snug fit. Across the top of the image are the words "Installing an Engineered Wood Floor – 10 Steps To Follow" in white letters on a partially transparent brown background. In the bottom left are three steps in a list to signify that the article provides a step-by-step approach.

When choosing a type of flooring for your house, you have myriad choices, with regular hardwood floors and engineered hardwood floors just two of your options.

An engineered hardwood floor contains both hardwood and plywood, which means it requires fewer trees to be cut down and is, therefore, more sustainable.

Professionals should do a great job of installing an engineered wood floor, but you can also do it yourself.

To install an engineered wood floor, you should gather all your tools and materials and ensure the floorboards acclimate to the room. Then you can start preparing the subfloor and laying the underlayment. Next, you can lay the floorboards by nailing or gluing them down.

In the rest of this article, I’ll describe every step that you need to take to install an engineered wood floor.

I’ll also include plenty of tips to help you achieve the look you want for your engineered hardwood floor.

Let’s get started!

Engineered wood isn’t just good for inside flooring; you can also use it for decking. See our article, “Composite Decking – What Is It And Is It Better Than Wood?

1. Assess the Site Conditions

A man scraping a concrete subfloor with a metal tool to ensure is is smooth and flat.
The subfloor must be free from bumps and debris before the engineered wood floor is laid on top of it. This ensures the floor is stable and doesn’t get damaged.

Before you take any steps to install engineered wood flooring, you need to ensure the conditions are suitable.

If you install a hardwood floor in unfavorable conditions, problems such as creaking or split floors will likely follow, which may need to be remade.

You should ensure that the air’s humidity is not too high. High humidity may cause problems later on after the installation. Ideally, moisture should be between 30 and 50 percent; any less or more may be a problem for the installation.

Additionally, you should check out the subfloor and ensure it contains an acceptable moisture level. As you can see, moisture is a common issue with hardwood floors because it can cause significant damage.

Moreover, you should check the subfloor’s general state and ensure it’s completely level to avoid unpleasant surprises during the installation.

2. Gather Your Tools and Materials

Once you have ensured the conditions are right, you should gather all the necessary tools and materials for installation.

You first need to find the right engineered flooring for your requirements. And don’t forget that you’ll need underlayment to provide a flat and smooth base for the floor.

The tools you’ll need depend on the type of engineered hardwood floor that you are choosing. For example, if you use nail installation, you will need nails and a flooring nail gun or stapler. On the other hand, if you have selected a floating installation, you’ll need PVA Glue.

Either way, you will need a measuring tape, a handsaw, a pencil or chalk, and a vacuum cleaner. You’ll also need a pry bar, a hammer, and a drill.

A selection of tools laid out on a light brown wooden floor in a random pattern. The tools include a hammer, handsaw, drill, pencil and measuring tape.
Gathering your tools together before you start installing your engineered wood floor will ensure you don’t have to keep stopping work to rummage through a cupboard or garage shelf to find a crucial tool for the next step of the installation project.

3. Acclimate the New Boards

Acclimating the boards is a crucial process that you should not skip. When wooden boards move from one environment to another, they may undergo physical changes that may be detrimental to the installation process.

As a result, you need to make sure that the new floorboards are acclimated to your room by removing them from the package and leaving them inside the room for a few days up to one week.

Check out the manufacturer’s recommended acclimation time so that you can follow the exact instructions for your particular type of engineered wood flooring.

4. Remove the Base Trim and the Old Floor

An old wooden floor that has a board that has warped and sits proud of the rest of the floor with nails exposed.
Ripping up the old floor can be fun, and is a necessary step before replacing it with a new engineered wood floor.

After the acclimation process, you can start installing the engineered hardwood floor.

The first thing you need to do is remove the base trim in front of the baseboard. Use the pry bar to detach them gently. You may also remove the baseboards if necessary for a smoother installation process.

Once you have removed the base trim, you can also get rid of the old floor. If you have a tile floor, you should remove it before you install engineered wood flooring, but other types, like linoleum or vinyl, may allow you to install the new boards right on top of them.

5. Prepare the Subfloor

After removing all the obstacles, you’ll be able to see the subfloor, which will be the base of your new engineered hardwood floor. You need to prepare this base to ensure it’s ready and suitable for a new floor to be built on top of it.

Clean the whole subfloor, ensuring there are no particles or debris anywhere. Check every inch of the subfloor for imperfections, like bumps or dips, that can cause issues with the flatness of the surface.

If you find any, fix them by removing or adding material.

6. Trim the Door Casings

You need to cut the bottom part of the door casings to make room for the new floor to be laid underneath. This is where the handsaw comes in; you need to measure the exact height of the new floor and make sure to cut the door casing at the right spot.

To trim at the right spot, you can use the measuring tape, but a simpler process would be to place part of the new flooring right next to the door casing and make a cut on top of it.

Repeat this process on the other side of the door casing and any other door inside the room.

Don’t forget to vacuum the area thoroughly right after finishing to ensure no debris is left on the subfloor.

7. Lay the Underlayment

A man dressed in black work clothes on all fours cutting sheets of green fibrous insulation with a utility knife. Most of the floor is covered with the green insulation sheets ready for the engineered wood to be installed on top.
It’s a good idea to lay insulation over the subfloor to help keep your heating and cooling bills down.

The next step is to lay the underlayment, which is typically builder’s felt or paper, but it can also be foam, or sheets of insulation, especially for float installations.

This layer will ensure that the floor will be laid on a smooth and solid layer. Cover the whole subfloor, making sure to staple the edges frequently so that there is no piece of underlayment out of place.

8. Install the Engineered Wood Floor

Once you have laid the underlayment, it’s finally time to install the engineered wood floor. The rule of thumb in most cases is to start by laying the floorboards along the longest wall in the room. The next steps will depend on the method you choose.

If you’re doing a nail-down installation, you should align the boards according to the manufacturer’s suggestions and then nail them to the underlayment. Don’t forget to space the nails accordingly to make sure you achieve an aesthetically pleasing look and, at the same time, secure the floorboards perfectly.

If you’re doing a floating installation, you should place the boards with the tongue side facing the wall. Apply the glue between the tongues and grooves, then slot the panels together.

Tap the floors with your hammer after aligning them to ensure they are secure and fit snugly against each other.

Whichever style you have chosen, you should repeat the processes described above until you have covered the whole subfloor. Leave an expansion space around any obstacles, like poles or stairs.

9. Cover Imperfections With Trim Pieces

Once you have used the floorboards to cover the subfloor, you need to take care of the finishing touches.

Use pieces of trim to cover any spaces along the edges of the floor. Make sure to measure the exact dimensions to cut these trim lengths precisely.

Alternatively, you may have ready-made trim pieces that engineered wood floor manufacturers sometimes provide, making your life much easier.

10. Replace the Trim and Baseboard

A worker kneeling on the floor and replacing the baseboard around the edges of a dark brown engineered wood floor. He is wearing gray work pants and a black T-shirt.
The final step of the process is to replace the baseboards around the edges of the floor. If you want, you can install brand new baseboards to help smarten the room up.

The next step is to reinstall the base trim and the baseboards. If you want, you can replace the old trim and baseboards with new ones to achieve the look that you want.

Afterward, make sure to vacuum-clean the entire surface and check again for any imperfections.

At this stage, it will be much easier to spot and fix any remaining issues than later.

Final Thoughts On Installing an Engineered Wood Floor

Engineered hardwood floors can be great for your home because they are durable, versatile, and quite sustainable.

You can hire a contractor to install your floor, but you can also make it a DIY project if you want.

To install an engineered hardwood floor, you should first test the conditions of the room and gather your tools and materials.

Ensure the new floorboards are acclimated to the room before preparing the subfloor, laying the underlayment, and installing the floorboards.

After installation, cover any imperfections with trim pieces.

If you found this article useful, you might be interested in our related article, “Engineered Hardwood Flooring: Better Than Solid Hardwood?

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