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How to lay solid wood flooring

For a timeless look that improves with age choose solid wood flooring

Hard flooring is the perfect choice if you want something durable and attractive that will keep its good looks for years to come.

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Remove any carpet, gripper rods existing flooring and underlay and check that the floor is smooth, dry, level and swept clean.

Top tip

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Check the floor for any moisture by sticking a 1m² piece of polythene directly onto the concrete floor - making sure it’s well sealed on all sides.

Leave it overnight and if the concrete has discoloured or there’s condensation on the underside of the polythene, this means you have a moisture problem and you should seek advice from a damp proofing expert.

If you’re laying on top of floorboards, make sure these are firmly screwed down, any nail heads will need flattening down with a hammer, and if there are any gaps these will need to be filled. The easiest way to do this is using mastic which is a flexible filler.

Any uneven floors will also need flattening out with hard board sheets or plywood. Once you’ve prepared your sub floor, you’ll need to measure the room before heading out to get your flooring and underlay. To measure up, measure the length and width of the room in metres and multiply the numbers together to get the area of the room in square metres. If you have an irregularly shaped room, divide it up into separate rectangular areas and calculate them individually, then just add them together. You’ll then have to work out how many packs of flooring you’ll need to cover the area. Most packs will normally tell you how many square metres they contain, and you simply divide the size of your room by the size of the pack. This gives you the number of packs you’ll need to buy.

Room m² ÷ pack m² = number of packs

Always budget for around 10% extra to allow for any unusable offcuts, and don’t forget that any unopened packs can be returned to the store if you have any left over. And if you’re using a flooring trim, don’t forget to measure the perimeter of your room and add an extra 10% here too.

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Sub floors need to be fitted with an underlay. But before you lay onto a concrete floor, you’ll need to lay a damp-proof membrane, even if there’s a damp-proof course in your sub floor. This is so no moisture gets into your solid wood floor.

We have a range of underlays available depending on what you’re looking for. Take a look in our flooring buying guide to see which is right for your space.

If you’re planning on laying your floor so the skirting board sits on top of your new solid wood floor, you’ll have to remove your skirting boards first. You could also fit a scotia trim around the edges of your room.

Top tip

As you’ll be kneeling down a lot, make sure to wear kneepads to keep you comfortable.

Step 1

Having laid the damp proof membrane and taped up the joints, lay the underlay. Remember to leave a 10 mm expansion gap around the room and 5 mm between the boards.

Loose lay them at a 90° angle in the direction you’ll lay your new flooring. They can be cut easily with a craft knife and a straight edge.

Step 2

Use wide tape to tape the joints. Making sure they don’t overlap.

Before you lay your wood floor, you need to leave the wood floor in the room for 48 hours so it can acclimatise to prevent it from warping.

Setting out is roughly laying out the floorboards to work out how they’ll be arranged and to plan for obstacles like pipes. To start, set out the first row to check you won’t be left with a very short length at the end. If you are, trim the very first board.

Divide the length of your room by the width of your board to check the width of the very last board you’ll have to cut. If the last row turns out to be less than a third of a board, it’ll be easier to cut the first row down as well, so the cut boards are not too narrow. We’ll show you how to do this a bit later on.

You should also think about obstacles like radiator pipes. Cutting the boards will be easier and tidier if the pipes fall in the middle of the board’s length or width, rather than a join. So set out the boards, see where the pipes fall and trim the boards accordingly – we’ll show you how to do this later.

Solid wood flooring expands and contracts due to the changes in temperature and humidity. So, to stop your floor buckling leave a 15 mm gap for wood. To make it easier, use expansion wedges to sit between the boards and the wall.

Step 1

Peel back a small amount of plastic from your self-adhesive underlay, this should be just less than the width of a single board. Now take the spare piece of plastic or membrane which comes with the underlay, fold it in half and stick it to the revealed adhesive making sure the fold faces away from you. This membrane goes between the underlay and the floorboard, making sure that the board doesn’t get stuck before it’s in the correct position. Place the board in with the groove facing the wall. Put a 15 mm spacer along and at the end of the board. Once you’re happy with the position, carefully pull out the membrane, holding the board in place as you go. Repeat this process along the length of the first row.

Step 2

Once you’ve reached the end of the first row, you’ll probably have to cut a board to make it fit. To work out exactly the right size, lay it directly on top of the last board you laid. Take a third board and use it as a template. Press it against the wall and with a spacer in place, mark the board you’re going to cut with a pencil.

Step 3

When you’re cutting boards, it’s always best to do this outside or in another room so you don’t get any dust or debris on your sub-floor or underlay. And always remember to keep a window open to keep the room ventilated.

First clamp your boards to a workbench, then cut the board. You can use a jigsaw or a fine-toothed hand saw. Don’t forget to wear a dust mask or safety goggles.

Fit the cut board into position and that’s your first row done.

Step 4

To create a pleasing look and make your floor stronger, scatter the joints so that they’re different to the previous row and form an overlapping pattern. Use the offcut from the previous row to begin your next row and repeat for the remaining rows. To start the next row, angle the cut board against the first board with the cut end by the wall, then add your expansion spacer. Press forward and down to lock into place, and repeat this along the whole row, peeling back the membrane as you go.

Step 5

If you’ve come across some doorways or radiator pipes, lay your board next to the pipe and at the centre of the pipe draw a line across the width of the board. Now lay the end front on to the pipe and mark where the centre of the pipe intersects the line that you’ve drawn. This is where you’ll need to drill your hole.

Step 6

Use a power drill with a 32 mm spade bit. This will give you a big enough hole to allow for expansion, as a standard radiator pipe is 15 mm. Do this in another room or outside, and don’t forget the dust mask or goggles.

Step 7

Draw two lines from the hole towards the edge of the board with a slight angle. Cut along the lines with a saw and make sure you keep the offcut. Fit the board into place, glue the wedge in and wipe off any excess immediately.

Step 8

The next obstacle you might come across is a door frame. If your door opens into the room, you need to check you’ll have enough clearance over the new flooring and threshold bar. If not, you’ll need to remove the door and trim it down. Don’t try and cut the flooring to fit, you’ll get a much neater finish if you trim the architrave so the underlay and flooring fit underneath.

Lay the flooring against the architrave and mark with your saw where there needs to be a cut. Remove the flooring and cut the architrave. Use a chisel to remove the waste piece of wood.

Step 9

For the last row, place the board you want to cut directly over the last row. Use a third board as a template, pressing it right up to the edge of the spacers against the skirting board and mark the board underneath. Cut this piece and slot it into place.

If you can’t find a perfect match to your floor finish, then why not try painting them the same colour as your skirting board?

Step 1

Remove all the spacers and position your trim in place. It’s best to choose a trim which matches the style of your floor.

Step 2

Cut the edge of the trim to 45° with a Scotia trim cutter.

Step 3

Apply a wood to wood, or grab adhesive to the back of the flooring trim – not the base and press the adhesive side against the skirting board. Use a heavy book or panel pins to hold the trim in place whilst it dries.

Top tip

Wood effect discs help hide the holes cut for radiator pipes. Some just clip into place around the base of the pipe.

A threshold bar fits across the floor in the doorway to make a neat join between one flooring and another. There are lots of different bars to fit against different types of flooring.

Cut them to the width of your doorway with a hack saw, making notes of any bits you’ll need to cut around. Glue or screw the threshold into place depending on the design

If you haven’t done so already, put felt pads or castors on the bottom of chair or table legs so you don’t scratch the flooring. If you’ve laid the flooring in an office space, put a rug under your desk chair.

Solid wood floors need a little bit of extra care to help maintain its look. When cleaning your floor, try not to use abrasive cloths or too much water, and wipe up any spills instantly to avoid warping. For your weekly clean, you can use dry brushes, vacuum cleaners, spray cleaners, polish and wipes on your new floor. If needs be, you can also sand and varnish your floors depending on their thickness.

That’s it, now you’re ready to enjoy your new floor.