Gluing Vs. Nailing Hardwood Floors

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When installing hardwood flooring, the type of floor you choose, as well as the manufacturer, determine how the flooring is installed. Whether you hire a professional to install your floor or you tackle the project yourself, you should know when to use the different methods of installation, including gluing or nailing the floor into place.

When to Glue

  • Gluing down hardwood flooring is most commonly done over concrete subfloors and with engineered hardwood floors. Glue can also be applied over plywood subfloors; gluing cuts down on creaks or squeaks in the hardwood floor since there are no nails to shift and rub to create the noise. The glue will shrink as it dries, pulling downwards on your floor boards for a stronger bond without shifting. The glue either will not bond fully to solid hardwood or will try to hold it too tightly in place. If the flooring cannot shift, it will crack.

When to Nail

  • Nailing is used more commonly on thick, solid hardwood floors. These thick wood pieces are generally too heavy to bond into place quickly with glue and therefore are commonly nailed. You can also nail engineered wood flooring, which will adapt well to either nailing or gluing. Solid wood flooring has a tendency to expand and contract more with moisture exposure when compared to the engineered flooring, and so even if you are nailing for better hold, you have to let the hardwood floor boards adjust to the climate and humidity in your room for at least three days before installing.

Gluing Methods

  • The most important aspect of gluing down a hardwood floor is the preparation. The subfloor must be completely flat and level, or different areas will bond better than others and you will have bumps or gaps in your hardwood flooring. For concrete floors, there must be no moisture in the concrete, or it will cause the wood to warp. Many installers recommend a vapor barrier to protect the wood from any moisture in the concrete. Consult your manufacturer's instructions for recommended adhesives; some flooring may even provide adhesive for you. You can generally spread the adhesive with a trowel or putty knife.

Nailing Methods

  • Nailing down a hardwood floor requires the use of different types of saws as well as extensive hammering or the use of a nailer or nail gun. The successful installer of nail-down hardwood floors often has some carpentry experience, especially with cutting the wood and knowing how to place nails for the best hold. Therefore, nailing down hardwood flooring is a task that few manufacturers recommend you do yourself. Instead, contact a professional installer from your manufacturer or from a local hardware or home improvement store.

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