Design / DIY / Home

How To Install Engineered Hardwood Flooring: Underlayment and a Pattern

11.10.11 By //

When my mom asked me if I would be willing to help her on a project, and give flooring installation a try, I was completely excited for the opportunity to take part in a Home Improvement Project. Since I rent my own home, I am not exactly able to do such things, and every now and then I get the urge to test out my Home Improvement Prowess…

I usually snap out of that craziness rather quickly, but this time there was no going back. I had agreed, the flooring had been ordered, and the project was officially on the books…

And then the researching began, and we got nothin’!

It turns out, there isn’t a heck of a lot of info on laying a floating wood floor to be found on the interwebs. I mean don’t get me wrong, there is a TON of info out there, but none of the details we needed were anywhere to be found.

For example:

  • 1. Which direction is up on the underlayment?
  • 2. Should the underlayment wrap up onto the base of the walls for added protection behind the base boards or is that space between the underlayment and the wall supposed to be there?
  • 3. If so, won’t that cause potential problems if the purpose of the underlayment is not only for comfort but for protection from moisture and water?
  • 4. What are some optional patterns for laying the floor boards?
  • 5. How much space is needed for the T Shaped thingy that sits between the new flooring and existing flooring?
  • 6. Do we need to use the extremely toxic flooring glue, or can we use any wood glue?
  • 7. Why are there a random assortment of sizes in each box of flooring without any labels as to which assortment the particular box contains and no information as to how many of that box we might need, to make a pattern work nicely for the size of the room?

Do you see how this might have been an entirely frustrating process for someone who needs to function with a plan of attack in order to remain a sane person? Just sayin…

Needless to say, we dove right into this mess headfirst and thought we would simply fake it till it worked or we killed it. The man at the store said the sizes and types are random, there is not set pattern or option for one, because even if you had one you have no clue what’s in the boxes until you open them up. right….. ok…. this isn’t going to work very well for my personality type… grrr…. this needs to be fixed if the DIY’er becomes a direct consumer of this type of product… So here goes…

We chose a floating wood floor type that is engineered (engineered hardwood flooring) because we were laying over a concrete slab and it made the most sense for some of the moisture issues that may or may not arise in the future (pets and all their wonders…).

They make amazing products out there for this exact purpose and they have an advantage over laminate in that if an injury is to occur at any point, to your flooring, it can be touched up just as wood furniture can be. This is very important for our needs here, it may or may not be for you, this really depends on your lifestyle and the others in your home (pets, kids, heavy furniture).

This is the exact product we chose here. We didn’t purchase it from this particular store, but rather a local guy who sells this product. And also apparently one who doesn’t know squat about how to install it, or work with it in any way shape or form. So I won’t be touting his services any time soon. I’m sure you understand…

We purchased a thick moisture barrier type underlayment product that the previously mentioned man sold alongside the flooring product and after much research we were able to conclude that we ‘think’ the underlayment is supposed to be laid the way you see in the images above. As in with the plastic lining facing up…

Still not sure… but pretty sure?

It needs to be taped together at the seams and so we used Gorilla Tape, but in actuality the underlayment has sticky parts that appear to be for this purpose. We taped anyway just to be extra safe? And also because as per usual, we could find no info on how to proceed.

Once we had the underlayment laid, it was time to get busy counting the quantity of pieces in each of the boxes (they were acclimating up until this point, to adjust to your homes conditions) and see if there was indeed a pattern to be found (or made).

Turns out those random boxes contained an accidentally decent ratio for one pattern and one pattern only to work properly.

When I say one pattern I say it with trepidation because it’s rare there should be only one, and so there may be others, but we tried nearly 80 different patterns and rotations, and counter-rotations, before concluding that regardless of where we started and how we laid them out, everything we tried ended with matching seams for every single row, at about the 15 foot mark.

Now the ONE single bit of instruction you are given by the flooring gods, if you will, is not to let your seams match from one row to the next. This causes a bit of vulnerability in your flooring and can be problematic.

So without fail, time after time, we found ourselves with a flat edge at 15 feet out from the wall… grrr…

My brain hurt at this point.

According to the flooring salesman, installers lay flooring in a random pattern. But our flooring type had 4 sizes, one of which was rather short and randomly slapped down boards would have looked RIDICULOUS!

But we finally did it. We managed to find one pattern that worked. If you know another, please let me know so I can share it, because I couldn’t figure another one out.

So here it is… our pattern.

The 4 sizes are as follows (and yes these are our made up names for them, highly professional and all):

  • Short – about 15″
  • Mort – about 24 1/2″
  • Medium – about 35 1/2″
  • Long – about 48′

We had twice as many Longs and Morts as we did Shorts and Mediums.

Our pattern was an odd/even rotation so that the 1, 3, 5 rows are the same while the 2, 4, 6 rows are the same.

And it goes a little something like this:

  • 1: Mort, Medium, Long, Mort, Medium, Long
  • 2: Long, Short, Long, Mort, Long, Short, Long Mort

And then you begin again with pattern 1.

Since there is a LOT of info to give here, I will break this into a series…so stay tuned next time for glue application, and a bit of the installation itself!

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