Climate Change: From Parish to Planet
Installing a wooden floor on joists

How to lay a wooden floor: Keep it Simple

Installing a wooden floor (solid or wood-engineered) as DIY-er isn’t rocket science, more a case of common sense, patience, buying the right quality, using the correct materials and making the correct preparations.

Some things are so obvious we won’t go into them in detail (like buying wood that is suitable to be installed as floor and dry enough, meaning: timber wood – 15% moist or more – isn’t suited and that the room is wind and weather proof, wet decoration work finished etc).

(Update March 2010: many, if not all, tricks of the trade now available in the "Wooden Floor Installation Manual", 160 pages!)

Correct materials and correct preparations:
Quality products might be a little bit dearer; in the end it will save you time, aggravation and possibly even regret and money.

  • Make sure you have one type of underfloor and the underfloor is ready (dry, level, - remove existing floor-covering timely enough to make good any defects or unevenness in time)
  • Buy the correct underlayment (with the ‘floating-method’)
  • Have all the materials in house before you start, make a list of everything you need at least one week beforehand and make sure it can be delivered or collected on time (because some materials just run out of stock, you’ll know Murphy’s Law)
  • Make sure all tools you need are in the house, are working, sharp and safe (if you have to hire specific tools, place a reservation on them with the hire company so you’re not going to be disappointed)
  • Store the wood in the same area you plan to lay it (or in an area that has the same ‘climate-conditions’ – garages are a definite No No) 2 – 4 days before you start the installation; leave the wood in the packs (if wrapped in packaging material and according to manufacturers instructions, some do differ, most not).
  • Clear all furniture out of the room beforehand, dust from sawing will get in anything!
  • Remove – if needed – skirting boards, mark them when you do so you know which one to place back where to avoid mix-ups and extra cutting work when placing them back.

Preparations on the day (floating method with standard T&G fixing)

  • Ban little children from the room! (And cats, dogs or other pets.)
  • Check again if all materials and tools are there.
  • Materials: wood, underlayment, pvac-wood glue, spacers, beading or scotia, radiator-pipe-covers, thresholds, cloth (to remove excess glue as soon as you notice) and felt pads (for underneath furniture)
  • Tools: hand saw or Jig-saw, tape-measure, square, Stanley knife, pencil (at least three, they disappear in thin air), knocking block + Jemmy bar (both can be part of any DIY installation kit you buy - but are not always of the best quality), hammer, heavy duty bin bags, work bench (tool box should do fine also as bench, watch out for sawing into it).
  • If needed, remove doors and undercut architrave and/or doorposts (chisel out the last bit).
  • Open two packs of wood, check for any damages to the surface, tongue and groove or click-system. If any and on more boards, re-pack as best as possible and return every pack straight back to your supplier for new material or re-fund. In no circumstances open more packs to check for damages, this might render your guarantee useless.
  • Check if the boards are straight by laying them with the groove side on the (level) underfloor. Also check for bowing – cupping. Slight bowing (middle doesn’t touch the ground) of long boards is normal, extreme cupping (the ends stand up and leave a gap of over 5cm if turned up side down i.e. top surface faces floor) not.

If everything is OK and in the wood-type, grade and finish you selected mix the two packs to get a natural look and colour, shade mixture (all boards differ in colour and characteristics). During the works, keep checking for surface damages before you install a board, once down and between other boards/rows it’s a pain to remove it. (Murphy’s Law: it will always end up in the middle of the room where you would notice it most - afterwards.)

Do read the fitting instructions (if any) the manufacturer supplied with the floor, some might differ on some points and not following their instructions could render your guarantee worthless. When in doubt, call your supplier.

Installation tips, READ MORE HERE.......

Great news from us, thanks to the confidence that I got from your brilliant book our beautiful floor is now finished.

Although I see myself as a competant DIYer, I was a bit worried that things could turn out to be tricky. Thanks to meticulous planning and the wisdom from the book- everything was really very straight forward.

I spent time ensuring the floor was flat before I started ( using a self levelling compound) and from there things were plain sailing. I will recommend your book to anyone I know and will also consider more projects for myself!

I will try and send some pictures when I get the chance
Thanks again
Neil S


(Already have a wooden floor that needs restoring? See our "7 steps to repair/restore your original floor" guide)

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Hi there,
I have got to lay flooring through out the entire ground floor of a house, is there a sequence to laying the solid flooring with four different lengths.
Thanks Terry


Hi Terry

Not specifically. It's even better to avoid a repeating sequence for the following reasons:
a) will look odd in the end (artificial)
b) might create a pattern every two three rows making the whole floor unstable (i.e. prone to more movement).


hi there , just bought parquey flooring,and im laying it (brick affect), plus my room is an odd shape , jus wondering is there a serting place to start
thanks chris


Hi Chris

Depends in fact on how odd the shape of the room is (not straight walls, octangle?). Best is to try to imagine how the pattern would look near the walls if you would start in the exact middle of the room.

Best 'direction' would be where you enter the room to have a 'normal' focus point for the eyes.

Wood You Like Ltd

Audrey Scott

Lifted old parquet flooring. How can I remove bitumen before laying?

Karin H.

Dear Audrey Scott

With a lot of elbow grease I'm afraid.. Chisel off as much as possible and remove last bit with petrol - kerosine (very, very careful with this!!!!)
Any residue of bitumen will effect the bonding time of any modern adhesive type (like B91 Stycobond): instead of 4 - 5 hours it can take up to 24 hours before it holds properly and you can sand over it.

Wood You Like Ltd


Hi there
We've jsut built a new house and have had the heating on for the past number of weeks. We tested the moisture level of the concrete the flooring will go on at it's currently 4%. The wood for the floor has been in the house for the past 2 weeks.
Would we be okto go ahead and lay the flooring now?
Thanks Avril

Karin H.

Dear Avril

You have to wait a bit longer we're afraid. The moist level in the concrete should be 2% or less before you can install the wood floor.

Rule of thumb: every inch (2.5 cm) of concrete/screed takes approximately 30 days to dry.

Wood You Like Ltd.

Bobbie Taylor

In that I am totally inexperienced at this, I humbly engage your patience.

Would I need to remove the old flooring before laying the new or could I do a layover? My house was built in 1911; the panels have not been changed since the origination

Thank you

Karin H.

Dear Bobby.

If your existing floorboards are level (un-cupped and sound) you can install your new floor on top of it without any problems.
We recommend you use a foam underlayment for sound-insulation, leave expansion gaps al around of min. 10mm.

Hope this helps

Wood You Like Ltd

Chris Jones

Hi, Silly question but I've been reading loads about how to install a wooden floor onto an existing wooden floor and I'm probably going to try the secret nailing method. (Here comes the silly question)...Do I have to nail all the floorboards? I only ask because I was wondering, how will the floor be able to expand and contract if it's nailed to the floor underneath?? Sorry if this sounds really daft but just want to clarify the situation.
Many thanks
Chris J

Karin H.

Hi Chris

First of all, silly questions don't exist (only silly answers ;-))

Yes, you do have to nail all boards (every 40 - 50 cm but at least two nails per board) otherwise when the floor expands or shrinks the 'loose' boards can buckle or cup more easier.
Wood expands/shrinks due to changes in air-humidity during the various seasons, no matter what method you use for installation. The nails will hold them in place better to prevent gaps (when shrinking) or cupping (when expanding).

Hope this clarifies it for you

Wood You Like Ltd


i'm going to lay a real wood floor on concrete in hallway & joists in other 2 rooms any tips most appreciated as i've only laid laminate in the past

Karin H.

Hi Andy

Can I first redirect you to three other articles? If you still have further questions by all means ask them here again.

Installing floors onto joists
Type of underfloor is type of underlayment
One type of underfloor

Wood You Like Ltd


I would like to put down solid oak flooring upstairs on top of the existing floor (90mm-18mm – various lengths). I am going to level the existing floor with layers of hardwood plywood and I am thinking of putting 6mm fibreboard underlay for acoustic reasons. I am considering a floating installation, however, a number of websites state that NO solid wood flooring can be floated.
Hoverer, if it is suitable for floating do you think it will:

# reduce the amount of squeaks and creaks that hardwood floors develops over time,
# be as long lasting as the nail down or glue down floor.
# have some important advantages and disadvantages to the other fitting options.

Thank you in advance.



Karin H.

Hi Konrad

The opinions on floating solid wood floors vary indeed. We - and our manufacturers - have no problem with floating solid wood floors, as long as certain rules are followed.

One of them is - unfortunately for you in this case - the width of the boards: narrower than 110mm means glueing them down.
You can use the same preparations you're planning now, use a suitable parquet adhesive and fully bond the floor to the subfloor you've made.

Wood You Like Ltd


Thank you very much for your help. I am inclined to go with your excellent suggestion. I would like to have a stable floor but I am also concerned with the footsteps sound (expecially upstairs).
Just one more query if you don’t mind. From the DIYnot forum I learned that you are familiar with the Sika Silent Layer Mat installation. With this method, being a semi-floating one, do you think I can:
# install the floor continuously between rooms without dividing up the floor;
# install sliding door wardrobe on it.

Great thanks again.



Karin H.

Hi Konrad

The Sika Silent Mat is one solution indeed. Another one would be the Elastilon 'self-adhesive' sound-insulation underlayment.

Wood You Like Ltd


Thank you for your reply. Regarding the Elastilon underlayment or the Sika mat: would they act like DPM causing the existing wooden subfloor to sweat?

Karin H.

Hi Konrad

The Elastilon comes without DPM and is therefore very suitable to use on existing floorboards or 'subfloors' of sheet material like plywood or chipboard.
We suggest you use the Elastilon 'Strong' which is the most suitable for narrow strips.

Wood You Like Ltd



really good information on your site...
We plan to put a solid wood floor (140mm wide oak planks) onto a concrete floor. House is 8 years old. Planning to do 3 adjoining rooms total of 42 m square. We've been given different advice - some fitters say glue straight to concrete, some say use underlay and glue planks together. Could you give us any advice on this, any help much appreciated.

Karin H.

Hi Hels

Both methods are suitable. Glueing the solid floor down depends on the condition and quality of the concrete underfloor (the 'weakest link')

We ourselves prefer the floating method (when the room isn't wider than 5 meters wide), installing a combi-underlayment and glueing (with PVAC wood-glue) all Tongues and Grooves.

Leave sufficient expansion gaps around the perimeter of the floor.

Hope this helps

wood You Like Ltd

john paul


i am going to be laying a solid wood floor on concrete that is very old - 40 yrs min i think. i have a few questions:

i want to face fix and glue onto 12mm ply. what is the best glue to use?

i will be laying the air bubble and foil insulation which is 4mm thick under the ply. do i need to lay acoustic underlay on top of the ply?

i hope to use 180mm sawn oak boards - planks basically with no t&g. do i need to do anything special with this type of wood ?

what is the difference between this wood and t&g. is the t&g option better ?

thanks very much for your help.

Karin H.

Hi John Paul

If you glue down you can't use another underlayment between ply and boards. The best adhesive to use would be a flexible adhesive (like Sika T54, Lecol MS250 or Mapei P9910K)

Make sure the Oak boards are dried to floor standard (moist content in the wood between 9 - 11%) and can acclimatise in the room you plan to have them installed in.

Difference between your boards and T&G boards: T&G's can be installed floating, secretly nailed or fully glued down, boards without T&G should be glued and pinned down (as you plan to do).

Hope this helps

Wood You Like Ltd


Hi we are going to lay soild wood flooring from the hall into the kitchen, then put new skirting boards on so we dont have to use any trimming around the edges but I'm wondering what do we do when it comes the door ways? How do we do the edging in the fram of the doors, as we obviously can not put skirting there!

Please Help!

Karin H.

Hi Jenny

The simplest and neatest way is to undercut the door-posts and architraves to slide the floor under. Makes sure you also allow for expansion gap underneath the doorpost, so don't cut it to shallow.

Hope this helps

Wood You Like Ltd


Your site is of great help.

We're planning to lay oak flooring onto a new concrete floor which has dpm and insulation.

Are the basic steps:
1. Ensure concrete floor is level - if not use latex screed
2. Lay vapour barrier or underlay
3. Lay hardboard
4. Glue or fix boards to plywood

Is there a need to secure the hardboard to the concrete with adhesive or fastners?

Thanks in advance,

Karin H.

Hi Al

If your boards have T&G, are 100mm wide or wider and your concrete floor is level there's no need to install plywood for installation purpose.
You can install the new floor floating, using a Combi-underlayment that contains a DPM layer, glueing all T&G's and leave an expansion gap around the perimeter of the room.

That's all you need in fact.

Wood You Like Ltd


We had 90 sqm 18mm Oak T&G floating floor laid on screed this April. The wood planks are of various lengths, same width. The flooring was stored in its original packing in a heated room from December 2006 until April 2007. The carpenter stated it was fine to lay it straight out of the boxes as they had been in a heated room long enough. The carpenter used extra strong glue at the joints. We went for a floating floor because we wanted to lay underlay.

Unfortunately, gaps have appeared at the joints in some areas. In some cases these are up to 8mm wide, basically the joints have come apart. They seem worse, near the radiators. Same gaps appeared soon after the floor was laid. However, some large ones have appeared in the last few weeks since the heating has been on more constantly.

What can we do to remedy this?

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Karin H.

Dear Cugs

For a whole discussion and proper advice form various professional please see your own question from 31 October at the DIY-not Forum
A rather good forum in our opinion.

Wood You Like Ltd


Hi. I am trying to change some of the of the pads of my Engineered Wooden Floor (Clic-System) in my store, but i want to do it with out breaking the good ones. How can i take them off?


I will be installing a 3/4" X 21/2" walnut floor in 5 rooms and a hallway. My wife (ball and chain) wants me to lay the flooring without any t-moldings. Any tips for doing so?

Karin H.

Hi Steve

All depends on how long your strip flooring is. If blocks up to 50cm long and presuming you will glue the floor down this can be done safely from one room into another without the use of thresholds. As 'feature', if you are installing a specific pattern like herringbone you could install the blocks straight - as 'soldiers' - in the doorway.

If longer and/or random length we definitely recommend treating every room separately and installing thresholds in the door ways, specially in the hallway where there is a different climate than in your other rooms.

Wood You Like Ltd

Tamiko Abo


We recently purchased a 1958 ranch home that has wood floors in the bedrooms. The previous owners had everything carpeted and didn't even know that the wood floors existed. We are going to install wood floors in the remainder of the house (entry, living room, dining room, sun room, kitchen & hallway.

My question is what way do we lay the hardwoods we are going to install? The wood in the bedrooms runs parallel when you walk through the door. My understanding is you lay floors perpendicular to the joists and in this case the floors are parallel with the joists.

Should we try to match the direction of the wood to the bedrooms in the rest of the house or should we follow the advice and have the wood go perpendicular to the joists when you walk in the front door.

Also, what direction is wood installed down a hallway? Should it go the length of the hallway or is it okay to have it going right to left?

We are just having such a hard time knowing if there is a standard process around this and we are getting mixed messages from a contractor. Thanks!!

Karin H.

Dear Tamiko

Sorry for the delay in answering, we've been away for a short break.

It's always best to install the boards with 'the light' if possible. When existing floorboards you want to install over already go the same way as you want your new boards to go you'll have to install hardboard or plywood first to prevent movement - rocking etc.

As for hallways, go length ways, that's easiest on the eye when you enter your house, specially when you have a narrow hall

wood You Like Ltd


I am about to lay solid oak T&G floor onto oak joists in an old house (loft conversion). Each board is 13cm wide and 2.5cm thick, varying lengths.

There is no existing flooring (it seems to have been removed a long time ago and replaced with plasterboard... very safe!) but the top surface of the joists seems flat and level.

There is no ceiling below (i.e. exposed joists and board can be seem from below)

Should i float the T&G over the joists, or hidden nail into them, or even drill and screw through the top (plugging the sink with dowel and sanding flat)?

Should i contrive to have all the boards (i.e. including the odd short one) crossing a joist at some point in its length, or is it OK to have the odd short board suspended by only its T&G?

Karin H.

Hi Giles

If the joists are not further apart than 35 - 40 cm you can safely install the boards straight onto them, secretly nailing (in angle through the Tongue).

There is no need to have all boards end up a joist, as long as every board connects with at least 3 joists it's fine to haven them 'meet in the middle'

Hope this helps
Wood You Like Ltd

Malcolm Westcott

Hi, i am going to lay an engineered click oak floor in my lounge which is 6mtrs square.There are windows on the north and south walls and the door is on the east side. Which way do you recommend laying the boards,should it be from north to south to catch the light on the boards?
Thank you

Karin H.

Hi Malcolm

You're spot on!
Always try to go 'with the light' especially when you have bevelled floorboards. This to prevent false shades when the sun in shining, plus the grain of the wood will show its best character this way.

Wood You Like Ltd

Tracey Nolan

we are laying an oak floor in ur hallway, in one of your previous question you advised that you could use the floating method if the area was only small would this be suitable for a small hallway ?

Angus J

We are about to fit an oak floor into our small hallway, do we have to glue the whole of the floor down to the concerte or can we use the floating method in this small space ?

Karin H.

Welcome Tracey and Angus

Answering both questions at once: wooden floors with T&G's can be installed floating in small areas like hallways. Although you have to make sure you stagger the boards even if the length of the area is one or even shorter than a whole board otherwise the floor could be unstable.

Hope this helps
Wood You Like Ltd

Peter P

My ground floor is covered in herring bone parquet which I believe to be paranna pine laid about 60 years ago. In some places gaps have appeared between the blocks. I've been told that the usual filler is sawdust (from sanding the floor, which I've done) mixed with some adhesive.

Is this correct and if so what's the best type of adhesive to use?

Once the gaps are filled I intend to re-seal with a hard waxoil and I'd like to keep the floor as light as possible. I assume your normal stuff won't darken it too much?

Karin H.

Welcome Peter P

The best product to use for filling gaps in parquet floors is special wood-filler like Blanchon Resin Filler, not white pavc wood glue.

Mix it with the sand dust from the original floor to reduce colour differences as much as possible.

Natural HardWaxOil will, like any natural finish, darken the floor a little bit. How much you can test by wetting a little piece of bare - sanded - wood, this will 9 times out of 10 the end colour after applying a natural, clear finish.

Hope this helps
Wood You Like Ltd

Angus J

When fitting boards in a hallway is it best to fit the boards across a samll hallway or along it, as we have a large number of doorways we are wondering how to get around these without it looking a complete mess

Karin H.

Hi again Angus J.

Not knowing the exact situation I would opt for installing the boards in the longest way to avoid it looking strange so you 'walk' along the rows instead of creating a kind hop-scotch area.

Doors can be tackled more easily if you undercut the doorposts and architraves first to slide the boards under (something quicker done with normal T&G boards than with the 'click-system' types.

Hope this helps
Wood You Like Ltd

Chris T


I am about to fit a solid oak floor in a room approx 4.25m x 4.25m. I had the concrete floor levelled a couple of weeks ago and I have already taken delivery of 18mm thick solid oak boards each 150mm wide. I was planning on gluing the floor straight down onto the levelled floor assuming that there was no moisture problem as the concrete had been in place for nearly 30 years with a natural floor covering which always appeared dry. However, the levelling compound has now dried with a crazy-paving like cracking pattern all over it and I am now concerned about the suitability of the floor for direct gluing. I can't really raise the level any further with anything as thick as ply or battens so I was considering using a self-adhesive underlay. Is this kind of underlay suitable for a solid rather than engineered floor or can you recommend another solution?



Karin H.

Hi Chris T.

Can I ask a question first: before applying the leveling compound did you prime the concrete floor? I think the concrete floor absorbed too much moisture from the compound which resulted in the crazy-paving cracked effect.

The self-adhesive underlay is one option, but since your underfloor is now level and your floorboards are wide enough you could also opt for floating installation on 3mm Combi-underlayment.

Hope this helps
Wood You Like Ltd

Chris T

Thanks for the reply.

The old floor covering was glued down with some kind of flexible adhesive and they removed as much of it as possible before covering the floor in PVA. After this was dry (a week or so), the compound went down. Perhaps the PVA and the compound didn't get on with each other? Anyway, the compound appears to be stuck to the floor OK, just cracked. I was considering a liquid DPM and then glue but having seen this self-adhesive underlay it seems like a much easier option and with no risk of the sub-floor breaking up when the wood moves.

Using underlay, whether self-adhesive or not I was just trying to picture what happens as the wood moves as there doesn't seem to be anything to stop the boards from cupping or bowing other than their connection to the neighbouring board. At least with glue, I imagine it offers a little encouragement to stay flat.

I must say, if I do go down the underlay route, the self-adhesive stuff sounds easier to use as long as it's as good. At least it removes the danger of getting glue on the surface and you don't need to clamp the floor as you go. It's just hard to find a first-hand review of the stuff as most advice on the web seems to stop at secret nail or glue.

Thanks again for your advice.


Karin H.

Hi Chris

The weight of the wood itself will normally 'keep it in place' without creating extra movement. All wood works, no matter how installed. If you humidity reaches a too high level even glued down boards will buckle and if the humidity gets too low the boards will shrink, that's nature for you.

Self-adhesive underlayment (the right brand - watch out for inferior 'copy-cats') is a good product, but rather expensive and the first time round tricky to use.

Glueing the board fully to a crumbling concrete/screed floor is definitely asking for trouble.

Hope this helps
Wood You Like Ltd

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