Solid Hardwood Flooring

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Submitted by pinkflamingo on September 15, 2020 - 10:20pm

Has anyone installed solid hardwood flooring over concrete? If so how? What kind of subfloor did you use? Can you do it without glue? (Want to avoid VOCs and off-gassing, i.e., we want to live here)

Context. We live in a single story home that sits on a concrete slab. I want to get solid hardwood flooring because of longevity and low VOC. However, everyone I've spoken to (3-4 sellers) all are recommending floating engineered flooring. What did people do before engineered flooring? And the fact that engineered flooring costs more than solid hardwood. Is it a marketing ploy?

I am almost ready to say heck with it and purchase one of the low voc engineered options.

Submitted by an on September 15, 2020 - 11:13pm.

We have our bamboo flooring floated over concrete with a waterproof layer in between. It's holding up for well over 10 years now. I don't see why it wouldn't hold up for another 10.

Submitted by Hobie on September 16, 2020 - 5:54am.

Go with engineered due to your Voc concerns.

True hardwood is much more expensive than engineered. It needs a proper vapor barrier and typically a plywood base to nail floor and glue into. Hardwood has a solid 'feel' and is quieter. Due to the added subfloor and floor thickness, the doors have to be bottom trimmed, dishwasher may not fit, etc. They used to do no glue tongue and groove floors in very old houses-- remember the squeaky floors?.. Depending on the wood, it can be pre-finished or sanded and finished in place. You will not like the dust and voc from wood staining finishing in place.

Engineered has many more design options and is fast to install and fast to replace. Solid option, pun intended.

Installer is the key to any floor. And, you must have a excellent concrete prep before installing. The concrete must be ground and leveled perfectly. If you don't, the floating floor will have dips and 'cracking sounds' when you walk on it.

Absolutely- walk on a floor installed by your prospective installer before hiring.

Submitted by svelte on September 16, 2020 - 6:01am.

Our house came with glued HW flooring when we bought it. That flooring is 25 years old now and has been refinished once 10 years ago. I has held up pretty good but does have some fading where sunlight hits it in the morning. Some (most?) glued HW is layered wood so it is important to purchase one with a thick top layer that could potentially be sanded several times. We even have it in the kitchen and it has held up well there also. It does have a few deeper dents where we had to slide the fridge sideways to get it into place in front of the island. The only problem area is right in front of the doggy door - we had strong winds & rain this past winter and there is some slight rain damage right under where the doggy door flap opened in the wind...I didn't even notice it until this summer.

Our office had carpeting so my son and I took that out and replaced it with a floating floor. In general I am not a fan of floating wood floors because they tend to make a hollow, unpleasant sound when I walk on them - my bro-in-law installed this throughout his house and it makes that annoying sound. I put it in our office anyway because I wanted something easy and cheap. Initially it did make that hollow sound but once I finished putting furniture and cabinets on it, the floor settled right in and now makes no sound when we walk on it.

My eventual plan is to put hardwood throughout the house and at that point I'll have to make some hard decisions...what do I do with the areas that butt up against the existing glued hardwood? Do I try to match the old HW or take out all the wood and start fresh? And what about upstairs? We have had some issues with upstairs tile grout cracking and coming loose, I suspect from the flex in the subfloor. Should I risk glued HW up there or go with something more flexible, perhaps something that is simulated wood? I just don't know...time will tell.

All things worth considering.

Submitted by Hobie on September 16, 2020 - 6:19am.

I suspect your tile was not installed on a cement board base. Glue down hardwood upstairs is very common and will actually strengthen the floor by bonding the subfloor to ply to wood floor.

Engineered is very susceptible to water damage. The water will soak in at the edges and warp upward. The finish, however seems to hold up well to the sun.

Submitted by svelte on September 16, 2020 - 7:42am.

Hobie wrote:
I suspect your tile was not installed on a cement board base. Glue down hardwood upstairs is very common and will actually strengthen the floor by bonding the subfloor to ply to wood floor.

You are probably right about the tile...I ended up firing the guy for other reasons, but I suspect he took shortcuts on the tile install too. Learned a lot of lessons by hiring that guy...

Thanks for the tip...I'll file it away for when I go out for flooring bids next time.

Submitted by pinkflamingo on September 16, 2020 - 9:47am.

@An,

Good to know. Do you by any chance remember what type of membrane you used? I am wondering if quietwalk will do the trick.

Submitted by pinkflamingo on September 16, 2020 - 10:24am.

@Hobie

Thanks for your input. That was my concern as well. Is that with solid wood, most recommend putting in plywood which would defeat the purpose. I guess I can select a low VOC plywood, but then why not just select a low VOC engineered floor. This is why I'm leaning towards engineered.

I've seen people nail solid wood flooring directly onto sleeper frames with a thin moisture barrier underneath. Insulation is added to prevent the hollow sound. In fact, some gym floors are designed this way. But it suffers the height problem you mentioned. It appears to be the only no glue method I've seen.

Submitted by sdrealtor on September 16, 2020 - 1:43pm.

My Mannington Gold engineered hardwood has been in for 20 and has no issues other than some wear and fading in spots from sun. I dont know that they put a vapor barrier or not but its was floated and glued down over the slab. Im kinda sick of it as styles have changed and am considering a change. If so, Id probably go LVP but thats just me.

Submitted by Hobie on September 16, 2020 - 2:20pm.

pf: regarding membrane- the most important thing is the perfectly flat floor. It cost $$ for this prep but once it is done, you will never have to do it again. You can easily check the installers work by laying a 8' straightedge on the floor and look for light under it. You should not see any light or low spots. Have your installer do it for you. He will be proud of his work and that you care. This is the single biggest thing with respect to E floors creaking.

Weather you use cork, foam, rubber is kinda a coin toss for your underlayment. Your budget will determine. Some E floors come with preattached 1/16" high density foam to the planks. Others prefer using 1/8 rubber.

Vapor barriers under E floors are simple. Just heavy plastic with taped seams. Be sure this is flat too. No big wrinkles. No sand or rock poking through the plastic.

Btw, it is good practice to perform a moisture test on your concrete slab before and work is started. Better to find out if you have excess moisture now than after a new floor goes in.

Submitted by pinkflamingo on September 17, 2020 - 11:02am.

sg, I will be sure to check leveling. Thanks for the tip.

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