Planning & preparation
- Here we will show you how to lay tongue and groove solid wood flooring that is secured with adhesive, as well as how to fit around obstacles and how to add finishing touches such as flooring trim and a threshold bars
- Whilst tongue and groove is the most widely used fitting system for solid wood flooring, bear in mind that different designs may have different fitting methods, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions
- Thorough preparation is key to ensuring a long-lasting and high-quality finish. The preparation you’ll need to do and the method you use to secure your solid wood will depend on the surface you are laying on to. However, you must always ensure that solid wood flooring is laid on a level, smooth and dry surface. Using a professional moisture meter is a good way to ensure your sub-floor is free from damp
- If your sub-floor is a porous surface, like concrete, then you can secure your solid wood with adhesive. It’s best to use a surface primer to ensure a strong bond
- If you have an existing timber sub-floor, you can use secret nails or adhesive to secure the floor
- To calculate the number of packs you’ll need, work out the size of the area in m² (length x width = number of metres squared) and then check the coverage of the pack. It’s best to purchase an extra 10% to allow for cutting and wastage
- Solid wood flooring needs to acclimatise in the room where it will be laid for between 5 and 7 days. Lay the sealed, unopened boxes flat and ensure the conditions are as close as possible to how the living conditions will be. Never lean the flooring against the wall as this can lead to bowing
- As you’ll need to cut into the architrave, remove doors whilst you fit the flooring
- If the door won’t clear the combined height of the new flooring, potential underlay and threshold bar, use a pencil to mark the level of the new flooring onto the door, then trim it down
Do it right
- Solid wood flooring needs to be laid with an expansion gap of between 10–12mm around the edges
- The neatest finish is achieved by removing skirting and architrave before laying the flooring. However, if you don’t want to go those lengths, you can add flooring trim and still achieve a great finish
- If you’re planning on using a trim, consider painting it so it blends in seamlessly with your skirting boards
- To work out how many rows you’ll need, and to ensure that the final row won’t be too thin, measure the width of the room and divide this by the width of your flooring panel, not forgetting to allow for the expansion gaps. If the width of the final row will be less than 60mm, trim the first row lengthways so that the cut boards at each end are not too narrow
- Start laying the flooring from the left-hand corner of the wall that you’ve removed the door from
- The direction you lay your boards in is up to you. It’s best to dry lay some boards to see which layout works best for your room. However, if you are laying on top of existing floorboards, you’ll need to lay the new flooring at a 90° angle to the existing boards for additional rigidity
- It’s a good idea to blend planks from several packs to ensure the overall effect has a good balance of colour
- Always wear knee pads for protection when laying flooring
- Safety goggles should be worn when drilling
- When sawing, wear safety goggles and a dust mask and make sure the room is well ventilated
- Be sure to firmly secure timber and take care when sawing
- Keep your solid wood flooring clean and dry and quickly remove anything that could cause stains
- Consider using felt furniture pads to reduce the risk of scratches from furniture legs
How to lay solid wood flooring
Line up an offcut of floorboard with the architrave. Use a panel saw to trim the architrave to its height. Then, use a hammer and chisel to remove enough of the bottom of the architrave that the solid wood will fit underneath it. Be sure to leave a 10-12mm expansion gap.
Once you’ve worked out how many rows of boards you’ll need, and the width of the last row, you may need to do some cutting to ensure your last row isn’t less than 60mm wide. If necessary, cut the boards in your first row accordingly so that your last row won’t be too narrow.
Starting in the left-hand corner of the longest wall, use a trowel to spread adhesive from the wall to the width of two planks.
Lay the first board with the groove side facing the wall. Depending on the length of the board, place one or two 10-12mm spacers along the length, and one across the width.
Introduce the next board at an angle of around 20-30° and lower into place. Take great care with the alignment as it is key that your first row is perfectly straight. Add spacers to maintain an expansion gap between the board and the wall.
Continue laying until you can’t lay any more full boards, ensuring the line of boards is perfectly straight. To fill the gap at the end of a row, measure the distance between the last full board and the wall spacer.
Flip a board end-over-end so it is upside down with the groove edge still facing you but the other end now facing the end wall spacer. Use a pencil and try square to mark a guideline on the underside of the board.
Clamp the board into a workbench and cut with a jigsaw or a panel saw. Then place the cut board into position to complete the first row.
If the offcut is at least 300mm long, use it to start the second row from the same end as you started the first. Otherwise, start the row with a new board sawn in half. You must ensure that the joints between boards in adjoining rows are always offset by at least 300mm.
Put a spacer into position at the start of the second row, then offer the new board at an angle so the tongue section of the second board fits into the groove of the first board. Then, lower it into position. Continue to lay the second row as outlined above.
Be sure to check for a close fit between all boards and to tap or pull them into position using a jemmy bar or tapping block when necessary. Don’t use a mallet or hammer directly onto the board as this can cause damage.
Once the first two rows are secure and perfectly straight, spread 700mm - 900mm of adhesive across the length of the room. Be mindful not to spread more than you can comfortably cover in 30 minutes.
Use tension straps after every 5 or 6 rows to further secure the boards.
If you need to cut boards to fit the gap in the final row, measure the gap you need to fill and remember to allow for expansion. Then, cut the board to size and lay as normal.
Once the floor is laid, leave the adhesive for around 2 hours before walking on it. However, drying times do vary so be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions.
Fitting around a door frame
If you need to fill a gap between the board and the door, measure the distance between the outer edge of the architrave on either side. Then, measure the gap between the first row and the door. Mark these measurements onto a board, remembering to factor in a 10-12mm expansion gap at each end.
Use a jigsaw or hacksaw to cut a board into two pieces but so they reach the required length. This will make it possible to slide the sections into position one by one.
Lay the sections up against the architrave and mark where you need to trim the ends so that the boards will be able to slide under the architrave. Cut along the guide marks with a jigsaw or panel saw.
Then, slide the first section into position and push it along so it slides underneath the architrave as far as it can go. Then, place the second piece into position and slide the first section back slightly to ensure that there is an expansion gap at both ends.
Fitting around radiator pipes
If you need to cut around a pipe, lay a board to the side of the pipe and, using an offcut or tri-square, mark a line onto your board to show where the centre of the pipe will be. Include an additional 20mm on top of the pipe diameter to allow for expansion.
Now, lay the same board front on to the pipe, and again, mark the centre of the pipe with a line, again remembering to factor in the expansion gap. Where the two lines intersect is where the centre of the pipe will be positioned.
Clamp the board to a workbench and, using a 32mm flat wood bit, carefully drill a hole where the two lines intersect.
Use a straight edge to draw a pair of lines from the edges of the hole to the edge of the board, each at a slight angle outwards.
Use a jigsaw or hacksaw to cut along these lines, leaving you with a wedge-shaped offcut.
Fit the board into position around the radiator pipe, then apply grab adhesive to the contact areas of the offcut to hold in place between the pipe and the wall. Trim the profile with a chisel if need be.
Add a pipe surround for a neat finish, securing it with grab adhesive if the manufacturer recommends doing so.
Fitting skirting or trim
If your original skirting covers your expansion gaps, then refit it now. Alternatively, remove all the spacers and measure the lengths of flooring trim you need.
Use a mitre box and panel saw to make accurate 45° cuts at the ends that will join in the corners.
Apply a bead of grab adhesive to the back of the trim that will rest against the skirting board and firmly press into position. If necessary, you can hold the trim in place with panel pins whilst the adhesive dries. Do not fix the trim to the flooring as this will prevent expansion.
Fitting a threshold bar
If you’re fitting a threshold bar, be sure to choose one that’s appropriate for the flooring you’re joining. Carefully measure the width of the door frame, allowing for a 10-12mm expansion gap on both sides. Then cut the threshold bar to size.
Some designs will require cutting to shape so that the threshold bar will sit flush to the doorframe. If need be, carefully mark out notches and then cut with a hacksaw. Secure the threshold bar with either grab adhesive or screws, depending on manufacturer’s instructions.
Before you refit the door, it’s likely you will need to slightly trim the bottom of the door to accommodate the height of the threshold and boards.