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Install Hardwoods in a Heartbeat

Construction How-To, Flooring Installation, Floors, Hardwood, Laminate and Engineered March 23, 2009 Matt Weber

Matt Weber


Engineered hardwoods offer all the character of solid hardwoods, but installation is quick and easy.



From a do-it-yourselfer’s perspective, there are two primary factors that determine the material I select for a new project: the quality of the product and its relative ease of installation. When it comes to wood floors, it’s my firm belief that engineered hardwoods offer the best of both worlds. (If you are looking for the best selection of hardwood flooring at the best price, check out

In fact, engineered hardwood floors are a hybrid of laminate flooring and genuine solid hardwoods. Like laminate floors, engineered hardwoods consist of various layers of woodgrains and textures, such as high-density fiberboard. However, standard laminate floors have a printed graphic of wood covered by a hard wear layer as a finished surface. On the other hand, instead of a picture of wood, engineered hardwood floors have a veneer of actual solid hardwood, usually about 1/8-inch thick, that is laminated on top of the flooring planks. This hardwood layer preserves the unique characteristics of the grain, and the floor boards are usually sold pre-finished with a scratch-resistant sealer.

These hybrid floor planks offer the advantages of both source materials. For example, engineered hardwood floors can eventually be sanded and refinished, whereas sanding a laminate floor would ruin the wood graphic and destroy the appearance of the floor. The laminated sub-layers also allow engineered flooring to be manufactured in easy-to-install planks that simply click together with tongue-and-groove joints, meaning no glue or nailing is necessary. Furthermore, solid hardwood floor boards wouldn’t be structurally stable over concrete subfloors. Concrete contains moisture that would change the integrity of solid wood. However, the various layers of engineered hardwoods make them more moisture-resistant for over-concrete applications. Engineered hardwoods also install with moisture barriers and foam underlayment materials, which provide an extra layer of insulation between the subfloor and the flooring.

A wide variety of manufacturers and suppliers provide solid hardwoods, laminate flooring and engineered hardwoods. After researching the benefits and installation advantages, I selected the Transitions EVO brand of engineered hardwood flooring from BHK of America. The click-together installation combined with rich browns and toasted golds of the Sapele Mahogany finish we selected proved to be the perfect floor for the home I was remodeling. Here’s how I completed the project.


Have Plan in Hand

Your first step is to lay out a floor plan. Sketch the room on paper and mark the dimensions. Calculate the square footage you’ll need, and then order extra to account for unusable cut planks, as well as providing some extra material if damaged planks need to be replaced in the future. Also, make note of the different transitions in the room where the engineered hardwoods will meet other types of flooring or exterior doors. The flooring supplier will usually have transition moldings for these areas.

Once the flooring is on site, allow the unopened cartons of planks to remain in the room where they are to be installed at least 48 hours prior to installation. This allows the flooring to shrink or swell slightly, according to the climate of its new home.

Engineered hardwoods can be installed over most flooring surfaces, but always remove carpeting and remove any wood flooring that is installed over concrete.

Make sure the subfloor is level. The floor shown required a Portland cement-based leveling compound.

Make sure the subfloor is level. The floor shown required a Portland cement-based leveling compound.

Next, make sure the subfloor is clean, dry and level. The laminate planks must fit together correctly to ensure an even finished surface and a seamless appearance, so a flat subfloor is critical. Check for level with an 8-foot straightedge laid across the subfloor. Most manufacturers recommend no more than a 3/16-inch difference in height between any two points in a circle with a 20-foot diameter.