If you’re buying solid oak flooring, it is often worth paying a professional to install it for you. Depending on the circumstances and your DIY experience, though, you may well be able to do the job yourself.
Oak floors come in a variety of different forms. Solid oak flooring is slightly harder to install than some of the alternatives, but even this is possible to do with a little patience and expertise – and is well worth it for the overall effect. However, there will be different choices for fitting your floor depending on the surface on which you are installing it. Fixing to screed requires a different approach than to joists.
Before you start Solid hardwood flooring requires a period of time to acclimatise to the conditions in your home before you install it. Like all wood, oak is sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, and it is important to let it ‘rest’ in the room in which you are fitting it for a couple of weeks to allow it to adjust its shape accordingly. Additionally, you should plan to leaves an expansion gap at the edges of the room – around 1.5mm should be adequate. Allow any new plaster or cement to dry out, too. A day per millimetre of thickness of screed or cement should be enough.
Methods of installation There are two or three ways to install oak flooring, depending on your circumstances: • Mechanical fixings • Adhesives • ‘Floating’ a floor
Mechanical fixings can be screws (with pre-drilled holes), surface nailing or ‘secret’ nailing. These are all simple and reliable ways of installing solid oak floors. It is how floor boards have traditionally been fitted for centuries. If you’ve walked around a stately home and admired the oak floors, you can be reassured that this was how they were installed. Secret nailing is an attractive development because the nails are invisible at the end of the process. Instead of being driven vertically downwards, leaving the head on top, nails are used at the edge of the boards – often at the edge of the tongue, if there is one – at an angle.
Flexible adhesives are used in different circumstances, sometimes as a sole method of fixing oak hardwood flooring – perhaps over screed or concrete, where there is nothing to drive nails into – or as a secondary fixing to give a floor extra stability.
Floating a floor is slightly more complicated and does not involve fixing the floor boards to the surface underneath. Instead they are fixed together. It is important that they are not directly joined – oak hardwood flooring expands and contracts and this can be disastrous if you have a large raft of boards. Instead, the boards can be fitted to an underlay of adhesive foam, which simply rests on the screed base.
Timber joists Oak flooring can be fixed to joists with nails or screws. Particularly if you are working on the ground floor, you will need to fasten a layer of waterproof plastic down first (often known as visqueen); your oak hardwood flooring will
otherwise ‘cup’ and warp if there is any dampness around. You can also use heavy- duty flexible adhesives like ‘liquid batten’ or similar. If you are secret nailing wider boards (180mm and upwards), it can help to use a flexible adhesive on the back to ensure maximum stability.