Before installing your floor, there are several crucial preparations that you will need to do: moisture testing, subfloor preparation and acclimation. The success of every installation depends on these important preparatory steps.
Flooring manufacturers require a certain range of moisture content and humidity levels for proper installation. These values will change based on geographical location, which ranges from 6 – 12% based on location.
For wood subfloors you will want a professional moisture meter. These meters can be found for around $25 at local home improvement stores. You will need to test the subfloor at the corners and center of each room that your flooring will be installed into. Write down each of these readings. If the moisture content is over the average for your area, which is typically 7 – 9%, then you have moisture issues to address before installation.
You can also use a moisture meter on concrete subfloors or you can do a simpler process. Cut several pieces of polyfilm, 2' x 2' is a good size, and place them on several locations in your job site. Seal the edges with the duct tape and let it sit for 24 to 48 hours. If condensation occurs, you’ve got some moisture problems that need to be addressed.
Before installing your floor you must ensure that your subfloor is clean, dry and flat. A good rule is that a floor is only as good as its subfloor. Make sure to properly check your subfloor for any low or high spots by using a level, 8’ length of straight wood, such as a 2" x 4", or a string line attached to two flat weights. Ensure that any high spots are ground down, and low spots are leveled out using a self-leveling compound.
For wood subfloors, make sure that you apply weight across the entire subfloor to find noisy spots. If you find any loose or noisy portions, use flooring screws to firmly anchor the noisy portions of the subfloor to the joists. Remove any loose nails or staples on the subfloor from carpet tack strips or loose portions of the subfloor.
Ensure no debris is left on the floor, including overspray from paint or dry walling. Ensure the subfloor is swept, vacuumed and dry before installation.
Acclimation (also acclimatization) is a process that allows wood to adjust to its new environment. By leaving the floors inside the room for a certain period of time, the natural moisture content of the wood is able to adjust to the relative normal conditions of where it will be installed. In the long run, this crucial first step will help prevent the gapping, swelling or buckling of floors after installation.
When flooring material is delivered to a job site, you should use a moisture meter to check the moisture content of the hardwood floors before installation. Typically the acclimation process takes 72 hours, but check with your floor’s manufacturer to be sure. Some professionals suggest acclimating floors for a week or more before installation.
Your flooring is best if it acclimates in the same room it will be installed in. Boxes of flooring should be stacked in a Lincoln log fashion, allowing a space that is about the same width as one box between each box in the row. This allows plenty of air flow around the boxes of flooring and will ensure proper acclimation.
Moisture test flooring after acclimation, the moisture content should be within 2% of the moisture content of the room’s subfloor before installation occurs.