How Not to Install Unfinished Engineered Hardwood Floors

When it’s time to recommend the best installation method for a hardwood flooring project, we first ask what type of flooring is being installed. That’s because every type of flooring wood – solid, engineered, prefinished and unfinished – has its own qualities and quirks.

One particularly interesting and versatile type of wood flooring available today is unfinished engineered hardwood. It’s a great choice for people who wish to get the benefits of engineered hardwood floors and retain the flexibility to choose their color, stain or finish. So, out of the four installation options available – gluing, stapling, nailing, and floating – which is the best for an unfinished engineered hardwood floor?

In general, we recommend that you glue or nail an unfinished engineered hardwood floor and forego the idea of floating. Floating refers to an installation method where the flooring panels are connected together by adhesive or mechanical connectors. Because floating floors are often faster and easier to install, it is a popular method of installation.

Why don’t we recommend this option? The first factor to consider is that unfinished engineered hardwood floors will need to be sanded and finished after installation is complete. This post-installation process introduces two risks.

For one, the weight of the sander applied to one end of a flooring board can cause the other end to rise, creating an uneven flooring surface. This not only hurts the integrity of the floor but results in an uneven sanding job and visible surface depressions.

Along the same lines, we’ve seen instances where boards were shifted by the weight of the person applying the final polyurethane coat. The brittleness of the coating combined with an uneven surface may result in white, solid lines where lacquer had cracked. You might be able to fix this issue by re-sanding but that’s an added hassle, time investment and an opportunity for another misstep.

If you want to stick to the floating method of installation, nothing beats prefinished engineered wood flooring. There are no guarantees that it will withstand all installation changes but it’s far more forgiving than unfinished engineered wood.