Can Hardwood Floors Be Installed on Concrete?

by Charlie
Can Hardwood Floors Be Installed on Concrete

If you have concrete floors in your home and you’d love to add some hardwood floors, you might be wondering whether this is possible. Hardwood is a very popular option that lasts for years and looks extremely elegant and high-quality, but you need to know whether it’s possible to lay it over concrete before you get started.

Concrete subfloors are common in homes, but you always want something on top of them, as they aren’t attractive or comfortable. You will therefore need to choose a material that works for the room – and you might be tempted by hardwood.

Can hardwood floors be installed on concrete? Laying hardwood floors on concrete is perfectly possible, but you will need to attach the floor to the subfloor. Hardwood is not suitable for floating floor, so don’t set it on underlay and leave it loose – you need to nail or glue it into place. You also need to make sure your concrete is dry before you start laying the floor.

Is it Okay to Install Hardwood Floors on Concrete?

You can lay hardwood floors on concrete subfloors, provided the subfloors are sufficiently dry. If the concrete has just been laid, you will need to wait while it dries, which could take several months. You may also need to apply a damp proof membrane before you put the hardwood down.

Hardwood is a great floor, but it is very sensitive to moisture. Wetness from any direction will result in the wood swelling and warping, and can cause roughness in the grains. You therefore need to make sure the environment is as dry as possible to avoid damaging the boards.

If the concrete floor is old, you should still check for moisture and humidity to ensure it’s suitable for hardwood to be laid. If it’s too wet, consider laying damp proof membranes first.

How Do You Attach Hardwood Floors to Concrete?

As mentioned above, you cannot install floating floors if you want to use hardwood, so you’ll need to fix the floor down in some way. The commonest methods for doing this are either using nails or glue, with glue being a slightly more popular option, because it tends to be simpler. Let’s compare the two options.

If you are going to fix the floor down using glue, you will need a flexible wood adhesive. This must cover both the subfloor and the boards. You need to ensure that the boards are firmly fixed in place so that they won’t shift around or slip, as this minimizes the risk of the wood getting damaged when it is walked on.

If you aren’t sure what kind of glue to use, talk to your local hardware store and get some recommendations about a suitable glue for this purpose.

The alternative option is nailing the boards down. This tends to be less popular these days, although it was the go-to method in the past, before suitable adhesives were developed. Nailing the planks down tends to be a rather slow process, but it will also provide a stable, firm surface to walk on.

Nails need to be installed carefully so that they are not visible once the floor is finished. They are usually knocked through the tongue of the planks, and will then disappear when the next plank is put into place and the tongue is slotted into the groove. This means you can’t see them when the floor is finished, giving you a nicer appearance.

Either nails or glue should be suitable for installing hardwood floors over concrete, but many people do prefer to use adhesive because it is more straightforward.

Do You Need a Moisture Barrier?

In many cases, you will need a moisture barrier beneath your hardwood floor, especially if you are installing the floor in a basement or another area that might be damp. This usually takes the form of plastic sheets that can be taped over the concrete, preventing moisture from coming up through the floor.

These sheets usually travel up the walls a few inches on all sides, ensuring that no water touches the wood at the edges of the floor either. The plastic prevents water from seeping up through the concrete and destroying your wood flooring.

If you don’t use a moisture barrier, there is a high risk that the floor will start to warp and twist, because it will get damp. You can use a moisture barrier in conjunction with underlayment, or on its own, depending on what you need. Underlayment will provide sound insulation, heat insulation, and a few other advantages.

How Difficult is it to Install Hardwood Floors on Concrete?

This kind of project can vary in its difficulty, but it is generally considered a fairly complicated job, partly because of the moisture issue. Some people recommend further steps, such as laying a plywood subfloor, which adds to the complexity, but may make your hardwood floor more stable and can smooth out imperfections in the subfloor.

You don’t have to lay a plywood subfloor if you choose not to, but it’s worth considering to maximize the longevity of your hardwood floor.

Once the hardwood floor is in place, you will need to sand, clean, and varnish the floor to seal it and prevent moisture damage occurring from on top of the floor. This is a fairly simple part of the process, but it can be quite time-consuming, because you will have to allow time for the polyurethane to dry, and add several layers to maximize the protection.

You will need to have a reasonable degree of confidence in your DIY skills if you are going to lay your own hardwood floors on a concrete subfloor, but it certainly can be done. Alternatively, find a company that will fit the floor for you.

Final Thoughts

Hardwood floors can be installed on concrete, but you will need to add a moisture barrier to prevent dampness from seeping up into the wood. The floor will need to be fixed down to the subfloor using either adhesive or nails, since you can’t make floating floors using hardwood.

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