Lay and Pray Wood Flooring Installation Explained

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Hire the wrong flooring contractor and you could find your new wood floors looking like this in a short time period.

There are many factors that you wouldn’t think of that goes into installing wood flooring. It seems simple enough. Rip up the old floor, lay, glue or nail down the new boards and you’re done, right?

Wrong.

“Lay and pray literally means what we say it is,” said The Men With Tools Owner John Kolbaska. “Ninety-nine percent of flooring contractors out there will literally just lay the floor down — either nail, float or glue it down, without taking any of the necessary precautions — and they’ll pray that it holds up.”

Wood flooring should last you 100 years. It can be resanded and repurposed multiple times. If you’re replacing your wood flooring before that, then it was installed improperly and guess what? Now you’re wasting your hard-earned money.

Beware of inexperienced flooring contractors:

The first thing your flooring contractor should inspect for is the type of subfloor you have. Is it concrete? Concrete subfloors hold moisture. You’re just asking for trouble gluing solid wood flooring directly over it. It will buckle, warp and have large gaps between the boards in no time.

Before even giving a price, your contractor should recommend the type of flooring you should use based on your subfloor and living conditions. Engineered and laminate flooring are best for concrete subfloors, but every manufacturer has their own recommendations based on the products they carry.

Testing for moisture is required:

A serious flooring contractor should break out a hygrometer and moisture meter before recommending or agreeing to install anything. A hygrometer measures the moisture content in the air and a moisture meter is used to find out the percentage of water in a substance, so in this case the subflooring.

If you tell your contractor, ‘yeah, I really, really want this Brazilian Cherry wood flooring,’ and they just say, ‘No problem, let’s do it,’ red flags should pop up everywhere.

The problem is many professional flooring contractors don’t factor in the environment of your home. What are your living conditions? Do you like it 70 degrees in the winter? Do you run the air conditioner or central air unit in the summer?

Site conditions in the home affect your flooring choice:

What level do you want your new flooring on? The basement? The penthouse where all of the heat rises? Again, these are all key components as to which type of flooring you should choose.

These are important questions to assure you’re not only choosing the right kind of flooring, but it’s also being installed properly. What you may not know is many of these big box liquidators store the wood flooring in giant warehouses where it’s 90 degrees with high humidity in the summer and 30 degrees with low humidity in the winter.

Wood is like a sponge, it absorbs moisture. If you take the flooring and move it from a 90-degree warehouse with high humidity to a 70-degree home with low humidity and install it the same day, you will see large gaps between the boards over time. It goes both ways as well. The humidity can be too low causing the boards to contract.

Ninety nine percent of companies will wait a week to let the flooring acclimate before the installation. That’s the standard time most manufacturers recommend, but it in no way is 100% accurate all the time. It’s merely just a suggestion. With that said, sometimes a one week acclimation period isn’t long enough. Sometimes it can take 2 to 3 weeks, or even a month, but they don’t know because they don’t have the right tools to measure the moisture content in the air or material of the subfloor. The other companies that don’t take these measurements are essentially just guessing.

Moisture readings are important:

“The moisture content between the subfloor and the wood flooring needs to be within generally 2 to 3 percent of each other,” said John who’s a member of the National Wood Flooring Association. “It’s coming out of that hot and humid warehouse out of Home Depot and if you were to actually pin that with the moisture meter, it’s likely going to have a 12 to 15 percent reading. In reality it needs to be within 7 to 8 percent.”

The proper way to acclimate the wood flooring is to open up all of the boxes, not just the ends like most other contractors suggest. They need to breathe and adapt to their new environment.

“The distributor where I buy my products from has a climate controlled warehouse where they are storing it under prime conditions,” John said. “I can take that product out of there and bring it to another house that has those same prime conditions and install it the same day after we test the flooring and subfloor using a moisture meter.”

Documenting moisture readings affect your warranty:

Most of these other flooring contractors have a tail-light warranty where you call them a few months or a year later as you’re having all of these problems and they’ll tell you, ‘Well, it must be the wood,’ and the problem is, there’s no way of proving that. Why? Because if they didn’t use a hygrometer or moisture meter to get those readings, you don’t have any evidence to find out if the product was faulty or if it was the installation.

“I’ve learned by mistakes I’ve made,” John said. “I’ve put floors down in conditions that weren’t ideal and I’ve been forced to rip them up and replace them. I’ve had some very expensive lessons. I don’t make those mistakes anymore.”

Be aware of the following red flags of faulty flooring contractors:

  • They don’t use a hygrometer and claim they don’t need one
  • They don’t use a moisture meter and claim they don’t need one
  • They don’t ask you about your living conditions
  • They tell you to let the floor sit for a week and it’ll be good to install
  • They only open the ends of the boxes to acclimate the wood
  • They’ll install hardwood flooring in a hot, humid new construction home
  • They’ll convince you it’s OK to install the wood flooring on the same day without measuring anything

Questions to Ask Your Flooring Contractor:

When shopping around for wood flooring installers in your area, make sure to do your homework and ask these buyer beware questions:

  • What type of subfloor do I have?
  • What is the moisture reading of my subfloor?
  • What type of hygrometer do you use?
  • What are my relative humidity readings?
  • What type of moisture meter do you use?
  • What flooring do you recommend best based on my living environment?
  • How long will it take to acclimate the flooring?

If they can’t tell you about their hygrometer and moisture meter, run far, far away, NOW!

Are you in the market for wood flooring? Check out The Men With Tools on Staten Island, NY who won’t lay and pray and will give you a fair price. Call us today at 347-815-4151 for a free estimate.

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