Understanding Flooring Options

Glue-Down Or Nail-Down: Which Installation Method Works Best?

by Vincent Hoffman

Just as there's more than one way to crack a nut, there's also more than one way to install hardwood flooring. But no matter which method is used, it has to be durable and resilient enough to stand up to countless years of use.

The traditional method of using nails and fasteners to secure hardwood flooring remains the most common and preferred way for many contractors. However, hardwood flooring adhesives are a popular alternative to traditional nail-down wood flooring installation. The following takes a close look at both installation methods, including some of their upsides and drawbacks.

Nail-Down Installation Pros and Cons

As mentioned before, many contractors prefer to use nails or staples when installing hardwood flooring. There are a few advantages to this traditional yet effective method. One such advantage is that the nail-down installation process is surprisingly economical when compared with installation via adhesives. On average, the labor cost for installing hardwood flooring via the nail-down method ranges from $2.50 to $3.50 per square foot. In contrast, the average labor cost for glue-down hardwood flooring is $0.25 more per square foot.

Many installers prefer the nail-down method as it provides a more permanent way of securing your hardwood flooring than high-strength adhesives. The nail-down method also results in a floor that's sturdier and less likely to come apart as it ages. Nailed-down hardwood flooring is also more tolerant of uneven subflooring since the floor boards are forced into place by the fasteners during the installation.

Nevertheless, there are a few downsides to consider. For starters, a proper nail-down installation requires a variety of special tools, including a pneumatic flooring nailer or stapler, which may be out-of-reach for some DIYers. The nail-down method might also not be suitable for homes with particle board subflooring or rooms with bare concrete slabs.

Installers must also use the right amount of fasteners to hold the flooring material in place. Too few fasteners can cause cracks to form in the flooring with enough time and use, plus it could also cause the flooring to make noise. Using too many fasteners could cause the tongue (the part of the floor plank that sticks out and slots into the next plank) to split, potentially ruining the plank and making it unable to fit properly.

Glue-Down Installation Pros and Cons

If you have concrete or particle board subflooring, then the glue-down method offers a relatively straightforward way of installing hardwood flooring. As the name implies, a high-strength adhesive is used in place of nails and staples to hold your hardwood flooring in place.

One benefit of this method is that the end result makes less noise. The elastic quality of the adhesive also allows the floor to expand and contract in response to seasonal temperature changes, resulting in less potential damage to the flooring and a longer lifespan.

Unfortunately, there's plenty that can go wrong with a glue-down hardwood flooring installation. Using too little adhesive or using the wrong type of adhesive for the flooring and subflooring in question can lead to installation failure and damaged flooring. The adhesive itself can prove exceptionally difficult to clean up after it dries, which makes cleaning up accidental spills or overruns more time-consuming.

Good subfloor preparation is absolutely essential for a successful hardwood flooring installation using the glue-down method. Any high spots, low spots or uneven areas in the subflooring will definitely show once the floor planks are in place. If you plan on gluing hardwood flooring over a concrete slab, you'll need to have the right moisture vapor protection in place, as well as the proper drainage away from the building itself, to prevent moisture from seeping through the slab and damaging the flooring itself.

Talk to your wood floor contractor, someone from a place like Monterrey  Tile Company, for more information and for suggestions on your particular case.

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