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  • How to Prepare Your Floors for New Hardwood Installation

    So, you’re taking the plunge and installing new hardwood floors! Exciting stuff. Getting that warm, classic hardwood look transforms the aesthetics of your home in a big way.

    But before calling professional installers like Eko Flooring, don’t underestimate the importance of proper prep work. Like any major home project, rushing the pre-installation process can cause problems down the road. Proper prep sets the stage for smooth installation and lets your beautiful new floors shine for years to come.

    Step 1: Clean With a Vengeance

    You’ll want to start by giving your existing floors a serious deep clean. We mean serious – get into every nook and cranny.

    Sweep away any loose debris with a broom then thoroughly mop the floors. Make sure to use a powerful cleaner suited for the current flooring. Scrub away at any grime or residues from old cleaners and give extra attention to high traffic areas.

    Once clean, go over the subfloor with a rag dipped in a 50/50 vinegar and water solution. This will remove any remaining residues that could prevent proper hardwood installation.

    Leave the floors bare for at least 3-5 days afterwards to completely dry out before installation. Trust us, you don’t want any moisture getting trapped under those new planks!

    Step 2: Check for Level Surfaces

    This is a big one. Making sure the subfloor surface is nice and even is required to prevent gaps, creaking, and other issues down the road.

    Use a 4 foot level in multiple spots across the floor to check for any unevenness or sagging areas. Mark any problem spots with a pencil.

    For minor dips and uneven joints, you can sand or plane down high spots and fill in divots with floor leveler compound. Allow plenty of dry time as directed by the product instructions.

    However, major unevenness over 1/4 inch requires more intensive subfloor repair. This may involve sistering new framework to existing joists, installing an entirely new subfloor, or other structural work – best left to the professionals.

    Step 3: Evaluate the Integrity

    While you have the floors opened up, take time to thoroughly examine the state of the subfloor and any framing underneath.

    Check for signs of moisture damage, rotting, cracking, or other deterioration. Tap on the subfloor with a hammer to listen for troubling hollow sounds. Look for any bursts of daylight from the basement or crawlspace below.

    Address any structural issues with repair or full replacement well before hardwood installation. Otherwise, you’ll likely hear creaking or notice planks sagging in affected areas not long after finishing the job.

    Step 4: Calculate Acclimatization Time

    Here’s a little-known hardwood prep step that makes all the difference long-term:

    Before installation, the flooring must be allowed to acclimate to interior conditions – especially changes in temperature and humidity compared to the warehouse or showroom.

    As a general rule of thumb, aim for at least 5-7 days acclimatization time. But depending on climate variations where you live, the wood flooring manufacturer may advise longer for proper acclimatization first.

    During this period, place boxes of flooring laid flat in the room where it will be installed. Don’t leave planks outside or in uncontrolled environments! Allowing adequate adjust time prevents undesirable shrinking or swelling down the road.

    Step 5: Undercut Door Frames

    Here’s a key prep step that gets easily missed – trimming up the bottom of door frames to account for the added flooring thickness.

    Measure how much higher the new hardwood will sit compared to the current floor surface. Then, use a manual jamb saw or power multi-tool to undercut all door frames by this amount.

    This step keeps the flooring layers flowing seamlessly under the frames. It also prevents that annoying gap left beneath doors after installation – preventing airflow and tripping hazards from uneven transitions.

    Just take care not to over cut too aggressively. Leave about 1/16” extra space under frames rather than cutting flush to the planned floor surface.

    Step 6: Install Proper Underlayments

    Underlayments are a pivotal component falling right under your new hardwood that protect the flooring investment in vital ways. Use the right underlayment, and do it properly.

    For nailed or stapled-down solid hardwood, 30lb asphalt or resin saturated felt paper is commonly used to buffer against subfloor moisture. Overlap seams by several inches and use adhesive to prevent air pockets.

    Floating engineered floors usually pair a foam, cork, or rubber underlayment ranging from 2mm-5mm thickness placed atop a 6 mil polyethylene plastic moisture barrier. This cushions foot traffic noise while resisting moisture migration.

    Follow the hardwood manufacturer’s guidelines on which underlayments comply with the product warranty terms. Improper underlayment installation can severely damage planks or negate coverage.

    Step 7: Remove Baseboards and Trim

    The home stretch! Now it’s time to pull up any existing baseboards, transition strips, door stops, and other fixtures sitting atop the old floor.

    Carefully pry these away at nail points using a flat pry bar and hammer. Protect walls as needed to prevent unnecessary sheetrock damage or paint chipping during removal.

    You’ll likely need to re-install trim pieces with longer lengths after installation to account for the boosted floor height. So, try to remove intact pieces cleanly for reuse rather than destroying during demo. Any damage can also be more easily covered later by taller baseboard placement.

    Step 8: Protect That Beautiful Work!

    Above all, take measures throughout the pre-installation process to avoid damaging your beautiful new hardwood finish upon completion. After all, what’s the point of upgrading floors if they just get trashed from the get go?

    Keep kids, rambunctious pets, appliance deliveries, heavy furniture, and other hazards far away from finished floors for the first 5-7 days minimum while adhesive fully cures. Avoid mopping or wet cleaning during this time as well.

    You should also vacuum then apply felt pad floor protectors underneath all furniture legs. Do this before moving anything back into the room if possible to prevent deep scratches or dents in planks.

    Trust us, being vigilant about floor protection from day one makes keeping that warm, rustic hardwood look easy for years on end! You’ll thank yourself later for taking the time up front.

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