You’ve researched hardwood flooring enough to know that the only way to get a perfectly flat, smooth floor surface is to install engineered unfinished flooring and sand and finish on site. As you know, engineered unfinished flooring is much more dimensionally stable than its 3/4″ solid unfinished counterpart. However, there are a few key points to consider before and after installing your new engineered unfinished floor. They are:
Moisture and Humidity
Because of ground moisture, solid wood floors can’t be installed in below-grade areas, or, areas of floor in direct contact with the ground or with less than 18 inches of ventilated space. Engineered unfinished flooring, however, can be installed below-grade because of its cross-ply construction. Even so, the sub-floor moisture levels should be tested before your building materials arrive at the job site, either by a professional flooring installer or with a hand-held electrical moisture meter. Floor materials should be acclimated to the sub-floor moisture level for a minimum of 10 days, longer in areas of high or low humidity. Failing to acclimate the materials can lead to cupping, crowning or buckling, causing you to have to tear up your new floor and start over from scratch.
Fluctuating temperatures won’t affect the structural integrity of engineered unfinished flooring much, but they can cause the wood to crack and pop. To avoid these annoying little noises, install a fully functional HVAC system prior to installation in order to maintain a consistent temperature. A hard-working HVAC system can also help maintain humidity and speed the finishing process.
Sanding and Finishing
Done correctly, on-site sanding and finishing will guarantee a perfectly flat and smooth floor surface. This should be the final step in the installation process. Heat will help the curing process, so be prepared to crank the heat to the high 80s for a few days after finishing.
Lastly, it is extremely important for new owners to take good care of their freshly finished floors during the weeks after installation. While the floors may look done, it takes some time for a new finish to cure and harden. Don’t move furniture or heavy fixtures for at least a month, and don’t walk on the floors in hard-soled shoes. The more careful you are in the first few weeks, the longer your new floors will keep their beautiful appearance.