For centuries, hardwood flooring has been a trusted staple in the interior design of residential and commercial projects. The tried-and-true flooring product remains a leading choice in today’s shifting competitive marketplace, which ranges from carpet to tile to more comparable resilient products. Of all possible flooring products, hardwood remains among the top flooring types that could increase your home’s value. Yet the effectiveness and lasting value of any hardwood flooring installation is wholly dependent upon the installer’s diligence in preparation and following the instructions put forth by flooring and adhesive manufacturers. The increasingly popular use of problem solving, multi-solution sound and moisture control system adhesives present tremendous value to those who adhere to installation guidelines.

There are three core tenets that must be followed in order to have a successful hardwood flooring installation: proper subfloor preparation, sticking to the flooring manufacturer’s installation guidelines (including, but not limited to, proper acclimation), and correct trowel usage and adhesive application. If any of these core steps are dismissed or overlooked, there is a reasonable chance it could be a problematic floor at some point in the future.

Amidst the long history of wood flooring adhesives, the presence of wood flooring system adhesives is a relatively new concept that has benefitted installers and residents for the past decade. System adhesives offer a range of solutions in addition to adhesion, such as the control of unwanted sound and moisture, crack suppression, and the isolation of cutback adhesive residue. 

Perhaps ranking as the most vital of these attributes is moisture mitigation. In recent years, moisture mitigating adhesives have evolved to the point where many suppliers’ adhesives allow for efficient visual inspections, with no elaborate testing required, saving valuable time and expenses. These moisture control adhesives boast unlimited moisture control. Whether unlimited or limited, proper moisture mitigation demands a stringent following of the manufacturer’s instructions relating to trowel requirements, proper coverage, subfloor tolerance and acclimation. Adhesive manufacturers tend to offer this information directly on the adhesive pail, or on technical data sheets.

The process of properly preparing the subfloor revolves around three simple principles: the subfloor must be clean, flat and dry. Subfloors must be clean of any dirt or other surface contamination. Sweeping and vacuuming is often an essential first step. The subfloor must be flat and smooth, often necessitating the removal of high spots and the filling of low spots. Lastly, the subfloor must be thoroughly devoid of preexisting moisture.

One valuable resource to installers is the presence of industry standards set forth by organizations such as the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). For instance, concerning the flat and level stage of subfloor preparation, the NWFA posits that concrete subfloors should be flat to within 3/16” over a 10’ span and 1/8” over a 6’ span. Not properly flattening the substrate to industry standards may result in voids in the moisture control membrane when using moisture control system adhesives. Occasionally, however, a hardwood flooring manufacturer might offer differing standards. It is imperative to abide by the standards put forth by the manufacturer of the flooring utilized.

Further, meticulous subfloor preparation might be for naught if the adhesive is not properly troweled. Full contact, spread and transfer is critical because any flooring system is only as strong and durable as its weakest link. This attention to detail during the adhesive application process is especially important when incorporating sound and moisture control attributes. Trowel recommendations are not to be overlooked, as they are carefully chosen by the manufacturer to ensure that the proper spread rate and protective monolithic membrane result between the substrate and flooring. This membrane is invaluable not only in allowing the installer to successfully achieve the sound and moisture control features possible with multi-solution adhesives, but also to maintain product warranty eligibility.

Always ensure that the flooring trowel being utilized is not worn down. Particularly when used to apply adhesive over rigid substrates, like concrete, erosion of trowel notches could prevent sufficient adhesive from being spread. Typically, manufacturers mandate full, 100% adhesive transfer to the back of the hardwood planks. If the flooring is not in total contact with the adhesive, it is much more likely that no protective membrane will be formed and that bond, moisture and sound related attributes will be compromised. Rolling the floor with a 100 lb. roller every two to three hours during and after installation adds an additional level of security to the project.

These many elements are equally imperative to maintaining eligibility for the warranties offered by flooring and adhesive manufacturers. Many warranties exclude moisture problems related to natural disasters, flooding, leakage, topical moisture, improper ventilation, improper maintenance, or cracks in the subfloor or foundation.

Following the instructions laid out by manufacturers, and any additional industry standard guidelines, could eliminate the likelihood of a problematic installation. Sound and moisture control wood flooring system adhesives offer tremendous value by reducing time, overall project costs, and incorporating additional problem-solving solutions. Improperly prepared subfloors, the use of incorrect trowels, and the lack of full coverage with adhesive are errors capable of sabotaging an entire flooring system. Excessive time, money, and property damage could all be avoided if the proper care and attention to detail is enforced at the onset of an installation project.