Flooring and Carpeting Hardwood floors, underlayment, moisture barrier, plywood underlayment,

Flooring and Carpeting Hardwood floors, underlayment, moisture barrier, plywood underlayment,

Flooring and Carpeting /Hardwood floors, underlayment, moisture barrier

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Expert: John Michaels — 2/16/2009

Question

Hello John,

We live in Hampton Roads Virginia and our ranch home is on a crawl space. We have removed the carpet, padding and particle board underlayment from our dining room, living room and foyer and hallway leading back to bedrooms and hall bath. This hallway has two small closets, which have also been cleared of material down to the subfloor. This is about 500 sq feet of living space. At this point, we have a clean and fairly good subfloor resting on the joists; we do need to put cross supports between joists in a couple high-traffic places. We plan on installing 3/4″ (A/C grade) plywood underlayment, and then 3/4″ pre-finished Bellawood red oak, select grade, 3 1/4″ wide planks. So having given you this background, here are my questions:

- Underlayment — Should we try to keep the plywood underlayment in its 4×8′ whole sheets as much as possible, or do we need to cut it into smaller pieces (one source said 2’x4′ sections)? We know to stagger the underlayment seams so that they do not line up with the subfloor seems. Do we need to attach the 3/4″ underlayment to joists, or can we just nail or screw the underlayment to the plywood subfloor? Should we use screws or a certain trype of nail?

- Moisture — The subfloor had tar paper on it, but we removed that. So now, we need to put a moisture barrier down between the subfloor and 3/4″ underlayment, right? What material should we use? I’ve seen online sites and DIY books recommend tar paper or polyethylene sheeting. Which one is correct? If we put down such a material and we use 3/4″ plywood for the underlayment, do we still need to worry as much about the moisture levels of the plywood subfloor, or moisture coming up from the earth beneath the crawl space? Also, do we need to worry about moisture coming up through the holes in the barrier made by the nails or screws used to fasten the underlayment and hardwood flooring?

- Does the grain of the plywood underlayment need to be perpendicular to the grain of the subfloor and/or perpendicular to the joist? I read this on one of the sites online.

- I’ve read that the hardwood flooring needs to be exposed to the air in the rooms where it’s going to be installed for 2, 4, and 7 days. That is, three separate installers have given three different lengths of time. I would tend to think that 7 days is the minimum. Do you agree? What about the underlayment plywood? Does that need to acclimate before being installed as well? If so, how many days?

- Aesthetically, the hardwood planks would look the best if they ran parallel to the joists. But I’ve read online that you always want to have the planks running perpendicular to the joists. Is this true? Even if we have a 1/2″ subfloor and 3/4″ plywood underlayment?

Thank you John.

Answer

Hi Anne; Bear with me for a minute. Sorry you are not recarpeting. Carpet is one of the healthiest floor coverings one can have. It has a pile that traps, filters, and holds harmful track-in soils, air polutants, allergents, etc. until they are properly vacuumed away, and, on occassion, properly professionally cleaned away. Hard surfaced flooring is non-absorbent, so those harmful soils rest on their surface and become airborne with normal foot traffic and normal home air currents. The human lung then becomes the trap and filter. All floor covering manufacturers and floor covering sundry manufacturers (adhesives, underlaymens, cleaning agents, etc.), are in the throes of producing ‘green’ products, however the carpet industry is the far out leader in that endeavor. Visit the website of The Carpet & Rug Institute, carpet-rug.org., and learn true health information, obtain their list of vacuums, spot cleaning agents, and professional cleaning systems they have tested and certified as being ‘green’, their CARE program which is involved in the total recycling of carpet, and many other important issues.

Now, for your hardwood. BEFORE you purchase anything, please stop listening to others and become knowledgeable. All manufacturers of floor covering publish free installation specifications and free maintenance manuals. Obtain both of those publications from the exact manufacturer of the flooring you choose and thoroughly read them. The installation specifications will detail numerous important things such as acceptable underlayments, proper acclimation time needed before installation, how the acclimation should be done, how the flooring should be handled and installed before, during, and after the installation, the proper temperature and humidity factors that must be in effect before, during, and forever after the installation, the proper perimeter expansion space that must be left around all perimeters of the installation, expansion joints needed for rooms exceeding a certain length, moldings that should not be installed flush and tight with the surface of perimeter boards, etc. Next, read the maintenance manual. It will also detail important things such as proper cleaning agents and techniques, allowable footwear (some wood flooring should not be traversed in high heels), the need for proper furniture leg protectors that should be used and cleaned when they become imbedded with gritty soils and changed when they begin to show signs of wear, the need for proper, absorbent, walk-off mats that should be used, and constantly maintained at all entries to your home, etc.

Remember that the true cost of any floor covering is product, installation, and maintenance over its useful life. Carpet costs less as a product, less to install, and less to maintain over its useful life.

Understand what you are purchasing. Hardwood comes from trees. It acts just like a tree. It will expand, contract, dent, scratch, change colors, etc. Hardwood is a cellular material. It contains thousands of tiny cells that absorb and transport moisture to help the tree grow. During manufacturing, those cells are dried out to an acceptable level, however they are still there, waiting to absorb and transport moisture. If you purchase solid hardwood, it can be refinished when the protective layer begins to diminish in intensity, and scratches and dents can be sanded away. Engineered hardwood is a base, topped with a core that is usually recycled material, topped with a thin piece of hardwood, topped with a protective layer. Engineered hardwood cannot be refinished. Also, if the maintenance manual for the exact flooring you plan to purchase indicates the hardwood should not be cleaned with water, then think twice about installing it in areas in your home prone to liquid spillages such as a dining room.

If the manufacturer of your hardwood indicates the product should be installed to NOFMA standards, visit the website of NOFMA, click on publications, click on ‘how to’ publications, and download the installation specifications. They are quite involved, but you need to have total knowledge of what you are purchasing and how it must be installed. The answers to all of your questions, including joists, subfloors, underlayments, etc. are addressed in the manual.

Gain all the knowledge about what you plan to purchase before you purchase, so you have a better idea of in what you plan to invest and how to protect that investment.

If you have any other questions, plesae feel free to get back to me.

Cordially,

John Michaels

Questioner’s Rating

Flooring and Carpeting /Hardwood floors, underlayment, moisture barrier

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Expert: John Michaels — 2/16/2009

Question

Hello John,

We live in Hampton Roads Virginia and our ranch home is on a crawl space. We have removed the carpet, padding and particle board underlayment from our dining room, living room and foyer and hallway leading back to bedrooms and hall bath. This hallway has two small closets, which have also been cleared of material down to the subfloor. This is about 500 sq feet of living space. At this point, we have a clean and fairly good subfloor resting on the joists; we do need to put cross supports between joists in a couple high-traffic places. We plan on installing 3/4″ (A/C grade) plywood underlayment, and then 3/4″ pre-finished Bellawood red oak, select grade, 3 1/4″ wide planks. So having given you this background, here are my questions:

- Underlayment — Should we try to keep the plywood underlayment in its 4×8′ whole sheets as much as possible, or do we need to cut it into smaller pieces (one source said 2’x4′ sections)? We know to stagger the underlayment seams so that they do not line up with the subfloor seems. Do we need to attach the 3/4″ underlayment to joists, or can we just nail or screw the underlayment to the plywood subfloor? Should we use screws or a certain trype of nail?

- Moisture — The subfloor had tar paper on it, but we removed that. So now, we need to put a moisture barrier down between the subfloor and 3/4″ underlayment, right? What material should we use? I’ve seen online sites and DIY books recommend tar paper or polyethylene sheeting. Which one is correct? If we put down such a material and we use 3/4″ plywood for the underlayment, do we still need to worry as much about the moisture levels of the plywood subfloor, or moisture coming up from the earth beneath the crawl space? Also, do we need to worry about moisture coming up through the holes in the barrier made by the nails or screws used to fasten the underlayment and hardwood flooring?

- Does the grain of the plywood underlayment need to be perpendicular to the grain of the subfloor and/or perpendicular to the joist? I read this on one of the sites online.

- I’ve read that the hardwood flooring needs to be exposed to the air in the rooms where it’s going to be installed for 2, 4, and 7 days. That is, three separate installers have given three different lengths of time. I would tend to think that 7 days is the minimum. Do you agree? What about the underlayment plywood? Does that need to acclimate before being installed as well? If so, how many days?

- Aesthetically, the hardwood planks would look the best if they ran parallel to the joists. But I’ve read online that you always want to have the planks running perpendicular to the joists. Is this true? Even if we have a 1/2″ subfloor and 3/4″ plywood underlayment?

Thank you John.

Answer

Hi Anne; Bear with me for a minute. Sorry you are not recarpeting. Carpet is one of the healthiest floor coverings one can have. It has a pile that traps, filters, and holds harmful track-in soils, air polutants, allergents, etc. until they are properly vacuumed away, and, on occassion, properly professionally cleaned away. Hard surfaced flooring is non-absorbent, so those harmful soils rest on their surface and become airborne with normal foot traffic and normal home air currents. The human lung then becomes the trap and filter. All floor covering manufacturers and floor covering sundry manufacturers (adhesives, underlaymens, cleaning agents, etc.), are in the throes of producing ‘green’ products, however the carpet industry is the far out leader in that endeavor. Visit the website of The Carpet & Rug Institute, carpet-rug.org., and learn true health information, obtain their list of vacuums, spot cleaning agents, and professional cleaning systems they have tested and certified as being ‘green’, their CARE program which is involved in the total recycling of carpet, and many other important issues.

Now, for your hardwood. BEFORE you purchase anything, please stop listening to others and become knowledgeable. All manufacturers of floor covering publish free installation specifications and free maintenance manuals. Obtain both of those publications from the exact manufacturer of the flooring you choose and thoroughly read them. The installation specifications will detail numerous important things such as acceptable underlayments, proper acclimation time needed before installation, how the acclimation should be done, how the flooring should be handled and installed before, during, and after the installation, the proper temperature and humidity factors that must be in effect before, during, and forever after the installation, the proper perimeter expansion space that must be left around all perimeters of the installation, expansion joints needed for rooms exceeding a certain length, moldings that should not be installed flush and tight with the surface of perimeter boards, etc. Next, read the maintenance manual. It will also detail important things such as proper cleaning agents and techniques, allowable footwear (some wood flooring should not be traversed in high heels), the need for proper furniture leg protectors that should be used and cleaned when they become imbedded with gritty soils and changed when they begin to show signs of wear, the need for proper, absorbent, walk-off mats that should be used, and constantly maintained at all entries to your home, etc.

Remember that the true cost of any floor covering is product, installation, and maintenance over its useful life. Carpet costs less as a product, less to install, and less to maintain over its useful life.

Understand what you are purchasing. Hardwood comes from trees. It acts just like a tree. It will expand, contract, dent, scratch, change colors, etc. Hardwood is a cellular material. It contains thousands of tiny cells that absorb and transport moisture to help the tree grow. During manufacturing, those cells are dried out to an acceptable level, however they are still there, waiting to absorb and transport moisture. If you purchase solid hardwood, it can be refinished when the protective layer begins to diminish in intensity, and scratches and dents can be sanded away. Engineered hardwood is a base, topped with a core that is usually recycled material, topped with a thin piece of hardwood, topped with a protective layer. Engineered hardwood cannot be refinished. Also, if the maintenance manual for the exact flooring you plan to purchase indicates the hardwood should not be cleaned with water, then think twice about installing it in areas in your home prone to liquid spillages such as a dining room.

If the manufacturer of your hardwood indicates the product should be installed to NOFMA standards, visit the website of NOFMA, click on publications, click on ‘how to’ publications, and download the installation specifications. They are quite involved, but you need to have total knowledge of what you are purchasing and how it must be installed. The answers to all of your questions, including joists, subfloors, underlayments, etc. are addressed in the manual.

Gain all the knowledge about what you plan to purchase before you purchase, so you have a better idea of in what you plan to invest and how to protect that investment.

If you have any other questions, plesae feel free to get back to me.

Cordially,

John Michaels

Questioner’s Rating

Flooring and Carpeting /Hardwood floors, underlayment, moisture barrier

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Expert: John Michaels — 2/16/2009

Question

Hello John,

We live in Hampton Roads Virginia and our ranch home is on a crawl space. We have removed the carpet, padding and particle board underlayment from our dining room, living room and foyer and hallway leading back to bedrooms and hall bath. This hallway has two small closets, which have also been cleared of material down to the subfloor. This is about 500 sq feet of living space. At this point, we have a clean and fairly good subfloor resting on the joists; we do need to put cross supports between joists in a couple high-traffic places. We plan on installing 3/4″ (A/C grade) plywood underlayment, and then 3/4″ pre-finished Bellawood red oak, select grade, 3 1/4″ wide planks. So having given you this background, here are my questions:

- Underlayment — Should we try to keep the plywood underlayment in its 4×8′ whole sheets as much as possible, or do we need to cut it into smaller pieces (one source said 2’x4′ sections)? We know to stagger the underlayment seams so that they do not line up with the subfloor seems. Do we need to attach the 3/4″ underlayment to joists, or can we just nail or screw the underlayment to the plywood subfloor? Should we use screws or a certain trype of nail?

- Moisture — The subfloor had tar paper on it, but we removed that. So now, we need to put a moisture barrier down between the subfloor and 3/4″ underlayment, right? What material should we use? I’ve seen online sites and DIY books recommend tar paper or polyethylene sheeting. Which one is correct? If we put down such a material and we use 3/4″ plywood for the underlayment, do we still need to worry as much about the moisture levels of the plywood subfloor, or moisture coming up from the earth beneath the crawl space? Also, do we need to worry about moisture coming up through the holes in the barrier made by the nails or screws used to fasten the underlayment and hardwood flooring?

- Does the grain of the plywood underlayment need to be perpendicular to the grain of the subfloor and/or perpendicular to the joist? I read this on one of the sites online.

- I’ve read that the hardwood flooring needs to be exposed to the air in the rooms where it’s going to be installed for 2, 4, and 7 days. That is, three separate installers have given three different lengths of time. I would tend to think that 7 days is the minimum. Do you agree? What about the underlayment plywood? Does that need to acclimate before being installed as well? If so, how many days?

- Aesthetically, the hardwood planks would look the best if they ran parallel to the joists. But I’ve read online that you always want to have the planks running perpendicular to the joists. Is this true? Even if we have a 1/2″ subfloor and 3/4″ plywood underlayment?

Thank you John.

Answer

Hi Anne; Bear with me for a minute. Sorry you are not recarpeting. Carpet is one of the healthiest floor coverings one can have. It has a pile that traps, filters, and holds harmful track-in soils, air polutants, allergents, etc. until they are properly vacuumed away, and, on occassion, properly professionally cleaned away. Hard surfaced flooring is non-absorbent, so those harmful soils rest on their surface and become airborne with normal foot traffic and normal home air currents. The human lung then becomes the trap and filter. All floor covering manufacturers and floor covering sundry manufacturers (adhesives, underlaymens, cleaning agents, etc.), are in the throes of producing ‘green’ products, however the carpet industry is the far out leader in that endeavor. Visit the website of The Carpet & Rug Institute, carpet-rug.org., and learn true health information, obtain their list of vacuums, spot cleaning agents, and professional cleaning systems they have tested and certified as being ‘green’, their CARE program which is involved in the total recycling of carpet, and many other important issues.

Now, for your hardwood. BEFORE you purchase anything, please stop listening to others and become knowledgeable. All manufacturers of floor covering publish free installation specifications and free maintenance manuals. Obtain both of those publications from the exact manufacturer of the flooring you choose and thoroughly read them. The installation specifications will detail numerous important things such as acceptable underlayments, proper acclimation time needed before installation, how the acclimation should be done, how the flooring should be handled and installed before, during, and after the installation, the proper temperature and humidity factors that must be in effect before, during, and forever after the installation, the proper perimeter expansion space that must be left around all perimeters of the installation, expansion joints needed for rooms exceeding a certain length, moldings that should not be installed flush and tight with the surface of perimeter boards, etc. Next, read the maintenance manual. It will also detail important things such as proper cleaning agents and techniques, allowable footwear (some wood flooring should not be traversed in high heels), the need for proper furniture leg protectors that should be used and cleaned when they become imbedded with gritty soils and changed when they begin to show signs of wear, the need for proper, absorbent, walk-off mats that should be used, and constantly maintained at all entries to your home, etc.

Remember that the true cost of any floor covering is product, installation, and maintenance over its useful life. Carpet costs less as a product, less to install, and less to maintain over its useful life.

Understand what you are purchasing. Hardwood comes from trees. It acts just like a tree. It will expand, contract, dent, scratch, change colors, etc. Hardwood is a cellular material. It contains thousands of tiny cells that absorb and transport moisture to help the tree grow. During manufacturing, those cells are dried out to an acceptable level, however they are still there, waiting to absorb and transport moisture. If you purchase solid hardwood, it can be refinished when the protective layer begins to diminish in intensity, and scratches and dents can be sanded away. Engineered hardwood is a base, topped with a core that is usually recycled material, topped with a thin piece of hardwood, topped with a protective layer. Engineered hardwood cannot be refinished. Also, if the maintenance manual for the exact flooring you plan to purchase indicates the hardwood should not be cleaned with water, then think twice about installing it in areas in your home prone to liquid spillages such as a dining room.

If the manufacturer of your hardwood indicates the product should be installed to NOFMA standards, visit the website of NOFMA, click on publications, click on ‘how to’ publications, and download the installation specifications. They are quite involved, but you need to have total knowledge of what you are purchasing and how it must be installed. The answers to all of your questions, including joists, subfloors, underlayments, etc. are addressed in the manual.

Gain all the knowledge about what you plan to purchase before you purchase, so you have a better idea of in what you plan to invest and how to protect that investment.

If you have any other questions, plesae feel free to get back to me.

Cordially,

John Michaels

Questioner’s Rating

Flooring and Carpeting /Hardwood floors, underlayment, moisture barrier

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Expert: John Michaels — 2/16/2009

Question

Hello John,

We live in Hampton Roads Virginia and our ranch home is on a crawl space. We have removed the carpet, padding and particle board underlayment from our dining room, living room and foyer and hallway leading back to bedrooms and hall bath. This hallway has two small closets, which have also been cleared of material down to the subfloor. This is about 500 sq feet of living space. At this point, we have a clean and fairly good subfloor resting on the joists; we do need to put cross supports between joists in a couple high-traffic places. We plan on installing 3/4″ (A/C grade) plywood underlayment, and then 3/4″ pre-finished Bellawood red oak, select grade, 3 1/4″ wide planks. So having given you this background, here are my questions:

- Underlayment — Should we try to keep the plywood underlayment in its 4×8′ whole sheets as much as possible, or do we need to cut it into smaller pieces (one source said 2’x4′ sections)? We know to stagger the underlayment seams so that they do not line up with the subfloor seems. Do we need to attach the 3/4″ underlayment to joists, or can we just nail or screw the underlayment to the plywood subfloor? Should we use screws or a certain trype of nail?

- Moisture — The subfloor had tar paper on it, but we removed that. So now, we need to put a moisture barrier down between the subfloor and 3/4″ underlayment, right? What material should we use? I’ve seen online sites and DIY books recommend tar paper or polyethylene sheeting. Which one is correct? If we put down such a material and we use 3/4″ plywood for the underlayment, do we still need to worry as much about the moisture levels of the plywood subfloor, or moisture coming up from the earth beneath the crawl space? Also, do we need to worry about moisture coming up through the holes in the barrier made by the nails or screws used to fasten the underlayment and hardwood flooring?

Flooring and Carpeting Hardwood floors, underlayment, moisture barrier, plywood underlayment,

- Does the grain of the plywood underlayment need to be perpendicular to the grain of the subfloor and/or perpendicular to the joist? I read this on one of the sites online.

- I’ve read that the hardwood flooring needs to be exposed to the air in the rooms where it’s going to be installed for 2, 4, and 7 days. That is, three separate installers have given three different lengths of time. I would tend to think that 7 days is the minimum. Do you agree? What about the underlayment plywood? Does that need to acclimate before being installed as well? If so, how many days?

- Aesthetically, the hardwood planks would look the best if they ran parallel to the joists. But I’ve read online that you always want to have the planks running perpendicular to the joists. Is this true? Even if we have a 1/2″ subfloor and 3/4″ plywood underlayment?

Thank you John.

Answer

Hi Anne; Bear with me for a minute. Sorry you are not recarpeting. Carpet is one of the healthiest floor coverings one can have. It has a pile that traps, filters, and holds harmful track-in soils, air polutants, allergents, etc. until they are properly vacuumed away, and, on occassion, properly professionally cleaned away. Hard surfaced flooring is non-absorbent, so those harmful soils rest on their surface and become airborne with normal foot traffic and normal home air currents. The human lung then becomes the trap and filter. All floor covering manufacturers and floor covering sundry manufacturers (adhesives, underlaymens, cleaning agents, etc.), are in the throes of producing ‘green’ products, however the carpet industry is the far out leader in that endeavor. Visit the website of The Carpet & Rug Institute, carpet-rug.org., and learn true health information, obtain their list of vacuums, spot cleaning agents, and professional cleaning systems they have tested and certified as being ‘green’, their CARE program which is involved in the total recycling of carpet, and many other important issues.

Now, for your hardwood. BEFORE you purchase anything, please stop listening to others and become knowledgeable. All manufacturers of floor covering publish free installation specifications and free maintenance manuals. Obtain both of those publications from the exact manufacturer of the flooring you choose and thoroughly read them. The installation specifications will detail numerous important things such as acceptable underlayments, proper acclimation time needed before installation, how the acclimation should be done, how the flooring should be handled and installed before, during, and after the installation, the proper temperature and humidity factors that must be in effect before, during, and forever after the installation, the proper perimeter expansion space that must be left around all perimeters of the installation, expansion joints needed for rooms exceeding a certain length, moldings that should not be installed flush and tight with the surface of perimeter boards, etc. Next, read the maintenance manual. It will also detail important things such as proper cleaning agents and techniques, allowable footwear (some wood flooring should not be traversed in high heels), the need for proper furniture leg protectors that should be used and cleaned when they become imbedded with gritty soils and changed when they begin to show signs of wear, the need for proper, absorbent, walk-off mats that should be used, and constantly maintained at all entries to your home, etc.

Remember that the true cost of any floor covering is product, installation, and maintenance over its useful life. Carpet costs less as a product, less to install, and less to maintain over its useful life.

Understand what you are purchasing. Hardwood comes from trees. It acts just like a tree. It will expand, contract, dent, scratch, change colors, etc. Hardwood is a cellular material. It contains thousands of tiny cells that absorb and transport moisture to help the tree grow. During manufacturing, those cells are dried out to an acceptable level, however they are still there, waiting to absorb and transport moisture. If you purchase solid hardwood, it can be refinished when the protective layer begins to diminish in intensity, and scratches and dents can be sanded away. Engineered hardwood is a base, topped with a core that is usually recycled material, topped with a thin piece of hardwood, topped with a protective layer. Engineered hardwood cannot be refinished. Also, if the maintenance manual for the exact flooring you plan to purchase indicates the hardwood should not be cleaned with water, then think twice about installing it in areas in your home prone to liquid spillages such as a dining room.

If the manufacturer of your hardwood indicates the product should be installed to NOFMA standards, visit the website of NOFMA, click on publications, click on ‘how to’ publications, and download the installation specifications. They are quite involved, but you need to have total knowledge of what you are purchasing and how it must be installed. The answers to all of your questions, including joists, subfloors, underlayments, etc. are addressed in the manual.

Gain all the knowledge about what you plan to purchase before you purchase, so you have a better idea of in what you plan to invest and how to protect that investment.

If you have any other questions, plesae feel free to get back to me.

Cordially,

John Michaels

Questioner’s Rating

Flooring and Carpeting /Hardwood floors, underlayment, moisture barrier

Advertisement

Expert: John Michaels — 2/16/2009

Question

Hello John,

We live in Hampton Roads Virginia and our ranch home is on a crawl space. We have removed the carpet, padding and particle board underlayment from our dining room, living room and foyer and hallway leading back to bedrooms and hall bath. This hallway has two small closets, which have also been cleared of material down to the subfloor. This is about 500 sq feet of living space. At this point, we have a clean and fairly good subfloor resting on the joists; we do need to put cross supports between joists in a couple high-traffic places. We plan on installing 3/4″ (A/C grade) plywood underlayment, and then 3/4″ pre-finished Bellawood red oak, select grade, 3 1/4″ wide planks. So having given you this background, here are my questions:

- Underlayment — Should we try to keep the plywood underlayment in its 4×8′ whole sheets as much as possible, or do we need to cut it into smaller pieces (one source said 2’x4′ sections)? We know to stagger the underlayment seams so that they do not line up with the subfloor seems. Do we need to attach the 3/4″ underlayment to joists, or can we just nail or screw the underlayment to the plywood subfloor? Should we use screws or a certain trype of nail?

- Moisture — The subfloor had tar paper on it, but we removed that. So now, we need to put a moisture barrier down between the subfloor and 3/4″ underlayment, right? What material should we use? I’ve seen online sites and DIY books recommend tar paper or polyethylene sheeting. Which one is correct? If we put down such a material and we use 3/4″ plywood for the underlayment, do we still need to worry as much about the moisture levels of the plywood subfloor, or moisture coming up from the earth beneath the crawl space? Also, do we need to worry about moisture coming up through the holes in the barrier made by the nails or screws used to fasten the underlayment and hardwood flooring?

- Does the grain of the plywood underlayment need to be perpendicular to the grain of the subfloor and/or perpendicular to the joist? I read this on one of the sites online.

- I’ve read that the hardwood flooring needs to be exposed to the air in the rooms where it’s going to be installed for 2, 4, and 7 days. That is, three separate installers have given three different lengths of time. I would tend to think that 7 days is the minimum. Do you agree? What about the underlayment plywood? Does that need to acclimate before being installed as well? If so, how many days?

- Aesthetically, the hardwood planks would look the best if they ran parallel to the joists. But I’ve read online that you always want to have the planks running perpendicular to the joists. Is this true? Even if we have a 1/2″ subfloor and 3/4″ plywood underlayment?

Thank you John.

Answer

Hi Anne; Bear with me for a minute. Sorry you are not recarpeting. Carpet is one of the healthiest floor coverings one can have. It has a pile that traps, filters, and holds harmful track-in soils, air polutants, allergents, etc. until they are properly vacuumed away, and, on occassion, properly professionally cleaned away. Hard surfaced flooring is non-absorbent, so those harmful soils rest on their surface and become airborne with normal foot traffic and normal home air currents. The human lung then becomes the trap and filter. All floor covering manufacturers and floor covering sundry manufacturers (adhesives, underlaymens, cleaning agents, etc.), are in the throes of producing ‘green’ products, however the carpet industry is the far out leader in that endeavor. Visit the website of The Carpet & Rug Institute, carpet-rug.org., and learn true health information, obtain their list of vacuums, spot cleaning agents, and professional cleaning systems they have tested and certified as being ‘green’, their CARE program which is involved in the total recycling of carpet, and many other important issues.

Now, for your hardwood. BEFORE you purchase anything, please stop listening to others and become knowledgeable. All manufacturers of floor covering publish free installation specifications and free maintenance manuals. Obtain both of those publications from the exact manufacturer of the flooring you choose and thoroughly read them. The installation specifications will detail numerous important things such as acceptable underlayments, proper acclimation time needed before installation, how the acclimation should be done, how the flooring should be handled and installed before, during, and after the installation, the proper temperature and humidity factors that must be in effect before, during, and forever after the installation, the proper perimeter expansion space that must be left around all perimeters of the installation, expansion joints needed for rooms exceeding a certain length, moldings that should not be installed flush and tight with the surface of perimeter boards, etc. Next, read the maintenance manual. It will also detail important things such as proper cleaning agents and techniques, allowable footwear (some wood flooring should not be traversed in high heels), the need for proper furniture leg protectors that should be used and cleaned when they become imbedded with gritty soils and changed when they begin to show signs of wear, the need for proper, absorbent, walk-off mats that should be used, and constantly maintained at all entries to your home, etc.

Remember that the true cost of any floor covering is product, installation, and maintenance over its useful life. Carpet costs less as a product, less to install, and less to maintain over its useful life.

Understand what you are purchasing. Hardwood comes from trees. It acts just like a tree. It will expand, contract, dent, scratch, change colors, etc. Hardwood is a cellular material. It contains thousands of tiny cells that absorb and transport moisture to help the tree grow. During manufacturing, those cells are dried out to an acceptable level, however they are still there, waiting to absorb and transport moisture. If you purchase solid hardwood, it can be refinished when the protective layer begins to diminish in intensity, and scratches and dents can be sanded away. Engineered hardwood is a base, topped with a core that is usually recycled material, topped with a thin piece of hardwood, topped with a protective layer. Engineered hardwood cannot be refinished. Also, if the maintenance manual for the exact flooring you plan to purchase indicates the hardwood should not be cleaned with water, then think twice about installing it in areas in your home prone to liquid spillages such as a dining room.

If the manufacturer of your hardwood indicates the product should be installed to NOFMA standards, visit the website of NOFMA, click on publications, click on ‘how to’ publications, and download the installation specifications. They are quite involved, but you need to have total knowledge of what you are purchasing and how it must be installed. The answers to all of your questions, including joists, subfloors, underlayments, etc. are addressed in the manual.

Gain all the knowledge about what you plan to purchase before you purchase, so you have a better idea of in what you plan to invest and how to protect that investment.

If you have any other questions, plesae feel free to get back to me.

Cordially,

John Michaels

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