This is How to Install Hardwood Floors Over Concrete

When you install hardwood floors, concrete is one of the best bases to work from — there are only a few steps to take. Follow these steps with care to safely complete the installation yourself. Whether you’re planning on renting out your home or looking to increase its value, using concrete as a base is a great idea.

To get you started we put together this do-it-yourself guide. Follow these steps with care to safely complete the installation yourself.

1. Remove Anything Standing Between You and the Concrete

While pulling up carpet, laminate, or any other flooring is the obvious first step, existing flooring isn’t the only thing that needs to be removed before you can install hardwood floors. Your baseboards will need to be taken out, as well, to ensure the new flooring has no gaps around the edges of the walls. If you’re careful while removing the baseboards, you should be able to reuse them. You can even spruce them up by sanding any paint off or staining them the same color as the new floor.

Look to see if your concrete has paint or not. If it is, the varnish may prevent the adhesive from working correctly. Don’t worry, though. You can rent a concrete grinder from most big-box home improvement stores. You can even call around your local tool rental shops or hardware stores to see if they offer concrete grinder rentals.

Strip Existing Glue, Finish, or Paint from Concrete Before Installing Hardwood Floors

Once you have the hardware you need, carefully grind the pain, glue, or finish from the concrete. You’ll want to wear protective gear, like goggles and a mask, while you do this. You don’t want to inhale any concrete dust or get some in your eyes. Make sure you remove all the paint and sweep up any dirt or debris that might be left behind.

2. Protect Your Floor From Moisture

Moisture and moisture vapor is your hardwood’s natural enemy. To combat these villains, you’ll need to apply a moisture barrier to the floor before the flooring can be laid out. You will need a barrier that is appropriate for the flooring you choose:

  • Floating Floors – Typically, these moisture barriers are made from plastic.
  • Nailed Floors – You will need a moisture barrier that protects the subfloor as well as the flooring.
  • Glued Floors – A heavy coat of moisture barrier will be required since the flooring is glued directly to the subfloor.

Before you begin, open any doors or windows in the room to provide proper ventilation. You will not likely want to inhale the fumes from your moisture barrier because it is likely to contain chemicals that are harmful to your lungs. As a precaution, it’s a good idea to wear a mask. If you are using plastic sheets, this step isn’t crucial.

Next, start at the side of the room opposite the door, and follow any and all instructions on the barrier’s packaging. Once the barrier is applied, you do not want to step on it. If you do, there’s a chance you’ll have to start over, so take care to move your materials with you as you work your way out the door.

Finally, let the moisture barrier set for 24 hours. This should be plenty, but before you take a chance and step back in the room, lightly touch the floor – if it’s still tacky to the touch, it has not set all the way and will need to be left alone a little longer. Some areas are more humid than others and will require more time to dry. In this case, check back every four hours or so.

3. Lay out the Flooring Materials

It’s time to start laying down your floorboards. Depending on the type of flooring you chose, your method for completing the next part will be different. Do this in one of two ways:

Method #1: Lay out the Materials for Floating Floorboards:

If you will use floating floorboards, you don’t need to worry about using an adhesive (If you’re unfamiliar with floating floorboards, they’re the boards that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle). The edges of each board click into place with the boards around it, creating a solid floor.

After you’ve measured the room and made sure you have the correct amount of flooring, the installation can commence. You can lay down a foam layer as you go, but you don’t have to. The foam will help if you want a cushion between the boards and the concrete, which can help muffle sound and create a more pleasant walking experience, depending on your preference.

Method #2: Lay out the Materials for Conventional Floorboards:

If you decided to use any boards that don’t click together, you need to apply adhesive while you place the boards. Just like when you apply the moisture barrier, start at the back of the room and work towards the door. Don’t administer all the adhesive at once. Instead, work in small sections. Let the adhesive dry for 24 hours after you install the flooring.

No matter the type of hardwood you’re using, be sure to cut the boards as you work. Don’t measure the room and assume how many boards need to cut, or you’ll likely run into trouble. You will also want to leave a small half-inch gap between the flooring and wall. Wood doesn’t stay one size, and you want to make sure it has room to expand.

4. Finally, Add the Finishing Touches

Now it’s time to finish up. Reinstall your baseboards and trim, then clean up the room. Be sure to take a moment to admire your work. There’s nothing like a job well done!

This post was originally published December 15, 2017. It has been updated for clarity.