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Thread: Hard wood floors for a condo

  1. #1
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    Default Hard wood floors for a condo

    My MIL just bought a condo, and has decided that she wants hard wood floors put into the two bedrooms. OK, so the carpet had been ripped out, and a friend of mine who does interior designs said he would hook me up with someone to do the work.

    Well, I don't know a whole lot about laying floors, but I do know a bit, and you can't just lay hardwood directly onto concrete.

    Here is where the questions come in. I wan't to know a bit about what needs to be done so that I can sus if the person recommended to me is up to the task or not.

    I know that you will need to lay down something to nail the hardwood into. I assume its plywood?? Would you need to stick it to the concrete with some sort of industrial adhesive? As this is a condo, I don't think you can use a concrete nail or tapcon.

    I don't want to hire someone who doesn't know what they are doing, but not knowing myself makes it a little harder. Any help is appreciated.


    Matt.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    From my experience, your instincts are pretty good so far.

    I've worked on crews that have laid hardwood on concrete floors, and the first thing we did was put down a plywood subfloor so that we had something to nail the hardwood into. To do that, we first put down plastic vapour barrier so that the plywood wasn't directly on the concrete, and then laid the plywood down (it was T&G) and then tapcon'd it into place. After that, it was just business as usual, a regular hardwood floor install.

    Now, you say you are not sure you could use tapcons in a condo, why? I don't have any experience with a condo, but it seems odd to me that they would prevent normal construction practices as part of a normal job. It's not like you'd be ruining the concrete. I'd suggest you inquire of the condo board (or whoever runs the place) because, though I have no personal experience, I'm not sure glue alone (even an industrial one, like PL) would be enough. To be honest, if it were my place, I'd want to glue and tapcon the subfloor. I could be wrong, but I don't think I'd trust glue on its own though.

    Also, in my hazy memory, I seem to remember some TV show once where they glued the hardwood directly to the concrete, but I have no experience doing that, have never seen it done personally, and it doesn't strike me as a good way to do it.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    Your other options are a floating floor such as laminate (not "real" hardwood, I understand) or to use an engineered hardwood floor. My brother did that in his basement, looks great. Engineered has a real hardwood top of some thickness (1/8" or so) but it has a plywood-like base.
    It's not about you.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    Quote Originally Posted by matt.mackinnon View Post
    My MIL just bought a condo, and has decided that she wants hard wood floors put into the two bedrooms. OK, so the carpet had been ripped out, and a friend of mine who does interior designs said he would hook me up with someone to do the work.

    Well, I don't know a whole lot about laying floors, but I do know a bit, and you can't just lay hardwood directly onto concrete.

    Here is where the questions come in. I wan't to know a bit about what needs to be done so that I can sus if the person recommended to me is up to the task or not.

    I know that you will need to lay down something to nail the hardwood into. I assume its plywood?? Would you need to stick it to the concrete with some sort of industrial adhesive? As this is a condo, I don't think you can use a concrete nail or tapcon.

    I don't want to hire someone who doesn't know what they are doing, but not knowing myself makes it a little harder. Any help is appreciated.


    Matt.
    Be very careful with this one. I redid a condo downtown quite a few years ago and a sound deadening membrane was a condition of laying any hard surface floor above another condo. Also they did not use hardwood per say but engineered flooring so it could float.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    As mentioned engineered hardwood or laminate. If you put real hardwood over concrete you are going to have issues.

    scott

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    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    Quote Originally Posted by ArtMulder View Post
    Your other options are a floating floor such as laminate (not "real" hardwood, I understand) or to use an engineered hardwood floor. My brother did that in his basement, looks great. Engineered has a real hardwood top of some thickness (1/8" or so) but it has a plywood-like base.
    The problem I have with either of those options, however, is the veneer thickness. That's a problem with laminate more than engineered hardwood, but something to watch for all the same. I put down some engineered hardwood with a guy a couple years ago, the customer had picked the product and we were just hired to install. The guy I was working with was a real craftsman, and objected to the customer that the veneer on the engineered wood she had bought was simply too thin - and true enough, that stuff was 1/16th at maximum, I promise you. He told the customer that such a thin veneer wouldn't be able to stand up to the traffic, and in a short time would be full of ugly nicks and dents. The customer didn't heed his warning though, and insisted that we install it anyway. Two years later that same customer called me up to have me refinish some 100 year old maple in another part of the same house. While there, I asked how the engineered floor had held up, and she replied how disappointed she was with it! How after just a couple months it was full of ugly nicks and dents! She showed it to me, and sure enough, it looked terrible! And with that thin veneer, there'd be no option to refinish it either!

    Bottom line there, if you go with engineered, make sure the top veneer is super good and thick.

    Typical laminates are even worse for this. The cheaper ones, the $0.99 p/sq.ft. ones at BORG, often don't even have a wood veneer, but have some sort of vinyl "wood finish" sticker instead. I've seen that stuff start to peel up after the first time it gets wet!

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    Bottom line is you get what you pay for in most situations. I find alot of people go for the best price they can find, thinking, well the "look" the same.

    This is where alot of products get a bad name people putting down laminate or engineered hardwood because of bad experiences. I would bet all of these could be tied to either poor (cheap) product selection, or products used in improper areas (ie high mosture, areas prone to damage etc).

    Installation also can make or break a product. Anyone can install these products, not everyone can install them properly. They might look ok, but not last.

    That being said, I have had great luck with the cheap laminate in my rental properties, and I actually have it in my kids rooms as well (until we install hardwood when they are older.)

    Laminate floors will always provide your hardest surface. But if damaged, there is no wear layer... it is scrap.

    scott

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    Quote Originally Posted by matt.mackinnon View Post
    My MIL just bought a condo, and has decided that she wants hard wood floors put into the two bedrooms. OK, so the carpet had been ripped out, and a friend of mine who does interior designs said he would hook me up with someone to do the work.

    Well, I don't know a whole lot about laying floors, but I do know a bit, and you can't just lay hardwood directly onto concrete.

    Here is where the questions come in. I wan't to know a bit about what needs to be done so that I can sus if the person recommended to me is up to the task or not.

    I know that you will need to lay down something to nail the hardwood into. I assume its plywood?? Would you need to stick it to the concrete with some sort of industrial adhesive? As this is a condo, I don't think you can use a concrete nail or tapcon.

    I don't want to hire someone who doesn't know what they are doing, but not knowing myself makes it a little harder. Any help is appreciated.


    Matt.

    Not all laminate and Engineered floor is equal as others have pointed out -- nor is underlay... and no -- you won't be nailing -- just floating.

    I won't repeat their advice -- just a caution about the underlay.

    The last Laminate floor we did, we bought underlay which was almost as expensive as the flooring -- it was very tough, flat dense black foam -- which does indeed deaden the noise.
    ---
    Will

    “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” —- Mark Twain

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    Great point Will, was the underlay like a felt? I used something similar with a cork floor install I did in a basement. It was amazing stuff. The floor is incredibly warm even in the winter.

    As you said, underlay is everything and they spent a fortune on it for this job.

    Even with carpet, you can buy a cheap carpet and VERY good underpad and it will outlast a GREAT carpet with cheap underpad.

    scott

  10. #10
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    Default Avoid the middle

    Let your MIL ask the Manager for a reference. The biggest problem is concrete is not flat. I have never seen a building where you can't screw down the subfloor. If you do put down a 1/2" subfloor with a 3/4" hardwood you end up with a tripping hazard at the door. Good quality engineered hardwood flooring would be my choice.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    Quote Originally Posted by scott_w View Post
    Great point Will, was the underlay like a felt? I used something similar with a cork floor install I did in a basement. It was amazing stuff. The floor is incredibly warm even in the winter.

    As you said, underlay is everything and they spent a fortune on it for this job.

    Even with carpet, you can buy a cheap carpet and VERY good underpad and it will outlast a GREAT carpet with cheap underpad.

    scott

    It was definitely a foam in feel and appearance. Felt is usually used for certain types of carpet (Berber).


    I should also mention -- since you raised the issue of carpet...

    A neighbour installs flooring -- carpet only thank you... his opinin is that the hardwood/engineered/laminate flooring installers are simply compliant generation mechanisms...
    ---
    Will

    “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” —- Mark Twain

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    Will, the underlay I used was almost like a carpet, with a vb on one side. It is similar to this:

    http://www.topclasscarpentry.com/product/13572/

    scott

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    Right now she has some light coloured oak hardwood in the hallways and living room.

    As for the tripping hazzard.. YEP!

    the front entrance has tile that is layed directly ontop of the concrete. Then the hallway has a 7/8" bump where the hardwood starts. They didn't do a very good job of any transition pieces to go from the tile to hardwood.

    I am planning on taking some 1" oak board and biscuit jointing it to the hardwood edge with a bead of adhesive over the tile. I was cutting the board to 2 1/2" and putting a 35deg bevel to transition from the lower tile to the existing hardwood.

    The carpet in both the bedrooms has been ripped out. So the job is to put down some hardwood to match the level of what is installed already.

    I can see that they put down what looks like pylwood to nail the oak hardwood to. I can't see any vapour barrier or felt paper under the ply. I see from the instruction on this site that they call for vapour barrier or the likes. Also, I am not sure if the building manager/condo board would like me using a power nailer to secure the plywood to the concrete slab. I don't think that there is any issue with moisture as we are on the 3rd floor, so unless it's coming though the side walls the floor will stay dry.

    I am not sure how to recess a tapcon screw to flush to put hardwood over top of it.

    I am not going with laminate or artificial wood. There is real oak hardwood there right now, and I am planning on putting just more in.


    Does it sound like I am getting in over my head and should hire a pro floor installer?? It's not my money that is being spent. I just want it done correctly.

    Matt.

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    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    I like the engineered hardwood, myself. I've installed them with the tongue and groove joint, where I had to put a bead of glue in every groove and then use blue painters tape to hold them together till dry. It makes a great floating floor. the face was 1/8" hardwood veneer, and the rest was about 5/16" plywood. Made a great floating floor. Laid it right on top of the foam underlayment. I see now that they are selling engineered floors with the veneer face and the interlocking masonite backing, similar to the laminates. Thats a whole lot easier and still has a great look.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    lay down a product called "dri-cor", it comes in 24"square panels.
    it just sits on the concrete and it comes with shims to correct any leveling problems from the concrete floor being out.
    the hardwood is stapled to it.
    works great.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    Never put a vapour barrier over concrete , why ? moisture will build up between the vapour barrier & cement ,then turn to mold .
    just use 1" ridget foam over the cement.

    my 2 cents .

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    Quote Originally Posted by matt.mackinnon View Post

    I am not sure how to recess a tapcon screw to flush to put hardwood over top of it.

    Matt.

    You can get tapcons with a bevel shaped head, just like a wood screw. Just drive it in until the head has sucked below the surface of the ply.

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    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    Quote Originally Posted by callee View Post
    You can get tapcons with a bevel shaped head, just like a wood screw. Just drive it in until the head has sucked below the surface of the ply.
    That is what I needed to hear..

    I have finally got the clearance from the building super. just need to get the MOL to make up her mind as to the colour of the wood. I am not sure if it will be easy to match the 6year old stuff that is in there right now.

    Will it look funny having different colours hardwood between the bedrooms and the main hall/living room?

    Matt.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    Quote Originally Posted by matt.mackinnon View Post
    That is what I needed to hear..

    I have finally got the clearance from the building super. just need to get the MOL to make up her mind as to the colour of the wood. I am not sure if it will be easy to match the 6year old stuff that is in there right now.

    Will it look funny having different colours hardwood between the bedrooms and the main hall/living room?

    Matt.
    You will drive the other tenants nuts with the hammer drill putting in tap cons. IF you are still going this route (which I wouldn't over concrete) I would use the powder actuated gun (a good one, not a cheapy) get it done fast, less bother to tenants (time wise). It will cut your time down drastically.

    I worked in a highrise condo removing tile once. I had the approval to use my small demo/chipping hammer (electric). Quoted the job this way. Tenants complained about too much noise and the super wanted me to do it by hand. I told him it is either another hour with this, or a good 8-10hrs of constant banging with hammers and chisels. He said just getter done and he would deal with the tenants.

    Condo's are a real pain... complaint wise, just keep that in mind.

    As for colour, it all fades generally. I would get it as close as possible. If in doubt, lay unfinished and have someone come in to match it.

    scott

  20. #20

    Default Re: Hard wood floors for a condo

    I supervised the construction of a design studio complete with installation of engineered hardwood on a concrete subfloor about a year and a half ago. The material was engineered hardwood strip from Satin Finish.
    three kinds of material birch, maple and oak. It went down easily and still looks great. It was glued down with a brown adhesive from Sika, using a notched trowel.
    Before the hardwood was installed the concrete floor was levelled by tilesetters that were doing some stone floor in another area of the studio. They used a thinset mortar, long straight edges and a laser level, definately not a job for diy.

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