It is essential to prepare the floor surface before laying the new floor. A spirit level is essential for determining the slope of the floor.
Use a cleaner to remove any polish or staining from the surface of the wood. Repair noisy boards and remove any nails or tacks and counter screw any screws (see Stopping creaking floorboards). Gaps between floorboards can be filled with splints.
If the flooring is uneven and there are quite a few gaps to plug, it is probably more expedient to cover the area with plywood, floor-grade chipboard or floor quality hardwood sheets. If quarry or ceramic tiles are going to be laid, cover the floorboards with a water resistant, 12mm (9/16 inches) thick resin-bonded plywood. Check that the underfloor ventilation is adequate as the finished floor will be virtually airtight. Another useful tip is to mark the floorboards with a pen showing the layout of any pipes or electric cables underneath. Make sure that you will not need to access any pipes or cables being covered. Hardboard, rough side up, covering the layout should be marked in a similar fashion. Secure by nailing or screwing into position, avoiding pipes or cable locations. If more than one sheet is required, stagger their position to avoid continuous joining seams. This will help in stopping tiles moving out of position if there is any floor movement.
A hard-wearing, latex-based or acrylic-based compound is suitable for levelling a timber floor as it is slightly flexible. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations before applying to vinyl tiles. If floor is covered in cork it is absorbent and will need priming first. Start in a corner of the room furthest from the door and trowel outwards to an even thickness. Keep the level horizontally even, but it is unnecessary trying to smooth over any marks from the surface, as the compound will seek its own level. Continue across the room until the entire floor is covered. Although it is safe to walk on the surface after an hour or so, the covering should wait for a few days to allow the compound to harden.
Covering a flat floor with 3mm hardboard is an alternative for wood block flooring or parquet floors. Check the boards for movement by walking over them. Pack underneath if levelling is required in places, especially at the seams. Using nails to penetrate the hardboard completely and the floorboards partially (to avoid penetrating any pipes or cables below), nail the boards every 10cm apart across the whole flooring. To complete the base, seal the floor using two coats of either oil based or water based primer.
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