Installing Wood Floors Over Old Tile

There’s something about wood flooring, isn’t there? The warmth, the depth–it adds a classic touch that you really just can’t find with many other types of flooring.

When we moved in, the flooring consisted of a combo of scratched laminate and this delish looking carpet:

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It had to go. Underneath, was light colored tile. The tile itself was in pretty fair shape, and I didn’t mind it all that much. I may have considered keeping it. The problem was, though, that I knew we’d be removing the formal entry way and closet to open up the living room, as well as reworking the kitchen. Because I didn’t have any tile to match the existing stuff and it would have been nearly impossible to fix it all correctly even if I did, it was clear I needed an alternative.

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old tile

I love the wood flooring we put into our home in Colorado. The skinny long planks added a classy, traditional look that went with any furniture and any style.

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Since I liked this rich look so much, I wanted to try to duplicate it in our new house.

But wood flooring ain’t cheap. I did a lot of research, and ended up taking a risk and ordering online. We ordered CABIN GRADE engineered wood flooring. The online store was running a sale, so we scored ours for 99 cents/sq foot.

What the heck is cabin grade, you ask? Good question. And I’ll tell you. Cabin Grade flooring is essentially the reject pieces. They’re the pieces that, for any reason, may not be completely up to snuff to qualify as perfect product. The wood is still completely usable, but it may have a weird mark that’s from the wood grain, or the color may be slightly different, or it may have a pattern that’s off from the rest. It is suggested that you order 20% more than necessary if you order cabin grade flooring, in case there are some pieces that aren’t salvageable or you just plain don’t like. If you’re into perfect, consistent wood flooring pieces, cabin grade ain’t for you. BUT, if you think imperfect is perfect and the natural birthmarks of wood are cool and add character, it’s most definitely the way to go. Overall, I’m so happy with ours.

Here are some of the cool attributes of our cabin grade wood floors

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See the unique markings?

We did have to throw away 10-15 pieces that had a messed up tongue or groove, but no excessive waste.

Next step was to install. I was very intimidated by this and considered trying to come up with the money to hire someone. But that $1000+ price tag gave us the determination to get it done ourselves.

Here are the tools you’ll need (with links to where we got ours):

Wood or Engineered Wood Flooring

Tapping Block

Flooring Wedges

Rubber Mallet

Painter’s Tape  (this is my favorite painter’s tape for any project)

Tongue & Groove Glue

Pull Bar (or a crow bar)

Flooring Underlayment (buying a quality underlayment will make a big difference in your final product)

Duct Tape

Scissors

Wet rag or paper towels

Table Saw

Miter Saw

We started our project in the kitchen. We cut the underlayment around the cabinets, laid it down and taped it to the floor with duct tape. We taped the pieces together with duct tape, too.

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Next came the floors. Since we wanted the flooring to run under the toe kicks of the cabinets, and the floor would be floating  (not glued down) there was essentially nothing for the wood to butt up against in the beginning.

This is the first important step. When you lay your first bit of flooring, install 2 rows, then let them dry completely. This will save you a lot of frustration. Otherwise, your glue isn’t set so your seams start to come undone when you hammer in the next row.

We worked row by row. We glued along the groove of the piece we were installing as well as the tongue on the piece in the previous row. Don’t skimp on the gluing.  The tapping block slides against the piece you’re installing. The rubber mallet is used to hammer the groove into the tongue of the previous row.

Every 6″, lay painter’s tape across. This will help your seams stay together and your glue dry quickly.

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The glue does seep out around the edges, so you’ll need to quickly wipe up the extra with a damp rag or paper towels.

We used a miter saw to chop the pieces we needed to finish out a row, and the table saw to rip down long pieces along walls.

Use your spaces in between the wall and the wood on each wall. This will help your floor to be able to move as people walk on it. You won’t feel the movement, but since the wood is glued together and not down to the floor, it needs to be able to wiggle slightly so nothing buckles or comes apart.

Avoid walking on the floors for 24 hours (if possible). You can remove the tape after 12-24 hours.

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If your seams aren’t perfect, that’s okay. You want to work to get them as tight and close as possible. Some of our boards were slightly warped, which made it impossible to get them perfect.

Because we chose 3″ wide boards, this project was extremely time consuming and required a lot of physical effort. Work in parts and take breaks or stop when you get tired. Pushing through usually makes for sloppy work. Better to break and come back to it later.

In the end, the flooring went over the tile beautifully, and I love the warm result.

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Have you installed floating floors before? What advice would you give DIYers would there?

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