Floating is the answer for uneven subfloors

READING Sid Bourne’s article in CFJ (May 2011) (‘Use Glue and you won't come unstuck’) made me wonder if Sid had been ever so fortunate to always encounter perfectly sound concrete subfloor to glue onto.

In new-builds perhaps - if you’re lucky. But nowadays it is common to find subfloor surfaces that are covered by builders with moist-repellent chipboard onto which none of the modern adhesives will bond.

I don’t mean a perfectly level concrete surface; that on its own would be a miracle. How often has Sid encountered concrete floors where dips in the surface have been ‘latexed’ over by the builder or renovator?
If there’s something more important than a level and dry surface, it is the bonding between screed and concrete. Wooden floors (be they solid or wood- engineered and even five-finger mosaic floors) fully bonded to a failing screed floor will just rip out the latex. And who gets the blame for this? Right, the last one in: The floor installer!

Perhaps Sid could invite builders to the BWFA's training centre to learn how to leave behind a concrete/screed floor suitable for the next trade?

So what do our European cousins do when they arrive in a property that has a concrete floor? (I’m not really sure here which of Sid's European cousins are amazed by floating a wood-engineered floor, in the UK). In the Netherlands, with its own renowned training institute, engineered flooring is more often than not installed floating when there is no UFH system in concrete floors.

It could be that Sid only works in new- builds where the concrete floor has not been covered before. What about floor installers working on renovations who frequently encounter the old favourite bonding stuff – bitumen? Again, builders see no reason not to simply latex over the bitumen to present the floor fitter with a level surface.

Does Sid want to make the floor fitter responsible for everything that has happened to the subfloor? Then how about training floor fitters to install the pipes for central heating systems in concrete floors, just to be on the safe side?

He’s right on one point: You can’t beat real life experiences. Our experience, as retailers and installers of wood-engineered and design parquet floors both in The Netherlands and the UK seems to be quite different. Improve the condition of the subfloor faced by installers. As soon as the subfloors in the UK start to resemble the quality of subfloors encountered by our European cousins we are willing to reconsider the question of whether to glue.

Until then, the safest bet here in the UK is to install a wood-engineered floor floating, using the correct method and products.