Seek expert advice from a skilled and experienced flooring fitter, ideally one that has been recommended by word of mouth. Always observe all health and safety recommendations of the manufacturers of power tools, hand tools, adhesives, finishes and cleaners.
Ensure that the conditions of the area to be installed are in the long term are appropriate to the use of a wooden floor. Check and record moisture levels on site prior to installation. If moisture levels are too high (see wood fitting instructions) then do not proceed, time must be allowed for the site to dry to levels suitable for wood flooring. Your flooring fitter will probably have the appropriate moisture measuring equipment but if not, they can be hired from a number of tool hire centres.
Do not use a solid wood floor board with under-floor heating. If you use an engineered wood flooring product with under-floor heating, then ensure that the heating is of the water-pipe variety and that it is not run above 27 degrees Centigrade. Even with an engineered floor used with underfloor heating you may experience some movement of the floor and slight splitting of the face, particularly with thick (4mm+) wear layers and with wide wear layers (130mm+).
Consider the most appropriate fixing method, given your choice and given your sub-floor. If the sub-floor is concrete ensure that it is dry, sound, flat and level prior to installation of flooring.
Use the right liquid damp proof membrane or underlays where appropriate. Use vapour barriers on all ground floor and lower ground floor installations. Ensure that the seam joints of vapour barriers are overlapped by at least 200mm and taped appropriately. Also ensure that vapour barriers continue up the walls behind skirting boards. If a vapour barrier is used in conjunction with plywood then lay the vapour barrier beneath the ply rather than above it.
Discuss with your fitter the direction in which the boards are to be laid – if the boards are going over joists then the direction will be dictated at right angles to the joists; however, if 18mm or thicker plywood is going over the joists or if the boards are going on to a solid sub floor then the direction is your choice. Also, if the boards are being laid over an existing wood floor (flat and sound) then again, they will need to be laid at right angles to the existing floor.
Once site conditions and the type of wood floor boards have been approved, the flooring should be allowed to acclimatise in the room in which it is to be fitted, a period of between two and seven days should be allowed for this to take place.
Ensure appropriate expansion gaps are provided and that where large aggregate widths of flooring are laid that flooring “breaks” are provided. Such gaps will depend on factors such as whether the flooring is solid or engineered – your fitter will advise on this.
When the flooring is being laid, use a good mix of lengths from several different packs to avoid clusters of long or short lengths and ensure that length joints are staggered by at least 150mm in adjacent rows. Using pieces from several boxes together will also provide a more random spread of colour, grain variation, knots and other characteristics throughout the floor.
Consider the use of a “mat well” if entry to the room is directly from outside. Soil, grit, sand and other abrasives will quickly damage any wooden floor, so care for your floor like a piece of furniture and apply common sense in its use. Walking on dirty floors is akin to abusing it with sandpaper.
Apply felt pads to the feet of furniture prior to it being placed on the wood floor. Alternatively, for the feet of large pieces of furniture you could consider castor cups with felt pads underneath.
Stiletto heels will easily indent and seriously damage any wooden floor so again, common sense should be applied in this regard.
Routine maintenance normally entails regular sweeping with a soft sweeping brush. Any spillages or light marks can be wiped off immediately with a damp (but not wet) soft cloth and immediately dried with a towel. More stubborn marks can be wiped using a recommended wood floor cleaner.
Never swill or mop a wooden floor. Never use ammonia or household cleaners or aerosol polishes on wood floor boards.
Probably the most important factors in ongoing care and maintenance of a wooden floor are protection from dirt, grit and moisture.
If hardwood floor boards are treated with care, respect and routinely maintained they will last a lifetime or more.