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House Works: Hardwood floors can work on concrete

Hardwood floors.
Hardwood floors. - 123RF Stock Photo

Q: Can hardwood be installed on concrete?  My parents’ house is about 60 years old and the floor is made from poured concrete slabs at ground level.  We’ve been told wood can’t be installed on concrete and they need to use laminate.

A: Yes, hardwood can be installed. I know for sure because I’ve done it successfully several times. Put down a heavy plastic vapor barrier, seal the edges and seams with caulking, then fasten 3/4”-thick plywood onto the concrete with Tapcon screws driven into predrilled holes. This plywood gives you the wood you need to nail down a tongue and groove floor in the usual way, either with nails or flooring staples. With this kind of base your parents only need to decide between factory-finished hardwood or site-finished. If your parents have in-floor heating, they should choose engineered hardwood instead of solid hardwood. Engineered products have real wood where it counts on top but it’s bonded to an inert, plywood base underneath for stability.

Floating laminate flooring needs a very flat surface on which to rest, and a 60-year-old concrete floor could quite likely have undulations that’ll cause the laminate to move underfoot and make noise. The only time I wouldn’t install hardwood on concrete is if the area was in a basement. Moisture can cause problems with real wood when it’s used below ground.

STEVE MAXWELL
STEVE MAXWELL

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Technical Homebuyer Information

Q: Why don’t new homebuilders provide technical information about the houses they build? My wife and I are looking to move into the city and I’ve found the lack of information to be stunning. Developers only provide a few bullet points about hardwood floors, countertops, en suite shower with glass surround, etc. I’ve repeatedly asked various developers about R values, type of windows, type of furnace they’ll be installing and more. The houses we’re looking at are priced between $900,000 and $1 million. How can anyone buy a house at that (or any) price point without knowing this information? Do people just hope for the best?

A: I’ve noticed the kind of thing you’re experiencing with houses and in other areas of life, too. There seems to be a significant dumbing down of people in general, including an inability (or unwillingness) to consider anything beyond the most simple superficialities. This certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, but it seems to be a growing trend.

If homebuilders were regularly approached by people asking questions like you are, they’d prepare themselves to answer. Keep asking. The lack of information is almost certainly a reflection of a lack of demand for it. This doesn’t bode well for the future of Canada, but I’m afraid it’s where we’re at.

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Deck-to-House Anchoring

Q: How can I strengthen the connection between my deck and concrete house foundation? The edge of the frame is currently held only with concrete nails.

A: You’re right to be concerned about the way your deck is anchored to your house, because concrete nails aren’t enough. The best way to reinforce the connection is by installing expanding masonry anchors every 16” or 24”. These look like a bolt with a nut, except that there’s no head on the bolt. The anchor has wings that expand slightly when they fit into a hole and the nut is tightened. The nice thing about these anchors is that they’re very easy to install and super strong. Simply drill through the wood and into the masonry with a drill spinning a masonry bit. Make the hole deep enough for the anchor (there should be about 3” of depth in the concrete), hammer the anchor in, then tighten the nut. This provides a very solid joint between your deck frame and the house.

Steve Maxwell helps thousands of people each year to build and finish their decks optimally. Learn to avoid deck grief at baileylineroad.com/deck-stain .

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