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I have been seeing a lot of engineered wood and laminate wood floors installed on top of MDF underlayment. I have always been under the impression that it is not recommended to install wood floors on top of MDF. The manufacturers installation recommendations I have read do not list MDF as a recommended material.

Does anyone else write up the installation of wood, laminate, engineered wood flooring on top of MDF as improper or not recommended per manufacturer? If you do, how would you recommend wording it?

THANKS

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Originally posted by Brandon Whitmore

I have been seeing a lot of engineered wood and laminate wood floors installed on top of MDF underlayment.

Really? Are you sure it's not just plain particle board? MDF would be awfully heavy and expensive to use as underlayment.

I have always been under the impression that it is not recommended to install wood floors on top of MDF. The manufacturers installation recommendations I have read do not list MDF as a recommended material.

That's certainly true for traditional wood strip flooring. The nails don't hold well in MDF or particleboard. I believe that the NOFMA specifically warns against it.

Laminate floors are a different story. I can't remember any prohibition against MDF or particleboard. Those manufacturer's seem to mostly want the floor to be as flat as it can possibly be. I don't see how MDF would be a problem under them.

Does anyone else write up the installation of wood, laminate, engineered wood flooring on top of MDF as improper or not recommended per manufacturer? If you do, how would you recommend wording it?

I can't remember ever seeing wood strip flooring installed over particleboard or MDF. If I saw laminate flooring installed over it, I wouldn't say anything.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I know I have read that it is not recommended to install engineered wood floors on top of MDF or particle board (I tend to use the words interchangeably and need to stop-- thanks for correcting me). I can't see it being a problem on a floating floor, but on a glue/staple/nail down installation I think it is questionable at best (still can't figure out whether to call it out any more).

Here is part of an article I found indicating that particle board should be removed prior to installation.

Particle board underlayment Looks like oatmeal and consists of tiny wood particles glued and pressed into 4 x 8 foot sheets. It is NOT suitable to use as a Structural subfloor material.

I have only included Particle Board in this article because a lot of people see it when they remove old carpet and think it is a structural subfloor material like plywood or OSB. Particle board is NOT a structural subfloor material and is only manufactured to be used as a cheap underlayment filler sheet on top of the main structural subfloor material to raise the height of carpet to a desired level. Particle board can absorb excessive moisture is very brittle and does not hold nails very well. If this type of underlayment is present, it will have to be removed when planning to install a nail or glue down hardwood floor.

* If desired, Particle Board Underlayment can be left in place if a floating engineered wood floor or floating laminate floor system is going to be installed over it. BUT the additional height may pose a problem with doors and appliances.

This section of the article was taken from this site: http://www.hoskinghardwood.com/all-abou ... floors.asp

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Originally posted by Brandon Whitmore

. . . Here is part of an article I found indicating that particle board should be removed prior to installation.

Particle board underlayment Looks like oatmeal and consists of tiny wood particles glued and pressed into 4 x 8 foot sheets. It is NOT suitable to use as a Structural subfloor material.

I agree, but manufactured homes around here all use it as subflooring. Also, when I used to cross the border into WA state, I sometimes saw it used as subflooring in houses up there. I believe that there's actually a particleboard product that's approved as a subfloor material. Never seen it used as a subfloor in a site-built home in Oregon though.

I have only included Particle Board in this article because a lot of people see it when they remove old carpet and think it is a structural subfloor material like plywood or OSB. Particle board is NOT a structural subfloor material and is only manufactured to be used as a cheap underlayment filler sheet on top of the main structural subfloor material to raise the height of carpet to a desired level.

I disagree. Particleboard's highest and best use is as an underlayment for carpet. It provides a smoother surface than subfloor grade plywood, provides an excellent backing for carpet pad and it adds considerably to the sound-deadening quality of the floor assembly. I wouldn’t call it a "cheap filler sheet." That doesn't even make sense. It'd be cheaper to simply omit it.

Particle board can absorb excessive moisture is very brittle and does not hold nails very well. If this type of underlayment is present, it will have to be removed when planning to install a nail or glue down hardwood floor.

I agree. With traditional nail-down strip flooring, the nails won't hold well in the particleboard. I hardly ever see glue-down hardwood floors on top of a wooden base, but I imagine that sandwiching particleboard between the subfloor and the hardwood would cause problems because the particleboard could fracture, especially if it got wet.

* If desired, Particle Board Underlayment can be left in place if a floating engineered wood floor or floating laminate floor system is going to be installed over it. BUT the additional height may pose a problem with doors and appliances.

Well, duh.

I'd think that it'd be better to leave the particleboard in place rather than remove it. With floating laminate floors, it's supremely important to have a dead-flat surface beneath them. The particleboard is more likely to provide this than the subfloor below it - especially in our area where that subfloor is likely to be car decking.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Now for the reason for this post....

A large home builder in the area (and several others) are using a glue down method with engineered hardwood flooring and I have seen one builder use what appeared to be a staple down method. These installations have been on particle board and I have been writing this up as not being ideal and made recommendations to consult with the manufacturer for details on whether this installation is recommended. Of course, this has caused a problem and may actually be a deal killer on my last inspection because I have not backed down on my call. I have attempted to contact the manufacturer with no success at this time, and recommended that the buyer, Realtor, or builder get something in writing stating that this application is recommended per manufacturer.

Darn--- still don't know if I should be writing this up.

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Originally posted by Brandon Whitmore

Now for the reason for this post....

A large home builder in the area (and several others) are using a glue down method with engineered hardwood flooring and I have seen one builder use what appeared to be a staple down method. These installations have been on particle board and I have been writing this up as not being ideal and made recommendations to consult with the manufacturer for details on whether this installation is recommended.

Who's the builder and who's the manufacturer?

If you're seeing a lot of them, you ought to get something solid from the manufacturer one way or the other.

Of course, this has caused a problem and may actually be a deal killer on my last inspection because I have not backed down on my call. I have attempted to contact the manufacturer with no success at this time, and recommended that the buyer, Realtor, or builder get something in writing stating that this application is recommended per manufacturer.

Darn--- still don't know if I should be writing this up.

You shouldn't be writing it until you know it's wrong.

And don't rely on a letter from the manufacturer either. I've found that manufacturers will write anything in a letter if it puts them in the builder's good graces. You need to find the manufacturer's printed installation instructions.

So who's the builder and who's the manufacturer?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Download Attachment: icon_adobe.gif LEGENDHOMES.pdf

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The builder is Legend Homes-- EkoWood manufactured flooring

What I typically put in my report is something along these lines: "The glue down installation of engineered wood flooring on top of particle board underlayment is atypical. I recommend getting a copy of the installation recommendations from the manufacturer to determine whether or not this is an acceptible or recommended practice"--

Should I not make a note of an unusual installation in my reports if the installation is questionable and I have no way of knowing who the manufacturer is?

Once again-- thanks Jim

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"And don't rely on a letter from the manufacturer either. I've found that manufacturers will write anything in a letter if it puts them in the builder's good graces. You need to find the manufacturer's printed installation instructions. "

Jim,

If the manufacturer puts something in writing stating that it is an acceptable installation for their material, wouldn't that make it acceptable?

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Originally posted by Brandon Whitmore

"And don't rely on a letter from the manufacturer either. I've found that manufacturers will write anything in a letter if it puts them in the builder's good graces. You need to find the manufacturer's printed installation instructions. "

Jim,

If the manufacturer puts something in writing stating that it is an acceptable installation for their material, wouldn't that make it acceptable?

What I mostly see is a blatant attempt at boot-licking that's in direct opposition to something that's printed in the instructions. Sometimes these letters come from the manufacturer and sometimes they come from the *distributor* in the guise of having come from the manufacturer.

Whenever possible, rely on the printed instructions. They almost always have the necessary information.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Jim,

Based on the printed instructions in the above post, would you write up the installation as being improper? Nothing specifically says that particle board is a suitable material. Sorry-- instructions are a little blurry.

The Realtor has told me that he has received a letter from the manufacturer stating that this installation is fine.

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Originally posted by Brandon Whitmore

Jim,

Based on the printed instructions in the above post, would you write up the installation as being improper? Nothing specifically says that particle board is a suitable material. Sorry-- instructions are a little blurry.

The Realtor has told me that he has received a letter from the manufacturer stating that this installation is fine.

There's nothing in the instructions that'll settle this argument one way or the other. They address the subfloor but they don't mention underlayment. My interpretation is that they want something solid, flat and structurally sound. Particlboard over underlayment meets those criteria.

If I really believed that having particleboard under the glued-down laminate were a problem, I'd keep pushing.

Frankly, I don't see what the problem is. How do you imagine that this will be a problem in coming years?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Jim,

My only concern would be whether the glue will slowly pull away (pop) from the particle board during years of walking on, mopping, etc. (fasteners don't hold well to it so maybe glue will not hold well to it). I have read several different manufacturers installation instructions and so far have not seen particle board listed as a recommended material to install engineered wood floor to.

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Originally posted by Brandon Whitmore

Jim,

My only concern would be whether the glue will slowly pull away (pop) from the particle board during years of walking on, mopping, etc. (fasteners don't hold well to it so maybe glue will not hold well to it). I have read several different manufacturers installation instructions and so far have not seen particle board listed as a recommended material to install engineered wood floor to.

I can imagine that it could happen but I've never seen it happen. Have you? Seems kind of speculative.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Brandon Whitmore

Jim,

My only concern would be whether the glue will slowly pull away (pop) from the particle board during years of walking on, mopping, etc. (fasteners don't hold well to it so maybe glue will not hold well to it). I have read several different manufacturers installation instructions and so far have not seen particle board listed as a recommended material to install engineered wood floor to.

I would think screws would pull out because the particle board doesn't hold together well. I think the glue would stay, maybe making it stronger.

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  • 1 year later...

From the Ekowood install for direct-glue down at http://www.ekowood.com/sol_ins_pop03.html

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The first lists almost everything but particleboard. Concrete slab? Perhaps the most important bit is the second where it states an approved adhesive must be used. With the correct glue and the particleboard securely fastened to the actual subfloor, I'm not sure I see a problem...but I understand your concern.

Also, how well does engineered pine wood flooring hold up compared to solid?

I went with an engineered wood floor for my remodel about 3 years ago. The entire 2nd floor aside from the bathroom and laundry. I did a lot or research and really couldn't find any downside to it over solid, but it basically came down to looks. I wanted a pre-finished, wide plank, Brazilian cherry and the stuff I went with (also from Malaysia) just looked so much better than anything else. I considered the glue-down method but it seemed messy so, after much leveling (old house), I did a glue-together, floating install over cork. So far so good!

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Yeah, I could see myself making a complete mess that way. My other concern was that I would be rushed into a screw-up by the limited tack time.

The glue-together method was also time consuming, but I was in no real hurry. It gave me the luxury of carefully selecting each piece for match and/or contrast and taking breaks whenever I felt like it. Actually fun and one of the more "instantly" gratifying things I remember doing. All the transitions were made in my shop out of solid Jatoba (Brazilian cherry).

Just took a few photos of the tidier areas...

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BTW, in case you were wondering: the mattress from the guest bedroom (1st photo) is currently on the floor in the dining room. I've been sleeping down there the last 6 weeks while my dog recovers from leg surgery. He gets a new x-ray tomorrow, and if all is well, we can let him back upstairs and return to a normal life. Yeah...we spoil him...just a little!

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