How to Install Hardwood Floors on Concrete

How to Install Hardwood Floors on Concrete

How to Install Hardwood Floors on Concrete

Do you know how to install hardwood flooring on concrete slab regardless whether your floor is on the second floor, at ground level or in the basement? You’ll find concrete floors in almost every home. This article will focus on basement installations. However, the information applies to installing hardwood floors over concrete at any level.

Most of the articles you’ll find online will recommend installing a floating floor made of engineered wood. But what if you’re set on having a solid hardwood floor in the basement? Most hardwood flooring companies won’t honor the warranty if you install their flooring in the basement.

There is one company that allows for basement installation, and it won’t affect the warranty as long as you’ve installed it per their instructions. We’ll tell you who it is in a moment.

Have you ever wondered why solid hardwood floors is a better choice for your basement wood flooring options?

how to install hardwood floors on concrete

Advantages of Wood Flooring on Concrete Basement Floor

Besides hardwood’s durability, low maintenance, and is easy to clean, there are three immediate benefits:

Beauty – Concrete is ugly. Installing hardwood flooring in basement over concrete will make that space look stunning and spectacular. Hardwoods provide style and elegance that adapts easily to any interior design whether modern, contemporary or country.

Warmth: A hardwood floor adds warmth and a welcoming feeling to your home or basement. A concrete floor is uninviting, cold, dingy, and looks like an unfinished warehouse.

Value: In an article by the National Wood Flooring Association, they state, “A survey of real estate agents in the US revealed:

  • 99% believe homes with hardwood floors are easier to sell,
  • 82% believe they sell faster, and
  • 90% believe they sell for more money, up to 10% more.”

Many real estate professionals reveal that properties with wood flooring sell faster, and for more money than properties without wood floors. And finished basements increase the values even more.


Worried about paying someone else TOO MUCH MONEY to install your hardwood floor?

Do you want to know how much it REALLY costs to install hardwood? Check out this case study of a DIY hardwood installation with costs, timeline and list of materials:

cost of timber flooring installation


Once you’ve made up your mind about installing a hardwood floor over your concrete slab, you need to put some thought into it. Proper planning will save money, time and minimize mistakes.

Deciding Factors Before Installing Hardwood Flooring Over Concrete

Before you run out and order a hardwood floor, there are several items you need know. Make a list so you’ll know what to look for and what to avoid when floor shopping.

What Is the Grade Level?

We touched on grade earlier. Grade refers to the location of the cement slab. Your flooring expert will ask you if the concrete slab is above, at or below grade. It simply means above the ground, at ground level or below ground, or the basement.

installing hardwood floors in basements over concrete

The reason the contractor or seller will ask is that most hardwood floor manufacturers do not recommend installing their floors below grade.  Easiklip is the only manufacturer who will still honor the warranty if properly installed below grade. We’ll talk about them shortly.

Is Your Concrete Floor New or Old?

If you’re moving into a brand-new home or you just poured the concrete slab, the concrete needs to cure before you can install hardwood floor over it. It takes 6 to 8 weeks for concrete to cure, depending on climate and the concrete mixture. During the curing process, there is excess moisture still evaporating from the concrete that can ruin the floor if you install it too early.

This leads us to another significant consideration for laying hardwood floor in basement over concrete.

How Much Moisture Is In Your Concrete Floor?

Even old slabs will continuously wick moisture up from the ground. If your home is prone to dampness, or the foundation does not drain properly, water will come through the slab or the walls into your basement.

You’ll need to test to see how much moisture wicks through the slab and measure the humidity in your basement. Here’s a good rule of thumb. Do you run a dehumidifier most of the time? You have too much moisture in the area to install hardwood. It won’t last. Consider asking a specialist in basement waterproofing to solve that issue before installing any new floor.

installing hardwood floors on concrete

Testing for Moisture in Concrete

We caution against the Plastic Sheet Method for testing moisture levels in your concrete slab. This method requires you taping a 16-inch square piece of clear plastic, at least 6 mils thick to the floor. Lay the section on the concrete slab and use moisture-resistant tape to tape all four sides to the floor. You  do this in three to four areas around the slab. Leave it for 24 to 48 hours. If you see signs of moisture or condensation on any of the plastic, you likely have a problem, but you can never be sure how big, or what it is, or exactly how much moisture there is. 

Here is a video of this method:


There are more sophisticated methods to measure the water content.

The calcium chloride test measures the surface moisture of the slab. You can see the kit and how it works in this video.


Humidity sensors or moisture meters require drilling holes and inserting probes to measure the amount of water. Some meters measure results in pounds of water per 1,000 square feet of the floor during a 24-hour period. Other meters can measure relative humidity in the slab. One very accurate testing method is to use the Wagner Rapid R.H. meter, as shown in this video:


Most flooring manufacturers say you should not install hardwood over concrete if the tests show the moisture emission rate is over 3 pounds.

Your Concrete Floor or Slab Must Be Flat

When installing hardwood flooring on basement, the concrete must be flat so the tongue and grooves of the hardwood meet and connect.

Old basement slabs can crack and buckle in places. You need to fill any large cracks and be sure that the entire floor is level. Otherwise, you’ll need to level it. That means pouring a thin layer of cement to fill in dips and gaps. Here is a short video to show you how to level a concrete floor.


To check the evenness of the slab, use a 6-foot or longer straight edge. You may have to cut one utilizing a table saw to ensure straightness. Lay the straight board on the floor and place a level on top. You should have no more than a 3/16” slope in a 10-foot radius or less than 1/8” inside a 6-foot radius. You’ll know if there are dips in the concrete if you see daylight at the bottom of the straightedge.

You’ll need to fill the dips using a floor leveling compound like the one in the video above. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the compound cures enough to allow for hardwood flooring installation.

Install a Moisture Barrier for Best Results

Concrete is very porous like a sponge. Water can quickly pass through it causing moisture problems, especially below grade. Before installing any wood floor over concrete, you’ll need a moisture barrier. Typically, it is sheets of plastic laid on the slab and taped at the seams with waterproof tape. It will extend up the wall for about 2 to 3 inches, creating a “bowl” where your wood floor stays dry and protected. Watch this video to see how easy it is:


(He adds an optional underlayment on top of the moisture barrier for sound reduction.) There are other moisture barrier options. Ask your flooring professional what he or she uses.

Once you know the slab is level and dry, and you have a moisture barrier in place, it’s time to look at basement subfloor options and how you’ll install your new hardwood floor.

Three Basement Subfloor Options

A subfloor is the floor surface directly under the hardwood floor. The type of subfloor can determine how you’ll install the floor.

1. Permanently Attaching to Concrete

    In this case, the subfloor is the concrete slab. Although you can attach hardwood directly to concrete with glue or nails, it’s not advisable. Wood needs to move as the humidity increases and decreases throughout the year. If the wood can’t expand sideways, it will twist warp or cup as it absorbs moisture.

    install hardwood floor over concreteAnd, the traditional method of driving screws or nails through the moisture barrier turns your moisture barrier “bowl” into a sieve allowing excess moisture to wick into the wood. For these reasons, you should avoid gluing, nailing or permanently attaching directly to the slab.

    To drive a nail or screws into concrete, you’ll need to use a hammer drill and masonry bit to pre-drill each hole. It adds a lot of extra time and effort.

    2. Build a Plywood Subfloor

      Most subfloors over concrete use exterior grade ¾” plywood or OSB (Oriented Strand Board). It lays directly on top of the waterproof barrier, or combination of barrier and underlayment, to help cushion and insulate. Be aware of the additional height that the subfloor and underlayment add. They can add up to two inches in a basement that may already have a low ceiling.

      There are many options for building a plywood or OSB subfloor. This video demonstrates a cost-effective method for DIYers.


      A subfloor allows you to nail or screw into the wood instead of concrete. While this saves time from not having to drill pilot holes first, it still adds to the cost of installing a floor. A better solution is laying a floating floor.

      3. Laying Floating Floor

        When we talk about a “floating” floor, it means that the hardwood floor is not permanently attached to the subfloor. It rests or floats on top, held in place by the weight of the floor itself.

        You’ll want to install an underlayment on concrete floor in basement. A floating hardwood floor underlayment acts as a slight cushion that reduces noise and provides some insulation. Underlayments can combine water barrier protection and noise reduction.

        Installing floors is a difficult DIY job. The easiest way to install hardwood is a floating floor. You may not need to build a plywood subfloor on top of the concrete slab, depending on the floor system you choose.

        Basement Wood Flooring Options

        You have two basement wood flooring options, solid hardwood or engineered.

        a. Engineered floors are made with lots of chemical adhesives where a base of wood chips or thin sheets are pressed together under heat to form a sheet of OSB or plywood. Then a thin veneer of hardwood is glued to the surface to create that authentic hardwood look. They may be natural or stained and have a clear protective finish.

        If engineered floors get wet from below, they can start to fall apart or, if it’s plywood, can separate and raise the floor.
        b. Solid hardwood floors are just that, solid wood. They also may be pre-finished or unfinished. Finishing a wood floor in the home takes experience, time, and the right equipment to make the floor look good.
        Solid wood can also warp and rot if there is excessive moisture. Therefore, it’s crucial to install a moisture barrier. The room temperature should stay within a range of 60 to 80F (15.5 to 26.6C), and the relative humidity should be no more than 60%.
        how to install floating hardwood floors on concrete

        Engineered Floors Can Have Problems

        Some engineered floors have reportedly emitted toxic fumes. It can be caused by the amount of adhesive used in the construction of the materials and gluing the veneer to the top.

        Another issue is improper installation. If an installer nails the engineered floor too close to the edge, it can crack the board causing dangerous splinters lurking underfoot that can be up to 3 inches long in some cases.

        You don’t have those concerns with a solid hardwood floor.

        How to Install Hardwood Over Concrete - 3 Methods

        There are three ways to lay a floor over concrete. You can attach it directly to the concrete or install a subfloor first and then attach the floor to that. The most straightforward method is not to attach it but float the floor on top.


        The Hard Way - Nails or Screws

        If you plan on attaching the floor directly to concrete (not recommended), you’ll need to drill holes through the wood and into the concrete. This requires a heavy hammer drill and a bit the same size as your nail or screw. Here is a video showing the process.  Note that in the video they also use glue, which is our next method.



        The Messy Way – Glue

        If you are going to glue your hardwood directly to the concrete, you need to know what you’re doing and work fast. You only have 30 minutes before the glue sets and becomes too hard to use. There is no room for error.

        Before gluing, you’ll need to apply a paint on moisture barrier to seal the concrete since you can’t use plastic sheeting or an underlayment. Check out this video as Bob Villa watches some pros install solid hardwood to a concrete floor at grade. Gluing floor is not a job for an inexperienced DIYer.



        The Easy Way – Clips

        The best way for any DIYer to install a hardwood floor is to use clips. Easiklip flooring is the only hardwood flooring system that floats and uses clips to hold each board together. It installs very quickly. Watch how the Easiklip system lets a few installers install 860 square feet of floor in only 10 hours.


        With the Easiklip installation method, you can walk on the floor immediately. There is no waiting time because the floors come pre-finished and there is no glue to dry.

        Why Choose Easiklip For Your Basement Hardwood Floor?

        Most manufacturers advise against installing hardwood flooring over concrete for two reasons, moisture levels in concrete and the difficulty of attaching directly to concrete.

        When it comes to installing a floating, solid hardwood floor in your basement, Easiklip should be your first choice. It’s the first solid hardwood floating floor in North America that merely clips together. No nails, glue, screws or hammer drills.

        Easiklip has over 10 years of experience, specializing in solid oak flooring for DIY projects. We also supply residential and commercial construction projects in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia.

        how to install hardwood floors on concrete

        Before You Start Installing the Floor

        Although Easiklip is the easiest hardwood floor to install over concrete, there are three things you must do before laying floating floor.

        1. Lay down a moisture barrier. This will prevent any excess moisture from wicking from the concrete directly into the wood.
        2. Install a Underlayment on concrete floor in basement over the moisture barrier to help soundproof your floor. Unlike the moisture barrier, you do not want the edges to overlap unless they come with a built-in adhesive strip. We recommend using a 2mm underlayment over a damp-proof membrane.
        3. Acclimate the flooring by placing the boxes of Easiklip horizontally in the location they are going to be installed. Open the end of each box and remove the protective layer of shrink-wrapping inside the boxes. Let them sit at least 4-5 days to absorb the ambient humidity and temperature.

        Once you let the boards acclimate, put down the underlayment and moisture barrier, you’re ready to install the floor.

        No Fuss No Muss Installation That Lasts a Lifetime

        Easiklip is perfect for the DIYer who wants the beauty of hardwood without the hassle of glue or nails. Each board is ¾ inch solid white oak.  With proper maintenance and refurbishment every 5 to 10 years, your floor should last at least 50-70 years. Think of all the trees you’ll save.

        You can do one or two rooms in a day and have a party on them that night. The only tools you’ll need are a tape measure, N IOSH-designated dust mask, some 1/2 in (15mm) wedges, a broom, a hand saw, and eye protection. You’ll also want to have transition and wall moldings for a professional finished look.

        Want to see how easy? Check out our installation video.


        The patented aluminum clips make Easiklip quick and easy to install.


        easiklip clip together solid hardwood flooring for sale


        The silicone beads help to hold the clips in place in the individual groves in each board. They also allow for silent natural movement as the floor reacts to changes in humidity over the seasons.

        You attach 2 to 4 clips per board, align the tongue and groove, then snap in place.

        Safe, Economical and Guaranteed

        Easiklip is a floating floor, you just need an underlayment on concrete floor in basement. You save time and the expense of building a wood subfloor.

        If you ever need to replace just one board or move the entire floor, Easiklip uninstalls as easy as it installs.

        Easiklip is solid hardwood which means it’s safe for your children’s bedroom and durable enough for basement installations. It does not emit harmful chemicals like formaldehyde or other toxic fumes found in some brands of engineered hardwood floors.

        You get a 30-Day Money Back Guarantee so that you can shop with confidence. Easiklip floors carry a 25-year warranty for residential, finish, and structural issues.

        installing hardwood floors on concrete

        Request A Free Easiklip Sample

        Feel the quality for yourself by ordering a free Easiklip sample pack. You will receive a 5" sample of each of our floor types to see which one fits your decor:

        • Natural Oak
        • Greywash
        • Rustic Smoke Stain
        • Rustic White Bleach

        You’ll also get two aluminum clips to test and see how it snaps into place. These samples come from the same White Oak boards that we use in all our floors.


        There is no better way to improve your home than by choosing Easiklip for your basement hardwood floor.

        With Easiklip, “No Nails, No Glue, No Fuss.”



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