How to Install Wood Flooring on Concrete [Complete Guide]

Last Update:

We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. Learn more

how to install wood flooring on concrete

If you have a room with a bare concrete slab, you might want to soften it up. 

Concrete isn’t the most attractive or comfortable material for a floor. This may become an issue if you are finishing a basement and want to make it cozier. 

Wood flooring is a great way to give an organic touch to your home’s floors. Unlike concrete, it has a nice, comfortable step and a warm feel that is great for a living area. 

Installing wood flooring over concrete is relatively simple, but must be done correctly. If proper care isn’t taken, you could end up with warped or swollen floors. 

In this guide, we have provided step-by-step instructions to make sure you know how to do this job properly. 

By following each of these steps, you can install wood flooring that will have both beauty and longevity. 

Installing Wood Flooring Over Concrete: Basic Idea

You will want to make sure that you do everything you can to protect your wood flooring. Concrete is very susceptible to ground moisture, which can leak out under the wood. 

The proper steps you must take to ensure this doesn’t happen are: 

  • Clean the slab
  • Lay down a moisture barrier
  • Install a ¾” plywood subfloor
  • Install the wood flooring

Why Replace Concrete With Wood Flooring?

Your basement or utility room’s original purpose may not have been to be a liveable area. The designers of your home probably left the bare concrete to save money and keep it cool. 

However, if you are looking to finish one of these rooms, concrete is not a very comfortable surface.

Concrete will not only be hard to walk on, it has a very cold feel. This might be good in the summertime, but once winter hits no one will want to spend time there. 

The best way to remedy this is to cover the concrete slab with wood. The type you use is up to you because any wood will be an improvement in the warmth and feel. 

Wood is also an easy material to work with and can be refinished or modified down the line. This is a lot harder to do with tile or laminate, so wood may be your best option. 

Clean the Concrete Slab

The first thing you will want to do before anything else is get your concrete slab clean

Sweep and mop the slab to make sure you remove any dirt or debris. If this is not removed, it will be very difficult to install the moisture barrier and make it stick. 

Let your slab fully dry after mopping before doing anything else. You do not want any moisture to be lingering when you move on to the next steps. 

Install a Moisture Barrier

Next, you will want to apply a moisture barrier that will go between the concrete and the subfloor. 

Moisture barrier membrane is your best option for this type of application. Not only will it prevent water from coming up, it can fill in cracks. 

Moisture barrier membrane comes in 5 gallon buckets and has the viscosity of paint. However, once it dries, it is hard just like the concrete itself. 

Apply the membrane with a roller or brush. You can even apply it with an industrial sprayer if you have the equipment and space. 

Moisture barrier membrane has a very strong odor and can be harmful when wet. Always be sure to wear a mask and open up any available windows. 

Apply it in a thin coat completely covering the concrete slab. Let it cure for a full 48 hours before you walk on it or move on to the next step. 

Install a Plywood Subfloor

install a plywood subfloor

Once your moisture barrier membrane is cured, you can install the subfloor. 

Your subfloor should be made from ¾” plywood covering the area you want to lay the flooring onto. 

Check and make sure that adding this height won’t interfere with any doors or cupboards. If it will, those will have to be raised to accommodate for the height. 

Cut and lay the plywood by measuring in quadrants. Lay down the subfloor and secure it with concrete screws evenly spaced apart by 16 inches. 

Once your plywood subfloor is installed, you are ready to lay your wood flooring. 

Lay Your Wood Flooring

Measure and cut your flooring planks however you want them to be arranged on the subfloor. 

It is always best to have them cut and ready to go before you begin securing them. Secure them with a pneumatic brad nailer or flooring nailer for the easiest installation. 

Work in those same quadrants that you worked in when laying the subfloor to parcel out the work. 

Once you have installed the planks, you can finish the floor however you want. 

Apply a stain or sand the planks smooth. Then you can add a polyurethane top coat to protect them and give them a shine. 

F.A.Q. 

faqs install wood flooring on concrete

  • Can you put a floating floor over concrete?

You can put a floating floor like laminate over concrete

However, it is important to note that concrete can shift and move depending on where you live. A floating floor may come apart if these moves are more than an inch or two. 

  • Is underlayment the same as moisture barrier?

An underlayment is not the same thing as a moisture barrier. However, they can serve the same purpose. 

If your concrete slab doesn’t exude any moisture, an underlayment can work fine as a protectant. 

  • Can I use plastic sheeting as a moisture barrier?

You can use plastic sheeting as a moisture barrier. It will not be as long lasting as the liquid membrane will be, though. 

If you are planning on keeping your wood flooring for a long time, membrane is your best option. 

Conclusion

Installing wood flooring on concrete is a great way to add some comfort to a concrete slab.

By following our instructions, you can be sure that your wood flooring will last for many years. By keeping that moisture away from the underside, you can avoid any potential issues. 

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Michael J. O’Connor is a writer and marketing specialist from the Bay Area of California. A graduate of Sonoma State’s Creative Writing program, he spent many years as a contractor and carpet layer, learning the ins and outs of flooring and general contracting. When he’s not typing away at his desk, he enjoys hiking with his dogs, woodworking and collecting rare books. See full biography here.

Leave a Comment

18 + 9 =