You've heard this phrase if you've ever shopped for hardwood flooring. It refers to the joining of materials, such as hardwood boards (but sometimes you also see it in paneling or other materials), while still giving them some flexibility.  This is traditional, and it’s a technique that’s often favored by installers.

What exactly happens with a wood floor installation?

Every plank has both a tongue groove side. The tongues fit into the grooves of an adjoining board, almost looking like a wood sandwich if you will. The reason this is so desirable is that it controls vertical movement; as you may know, solid hardwood will shrink and expand to adjust to weather conditions and this helps. 

Advantages of tongue and groove flooring

First, the tongue and groove have tight seams. That can reduce some gluing or nailing to hold the boards together. Second, with the right coating, it can even become water-tight.

Are floating floors tongue and groove?

The engineered version of hardwood, as well as wood-look flooring, such as luxury vinyl plank (LVP) or laminate, have a mechanism similar to tongue and groove. With a floating floor, the pieces click together like a puzzle to form a mat. That mat hovers over the subfloor without any glue or nails needed.

Does the subfloor need special preparation?

The subfloor will always affect the appearance, performance, and longevity of the surface floor.  Some people go so far as to say installation is even more important than the actual product. In every case, the subfloor needs to be clean and debris-free; dry and level. 

It's a little more extensive with hardwood since everything is done to minimize any excess water and moisture.  As you know, wood can be damaged by liquid and humidity, with the result being cupping, crowning, and warping.

The installer will conduct moisture reading and fill any gaps or holes. Sometimes it will be recommended to replace the subfloor entirely.  Note:  Be sure to check with your hardwood flooring retailer if subfloor repair is part of the installation.  Usually, it is but, if not, you'll need to negotiate that.

For more information about hardwood flooring visit the Kelly’s Carpet Omaha showroom in Omaha, NE.  We service the Omaha area.  Be sure to ask about our estimates.