How to Install Engineered Wood Floors with Insulation

Updated February 21, 2017

While hardwood floors are considered a highly desirable finish option, they are also among the most expensive flooring materials available. To get the look of hardwood without the high price, consider using engineered wood instead. Engineered flooring looks just like real wood, but is made of a composite product covered with a paper topcoat. The paper is printed to resemble wood grain, then topped with a clear seal coat. Even up close, its difficult to tell that this product is not wood. When installing engineered floors, many homeowners choose to add a layer of insulation to help guard against noise and cold.

Measure the room to determine how much material you will need. By multiplying length times width, you can calculate square footage. Engineered wood can be purchased at your local home improvement store or from a speciality flooring retailer. Before making your purchase, add about 10 per cent to the square footage you calculated to account for cutting and installation mistakes. This extra material will also be useful for future repairs.

Remove any baseboards or trim pieces from around the base of your walls to make room for installation. Use a pry bar or hammer to gently pull them away from the walls. Remove nails or staples and put the trim aside for reuse.

Prepare your subfloor. If your subfloor is wood, simply remove any loose staples or nails, and re-attached any loose boards. If the subfloor is any other material, cover it with a single layer of 5/8-inch plywood. Nail the plywood down using concrete nails every 6 inches. The joints should tightly align, but the sheets should not overlap.

Cover the floor with a single layer of foam underlayment or flooring insulation. Choose a thickness based on the flooring manufacturer's recommendations. If you can't find this information, use a 1/4" insulation, as this is fairly standard. Allow the insulation to extend longer than the length and width of the floor by a few inches along each wall. Overlap the seams by a few inches and use duct tape to hold the material in place.

Begin laying your engineered flooring along the longest wall in the room. Leave a 3/8-inch gap at the base of the wall to allow the wood to expand.

Connect your next row of flooring to the first by placing the tongue of one plank into the groove of the next. Press down to snap the planks together. Because engineered floors are floating systems, no nails or adhesive are used to attach the wood to the subfloor.

Continue connecting your wood planks, being sure to stagger the joints along each row for best results. Use a mitre saw to cut the wood as necessary, and discard any pieces shorter than one foot.

Leave another 3/8-inch gap at the opposite wall for expansion. Use a pry bar to force the last row of flooring into place if necessary.

Re-install baseboards or trim pieces to cover expansion joints. Install the baseboards so that the excess insulation is sandwiched between the trim and the wall. Use finish nails to secure the boards every 6 inches. Cut away any remaining insulation using a utility knife.


Do not attempt to sand or refinish engineered floors. They are not made of real wood, and any attempts at refinishing will ruin the look of the floor.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Hammer
  • 5/8" plywood
  • Concrete nails
  • Foam underlayment (insulation)
  • Duct tape
  • Engineered wood
  • Mitre saw
  • Finish nails
  • Utility knife
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About the Author

Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.