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What Is the Best Hardwood Floor Glue or Adhesive for Your Money?

Updated on December 27, 2016

So, you have chosen the type and color of wood for your floor. You have decided to try to do it yourself and have done all the research you can, online and off, to help you understand the project you are about to undertake, and the flooring you chose happens to be one that needs to be glued down. Do you skimp or save, choosing the cheapest glue you can just to "get it done?"

No. Hardwood flooring glue (or glue-down adhesives) is one of the most important decisions that you make before you begin the installation process. If you choose the cheapest adhesive, you could be in for problems in the future. And many do-it-yourselfers or weekend warriors undermine their own efforts by cutting corners and getting cheap. Don't do it! You may not only have problems later on down the road, you could be unwittingly voiding your floor's warranty.

Types of Adhesive Glue for Hardwood Floors

There are primarily two adhesive gluedown product types for traditional wood floors:

  1. Urethane Adhesive Gluedown
  2. Water Based Adhesive Gluedown

Both have their benefits and problems, which we will discuss each in greater detail.

Urethane adhesive—The most popular hardwood adhesive today:

Urethane adhesives are the most popular of all the types used today. Usually, the hardwood floor companies will specify a particular brand of glue if they don't offer their own glue product. While not the ultimate solution for people looking for a viable solution to, urethane adhesive is by far more eco-friendly than glues that were used decades ago which are now banned by the EPA. Bostik's, a very popular adhesive company that specializes in glues and sealants, should only be used on glue-down floors that are solid as opposed to engineered wood floors. Typically, solid floors are nailed down while engineered floors can be glued down.

Bostik's adhesives are by far the leader when it comes to wood adhesives but there are a lot of competitors in the glue market, including Mapei and Saki (to name a couple). If you are going to use a urethane adhesive, proper clean-up on the day of the install is critical. Common clean up materials for this glue is mineral spirits although Bostik also has wipes that can do the job.

Water-Based Adhesive

The Plop and Slide Down Method With Water Based Adhesives:

Most installers will tell you that the "plop and slide down method" should not be used when using glue down adhesives, because for the do-it-yourselfer or amateur handyman, you will find that when installing a board, sometimes the board may drop down away from the tongue and groove. With urethane based glues, inserting the board into the groove will almost always fail because of the nature of the glue. Water based adhesives are far more forgiving when this happens, though.

Another benefit to using water based adhesives is that they respond well to the "banana effect" of some engineered hardwoods. The banana effect is when the wood doesn't appear to be totally secured to the subfloor. With urethane adhesive, there is very little corrective measure that you can take. However, with water based adhesive, you can simply add a weight to the plank or section in question and after it has dried, the effect will be a stronger, more solid glue-down.

How to Install a Glue-Down Engineered Hardwood Floor

Water based adhesives are also easier to clean up; all you need is a damp rag (use a little water) before you start the adhesive set and after the floor is cured, use mineral spirits.

What About an Adhesive for a Floating Floor?

Most floating floors out there today don't use adhesives but instead use a locking mechanism to secure each panel or section of wood into place. That said, there are still some hardwood floors that use glue-down adhesives. And most manufacturers who require an glue down for a floating floor have their own adhesives such as Bruce and Karh's. All this said, the glue that the pro's use is Titebond Tongue-and-Groove Flooring Glue.

The bottom line is that if you are spending thousands of dollars on hardwood floors for your home, don't try to skimp on adhesives. Choose the glue that is recommended by the manufacturer and if there is nothing recommended, then ask a professional, do your research, and don't cut corners. After all, a properly laid floor should last you for decades.

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