Glued-Down Hardwood Floor Problems

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Glued down hardwood floor problems

Hardwood floors are known for their visual appeal, durability, and ability to withstand unfavorable treatments. They add value and style to any home. To install a wood floor, you’ll probably consider gluing down and or nailing down the boards. While both methods get the job done, glued-down hardwood floors have some common issues you might encounter at some point.

Glued-down hardwood floors are prone to cupping, buckling, flaking, peeling off, and crowning. This occurs mainly when the adhesive wears off, spreads unevenly, or gets damaged due to high humidity and temperature changes.

Problems with a Glued-Down Hardwood Floor

Glued down hardwood floor problems
Gluing down hardwood floor planks.

Gluing down wood flooring planks is a fairly quiet and easy process, which is why it is a preferred method of installation compared to nailing. Due to its difficulty leveling, you can easily stagger the planks on the underlayment or on other types of flooring such as tile.

However, at times you might want to nail down rather than gluing down the planks to avoid some of the hardwood floor problems.

Here are 5 common problems of glued-down hardwood floors:

Abnormal gaps between the planks

The gaps disrupt the look of the hardwood floor. The main cause of abnormal gaps on a glued-down hardwood floor is poor installation. You’ll notice the gaps if you install the hardwood boards in excessively dry or wet areas.

To avoid this problem, check the humidity conditions before you begin the installation. Most wood flooring brands will acclimate and become steady when you control and maintain the interior humidity between 30% to 50%.


Cupping occurs when the centers of the hardwood floorboards are lower than their edges. An increase in moisture conditions, wet mopping, or use of steam cleaners on wood floors are some of the reasons that lead to these glued-down planks curving inward.

In fact, some floor maintenance practices such as steam mopping can damage and weaken the adhesive used to install the planks. Cupped hardwood floor planks can ruin the aesthetics of your house and even lead to serious structural problems, especially if you plan to lay carpet over the hardwood flooring.


Buckling is a process whereby the hardwood planks separate from the subfloor. You will experience this problem when the hardwood boards are not acclimated properly or there is excess moisture in the subfloor. Hardwood floor buckling problems mainly arise due to improper installation and water damage.

Buckling in glued-down hardwood floors occurs due to the following reasons:

  • Insufficient adhesive
  • Uneven distribution of glue
  • Water/Moisture damage
  • Subfloor contamination (e.g. dirt particles under the wood planks)

Take note that inferior subfloor can also lead to buckling, which means that the problem is being transferred from underneath the planks. As the stress is applied below your wood planks, they start to buckle.


Crowning is the opposite of cupping. The individual floorboards will have a convex appearance. The edges of the boards curve downwards and appear to be lower than the center.

Crowning can happen if you applied glue unevenly before placing or staggering the planks on the base. It can also be caused by moisture imbalance, natural shrinkage on the wood, inadequate moisture control system, and poor drainage affecting the entire building.

Flaking or peeling off

You will experience a flake or peel-off if you apply polish on a polluted floor or if there’s excessive sanding with high-grit sandpaper.

A peeling off or warping hardwood floor could also be a sign of excess moisture in the subfloor that’s contaminating the adhesive used for laying down the planks.

High spots from clumping

For hardwood flooring to appear even and neatly installed using adhesive, the glue must be evened out very carefully. Even with the right tools, it is very common to end up with high spots due to excessive glue collecting in some areas. This leads to an uneven glued-down wood floor.

Which is Better: Glue Down or Floating Floor?

The floating floor option has a click-together groove and tongue locking system on the edges of the flooring planks. The locking system makes it easy to install hardwood planks in a continuous way that allows them to hover above the subfloor. There are no real fasteners that connect the planks.

A floating hardwood floor is therefore a perfect choice for a flawed or uneven subfloor. Another advantage of a floating hardwood floor is that it is easy to attach the planks using a rubber mallet.

Glue-down flooring uses liquid glue (Deccobond tongue and groove glue) or adhesive tape (Double-sided tape) to fix the planks or floorboards to the subfloor instead of locking them together. This method of installation takes longer to install, but it’s more permanent.

Deciding which installation method is right for you is straightforward when you understand the pros and cons of each option. Otherwise, both methods are easy to install, easy to clean, and waterproof.

For instance, if you’re considering DIY installation, floating flooring will be the best option because you won’t need any special tools or equipment to accomplish the task. Floating wood floors are a fantastic alternative for homeowners searching for a simple flooring solution with the high-quality beauty and resilience of hardwoods.

How to Remove a Glued-Down Hardwood Floor

Removing glued-down hardwood floors is a challenging and tiresome task that requires you to equip yourself with safety equipment to complete the project safely. The tools and equipment include; a hammer or nail claw, a pry bar, hand-held floor scraper, locking pliers, plastic sheeting, wood chisel, breathing mask, painter’s tape, work glasses and gloves, closed-toe shoes, and construction kneepads.

Here’s how to remove a glued-down hardwood floor:

1. Wear the safety equipment

Put on heavy-duty work gloves to protect your hands, wear work glasses to protect your eyes, long-sleeved clothing to protect your hands, and a breathing mask to protect you against dust.

2. Lay out of the removal area

Do you want to remove only a particular section to create room for other purposes, or an entire floor to replace or change the flooring? Having a clear plan of the removal area will help you complete the project more efficiently. Plan the removal works so as to avoid unnecessary damages on the other section of the floor. Remove any furniture blocking the affected area.

3. Lift the hardwood planks starting from the edge

Start at a location where the edge of the hardwood planks is accessible. Using a nail claw, drive the tip of a chisel between the subfloor and hardwood planks to loosen their edges. Use a hand-held floor scraper to remove the hardwood planks from the subfloor.

Simply press the blade of a hand-held floor scraper under the loosened edge of the last hardwood plank and lift on the handle. Use your hand to pull the edge of the hardwood planks and remove the section of the remaining material.

4. Continue removing hardwood planks

Continue loosening and removing the hardwood planks with a hand-held floor scraper and your hand. Usually, strips of the underside veneer will remain on the subfloor. Move the pieces of flooring you removed from the room and deposit them elsewhere.

5. Remove backing and glue

Here are steps to remove the backing and glue on your subfloor;

  • Dip a large sponge or cotton cloth into the water and mop all the sections where the hardwood planks were installed to moisten the remaining underside veneer and glue.
  • Wait for at least 20 minutes to allow the water to loosen the underside veneer and glue.
  • Remove the residuals with the floor scraper.

Glued Down vs Nailed Wood Floor – Which One Is Better?

When it comes to cost, a glue-down wood floor is the most expensive compared to nailed wood floors. The total installation cost of a glued-down wood floor is determined based on the total square footage and the type of glue used during installation.

When it comes to installation, a glue-down floor is possible on any subfloor, while a nail-down floor is not possible on any subfloor apart from wood and plywood.

Your specific requirements, priority, and budget will determine the best choice for you. These parameters can guide you while choosing the best wood flooring installation method. However, you need to keep in mind that the final results depend largely on your contractor, the materials used, and your preferences.

READ NEXT: Common Hardwood Floor Problems

Glue-Down Hardwood Floor Installation
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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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