It’s Back to DIY School, Part 2: The Installation Processes

upscale kitchen wood floors

You’ve selected your products for your kitchen makeover – now it’s time to get down to business with the installation! 

The kids are back to school, and you are too! In part one of this series, we looked at the best way to pick products for your kitchen makeover. Now it’s time for the installation of your engineered hardwood flooring, subway tile backsplash and granite countertop for the all-important renovation.

Engineered and solid hardwood flooring considerations

Installing wood flooring can be an onerous task for the inexperienced, but engineered hardwood takes the stress away from the job. However, while it may be easier to install an engineered hardwood floor on your own, there are still a number of important aspects you have to be aware of.

Engineered hardwood can be installed regardless of humidity and the location of your kitchen. This is in contrast with solid hardwood flooring – which must be stored a few days before installation between 65-75 Fahrenheit, with a relative humidity level of 35-55%. If the conditions are consistently too warm and humid after the installation, the solid hardwood planks will expand leading to ‘cupping’, whereas they will shrink in colder temperatures. Since engineered hardwood has a number of layers of HDF or MDF that support a hardwood top, it tends to have greater resistance to expansion and contraction due to humidity (or lack of it), and wide temperature variations.

Know your sub-floor

As mentioned in part one, the beauty of an engineered hardwood floor is that it can be installed over a range of sub-floors, such as concrete, ceramic tile, terrazzo and, of course, plywood. Still, despite the floor’s versatility, it’s important to know what kind of surface you’re dealing with as this will determine the method of installation. The sub-floor must be clean and smooth, and straight, flat and leveled. It must be completely dry and structurally sound.

Laying down engineered flooring for kitchens

Engineered hardwood can be installed in a number of different ways. As mentioned in the previous point, the type of sub-floor you’re dealing with will determine how you install your floor. But let’s have a glance at the different ways you can lay it down.

Like solid hardwood, engineered hardwood can be nailed down. This, however, is a difficult process that shouldn’t be attempted by a novice DIYer. Your floor can also be glued down. Some engineered hardwood floors can be installed using radiant heat (whereby warmth is radiated from underneath the planks). But the easiest method of getting the job done (and therefore, the best method for our DIY school) is opting for a floating installation, whereby the planks are glued together and the entire floor ‘floats’ as a unit.

A thin vapor barrier provides moisture-resistance and cushioning, and the planks are glued together. Because the floor will float, it’s important to leave a gap of 5/16 inches between the flooring and the baseboard (the narrow board running along the base of the wall) or the wall itself.

Vanier Engineered Hardwood - Birch Cosmopolitan Trendy Collection

Vanier Engineered Hardwood – Birch Cosmopolitan Trendy Collection: “Chestnut Birch”

Boards are installed left to right with the groove side facing the wall. The boards must be bonded with adhesive in the tongue and the groove. When the process is complete, wait 12 hours before placing furniture on the floor and 24 hours before introducing heavy objects or full traffic. Check out this video on a general engineered hardwood installation!


Once your floor is good to go, it’s time to focus on your countertop. As mentioned earlier, you’ll be installing a granite countertop in your kitchen, so what do you need to know? First off, you may need some help lifting the slabs themselves, for both storage and installation. And you will need an appropriate saw for the granite itself.

  1. Existing cabinets should be firmly in place before you start the countertop installation. Make sure the cabinet corners are square. Perform the sink cut-out (the space needed for the sink itself), cutting outside to avoid excess dust.
  2. Cut the granite slabs to the right length and prepare the sides as required. Align the slabs square to the front end of the cabinet. Remove the slab, apply glue to the cabinet frame, and then place the slab back on the cabinet and let it set.
  3. Clean the edges that will be seamed. Ensure edges are straight and square to the slab, and use araldite adhesive for the seam joint before tightly butting the slabs. Use clamps to bind the slabs together before the araldite hardens.
  4. The surface should be sealed following the installation to prevent staining. Apply sealer on the top surface and allow 10 minutes for absorption. Allow a minimum of 48 hours to dry. Apply a second coat to prevent against bacteria and mildew. You will need to seal your countertop every 1-2 years depending on usage.
  5. For an even easier countertop installation, you can investigate granite tile-based modular countertop kits, which simplifies the process especially for the DIYer in mind.

There’s more information about granite as a material in this short video.


Once your floor and countertop are sparkling and in place, move on to your backsplash.

  1. Measure and prep your area, making sure the surface is clean before applying adhesive. Find the center point of the area on which you’re laying tile, and lay a row of tiles with plastic spacers to get a feel for the grout spaces. Mark them with chalk. Think about your design – get creative!
  2. Apply prepared thin-set grout to the substrate (underlying layer), and smooth it carefully with a trowel. Ensure you don’t cover the chalk lines.
  3. Start the installation at the bottom of the wall to provide a solid support system. Lay the tiles in rows, and add caulk (waterproof sealant) to the edges to prevent moisture build-up. Cut end pieces using a cutter – measure where the cut should be, then score it with the cutter and break by bending it carefully.

Getting you started

These tips will get you started on your kitchen renovation. For more information and specific installation instructions, visit BuildDirect’s Learning Center. Now it’s time to perfect your space and think about how to maintain that beautiful new kitchen…

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The BuildDirect Product Expert Team is here to support any questions you may have regarding your home improvement project.