Laying parquet: do it yourself or have it fitted?

Arne Schätzle

A beautiful wooden floor looks elegant and spreads a warm and cozy atmosphere. With a bit of manual skill, you can even lay parquet yourself instead of hiring a professional. It’s not as difficult as you might think. We explain what you should watch out for.

Ein Mann kniet vor einem halb verlegten Parkett-Boden, er hält einen Hammer in der einen und einen Nagel in der anderen Hand. Im Hintergrund ist eine Glastür zu sehen.
© Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Laying parquet: prefabricated or solid parquet

Whether you’re laying parquet yourself or hiring a professional, the first thing to do is to decide whether you want to install prefabricated parquet or solid parquet.

Solid parquet

Solid parquet consists of individual pieces of solid wood in the form of wooden strips, which make up a board. You can also arrange the strips differently, for example in the popular herringbone pattern. Parquet from the factory is untreated, and you don’t sand, brush and seal it until it’s been laid. Solid parquet has a tongue and groove system on the underside.

Solid parquet is more expensive, but also more durable. While the backing layer of prefabricated parquet is often exposed after sanding the parquet just twice, you can continue to restore solid parquet by more frequent sanding and sealing. Stable solid parquet with a wear layer of 22 millimeters can be sanded down up to eight times.

Solid parquet is stronger and therefore requires a greater construction height than prefabricated parquet. The construction height is the thickness of the entire floor right down to the subsurface. In most cases, there are multiple layers in between this and the actual floor covering, such as underfloor heating, a vapor barrier and impact sound insulation or thermal insulation panels.

The construction height of the floor also affects doors and frames, which you may need to adjust. In addition, if the construction height varies at the transition from one room to another, this can result in slight ledges that represent trip hazards. The same applies at the top and bottom of staircases.

Prefabricated parquet

When you buy prefabricated parquet, the individual strips are already combined into finished boards. Prefabricated parquet consists of several layers of wood, which is why it is also called layered parquet. Only the top layer, also called the wear layer, is made of high-grade wood. Underneath this there are one or two layers of high-density fiberboard (HDF) or even strips of softwood, such as spruce, as backing material.

This backing layer is in turn glued to the stabilizing layer or retraction veneer. This third layer of parquet is for stabilization purposes. Prefabricated parquet is delivered from the factory already completely sanded and sealed. The parquet elements are generally available in various shapes and sizes.

Prefabricated parquet is also referred to as click parquet. The original tongue and groove system in click parquet has an additional profile run, which allows the connection to “snap” into place. With a little practice, even do-it-yourselfers can quite easily push together the tongue and groove and lay the parquet themselves.

Two hands are holding a parquet flooring element, which they are connecting to a second element by means of a tongue and groove connection.

Prefabricated parquet or click parquet is already sanded and sealed – and thanks to the tongue and groove connections, is easy to put together.

Laying parquet: glued or floating?

You can install your parquet as a floating floor, without gluing it into place, or you can glue the whole surface down. Solid wood parquet is usually glued, while prefabricated parquet is generally laid as a floating floor.

Gluing parquet

Gluing parquet over the entire surface represents complicated and laborious precision work. The technique is usually a great challenge for inexperienced amateurs. Before you start the actual work, you will need to check whether the subsurface is suitable for this type of fitting.

It is essential that the subsurface is level and free of any residual moisture or dirt particles. You will also usually need to prime it. When gluing down parquet, an initial coat of dispersion primer is recommended, while cracks are best filled with liquid resin.

If, after installation, slight unevenness is visible on the surface between the individual strips, you must level this by sanding. Before walking on the parquet, you will also need to apply a sealant of varnish or oil.

When you glue down solid parquet, the full-surface installation method leaves virtually no hollowness under the wood. This ensures excellent impact sound insulation.

A hand is gluing solid wood parquet onto a floor. Further parquet elements can be seen in the foreground.

Solid parquet should be glued completely to the subsurface. However, this surface must meet various criteria.

Laying floating parquet

As an alternative to gluing, the floating installation method is now well established. It doesn’t require any glue, and prefabricated parquet click systems make fitting quite straightforward, even for beginners. Some solid wood parquet can also be laid using the floating method.

However, impact sound insulation is required for floating parquet. This is because a thin layer of air forms between the subsurface and the parquet, which makes the floor slightly bouncy when walked on and increases the impact sound.

Regardless of whether the parquet is connected via a click system or a tongue and groove system – all the different types can also be glued down. High-quality elastic adhesives are used for this purpose. Compared to older-generation adhesives, these remain permanently elastic and guarantee a durable bond to the subsurface.

The following table shows which type of fitting is possible on which type of subsurface:

  • Floating
  • Fully glued
  • Screwed or nailed
  • Prefabricated parquet
  • Screed, dry screed, tiles, PVC, linoleum, wood or chipboard
  • Screed, dry screed, tiles, wood or chipboard
  • Not suitable
  • 10mm solid wood parquet (click)
  • Screed, dry screed, tiles, PVC, linoleum, wood or chipboard
  • Screed, dry screed, tiles, wood or chipboard
  • Not suitable
  • Solid wood parquet 20/21mm
  • Not suitable
  • Screed, dry screed (strip bonding only), tiles, wood/chipboard
  • Joists, wood/chipboard

The cost of laying parquet

A serious, conclusive calculation should take into account the cost of materials and the cost of the specialist company that will install the parquet – unless you want to lay the floor yourself.

Cost of materials

The cost depends largely on the quality of the chosen parquet. There is a wide selection of products available, ranging from brand-name products to inexpensive versions from the hardware store. An acceptable, inexpensive prefabricated parquet can be obtained for around 40 francs per square meter. You will need to spend at least twice that for solid wood parquet. On average, one square meter of parquet costs about 60 to 100 francs.

  • Category:
  • Very economical
  • Economical
  • Average
  • Expensive
  • High-end
  • Price per m²
  • from 15 francs
  • 40-60 francs
  • 60-100 francs
  • 100-150 francs
  • 150+ francs
  • Service life
  • approx. 10-20 years
  • approx. 20-30 years
  • approx. 30-40 years
  • approx. 40-60 years
  • approx. 60-200 years

Economical and very economical parquet are likely to be made of low-quality wood and covered only with a thin layer of varnish or oil. Often, due to poor workmanship and thin wear layers, the expected service life is just 10 to 30 years. These products are less expensive only in the short term.

In principle, the more expensive the parquet, the longer it will last. You should therefore choose higher-quality material and a price that is at least towards the upper average of the scale. High-end wooden flooring can be found at the top of the scale. This consists of very fine wood and is either made by hand or produced using very expensive machinery. This very high-quality wood really can last up to 200 years.

A woman is laying click parquet. In front of her are more parquet elements, a hammer, triangles and a measuring tape.

You can save money by laying your own parquet. Click parquet is ideal if you want to carry out the task yourself.

Crucial for the service life – and the price: the wear layer

The price of your parquet is largely based on the thickness of the wear layer – this is the layer that is actually made of solid wood. In principle, the higher the wear layer, the better the quality of the parquet and the longer its service life.

After all, the stronger the wear layer, the more often you can sand down the floor and the longer it will last. Around 0.3 to 0.5 millimeters of wood are removed each time you sand it down. The necessary sanding frequency depends on how much you use your parquet and how you clean and maintain it.

Solid parquet is available in different thicknesses of between eight and 23 millimeters. Assuming that parquet needs to be renovated approximately every ten to 15 years due to wear and damage, solid parquet has a service life that spans from several decades to well over 100 years.

Prefabricated parquet made up of three layers and a wear layer of between three and eight millimeters can be sanded down two to four times, while prefabricated parquet consisting of two layers and a wear layer of three to six millimeters can be sanded down two to three times.

Labor costs

In addition to the cost of materials, having parquet laid by a professional will involve labor costs. The work may also include installing impact sound insulation, as well as dealing with baseboards and other connectors. We have compiled a list of the costs of labor per square meter in the following table. All the figures are approximate values.

  • Service
  • Unit
  • Minimum cost
  • Maximum cost
  • Laying impact sound insulation
  • Square meter
  • 5 francs
  • 15 francs
  • Laying parquet floorboards
  • Square meter
  • 50 francs
  • 95 francs
  • Baseboards and other finishing elements
  • Linear meter
  • 6 francs
  • 10 francs
  • Total
  • 61 francs
  • 120 francs

Laying parquet yourself – here’s how

If a specialist company takes over, you can usually rely on a professional result and the work is mostly done quickly. But saving money is not the only advantage of laying parquet yourself. If handicrafts are among your hobbies, you will certainly find pleasure in this project. We have made a list of all the important steps for laying parquet below:

Step 1: prepare the subsurface and the parquet

Before you start laying the parquet, make sure that the floor is dry, clean and level. Any unevenness greater than three millimeters per meter must be leveled out, for example with leveling compound. The parquet wood should also have two days to get used to the room temperature beforehand. This means that it’s best to store it where you plan to install it.

Step 2: lay the vapor barrier

There are usually three layers on the subsurface: screed, foil and impact sound insulation. You should use PE film (polyethylene film) as a vapor barrier if the parquet floor is to be laid on screed or other mineral surfaces. The film protects the parquet from moisture from below.

The film should be laid out throughout the room – so that the individual sheets overlap by ten centimeters and protrude by two to five centimeters next to the walls. Stick the joints together with aluminum sealing tape so that they are vapor-tight.

Step 3: apply impact sound insulation

Impact sound insulation can be made of flexible fiberboard, or consist of mats of cork, foam or ribbed cardboard. It minimizes walking noise. If you’re installing your parquet on old wooden floorboards, screw them down well and install your floating click parquet on top of the insulation.

Two hands are laying click parquet on foam impact sound insulation.

A vapor barrier protects the floor, whereas impact sound insulation protects the nerves of anyone who lives on the story below the parquet.

Step 4: lay the first row of parquet

Start by sawing off the longitudinal tongue of the boards that will form the first row. Now roughly fit the boards of the first row against the wall using a plane and saw. Before you begin, make sure your walls are perpendicular to the floor.

If this is not the case, draw the necessary width measurement on the parquet and then cut the board along the marking. You should also place spacer wedges of a thickness of about ten to 15 millimeters between the boards and the wall at the front end and on the long sides. This improves sound insulation and forms an expansion joint. This is needed by the wood in order to expand and contract.

Place the next board on the free front end and tap it lightly with a hammer and mallet. Some types of parquet are connected to each other with clips. In this case, there is no need to tap or fix the boards. Other types are held together by glue. When gluing boards, it’s important to remove any excess glue immediately, as residues can leave unsightly stains on the wood.

Adjust the length of the end piece in the row. To do so, turn the board lengthwise so that you can attach it to the previous board with the tongue and groove system. Now push the parquet floorboard, including the spacer wedges, towards the wall and mark the length with a triangle and pencil.

You should always shorten or cut the board from underneath. This reduces the risk of scratching or otherwise damaging the top surface. Now you can sand down the sawed-off edge a bit more. Then start the next row with the piece left over from the previous board. This offsets the boards in relation to one another and ensures a less compact appearance.

Step 5: lock the head edge into place

The head edge is the short side of a parquet floorboard, which is clicked onto the previous one. You can hear and feel when the head edges are locked into place. Once the boards have clicked, carefully slide the new board over the last one you laid, bring them very close together and click the short ends together.

Step 6: lay the second row

Click the second row of parquet floorboards lengthwise into the first. This works best at an angle of 25 degrees. By pressing firmly on the tongue and groove, the various elements of almost any system will simply snap into place. If pressure alone is not enough, help the boards along with a carpenter’s hammer. The edge of the board should be protected by a piece of scrap wood placed between the hammer and the parquet as it is hammered in.

Step 7: fit the end row

Arrange the parquet floorboards along the last row in the same way. Run a leftover piece along the wall, drawing the profile of the wall with a pencil as you go. Then you will need to subtract the distance from the wall. Alternatively, a contour gage or needle template can help. This makes it easier to gage and copy the cutting paths. Finally, cut the board accordingly with the table saw or jigsaw.

A workman is sawing a parquet floorboard with a jigsaw.

In any areas with door frames or heating pipes, it’s best to saw the parquet to size using a ripsaw, slitting saw or jigsaw.

Step 8: tackle problem areas: door frames and heating pipes

When installing parquet in a door area, you will need to shorten the wooden door frame with a slitting saw or a ripsaw so that the parquet will fit underneath. If the door frame is made of metal, the parquet must be cut to size accordingly.

If there are heating pipes coming up out of the floor, mark the position of the pipe on the parquet you want to lay. Again, a contour gage can be useful. Drill out the marked points approx. 30 millimeters larger than the pipe diameter. Then saw out a V-shaped fitting piece at an angle of 45 degrees. Apply wood glue to the cut piece and reattach it behind the heater pipe. You can cover the recesses with radiator rosettes.

Step 9: note on maintenance

Once you have finished laying your prefabricated parquet, you can make the most of one of its main advantages: since you won’t need to sand or oil it – as is the case with solid wood parquet – you can walk on it immediately. But take care of your new floor – it will thank you for it later. Whether prefabricated parquet or solid wood parquet: sharp cleaning agents are taboo. The most important advice for maintaining parquet is not to get the floor too wet when cleaning, so that the wood doesn’t swell. Clean the dry parquet with a cotton mop or vacuum cleaner as often as possible. Always use only a spray-dampened cloth to wipe it, and you will get many years of good use out of your flooring.

Conclusion: extensive knowledge required

The choice between laying your parquet yourself and having it installed certainly depends on more than just the cost. You will continue to appreciate professionally installed parquet for a long time, just as you will be regularly annoyed by imperfections if you don’t do a good DIY job. For this reason alone, you should think carefully about whether you have sufficient know-how to carry out the work yourself. Solid wood parquet made of individual wooden strips is certainly in the best hands with a professional; if you want to install parquet yourself, you should probably only consider ready-made parquet with a click connection system.

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