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Question: Has anybody out there laid solid oak strip floor over a 3/4" particle board subfloor and lived to tell about it?

Basis for question: I did a search on SE and all answers point to pulling it up, block the walls if needed block the edges where the new will tie in, etc. All of that is proper and good, if I was doing this in an empty house, or even my house while I was living in it.

This will be done in my aunt and uncles house, both are well in their 70's and I will not disrupt their lives that this would require. I called the flooring manufacturer customer service, and I was told the engineered flooring could be stapled down but the solid 3/4" could not. I guess wood movement or lack of it has something to do with it, but I could not quite put my finger on why one is good but not the other. So I asked the customer rep the same thing. The only response I got was, ask this of other installers out there that have done what you seek to do.

So here I am, I know it is frowned upon, but nobody has said in the forums it has failed, only that it is not good to do and the subfloor needs to be replaced. So as an extension of the question is, has anybody installed solid wood floor over a particle board subfloor and it failed, even in the slightest? I do understand that if the floor gets wet there will be problems. The house was built in the 60's and the floor is still solid everywhere I checked, there are vents in the floor I removed to inspect under the carpet the amount I could lift up the carpet to look under where I could.

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I have seen it fail. I have momentarily tried it. And I will never waste my time again.

Fail

Went through a potential house 8-9 years ago. Mid 60s house. They just put down hardwood to sell it. A floor that had just been laid a few weeks earlier had shifting in at least two areas. I popped off a piece of trim in a closet. Pointed flashlight down, stuck screwdriver in and broke off a piece of particle board. I ended up talking them down 15K on the house because of the issue which I reminded them they would now have to disclose.

Two workers and myself had all of the wood popped up (1000 sq feet worth) in about 3-4 hours. I was using a putty knife in some places. The staples didn't hold - and they were long. We took the particle board out and threw down plywood... Probably the most tedious task was pulling the staples and numbering the planks. We got 15K for 2 days of work.

I tried it....

A couple years previous to this I pulled up carpet out of a house (lush wool from the 70s that was past its time). I had a few hundred feet of leftovers from a previous house so what the hell... In my third row I was push my first row over... I stopped and retreated.


Particle board was used a lot in my area in the 60-70s for carpet. I can see it working for anything else. Hell I am not even sure how it lasts 40 years in some houses. When you pull it up you can see it swollen in some areas. Even when screw down it pops right up. Nothing sticks in it (don't get me started on glued down particle board which is a disaster to demo).

Take a couple planks. Staple them down and watch how fast they move.

I think you have some options... Go back to carpet. Go to a floating floor and make sure you have a really good underlayment (semi-waterproof). Or take out particle board and replace with plywood. If you are by yourself on the job it could take a while but with a couple of helpers it could be a one day (long day) project. OSB is a subfloor that I would really be wishy-washy on installing hardwoods (never in my house) but particle board is never a thought to me.

  • Thanks for the experienced answer. I have laid many a solid wood floor too but never on particle board. I will need to set a floating floor over the subfloor with a moisture barrier as you suggest. Now to find a product that looks like a real wood floor that doesn't have that Masonite crap in the center... All the engineered floors are 3" wide, that I have seen so far. The rooms are small and the idea was to keep the flooring narrow, using 2 1/4" stock. Just my own idea... – Jack Feb 5 '15 at 6:46
  • Get samples. I have tested a lot of engineered hardwood. Get the ones with pine backing. The pine backing will basically look like very high grade plywood when in fact they are. But after doing the water test they react to water very well and almost just like regular hardwood. Don't ever get engineered with MDF or equivalent backing. Put this crap in a bucket of water for 2 hours and watch it ruin. – DMoore Feb 6 '15 at 23:18
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I have been in my house since 80s it has the particle board. I put in hard wood over 1/4 ply. It was done 2004. It has been finished once. I am on a hill and was in earthquake 89 CA. I have had no problems. But if using tile that needs the full treatment. Remove PB add Hardy and hot mop. It was done a lot here. I have had toilets overflow. With 2 kids lots of spills. Also I'm on a hill. That board is thick and hard and goes under your wall. It will still be there if cut out. Everyone says it's the devil. Maybe they were bad installers. I don't know where the writers are but in CA. Houses sell for the same. And I'm talking about prices in the millions. If you are really concerned put thicker ply over. It absolutely does take staples and nails and screws.

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