Can you put hardwood on top of hardwood?

Answered by Jeffrey Anderson ~ December 6, 2012 ~ No Comments

I have hardwood under my carpet, it's old hardwood that may have been original to the home. I want to put maybe some other type of hardwood (bamboo, laminate, etc) on top of it. Can this be done?

Debbie - Birmingham, AL

Jeffrey Anderson

Debbie, this is a tricky question as so much depends on the condition of your existing hardwood flooring and the subfloor or framing that supports it. I'm not sure how old your home is, but many older structures have the hardwood flooring nailed directly to the floor joists without any plywood or other type of subfloor. As the joists settle over time, the hardwood can develop dips, humps, and other noticeable issues. This can occur even if a subfloor exists, but it's often not quite as pronounced.

Laminate and bamboo flooring aren't as thick as solid hardwoods so they are going to conform to the surface that provides their support. Installing an underlayment of some type allows you to adjust for any deviations in the floor framing or the old subfloor. This can be difficult to do when installing directly over the old hardwood.

I would use a long level or straight edge and a string line to check the existing floor for any imperfections that might exist. If everything seems to be level and solid, installing over the hardwood flooring should be okay. Checking to ensure none of the old boards are loose is also important. However, I would also suggest reading the laminate or bamboo manufacturer's installation instructions. Installing the new floor in a manner other than how they suggest could void the warranty.

If it were my floor, I would probably go ahead and install some sort of thin underlayment over the hardwood prior to the new flooring application. This would provide the opportunity to correct any small problems with the hardwood. Since laminate and bamboo are fairly thin, an underlayment about 3/8- or ½-inch thick shouldn't create too much of a height problem where the new flooring meets carpeting or tile.

However, if the existing hardwood is ¾-inch thick and is already on a ¾-inch subfloor, removing the old flooring might be best. Adding another underlayment and new flooring would definitely create a noticeable step up when entering the room. A flooring contractor should be able to inspect the existing hardwood and help with the decision. As they have to stand behind the installation, they normally guide homeowners toward the right choice.

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