I’ve recently dealt with a concern concerning using rubber mallets when installing engineered hardwood flooring.
The seller said it was standard practice to use a mallet made of rubber to install engineered hardwood flooring. As an installer for several years, I’ve used the mallet with a rubber handle on many engineered wood floors in the course of installation over time, with generally great outcomes. The manufacturer’s installation guideline state:
“NOTE Don’t use a mallet of rubber or directly onto the flooring to connect the tongue and groove. This can cause damage to the flooring or the finish. Make use of a tapping block when needed.”
This prompted me to start studying other manufacturer’s instructions for installation. I looked online for a minimum of five big wood flooring manufacturers and discovered the same warning against using a rubber mallet when trying to put in engineered flooring.
Mohawk, Anderson, Armstrong, Shaw, and Mannington warn against using rubber mallets when installing engineered wood flooring.
Here’s what they have to tell us:
“NOTE: DO NOT USE A RUBBER MALLET TO INSTALL FLOORING. STRIKING THE SURFACE WITH A RUBBER MALLET MAY “BURN” THE FINISH CAUSING IRREPARABLE DAMAGE.”
“NOTE: Don’t use a mallet made of rubber or hammer directly on flooring to force the tongue-and-groove. This can cause damage to the flooring or finish.”
“NOTE: DO NOT INSTALL FLOORING USING RUBBER MALLETS. STRIKING THE SURFACE WITH A RUBBER MALLET MAY “BURN” THE FINISH CAUSING IRREPARABLE DAMAGE.”
“NOTE Don’t use a mallet made of rubber or hammer directly against the flooring to force the tongue-and-groove. This could damage the flooring as well as the finish.”
“CAUTION: Never use a rubber mallet to tap planks since this can mark or damage the flooring.”
After working employed in the wood flooring industry for more than 40 years, I’ve seen the practice of using a mallet made of rubber to engage the tongue and groove during the installation process has become a common use with glue down, nail/staple down, and sometimes even while floating an engineered floor.
Of course, it was done with caution as well as commonsense.
I had a variety of mallets made of rubber, with various sizes and weights and densities of the rubber to suit the kind of flooring I was putting in. The first kind of rubber mallet had a completely white rubber head and wood handle, which was very light in weight. The next type was a smaller flooring mallet with the head of a white rubber, which is typically employed in conjunction with the 3/8″ or 1/2″ wood flooring. There was also the more traditional 3/4″ flooring mallet, which had a head of white rubber.
The most effective solution is to utilize a tapping block using the mallet. Do not use the mallet on the wood.
I’ve had good results and bad experiences with these mallets made of rubber. It is important to be aware of the issue quickly, correct it, and adapt to a better installation method immediately after you spot an issue.
In all aspects of the installation, it’s up to the installer to observe the floor’s appearance as they put it. If they notice scratches on the floor, they must stop, identify the cause, fix any damage and modify their installation method.
The main reason manufacturers advise against using a mallet made from rubber is that there are varieties of mallets made of rubber. They range from tough to soft with different kinds and shades of rubber.
Some are too tough and can break the floor. Others are too soft and leave a rubber residue on the floor. Also, certain types of burn marks on the floor. If that’s not the case, the adhesive could get onto the mallet’s head and be transferred to the floor. If there isn’t a proper cleaning, the adhesive residue can be cured on the floor or in the wire texture or brushing.
With the variety of flooring and styles makers are making today, there isn’t a “one mallet for any floor” solution. The manufacturer will not guarantee an installation if there’s damage caused to the flooring made using a rubber mallet. Use tapping blocks or whatever their suggested installation method is.
I’d like to make it transparent, if you decide to use a mallet made of rubber for installing engineered flooring, you’ll likely be charged the cost if there’s an injury to your wood flooring or finishing.
If you’ve been successful at your final job or for several years, it doesn’t mean you’ll be successful in the next position. With the next wave of textured floors made of scraped and wire-brushed flooring and the numerous kinds of finishes available, it is advisable to be extra careful and secure yourself from any liability.
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