How to lay Chipboard Flooring on timber joists

Knowing how to lay chipboard flooring perfectly is essential - because they are the most commonly specified floor boards in the UK. This means you are very likely to come across them quite often on the job site as a busy carpenter & joiner. 

Chipboard floorboards are inexpensive, strong, hard wearing, able to handle high traffic loads, water resistant and suitable for just about any final floor coverings to be laid on top (tiles/carpets/laminates etc. can all be installed over chipboard) which makes them extremely versatile in many applications.

They are also a good solid material to use for garage or shed shelving, homemade workbenches & in your loft space for extra storage too

For an even better and longer lasting job, when I lay chipboard fooring I always PVA glue the joints and use a bead of flexible glue like Sikaflex Adhesive on the joist to ensure there are no squeaks you need to fix later once the floor boards are screwed down tight on to the joists.

Which thickness Chipboard flooring should you use?

Although chipboard floor boards are available in 18mm and 22mm thicknesses you will almost certainly need 22mm thick for any normal modern flooring application. Boards are 600mm wide and 2400mm long, meaning they are fairly easy to manage plus quick and easy to lay. In an ideal world you would lay chipboard flooring before installing the plasterboard to the walls so that the plasterboard can cover the 10mm expansion gap left around the perimeter. If you are installing in a room that already has the walls covered/plastered, this is not a problem provided you will be installing a skirting board for example that can cover the expansion gap instead.

These are tools & fixings I use to lay chipboard flooring:

  • Permanent marker pen, chalk line & carpenters pencils - for marking out I always use a permanent marker pen when I lay chipboard flooring along with thick carpentry pencils too. I find the marker far more visible and less likely to rub off which is good for marking the position of a joist and also pipes that you want to avoid screwing into (Always mark the pipes permanently on the flooring to stop you screwing into them and so they can be found later on if ever needed). The pencil I use for long lines that I will cut to so as not to waste the marker to much.

    Once I have a few boards down in place with 1-2 screws in each I will use the chalk line to mark a line right across them where all of the joists are before filling up with screws

  • Goggles, gloves and mask - Chipboard dust is disgusting and particularly harmful (carcinogenic) so protect you lungs with a mask and your eyes from chips when cutting (it is called chipboard for a reason..) gloves are handy when shifting boards around as they are sharp and will cut into your hands if you are not used to working with rough materials

  • Circular saw - Essential for cutting the sheets, a decent circular saw with a TCT blade suitable for cutting chipboard/laminate materials.

  • Straight edge or spirit level - for marking out straight lines to cut and also to mark the position of joists when screwing the chipboard sheets down if not using the chalk line

  • Tape measure - hopefully that is self explanatory..

  • One or two cordless drills - For drilling and screwing the sheets down on to the joists. You may need some flat wood drill bits too if you have radiator pipes to drill holes for

  • Chipboard screws - to fix down in place after you lay chipboard flooring use 60mm wood screws. You will need to use 5 screws evenly spaced across each joist so you can use as many as 30 screws per board. This makes it is easy to calculate how many screws to buy by counting the number of sheets (and multiplying by 30).

  • Can you nail chipboard flooring to the joists? - if you are looking to save a few quid you can nail the boards down if you really need to, using 75mm ring shank nails. In this instance even though the style of nail helps you should still glue the boards down to the joists to minimise the risk of them bouncing up. If you do get a squeak here and there you can always wind a screw in next to a lost head nail for extra strength.
  • Step by step guide on how I lay chipboard flooring!

    Get yourself set-up safely! Joists can be tricky to walk on. Make sure your shoelaces are done up,  don't have too manty cables lying around or any obstructions that could cause you to trip or lose your footing. If you have planks to walk on make sure they don't overhang dangerously and aren't going to flip up if you stand on the very end. 

    As a general set-up I will try to have a pile of floor boards all facing the exact same way so I don't need to think too much about which way to start marking the board as I go through, and I am less likely to cut from the wrong end.

    Load a few piles of boards out at various points as well so as you are laying you don't need to move too far to get the next board.

    • To lay the first row of flooring: I will push the tongue against the wall, meaning each row will have the tongue to be slotted into the previous row.
    • Setting out: Before you can lay the boards starting hard up against one wall, you need to make sure you won't end up with a strip at the end less than 150mm wide (150mm is the minimum recommended width by the manufacturer). Measure the length of the room to determine how many rows there will be. For example, room is 4m long exactly (4000mm). Divide that by 600mm and you will have 6.66 rows. The last board will be 600mm x 0.66 = 396mm. This is way more than the 150mm minimum so you are OK to start laying. 

    If however the rip ended up at 100mm for example, it would be better to rip 100mm off the first row before you lay them, so that when you get to the end you would have approximately a 200mm rip to cut in - 50mm more than the minimum recommended by the manufacturer (For more help ripping down sheet materials with a circular saw visit the circular saw page here)

    • Always sweep the dirt off the joists and make sure they are clean and free of any dust before laying boards down
    • I lay chipboard flooring boards down dry initially for two rows before fixing anything: First off I lay the first row down dry and cut the last board in to length. The off-cut from this board can then be used to start the second row which I will also lay down before having fixed anything in place. Once I am happy that I can fit these boards together squarely and straight and nothing needs adjusting I will mark the positions of the joists with a marker pen, slide the floor boards back out of the way temporarily, glue the joists and then replace the first two rows. Using a combination of wedges against the wall and a large length of timber to strike against the boards edge (avoid hitting the tongue or groove directly with a hammer) I will manoeuvre the boards until I am happy with them. Put one screw in the first row at each joist and then ensure the second row is tight against it before putting one screw at the point of each joist too. 

    This technique ensures you won't screw the first board or two slightly out of square/straight with the rest of the room and ensures that the rest of the floor will flow smoothly and quickly thereafter

    • Continue to lay chipboard flooring across the joists for the rest of the floor, ensuring the joints along the 600mm edges are staggered - always avoid joining on the same joist wherever possible
    • Joists: Your sub-floor joists should be at 400mm centres meaning the edge of the boards always falls on a joist too
    • Mass screw the boards down: Once I have laid 3-4 rows and depending on the time it has taken (glue will go off in 30 minutes depending on temperature) I will stop laying boars for a moment, sweep the floor off and use the chalk line to mark lines onto the flooring representing where the joists are. This will be easy as you will have initially marked the position of each joist on the first row and will still be able to see the joists at the most recent part laid. Now starting at the beginning and with a pouch full of screws start filling the boards up. There should be 5 screws into each joist per board, this is easy to do one 30mm from each edge, one in the middle and then one more in each direction from the middle to the edge equally spaced

    If the room is being carpeted and the walls are plastered, click here to see how I install skirting boards like a pro!

    You may next be in a position to install skirting boards after having laid your chipboard flooring.

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