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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Floor: Day One

This is what we did on Saturday =) 
I wasn't kidding, we woke up
at 5 in the morning! 

The Tools: 

  • Laminate Flooring 
  • Underlayment 
  • Pencils 
  • A T Square 
  • Measuring and Packing Tape 
  • Utility knife and Blades
  • Chop or jig saw
  • Undercut hand saw
  • Pull bar (we used a pry bar and a 2x4")
  • Mallet 
  • Spacers (these can be store bought, homemade or you can be creative)
The Math:
James will be guest blogging on this one! 
(James doing some math on some scrap flooring)

Obviously we started with a bagel and coffee, we wouldn't be New Yawkers if we didn't! 

Yucky floor
Takin' care of business:  Our laminate has been sitting in our new home for a week now, so it is well acclimated to the temperature and humidity. Our rooms didn't have base molding that could be easily removed, but if it did we would have removed it. Instead we will be adding quarter round to the bottom of the molding- more on that later. 

First I walked around the existing floor hammering in or pulling up staples and nails (really anything that the underlayment might get caught on and rip). I found a spot in the floor that felt loose and was not level. When we pulled back the existing vinyl flooring we found a soft area about two feet by four feet. Where a fire place once stood is now some sand with rotted planks of wood on top, slipping and sliding away.  We pulled up the existing floor and planks and reinforced it with new wood. It was like a puzzle working with the existing crumbling supports to make it level. If we had placed the laminate flooring over this dip we would have ended up with spaces between the planks and possible cracking.

Cutting up some 2x4"
Mo and James rolling
out the underlayment

After that time consuming project, we used a broom and small shop vac to get rid of any remaining debris before laying the underlayment. There are lots of different kinds of underlayment but we chose the kind that was just foam that acts as a shock absorber and noise reducer. If you are installing over a cement floor you need a moisture barrier, but our subfloor was wood, so this was not necessary. Some underlayment has adhesive on it; if yours does not, be prepared to use lots of packing tape. If you do have the kind with the adhesive, take note: it is easier to start with the adhesive side away from the wall. That way you can peel the backing off the tape and just overlap the next strip of underlayment over it. It's a pain in the butt to try and fold back the plastic to fit another piece of underlayment underneath it easily. We learned from experience ;)

Decide the direction you want to lay your floor. Conventional wisdom seems to agree that you should run it parallel to the main light source, or run it parallel to the longest wall if there is no outside light. This makes sense because the smaller seams are then perpendicular to the light source, and will produce smaller shadows than if the long seams were lit that way.

There is a learning curve to this process. We laid and relaid the first row at least three times trying to get it just right. The first row is critical because all of the later rows build off of it. So make sure that your first row is straight and that you have spacers between each board and the wall. You can save your self time and materials by doing this. 

Tongue and Groove
Let's talk about tongues and grooves. Each side and end of the flooring has a tongue or a groove. The tongue side has a piece of compressed fiber board that sticks out and the groove side, well, has a groove. These two piece slide together to form the seams. We used Armstrong Swiftlock for our floor which locks together on the long sides.  

If there are some areas of the wall or flooring that look a little rough, remember you have a little bit of wiggle room where the quarter round will go.  Quarter round looks like a 1/4th cross section of a round dowel. It has many uses, but in this case, it is placed at the bottom of the molding to provide a transition from the base molding to the floor. We will talk at length about this next week after we install it. 

The flat parts of the wall are easy, but the doors and closets that will get ya! We used an undercut saw to cut the bottom of the door jambs so that we could slide the flooring tiles under the door jamb. This is because in these places, there won't be any quarter round (or base molding if you are replacing the molding) to hide the expansion gap.  

The first row can be tricky as you have to place the spacers very careful to give yourself at least 1/4" for the laminate to expand. This space will be covered up by your quarter round. It is important that these spacers be placed between the flooring and a part of the wall that doesn't move. You are going to be hitting the flooring with a mallet and block in order to get the tongue to slide into the groove of the last board. We have read to start on a wall with a door and end on a wall without one if possible. This makes sense because it would be difficult (actually it may be impossible) to slide the last row under the door jamb while locking it into the last row of boards; whereas, the first row you can slide in with no problem. 

We gently place the flooring down to see where it would need to be cut. My father always likes to remind me, measure twice, cut once! Two reminders here: 1) remember when drawing your cutting lines that you draw them to represent where the tiles where actually go. Once or twice we drew the cut lines on the back side of the tiles and when we cut the boards didn't fit in because we cut the wrong end of the board. If I were doing the measuring/cutting independently I probably would have done some tracing with wax paper. 2) You don't want the seams to all be in a line across the room. You have to plan to stagger the boards taking note of how long the last board in the row is. You don't want to end up with anything shorter than 16" at the start or end of the row. This rules is especially important for high traffic areas, as the shorter boards are more easily moved around and damaged. At the same time, you don't want the seams on two adjacent rows to be within 16" of each other if you can help it. This is more for aesthetics.

We had to cut and re-cut the laminate boards a couple times to get the space around our ornate molding just right. This cut had to be precise because there would be no quarter round under the door frame to hide our cuts. We forgot to bring saw horses and instead Mo and Glenn used some empty buckets and living room tables with our jig saw! 

The last board in each row can prove to be a little challenging as you don't have a place to knock the tongue and grove together. We had a couple helpers and were able to have one person hold the first board in the row in place with a prybar while someone else used a prybar to pull the last board in. My husband would like to point out that they make a tool called a pull bar which is made for this purpose and you can get them at most home improvement stores.

You don't want any gaps between boards, so we used a 2x4" and mallet to gentle knock all the boards together both on the ends as we started the second and additional rows. It really helps to have numerous people holding boards in place and keeping an eye on the gaps as you add additional rows. Sometimes we would get a board in just right, only to realize we knocked a board down the row out of alignment. Make sure to check previous rows before beginning a new one.

Here are James and Mo aligning and sticking (better known as finagling) the adhesive strips on the underlayment to get ready for the next section of the flooring. 

Cutting the underlayment in place, trimming around the obstacles in the room. 

Five hours later, here is the master bedroom. Sun drenched and ready to dance on! I can't wait to move in all my furniture! And the window treatments!!!

Send us your questions and comments. I'll write back! 

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