In my DIY career, I have installed solid hardwood floors over concrete, solid hardwood over plywood (and about 5 layers of linoleum) and refinished old hardwood floors. This weekend, we added installing an engineered hardwood floating floor to the list. I am not a professional when it comes to laying floors, so this isn’t a full-blown tutorial, but more of a post about my experience, so you can decide if you want to tackle this kind of project in your own home.
The first thing you should know about installing a floating floor is that the easiest part of that project is installing the floating floor. It’s everything that comes before that’s tedious and hard…
…starting with moving all of your furniture and ripping out the carpet. (Oh, that carpet was baaaaad.) So, the best way to remove carpet is to cut it with a very sharp utility blade into 3-4′ strips that are easy to roll and carry. Don’t try to roll up the entire thing and move it in one piece.
Just as a side note: If you purchase solid hardwood floors, make sure you give them time to acclimate to your home. Wood reacts to temperature, humidity and dryness, so it’s very important to include that step or you can end up with gaps and/or buckles in your brand new floors. I know it’s torture to have boxes of brand new flooring sitting around in your house for a couple of weeks, but it’s worth it. There seems to be a variety of opinions about the necessity of acclimating engineered hardwood floors as long as solid hardwood floors, so PLEASE do your research and make sure before you install your specific flooring.
I couldn’t resist sharing this photo. As soon as we moved the furniture our boys went bonkers. They were doing gymnastics and wrestling and jumping off the furniture. They were loving it. They did have to get boots on and stop the rough-housing, though, as soon as the padding came off.
They did help some, too. (I know…sleeveless in the snow. He picked his outfit.)
Another thing you have to think of is disposing all of that carpet. Call your garbage service to see if they will take it from the curb. If so, they may have size or quantity restrictions. If not, you will need to make other arrangements to drive it to a dump, rent a dumpster, etc.
You should also be prepared to learn how disgusting your house is. You might think your house is clean, but you realize you are sorely mistake when you find a spoon, a fuzzy train track, a plastic potato chip, DVD booklet and a bunch of Legos, Cherrios, Gold Fish and fluff tucked under your baseboard heaters.
Then comes the most tedious step…removing the staples and tack strips. Fortunately, I have become a champ at removing staples from all of the furniture I’ve stripped. Removing a few hundred staples from a flat floor is a cake walk compared to coaxing millions of tacks and staples out of a curvy French sofa. I actually used the staple remover I use for furniture and it did a great job. THIS is the one I have. For tack strips, a crowbar and hammer works perfectly. Insert the crowbar under the tack strip and knock it under with the hammer, then pry it up. Make sure to wear eye protection when removing staples and tack strips and use gloves when disposing of them. Those tack strips are sharp!
We also removed the baseboards at that time. You can install floors up against baseboard, but we wanted to replace them anyway, so we removed them (with the crowbar as well.) It is important to make sure the floors are entirely flat, clean and free of debris before you start installing the underlayment/moisture barrier. Even one staple or a bump of old caulk or something can make it so the floor won’t lay flat.
Now, this is where I warn you that you never know what you’re getting into when you rip up carpeting. You might have a rotted sub floor or moisture/water issues or an area that is uneven. It could be a total mess. Your two day project of laying new floors could turn into a major renovation that includes not-fun and expensive things like mold abatement. You just have to be flexible and know what you can fix and when you need to call in the professionals. We had a few minor surprises. A bit of water had been seeping in through both doors in the room, so we needed to caulk some areas and now we have to replace the weather stripping and sweeps on the doors to make sure everything is water tight. It was a minor issue, though and it’s a blessing we caught it before the sub floor was damaged.
The second thing we came across was some backer board from the kitchen linoleum that hung over into the area where we were putting the new floor. We chiseled it out, to make the floor even.
Figuring out how to work with the underlayment seemed to take forever. I tend to plow ahead with projects, sometimes to a fault. My husband takes his time and makes sure everything is perfect. I was ready to just roll it out and get the floor down. He was painstakingly smoothing the entire sheet out to eliminate all of the crinkles.
The directions said to butt the pieces of underlayment together and then stick the plastic overhang to the adhesive strip. The problem was, we would do that and then the underlayment would shift slightly and would be overlapping. It was only by 1/8″ or so, but that kind of bump isn’t good. We learned it’s best to leave about 1/8 inch gap between each piece of underlayment. Anywhere two pieces meet where there isn’t an adhesive strip, duct tape should be used to seal the seam. I know that they made these sticky strips for convenience, but honestly, duct tape is better and easier.
On about the third strip, we learned that somewhere in the middle of our two approaches was best. It was okay if there were a few crinkles in the plastic, but we couldn’t have any overlaps or buckles in the padding that would push up the flooring.
The underlayment tends to roll up on the ends, so we used some wide-head nails to hold it down in a few spots and then covered them with duct tape to keep it waterproof.
I’ll talk about installing the floor tomorrow. As I said, that was the easiest part! I’ll also share the brand and name of the floor we purchased and talk about why we went with the one we did.