March project spotlight: The Floor Job
Zack and Lisa live in a condo and wanted to switch over from carpet to engineered hardwood flooring. SKTL saved them hundreds of dollars on this project. The risks involved with replacing your flooring are: lifting, bending, hand flexing, sharp objects, repeated striking and inhaling dust.
[STEP 1] The first thing to do is use scissors or box cutters to slice up the carpet, and roll that up. If you know a facility or person who would recycle it, then make your cuts into convenient sizes like 4ft x 10ft. The multi-colored underlayment felt goes in the trash, and we would advise a mask for all the dust and particles that will be released when this comes up.
[STEP 2] There were a number of carpenter staples to be pried out of the cement after the carpet and underlayment came out. Lisa used a claw hammer and pliers.
[STEP 3] After the carpet and underlayment, you will see some wood near your walls with nails in it that keep the carpet in place. A mallet and pry bar gently used in a way that keeps the wood as intact as possible makes the job easier. This part is extremely back-intensive.
[STEP 4] After your (cement or wood) subfloor is revealed, it's a good idea to sweep and vaccuum that age-old dust and accumulation. Again, we recommend a mask while you're doing so.
[STEP 5] It's time to put down the new underlayment. Underlayment has four functions. It is cushioning for the hard flooring so it's not scraping against the subfloor, as well as being thermal insulation, a noise AND a moisture barrier. You'll need tape to keep the underlayment sheets together. Your flooring store will have a suggestion for good pairings. If you buy used flooring separately from underlayment, beware that certain flooring like cork will have a maximum recommended underlayment thickness (usually 3mm). The reason is that too much underlayment means the boards will bend too much under weight.
[STEP 6] Zack chose the wall opposite the heater to lay his first two rows of flooring. The first two rows move around the most, but are the most important, as they set the direction of the rest of your connected floor. On panels near the wall, you want to use shims to space the panels 1/4th inch (4mm) from the wall to allow for expanding and contracting during the seasons. In the photo, you'll see that Zack already had wall trim that stuck out from the wall enough for the gap to still exist. Without this spacing, your floors could buckle during the warm seasons, which would affect the seal that forms between the panels/planks. Attaching the boards usually has you lay them in grooves and tap them in place using a small mallet and hammer block. Knee pads are recommended.
[STEP 7] When Zack got to the end of a row of planks, he measured that plank's distance to the wall, marked it and cut it with a table saw. Other parts of the floor with odd angles took a jigsaw, which moves more freely. The other half of that plank starts the next row. As you can see from the coloring, you'll want to stagger your planks/panels when laying rows, which creates a better seal and natural aesthetic.
[STEP 8] In Zack and Lisa's case, the trim that goes on the wall that hides the flooring gaps was applied before the carpet was removed. Others will apply this after laying down their flooring. A nail gun is the most convenient way to apply this, though others use wood glue. A compound miter saw is recommended to make angled cuts for corners.
Here's the finished living room. Zack and Lisa kept a section of the old carpet to use as a rug. Engineered hardwood generally doesn't insulate noise as well as carpet, and may also scratch under furniture. However, the job sure looks great, and definitely adds value to their condo!
To finish this project, Zack and Lisa borrowed: A compound miter saw, a table saw, a jigsaw, a small mallet and shims. Some quick research shows that buying these items new would cost $400 for the cheapest of each tool at your big box hardware store. This money saved can be spent on better quality materials or saved for other uses!