I am back to share with you the ongoing front hallway makeover. To this point, I have shared with you the new paint color here, the new lighting here, and the removal of the tile here. The next step is starting the flooring installation that will eventually spread through the family room, bedroom and the bedroom hall.
After removing the tile, baseboards and leveling the floor, my hallway looks like this. While it makes a great dance floor for my 12 year old son (who has Michael Jackson moves, by the way). it is finally time to put my new flooring down.
Laminate vs Wood – My Internal Debate
I mentioned in my last post that I wanted wood floors but specifically, I am installing wood laminate. Laminate is designed to resemble wood or tile but it is actually made of a printed finish layer fused to a composite core.
My reasons for going with laminate .vs. wood were Affordabilty and Durability.
Affordability – Laminate flooring can be more affordable by up to $3.00 a square foot or more.
Durability – Laminate has exceptional durability standing up to impact, scratches and fading better than wood products. It is also more forgiving when dealing with uneven or damaged sub-floors.
Even engineered wood flooring (which is a wood product with an engineered core and a veneer of solid wood plank on top) is slightly more affordable than wood, but it has the same durability issues as wood such as fading, scratching and impact damage. Like wood floors, it can be sanded to remove scratches and resealed, but with engineered wood flooring, that can only be done once since the solid wood portion of the plank is fairly thin.
In my last home, I had engineered wood flooring and it suffered under the wear and tear of toddlers and canine toenails. Fortunately, I no longer have a toddler doing burn-outs on my wood floors with his battery-powered trike ….. true story,……. but I still have dogs, Texas sunshine and a fairly active teenage household.
Bottom line, laminate is affordable, durable, and as warm and beautiful as real wood.
Learning How To Install
I started this phase with reading every DIY blog I follow and watching every YouTube video I could find to get a complete understanding of the process. This post won’t be a “How To”, since there are so many videos on how to do this, many of these are here, here and here.
Tools for the Job
To remove baseboards, install and modify the laminate wood planks, I collected my tools for the job:
1. Box Cutter (for cutting underlayment)
2. Duck Tape (for taping together underlayment)
3. Handheld circular saw and jig saw (for making needed cuts to the flooring)
4. Multipurpose tool (for trimming under door frames to put flooring up to the wall frames)
5. I recommend a Laminate Flooring Installation Kit, which includes a tapping block, a pull bar and several wedge spacers.
The first step is to lay down the underlayment. This is primarily the vapor barrier (as well as providing some sound absorption) and will need to allow a few inches above the wall at each end and along the adjacent wall. This will be trimmed down after installation along the top of the flooring and then further covered with either baseboard, quarter round (if you aren’t removing your baseboards before installation) or transition pieces between flooring types.
The underlayment I chose had a sticky strip that allowed me connect the strips together. However, most just require duck tape to connect them to create a complete barrier between the flooring and sub-floor.
Helpful Hint: Laminate flooring tends sound a bit hollow when you walk on them. A quality underlayment will provide better sound baffling.
I chose a floating laminate floor that locks together and floats over the sub-floor. They call it Angle/Tap, which means you fit the pieces together at an Angle and then lock it down or in tight fitting spaces, Tap the interlocking pieces together. Once you get the hang of it, it can go pretty fast.
The most important things to remember when putting down the flooring is that keeping the first two or three rows as straight and plum as possible. My dad kept checking square with an L-shaped Carpenter Square and if the seams were exactly perpendicular to the wall, then we were square. Once the first few rows where in, we did not need to keep checking, though we did. While walls are never truly square, and you may find yourself with some odd measurements against the opposite wall, don’t be alarmed. Just maintain your square against your starting wall and your floor will flow nicely.
Helpful Hint: The first few rows may start to detach as you are trying to snap a new piece into place. Use painters tape to keep the first few rows together while you maneuver new planks into place.
Allow for expansion
All floors, whether wood or composite, will expand and contract and the weather cools and heats up. It is important to keep a 1/4 space between your wall and your flooring. If you are removing the baseboards, then the measurement starts at the wall. If you are keeping your baseboards and using quarter round, then the measurement starts at the baseboard. This spacing will keep your floors from buckling when the wood expands.
Helpful hint: If the drywall ends before it hits the sub-floor, then staple or nail the shims/wedges to the wall to keep them from being pushed underneath the drywall line. A floating floor will shift as it is being worked.
Alternate Starting Lengths
The planks should be staggered to keep seams from lining up. My first row was started with an shortened plank that was cut to room approximately 18 inches. Then the next row was started with a full plank. On my floor, we only alternated every other row, but you can start a 3rd row with a plank shortened to another length and then have a three row pattern alternating the startling length size.
We completed the hallway with 9 rows of planks and only one area that just
kicked-our-booty challenged our jigsaw skills.
While we removed all the baseboards, we did not remove the door casings and with a “bend and snap” (my description, not a technical term), sometimes it was
frustrating a challenge to get the floor to slid into place under the casing without somehow ruining the plank.
Even before the baseboards were purchased and installed, I was quick to sweep and mop after we got the flooring completed and moved my stuff back in right away. I love it. Everything I thought it would be.
Here is the before:
While this floor will continue into the family room, I rolled the living room carpet back into place and it gives it a complete look for the moment (just ignore those uneven places under the carpet). I will be on my own for the rest of the rooms I have planned. My Dad was in town for just 2 weeks and we got so much done with the tile removal and the great start for the installation. This was the last of many projects we tackled, which I also plan to share in a few posts over the next few weeks.
To complete the Hallway Makeover series, I will share with you the finishing touches to the baseboards, adding art and even share some things I want to do to the doors in this hallway.
If you managed to read this all the way through, I appreciate your patience and hope you learned something new or better yet, feel inspired to tackle a flooring project in your home. Do you have an area of your house that is reaching a critical mass frustration level? Leave your comments below.
Stay Calm and Thrive On!