DIY Floors: The Odds Are Against You

By Steve Cooper

Installing_Floors1A few weeks ago in her Floor Talk blog, interior designer Annette Callari offered some good advice to consumers in an entry called “DIY Room Designs . . . Don’t Go Too Far.” Beware of the false impressions created by your favorite home-makeover shows on TV, she warned.

Annette’s blog reminded me about a friend who had worked on one of the popular makeover shows. She had lots of war stories to tell. The best story was about a kitchen passageway that was walled off by a frenzied TV crew. It made for good television, but there was a slight downside. By blocking the doorway, the TV remodelers changed the kitchen’s traffic flow—and not for the better. The real reason the designers had boarded up the pass-through? They needed a better angle for their camera and closing off the door gave it to them. After the curtain came down on the production and the TV renovators were long gone, the homeowners were forced to invest in restoration work to reopen the entry.

Don’t be fooled. What you see on TV has been shaped for the viewers, not for real life. There is a point of view called reality and another POV called camera reality. All the rooms you are shown on television or in magazines are limited by what seen is within the camera frame. That’s camera reality. It’s sort of real, but it doesn’t tell the complete story. Disaster may lurk just outside the camera’s view.

Which brings us to your floors. Don’t believe everything you see or read in the media about DIY flooring installations. Homeowners are often encouraged to view DIY installations as an easy task that anyone can tackle. You have the morning free, put down new floors! The truth is that flooring installation is usually best left to professionals. Through training and experience, the pros know how to:

  • Work around the edges of a room, making sure that every spot where flooring meets wall has a clean seam.
  • Cut around oddities, such as the uneven surface of a fireplace hearth or a tricky jog in a wall. They even know what to do when walls are crooked instead of straight and true.
  • Handle difficult transitions between floors of different heights or different materials.
  • Work cleanly and efficiently with floor adhesives and/or nails.

Certainly, there are some situations where a homeowner can do an acceptable job with installation. It’s possible for someone with a steady hand and patience to put down a no-nail laminate click floor, for instance, in a small space with straight walls, no tricky changes and no obstacles. However, before you commit to such a project, study the room carefully for any challenge, such as a difficult transition or meandering wall.

In the end, you will enjoy your floors more by bringing in professional installers. You’ll also save money because you won’t have to pay to have your mistakes fixed. The choice is simple: Hire a professional’s experience or go through the angst of gaining you own experience That’s a lesson that a couple of botched flooring installations taught me well.

For more information on flooring visit the World Floor Covering Association’s Consumer Carpet & Flooring Guide.

Best Installation of Hardwood Flooring

By Steve Cooper

ManningtonChesapeakeHickoryDavid Letterman has a gap between his front teeth. So does Madonna. And in his first Rocky movie, Sylvester Stallone gave the boxer some lines about gaps in our lives. “We all have gaps,” he tells his love, Adrian.

However, if you are having new hardwood flooring installed, the last thing you want are gaps. Yet, it’s a potential problem when an installation is botched. The reason? Wood is wood.

Like all wood products, solid hardwood flooring will expand and contract as the temperature and moisture levels change in a house. Extreme swings in these levels may even affect the stability of engineered wood flooring.

Protect against this problem by acclimating new wood flooring to your home prior to installation. Acclimation is simple. It just means that new flooring should be unboxed in your home and left to react to conditions for a week or two. Check with your flooring manufacturers for their specific recommendations for acclimating your type of floor.

While the wood is open to household air, you should keep your home’s temperature and humidity set at its usual levels. You won’t notice it anything happening, but solid wood may expand or contract significantly and there may be some movement with engineered products.

Finally, ask your installer to check the moisture content with a wood moisture meter before starting the job. Proceed with the installation only if the moisture level is within the amount stated by the manufacturer.

If the installer doesn’t pay attention to this issue, gaps may soon appear in your flooring. Better to avoid such a rocky start with new hardwood.

For more information on flooring visit the World Floor Covering Association’s Consumer Carpet & Flooring Guide.

Photo:  Mannington Chesapeake Hickory