Category Archives: Educational

How to Install a Hardwood Floor

DIY experts take us step-by-step to help install beautiful wood floors

Step 1: Choose the Boards

Choose the hardwood species and board widths for the room installation.

Step 2: Measure the Room

Measure the width and length of the room and multiply for the square footage. When ordering hardwood flooring, allow 10-15 percent extra for irregular boards and any cutting mistake.

Step 3: Check for a Squeaky Floor

Check the sub-floor. Minimum requirements are a 3/4″ plywood sub-floor. Make sure there are no squeaks in the floor. If there’s a squeak, screw a long drywall screw into the sub-floor and joist where the squeak occurs. Remove shoe-molding from the room and sweep and clean thoroughly.

Step 4: Roll Out the Vapor Barrier Paper

Roll out strips of vapor barrier paper, allowing at least a 4″ overlap and staple securely to the sub-floor. Use 15 pound tar paper or felt. It is relatively inexpensive (it’s approximately $12 a roll at a home improvement store). Mark with a pencil along the baseboards where the joists are located.

Step 5: Start Installation

Start the installation at the longest unobstructed wall. Remove the shoe molding, and snap a chalk line 3/8″ out from the baseboard (this allows for expansion in the hot, humid weather and contraction in the colder, drier weather of the hardwood flooring).

Step 6: Place the Boards

Begin by selecting a long board to start the first row. Pick one that is straight. Align the edge of the board with the chalk line and drill pilot holes down through the hardwood plank and into the sub-floor and joist. Face-nail each board at the point of every joist and set the nail with a nail-set. Face-nail the entire first row and remember to keep the board lengths random. It is important to face-nail the first row because the pneumatic nail can’t get down in there. It will hit the wall and the force would push the wood against the baseboard, which would lose the 3/8″ expansion and contraction.

It is important to lay the first boards perpendicular to the joists which are underneath. That is important because you want a nice solid anchor. Look at the subfloor to see which way the nails and seams ran. Try to go underneath the crawl space to see how they run.

Step 7: Hand-Nail the Rolls

After the first few rows have been installed, drill pilot holes down into the tongue of each board and hand-nail the rolls until there is enough clearance for the pneumatic nail gun.

Tip: Lay out a box of hardwood boards ahead of the installation to visualize lengths, wood grain and colors of the boards. When laying out the boards, keep in mind to never have the ends of boards in adjacent rows line up with each other. Keep the lengths random and at least 6″ in length.

Step 8: Staple the Boards

Using the pneumatic nail gun, place the gun lip over the edge of the board and strike firmly with the mallet, driving the staple into the tongue of the hardwood plank.

When installing up to a threshold, it is not critical to make cuts exact. Come back later after the floor has been installed and use a circular saw to cut across for a precise cut.

use pneumatic nail gun to staple tongue into plank

Step 9: Cutting the Baseboard

When cutting along the baseboards, select a piece that will fit in there and leave 10 or 12 inches more and cut it off. Use the other piece on the beginning of the next row. You don’t always have to get it in there real close and throw out the end piece. That will save some time and waste.

use cut off boards from one row to start next row

Step 10: Fill in the Gaps

Be sensitive to the way the ends fit together. One end has a tongue and the other end has a groove — this is called end matched. Make sure to always cut the wall end of the wood so that you do not cut off the groove that fits to the tongue. If that happens, that would result in a pretty big gap. Find a piece and lay it alongside the hole and flip it over. Make sure when you make the mark to cut off the wall side, not the room side. When you make the mark, butt it up against the baseboard and then mark at the end of that tongue. That will leave a 3/8″ gap for expansion and contraction when installing the piece.

Note: Before nailing, make sure to put at least two nails in every board. The rule of thumb is to place a nail every 10″ to 12″.

Step 11: Work Around Clearance Issue

As you near the opposite wall, clearance for the pneumatic nail gun again becomes an issue. Drill pilot holes and hand-nail the boards until there is no longer clearance for the drill and hammer. At that point, drill pilot holes down into the top of the boards and face-nail the boards, remembering to set the nails with a nail-set.

Tip: Use a pry bar and a few extra scraps of flooring to firmly seat the hardwood plank as you nail.

Step 12: Fit Last Board Into Place

If there’s a narrow gap for the last board, take a measurement and rip (cut length-wise) the last board to fit into place. Remember to leave a 3/8″ gap at the end wall for expansion and contraction space.

Step 13: Fill Holes With Wood Putty

Replace shoe molding in the room and putty all of the nail holes that have been face-nailed. Be sure to get wood putty that matches the floor. Fill the hole and wipe off the excess.

Step 14: Hardwood Floor Maintenance

Maintenance is easy for a pre-finished hardwood floor — keep grit off of the surface by sweeping regularly and use a flooring cleaning kit (alcohol-based) and spray on and wipe off with a damp cloth. Hardwood floors also help cut down on dust mites.

See more pictures and examples at http://bit.ly/129zwQu

Cleaning Your Hardwood

Hardwood floors are unique. They add taste, style, and elegance to your home. We all know that wood floors are an expensive purchase. Therefore, it is important to keep them looking just as they did when you first installed them. Although not all hardwood floors are the same, they all need special treatment to keep them clean.  The first step is simple—make sure you have a soft bristle broom in handy for those daily dust removing touch ups. Avoid using brooms that have hard bristles because they may damage the floors. If you choose to vacuum, be sure not to scratch the floor. The hose attachment may be helpful to gather extra dust near the baseboards of the floor. The attachment is a safer choice because it is difficult to repair damaged wood caused by a vacuum.  If a water spill occurs, wipe it immediately with a towel.  Use a dry-damp mop so that extra water does not seam into the floor. Now that the simple cleaning rules are understood, more extensive care may have to occur if the floor is beginning to look dull. If this happens, waxing and buffing the floor can be done by using a buffer machinurle. Most of the time, wood floors needs a good mop cleaning when it comes to certain stains that are sometimes unavoidable, especially with a full house. Most of the time, a damp cloth will do the trick. Remember to dry the spot so that water is not left behind. Of course there are products and solutions on the market that help when it comes to spills or accidents. Most products contain wax which gives the floors an extra glow. Depending on the type of floors in your house, it is always best to find a solution best fit for the kind and quality of floor you have. Important tip: Be sure to never dump an entire bucket of solution onto the floor. It could leave unwanted streak marks. Remember that to keep your hardwood in its best condition, maintain its quality by cleaning and dusting it frequently.

Engineered Wood Flooring and its Benefits

Ever wonder about engineered hardwood? The fact is, it’s actually real hardwood!  There are many benefits of choosing an engineered product.  To help you understand the basics, engineered hardwoods are made up of layers that are “glued together in a cross-grain construction.” It is stronger than a piece of solid wood and can be installed direct to concrete.  The top layer of the hardwood “provides the most uniform color and the most resistance to seasonal expansion.” If concerned about the environmental factors of your flooring, engineered hardwood has beneficial aspects when it comes to the Earth.  It uses half as many trees as solid wood floors and takes less water and url-25energy to produce than other flooring options.

If considering engineered wood flooring for your home, the main question you might ask is: What’s the advantage of using an Engineered wood floor over a Solid nail down floor? The answer is simple.

“Engineered hardwood floors can be installed in areas where there is slightly higher relative humidity levels. Engineered wood flooring being more stable is a great choice to use in summer homes where the heat is turned lower when no one is there. Because manufacturing engineered flooring does not waste valuable prized wood below its wear layer, purchasing engineered flooring also helps conserve our forests.”

How to Create a Built-in-Bookshelf

As we all know, flooring has numerous factors that complement color, shade, the type of wood, and more. Design, care, and maintenance are just a few aspects that go hand-in-hand with the flooring that you choose. Decoration and color are key factors to a wonderful, breathtaking room.  Sometimes these additions can become expensive. Why not create a decoration yourselfurl-10? Many might be thinking– where is my talent and money that must go into this process? No need to worry. Following a few steps will help create a decoration or addition that you have always wanted. Today we are going to discuss a popular trend that is seen in many living rooms and bedrooms..Built-in bookshelves! In my opinion, I believe these are great for show, and for also saving space on a regular bookshelf. The trick is a 12-step process that will bring you from scattered supplies to a magnificent creation. After-all, if you can read, you can build!

One,  you need to measure and cut the shelving. Measure the shelves in relation to the space you will be inserting them.  Cut the pieces of shelving and using a circular saw, cut out the kick-plate area on the bottom of the unit.

Two, you must cut rabbet joints into the ends of the top shelf, cutting straight across the shelf into 1/8’’ increments

Three,  “Mark the location for the center shelf, and use the pegboard as a template for drilling holes for adjustable shelves. Clamp the pegboard in place so that the first holes will be 4″ above and 4″ below the center shelf. Draw reference lines across the holes in the pegboard to help you keep the holes even. Drill holes 2″ from the edge in 2″ increments.”

Four, attach 1’’x 2’’ support blocks for the center shelf with glue and finish nails. “Drill and countersink pilot holes for the top of the bookshelf. Attach it with glue and 2″ wood screws. Apply wood glue to the support blocks for the center shelf, and set the shelf in position. Drill and countersink pilot holes in the side of the bookshelf, and attach the shelf with 2″ wood screws (Image 2). Be sure to drill the holes in an area that will be covered when the bookshelf is recessed into the wall”.

Five, attach support blocks for the bottom shelf with glue and nails

Six, Fasten the back panel with 1’’ brads to help the shelf stay square

Seven, “Attach 1″ x 2″ trim pieces to the side and bottom edges of the bookshelf with sixpenny nails and glue”.

Eight, “Drill and countersink pilot holes for the kick plate so the screw heads will be just below the surface of the wood. Attach the kick plate, then cover the screw heads with wood filler or spackling compound.”

Nine, remove any base molding from where the shelf will be placed

Ten, drill pilot holes through the back corner and into the wall studs—be careful not to drill through the inside of the bookshelf.

Eleven, “Measure and cut the nailer board and trim for the top of the bookshelf. Attach the nailer to the top of the shelf with sixpenny finish nails. Use finish nails to attach the trim”.

And finally, replace the baseboard trim and touch up any areas that need adjustment.

See photos and tips for guidance on http://bit.ly/12CHela

Tips for Handling Asbestos During Home Renovations

Tips for Handling Asbestos During Home Renovations
by Brian Turner

Since Hurricane Sandy hit the tri-state area, many older homes must be renovated and rebuilt. These home renovations must be greeted with caution because many homes built before 1970 may have materials containing asbestos. Insulation, floor tiles, drywall and joint compounds may all contain asbestos.

Asbestos may become airborne when removed from the home for replacement. When asbestos is inhaled, it becomes lodged in the lungs. Ten to 50 years later, it may develop into mesothelioma. This type of cancer is difficult to treat and may be fatal. Consider these tips to minimize asbestos exposure:

1.  Do Not Disturb Asbestos
If you encounter asbestos, you should not drill through it, saw it, break it, hammer it or disturb it in any way. Housekeepers or janitors should not sand or buff floor tiles made with asbestos. Wet stripping is recommended with floor tiles made of asbestos. During the buffing process, low abrasion pads are recommended. Speeds below 300 are suggested.

2. Involve Professionals for Asbestos Containment  
Report all suspected asbestos materials to Environment, Health and Safety (EHS). The report may include damaged insulation on a pipe, broken ceiling tiles and spray-on insulation. Asbestos abatement workers may be hired to determine if asbestos is present and remove it from the home. In the meantime, others should be prevented from disturbing the asbestos to avoid exposure.

3.Monitor Your Health After Exposure
After exposure to asbestos, you should monitor your health closely for early detection. A mesothelioma blood test can detect the cancer before symptoms appear. After exposure, you should be tested annually. Ensure the test is approved by the FDA. Other diagnostic tests may include an X-ray of the lungs to determine how well the lungs are working.

Click Image to Enlarge

Asbestos in the Home

Image courtesy of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Thinking About Doing Your Own Ceramic Tile Demo?

Thinking About Doing Your Own Ceramic Tile Demo?
by Ron Call

As we continue in the series of do-it-yourself demo, today I will cover ceramic tile and stone removal from a concrete slab.  This is a quite a bit more involved and difficult compared to carpet removal.  Depending on the method of installation (whether installed over slip sheet or direct to concrete) and the materials used in bonding the tile, removal may be fairly easy or one of the most difficult jobs you will ever tackle.  In this day and age of trying to save a buck or two on your home remodel you may want to consider doing your own demo.  If you’re planning on installing your new flooring project soon, doing your own demo (removal of existing floor covering) will save you money.  The cost to remove an existing ceramic tile or stone floor could be as much as the labor to install a new floor!  Here is how you can do it yourself.  For this project we will assume that we will be installing a new wood floor.

If you have an existing ceramic tile floor that is on a concrete slab here is what you will need.

  1. Hammer
  2. Pry bar
  3. Floor scrapper
  4. Work gloves
  5. Dust mask
  6. Safety glasses
  7. Five gallon bucket
  8. Flat head shovel
  9. Red rosin paper
  10. Blue painters tape
  11. Plastic sheeting
  12. Rotary hammer
  13. Commercial ceramic tile stripper (optional)
  14. Concrete grinder (optional)

Start your demo project by first protecting all the areas you are not demoing from flying debris.  Use your red rosin paper and blue tape to protect any cabinets or walls that you don’t want to repaint.  Hang your plastic in doorways or openings to adjacent rooms to keep the dust contained.  Always wear your safety glasses, gloves and dust mask.  If the area to be removed is not that big such as an entry way or small bathroom or kitchen hand tools may be all you need.  Doing larger rooms you will do yourself a big favor by renting a ceramic tile demo machine from your local tool rental outlet.  Your rotary hammer with a chisel bit will work as well but will take much more time.  Here is a youtube video of the ceramic tile machine you may want to rent.

You will need to start your tear out at an exposed edge, possibly a door way or where the edge of the tile meets carpeting.  If the carpet is staying pull it back away from the tile far enough to start your demo without causing damage to the carpet.  If the carpet is being replaced as well, remove this first (See last week’s blog).  If the room is totally tile with no exposed edges use your hammer to breakout a few tiles in the middle of the room.  Once you have enough area exposed use your rotary hammer or your machine to start your demo.  As you proceed through the demo use your shovel and five gallon bucket to carry the broken tile out to your truck or dumpster.  Tile is very heavy and the broken edges can be as sharp as a razor so wear your gloves.

I do not recommend trying to fill your trash cans with the removed tile as it will become so heavy your trash man will most likely not pick it up for you.  Transport it to the dump in a truck.  Be sure to remove any residual mortar from the floor using your floor scrapper, rotary hammer or concrete grinder as needed to achieve a clean smooth surface for your new floor.  Once all your old floor is removed your ready to call your installer…

Thinking About Doing Your Own Carpet Demo?

Thinking About Doing Your Own Carpet Demo?
by Ron Call

In this day and age of trying to save a buck or two on your home remodel you may want to consider doing your own demo.  If you’re planning on installing your new flooring project soon, doing your own demo (removal of existing floor covering) may save you a few bucks.  Here is how you can Do-It-Yourself.  For this project we will assume that we will be installing a new floating wood project.

If you have an existing old carpet to tear out here is what you will need.

  1. Hammer
  2. Pry bar
  3. Floor scrapper
  4. Sharp utility knife
  5. Work gloves
  6. Safety glasses

First start in one corner of the room and then pull up the carpet off the tack strip.  Once you pulled up the corner, pull along one wall raising the carpet only as high as to release it from the tack strip pins.  If the carpet is down so tight that you cannot grip it to pull it up, try cutting a slit down through the top of the carpet in the corner large enough to get your hand underneath then pull it up.  Now go around the perimeter of the room pulling it up along the wall from corner to corner.  Once the carpet is released from the tack strip it’s time to start cutting the rug.

First cut the carpet at any doorway seams to separate one room from another.  Carpet is very heavy so you will want to cut the carpet in manageable size strips maybe four to six feet wide.  Then roll it up in individual pieces light enough to carry without hurting yourself.

Once the carpet is gone take your floor scrapper and remove the padding, it may be glued or stapled.  Wear your gloves! Staples are sharp and trust me I have the scars to prove it.  Once you have released the pad roll it up and dispose of properly.  Depending on where you live you may be able to recycle the padding and the carpet both, which will save you dump fees and possible pay for your gas as well.  I’ve gotten as much as $40.00 for a whole house worth of old nasty padding.

Now it’s time to tackle the wood tack strip around the perimeter of the room.  Grab your pry bar and hammer, put on your gloves and safety glasses.  Take the curved edge of the pry bar place it on the floor up against the tack strip right next to one of the nails that secures it to the floor.  Start at either end of the tack strip, now hit the pry bar down low by the floor with your hammer to dislodge the nail and raise up the tack strip.  Once the first nail pops up move to the next nail.  Do this around the entire room until all the tack strip is removed.  Dispose of carefully as tack strip pins are very sharp and very painful.  Double check the perimeter of the room for any tack strip nails that may have been left behind and remove them with your pry bar.

You do not want these nails under your new floor.  Scrap any glue residue from the pad off the floor or remove any staples.  Sweep the floor and call your flooring company and tell them you’re ready for your install.  It’s hard dirty work doing demo but if you have the time and inclination, you can save a nice chunk of change.  Depending on the size of the job the savings could be hundreds of dollars.  And nothing makes your installer happier than a floor that is ready for install.  Installers love to install, not so much doing demo…

If you ever need advice, guidance or have questions you can always get in touch with me under the “Ask Ron” section of our blog HERE.

You Get What You Pay For

You Get What You Pay For
by Ron Call

So I’m driving down the road today with my wife in the car coming back to San Diego from a business trip in LA.  I admit after a long 5 hours in the car I was a little grumpy.  And this radio advertisement comes on and tells me they sell their flooring at 80% off cost.  After I calmed down ranting and raving things like “sure 80% off a 100% mark up, bunch of lying so and so’s”!  My wife says don’t get mad about it just blog about it.  So anyway I’m calm now and collecting my thoughts.

Ron Call, your Urbanfloor Guy

Everyone needs to make a profit.  That’s how we all pay the bills right?  If no one could make a profit we’d all be poor living on dirt floors.  But 80% off?  Come on, next they will be selling stuff at what?  100% off?  Remember you get what you pay for.

I did an installation for a customer last month that is a perfect example of you get what you pay for.  I’m a licensed flooring contractor that works out of a small shop.  I am typically hired by retailers, interior designers and general contractors to do installations of the flooring that they sell.  Occasionally I’ll have a customer usually a referral where I’m asked to provide both the flooring and the installation.

So I head over to her house to meet with her and go over all the details.  I find out what type of flooring she wants, I figure out how much material that will be needed and what type of sub-floor she has (very important).  Because she lives upstairs in a condo, I also need to make sure for any sound proofing requirements.  She also lived right on the ocean which can bring a whole set of challenges in itself.  So I submitted my bid for labor which detailed exact square footage required, moldings, base boards, demo of the old floor etc., everything but the floor that she would eventually choose. We planned on me returning in a few days with samples of all the different types of flooring she was interested in.  A couple days later she called to say that she was putting things off for a couple weeks as her mom was ill.

Two weeks later she called me very excited that she had found the perfect bamboo floor at that large national discount chain.  (I won’t mention their name) but they constantly advertise on T.V. and have their signs hanging in baseball parks all over America.  I was a little disappointed that I didn’t sell her the floor myself but I was happy she was happy, and work is work.

So we scheduled the installation for two weeks later.  She scheduled her vacation time so she could be home during construction.  The plan was I would pick up the bamboo and deliver it, start the demo and prep which was extensive, then on day 4 after proper acclimation we would start putting down some wood.

Here’s where its starts getting a little sticky.  We pick up the bamboo and deliver it to the house up two flights of stairs and stack it in the dining room.  I open one of the boxes to verify the color and quality and to my shock and dismay it’s solid bamboo not engineered.  Which basically means it needs 10 -14 days acclimation not the standard 3 days for engineered products.  This customer’s home was one block from the ocean which means acclimation is hyper critical even for engineered products let alone a solid one.

I tell my customer the situation and I explain that we cannot start the install for two weeks.  She was beside herself telling me that she could not change her vacation time and what could I do.  I explained that without proper acclimation her floor would have no warrantee from the manufacturer.  And that from my experience, installing a solid floating floor without proper acclimation would almost surely fail and that I, in all good conscience could not install it.  So the job was rescheduled for 2 weeks later as the discount store did not have a similar engineered product in stock so we could not exchange it.  My customer thought she was getting a good deal saving what she thought was a few cents per square foot.

In the end she took 2 more weeks off work unpaid and I lost 2 weeks of work myself.  Between the both of us it cost us thousands of dollars.  I went to the see the store manager at the discount warehouse and he was no help at all.  I asked him if he qualified his customer’s to make sure that what he’s selling people is actually suitable for the application involved (he should have known she lived by the ocean and sold her engineered flooring).  He basically told me when a customer comes in and buys a floor that his sub-contractors don’t install he just sells the customer what they want.  Cash and carry, all he cared about was that he made the sale.

The purchase of new flooring in your home can be one of the most expensive purchases that you will ever make.  You need to make sure that you shop at a good retailer with experience and one who only utilizes good licensed contractors.

Some retailers don’t use sub contractors they use their own employees, which is fine as long as the retailer is themselves an experienced contractor.  There are many factors to consider when choosing new flooring and there are many things that need to be considered to ensure your flooring purchase is a good experience such as type of floor, environment, location of the home, sub floor, type of home (ie: single family, condo, apartment, mobile home or a high traffic business location), method of installation, type of floor, warrantee and the list goes on and on.  Sometimes when you’re trying to cut corners and save a few pennies it ends up costing you more in the end.  Remember you get what you pay for!

To Base or Not to Base

To Base or Not to Base
by Ron Call

Often when people are looking to upgrade their homes with new hardwood or laminate flooring they often overlook the details like base boards and trims.  They will spend many hours shopping and comparing prices on the net or drive from store to store.  But they seldom give much consideration to the moldings.  You can purchase an inexpensive floor and install new base boards and the job will look awesome.  You can also install a high-end beautiful floor and remove and replace your existing base boards and if they don’t look good or they’re not wide enough to cover the required expansion gap you will be disappointed.

If your existing base board is in good shape and you want to keep it you have two choices:  1) You can remove it and replace it after the flooring is installed, or 2) You can leave it on the wall then leave the proper expansion gap between the floor and the base and cover it with quarter round or base shoe molding.  Either method works fine.  It’s all a matter of the final look you want.

Here are a couple photos of an install with just base and one with base board and quarter round.  It’s really up to you as to which method you choose.  Just be sure to figure the extra cost into your budget.  If you try and remove and replace the existing base board and a piece or two should break be sure that style is still available so you can purchase replacements.

Base Board Only

 

Base Board with Base Shoe Molding

 

Fear of Frying!

Fear of Frying!
by Ron Call

Many times through the years as I’m measuring a customer’s home for new flooring the same question arises time after time.  I think I might want hardwood in my kitchen but I’m afraid of it getting wet.  There are many factors to consider when choosing new flooring such as cost, appearance, wear etc.  Each type of flooring whether choosing wood, laminate, tile, sheet vinyl or vinyl composite tile (VCT) all have advantages as well as drawbacks.

Ron Call, your Urbanfloor Guy

Tile is hard under the foot when standing and cooking and is cold on your feet when you’re making your morning coffee at 6 am.  If the rest of your home and adjacent areas like your dining room or breakfast nook have beautiful hardwood, using sheet vinyl or VCT will probably detract from the overall look of your home.  Have no fear; I’ve installed hundreds of kitchens with great success.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when your floor is being installed. Make sure your contractor fills the entire perimeter (expansion gap) at cabinets behind the refrigerator and around islands with flexible clear silicone.  This will prevent spilled water from getting underneath your floating floor or you’re glued down floor.  Even a major spill can be mopped up before you can do much damage.  Also never use inexpensive water based adhesive to glue down your hardwood floor in possible wet areas.  Use a good urethane adhesive like Urban Four.  I’ve seen glued down engineered floors completely flooded that once dried sustained no visible damage.  Also if you’re a do-it-yourselfer and you’re planning on using one of the new glue less fold and lock floating floors in your home just use a little waterproof Titebond wood adhesive in the tongue and groove when you’re installing in the kitchen.  This will prevent topical spills from seeping between the planks giving you time to mop up the spill.  Lastly make sure you have a couple left over boxes of the original wood stored away in your home in case a few planks need replacing.  Bon appetit..

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