Category Archives: Tip of the Week

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

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 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!

Ron Call’s Tip of the Week #010- Asbestos Safety When Installing Your Hardwood Floors

Tip of the Week
Saturday, May 26, 2012
by Ron Call, your Urbanfloor guy

Ron Call, your Urbanfloor Guy

DYI tip of the week.  If you’re planning on installing your own floor either gluing direct, nailing or using the floating method one thing you might not have considered especially if you have an older home built before the late 1980′s is asbestos.

A lot of these homes were originally built using base grade VAT (Vinyl Asbestos Tile) as a floor covering.  You may still be walking on it today, or it may be hidden under the carpet or vinyl flooring you are thinking about replacing.  In any case if the tiles on your floor are 9″ x 9″ or are secured by an adhesive that looks like black tar, there is a real good chance that it contains asbestos. Both the tiles and the adhesive may contain asbestos.

Asbestos is a known carcinogen that can cause cancer.  You should NOT attempt to remove or alter this tile or adhesive in any way.  It is against Federal Law and you may possibly contaminate your home.  The problem is not that it is in your home, as long as it remains undisturbed it will not cause any health concerns.  The problems can come from the improper removal and disposal.

If you were planning a glued direct method, you will need to find a certified asbestos abatement contractor to properly remove and dispose of the tile and the adhesive residue.  Even disposing of the tile in a regular land fill is against the law, so do not attempt to do this yourself.  You are risking your families health and major fines if you are caught.  Now if you find that you have this in your home you can still install your new floor without removal if you use the floating method.

If your floor is flat with in a tolerance (see the specs that came with your floor) just install right over the tiles. You can use a good self-leveling concrete patch to fill any low spots (just go right over the tiles).  If you have any high spots that need grinding, STOP and contact your certified asbestos abatement contractor.

If you improperly try to grind the high spots you WILL contaminate your home and put your family at risk.  If you are not sure if your flooring contains asbestos, for safety sake just assume that it does.  You can have it tested for about $50.00 depending on the area of the country you live in.  It is almost always impossible to tell the difference between VAT (Vinyl Asbestos Tile) and VCT (Vinyl Composite Tile).  If you have your certified abatement contractor remove the tiles and adhesive residue for you, be sure he gives you a Clean Air Certificate upon completion.  This will certify that your home is safe to occupy and the air safe to breath.  Once this is done install away…

Have questions about a project you’re working on?  Need advice?  For answers post a comment below or visit the Ask Ron page HERE

Ron Call’s Tip of the Week #009- Keep Your Furniture from Sliding Across the Floor

Tip of the Week
Friday, May 18, 2012
by Ron Call, your Urbanfloor guy

Ron Call, your Urbanfloor Guy

Last week I talked about how to protect your hardwood floors from being scratched by your furniture by using felt pads under the legs of chairs and tables.  As a follow up to that, do you have young kids in your home that like to use your couches as a trampoline?

Kids love to play and jump on furniture.  The problem is that when they jump from couch to couch they tend to slide around on the slick surface of the wood floor.  To prevent your furniture from sliding around after you place your felt pads under the feet, head out to your local hardware store.

There you will find rubber mesh material typically used to line cabinet drawers and shelves.  Cut them to fit under the legs of your furniture with a pair of scissors and place them under the legs of your couches or any other piece of furniture that you don’t want to easily be moved.  Now your kids can pretend to be the next Olympic champion or the next super avenger and furniture will stay in place.

Have flooring questions?  Need expert help?  Need expert advice?  Just Ask Ron HERE

Ron Call’s Tip of the Week #008- Protecting Your Hardwood Floors From Your Furniture

Ron Call, your Urbanfloor Guy

Tip of the Week #008
Friday, May 11, 2012
by Ron Call, have flooring questions or need advice?  Ask Ron HERE

Protect your new wood floor from your furniture.  Place felt pads under the legs of all your chairs and furniture that you will be sliding around or moving for cleaning and dusting.  You can purchase them at your Urbanfloor dealer or your local hardware store.  Watch my video and see just how simple it is to protect your floors.  This is something you should do immediately after your floor is installed before replacing your furniture.

Ron Call’s Tip of the Week #007- Do It Yourself Molding Installation

Tip of the Week #007
May 3, 2012
by Ron Call, your Urbanfloor guy

Ron Call, your Urbanfloor Guy

If you have decided to tackle your own flooring installation be sure and read up on the subject and watch my videos.  An otherwise perfect installation of the floor can be overshadowed by sloppy trim installation.  Transition moldings and base boards will make or break the final look of any job.

Transitions can be tricky especially when working with a concrete sub floor where nailing them down is not an option.  Most installers will use a good construction adhesive and blue painters tape to secure them in place while the adhesive cures.  When installing multiple pieces for example at a tile or stone transition where there are angles, like a fireplace or tile entry way the installer often finds the next day after the adhesive has cured that the pieces have shifted and have become misaligned or there are now gaps.

This often necessitates buying new moldings and starting over as removal at this point almost always results in breakage.  This is often caused by some one stepping on them before the adhesive has had time to fully cure or the trim piece was slightly bowed and lifted up off the floor and the tape could not hold it.

A simple method to prevent this is to purchase a $20.00 hot melt glue gun from your local hardware store.  When applying your construction adhesive leave a small area on both ends of each piece and a small spot in the middle of the channel where the glue is to be applied.  This is where you will place dollops of thermal plastic glue.

Apply the construction adhesive first, making sure your molding is cut properly. (Dry fit first) Then quickly place the hot melt glue in the three spots where there is no construction adhesive.  Quickly place the molding in place and hold in securely for about three minutes while the thermal plastic glue sets up.

The thermal plastic glue will hold the molding in place until the construction adhesive has had time to cure.  No need for blue tape and your job is complete and your molding look like they where done by a pro.  Now go enjoy your new floor.

Ron Call’s Tip of the Week #006- A Squeaky Hardwood Floor and Baby Powder?

Tip of the Week #006
April 27, 2012
by Ron Call, your Urbanfloor guy

Does your floor squeak when you walk on it?  Older nail down type installations are notorious for squeaking.  But floating floors and glued down installations can make noise as well.  Seasonal changes will make your floor expand and contract and certain times of year the squeaking may be worse.  Squeaks are caused by loose boards rubbing against one another or a nail or staple used to install your floor to the sub-floor may be rubbing against a joist as you walk.  If your squeaking is throughout your home you may want to contact your floor covering professional as face nailing or crawling under the floor in your crawl space may be required.

Ron Call, your Urbanfloor Guy

But if the noise is localized to just a couple areas and you can see the culprit boards rubbing against one another as you walk, try using a little baby powder.  That’s right, just a little sprinkle between the noisy boards may be all you need to eliminate the squeak.  What happens is the powder works its way down between the boards and acts like a lubricant thereby eliminating the squeak.  Only use a very small amount, just sprinkle the effected area and try and work the boards up and down.  This will allow the powder to work it’s way down between the planks.  Clean up any excess powder immediately with a vacuum and a damp cloth moistened with just enough water to remove any powder residue but not enough to allow moisture to get between the boards (Damp.  Water should not drip from cloth).  Then dry with a clean cloth.  Baby powder on your floor is very slippery and any left on your floor may cause you to lose your footing and fall.  If this does not work contact your floor covering professional.

Ron Call’s Tip of the Week #005- Man’s Best Friend and Your Hardwood Floors

Tip of the Week #005 
April 20, 2012
by Ron Call, your Urbanfloor guy

Ron Call, your Urbanfloor Guy

If you have dogs in your home especially large dogs it’s a good idea to have throw rugs strategically placed over your hardwood floors.  Place them under your coffee table, dining room table and if possible around the perimeter of your bed as well. 

Hardwood floors can be be pretty slick.  Just ask your 6 year old who likes to slide around in his socks.  Some dogs have a difficult time getting up off the wood floor when they are lying down and will extend their claws to try and get a better grip thereby digging their nails into the wood flooring causing scratches.  If your dog has his favorite place to lay down, place a throw rug down.  It will enhance the designer look of your home, make your dog’s life easier and it may save you the frustration of having to pay to have scratches fixed.

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