Flooring installation can be both easy and difficult, depending on your level of experience and skill, as well as the shape of the room/s and type of flooring you have to work with. Quality flooring and flooring installation is essential for an aesthetically pleasing, long-lasting and durable home interior.
The first step is to ensure a proper subfloor. This is typically either a system of beams and joists spanned at intervals proportional to the length of the flooring, or a solid plywood subfloor. The former requires a stronger type of flooring due to the intermittent supports, whereas the latter can accommodate what’s called DF (direct floor), which is spongier in material, with a layer of foam at the base.
Direct Flooring — Pros and Cons
DF is a more expensive option, but is easier on the feet due to the slight bounce it provides. This also aids in the sound-damping department as well. DF typically comes with double-sided tape already fixed to its underside, which can be used depending on the material of the subfloor. Double-sided tape can be used when the subfloor is a relatively smooth and non-abrasive surface.
For example, self-leveling concrete surfaces and slick plastic insulation are both conducive to double-sided tape, while plywood and grittier concrete surfaces are not. For such surfaces as the latter, a urethane-based glue is applied, leaving the double-sided tape seal intact (unremoved).
The reason for this is because the thickness of the glue and that of the double-sided tape vary, as well as the former having the characteristic of expanding as it cures. What happens is that initially the taped section will adhere while the glued section will be in a “floating” state. But as the glue cures, it expands, causing that section to rise, pulling the taped section up with it.
The subsequent see-saw effect will produce the annoying sound of tape being stuck and unstuck when traffic moves across that point. For these reasons, never use both glue and tape in the same installation.
Layout of the Flooring — The Most Important Part of the Job!
As they say, preparation is the key to success. This principle applies here just the same if you hope to install flooring like a professional! In our case, the preparation I’m speaking of is the flooring layout — which is simple if you’re only installing flooring for a single room and it’s square. But if you’re hoping to have the joints run connected throughout a labyrinth of halls and adjoining rooms, it’s considerably more difficult.
The reason for this is because structures are never perfectly square and straight, not to mention, there is always a slight deviation during the course of installing the flooring as well. So in light of this, a flooring joint some 5 or 10 millimeters from a highly visible wall trim can be the cause of a very painful eyesore.
Of course, if the 10 millimeter joint stays at 10 millimeters without going to 2 millimeters at the other end of the wall, it might not be so noticeable. But not only is this rarely the case, but even if it does, the contrast with the rest of the flooring is usually something we try to avoid if it can be helped.
Having said that however, in more complex room systems, it is almost impossible to meet such high standards at every possible wall. This is where you need to determine where the most inconspicuous walls are and have the smallest flooring strips end there.
If the room is small, it’s best to actually lay one column of flooring out from one end to the other, as this is the surest method. Once you do, you can see how small the last one will need to be cut and adjust the starting piece accordingly. Again, the idea is to ensure both start and end pieces are not too narrow, while at the same time keep your job as simple as possible.
For example, if there are any sections of the room that flooring will need to butt up to — large window frames and other trimming — it might be easier to make that the starting point. Walls that will have base boards fixed to them afterwards can have small gaps and so can be left for the final rows. If you can butt the machine cut edge without having to cut it, It’s certainly easier!
Let’s talk about how one would go about fine-tuning the starts and ends when there are not just 1, 2, or 3 walls that are parallel to the direction of the flooring, but say 10 or even 20. The quickest and surest way is to draw out a simple diagram of your floor plan and begin by measuring the various walls in the direction perpendicular to that of the flooring. This goes without saying that you should know the exact width of your flooring boards as well.
The objective here is to measure and calculate the total length of the rooms so you can make a preliminary calculation as to how many rows you will lay. In so doing, you can also calculate the theoretical position of each row of flooring in relation to each wall parallel to the direction of flooring.
Now you can shift everything forward or backward (in the direction perpendicular to flooring) to obtain the optimum positioning. Bear in mind that as you lay the flooring row by row, there will inevitably remain small gaps between each board that can’t be helped. What this means is that you have to factor in this gradual increase. You can get a general idea by comparing the difference between the measure of several flooring boards locked together and that of a single board multiplied by that same number of boards.
Other Methods of Floor Installation
If the room is large, and the flooring can be nailed from both tongue and groove ends — or just glued (DF) — you have the option of starting at the center line of the room. This method is used for large rooms due to the gradual deviation from the starting point. By the time you get to the other side, you may find that you’re WAYYY off course. The center starting point can be shifted accordingly so as to ensure optimal end-widths.