You purchased new flooring for your home. You’re excited about how the room will look. You have a limited budget, so you plan on installing the new surface yourself. Carpet and carpet padding can be pulled away from the base or sub-floor, rolled up, and taken to the curb or the dump. Tile or vinyl can be chipped away and pried off the sub-floor, loaded into a garbage can and taken out, too. But what then? Is that all there is to preparing for installation? Unfortunately, the answer is a no. If lining it up, connecting it, and fastening it down was all there was to it, there would be far fewer contractors making a living. The primary step in any replacement is removing the old material and flaws first.
The key to lovely, long lasting flooring reaches not over the surface but under it.
Laying new tile is time consuming enough without having to replace it again in just a few years, because the sub-floor or slab wasn’t prepared properly, and cracks, sliding, or snapping of material has wasted time, effort, and money.
The surface receiving the new material must be clean and absolutely smooth. Even small grains of dirt or sand can void a seal or connection, as well as create gaps and bulges that stress the new material. If placing tile, for instance, over old, worn hardwood planks, ensure the seams between the boards are sealed level; nails and screws are sunk below the surface of the wood and filled with a wood fill compound, and the boards themselves are level, well sanded, and thoroughly cleaned, including washing—not just sweeping or dusting. Also, ensure the receiving surface is completely dry; allow sufficient time for air drying before laying a new surface on top of it.
Caution areas include slab sub-floors, walls, and entry ways.
Slabs require additional waterproofing protection before laying new flooring on top of it.
Most contractors automatically place a material over the slab between the concrete and the new material to allow moisture drawn up through the slab to evaporate before attaching itself to the underside of the new material.
Especially in older homes, vinyl tiles and linoleum was laid under the edges of walls and cabinets. Removing that layer can destabilize the structure and should be avoided. Instead,cut the old tile or linoleum as close to the resting edge as possible; if the material is soft enough, carefully angle a retractable blade down and in to cut the material under the edge but leave the remaining floor material in place. Gently slip the new flooring just under the structure’s edge to begin installation. Some experts recommend not using glue on the first one-half inch of the new floor material to allow removal next time the material is replaced, but always leave the original under the bulk structure alone.
When replacing entry way flooring, special challenges occur. Because the door frame is set into the wall structure, the new wood, tile, or carpet must allow the door to open and close fully, lest problems arise. You should replace the sub-floor or build up the sub-floor to allow proper spacing and depth. If that’s not possible, trimming the bottom of the door, if possible, is the next option. If you have a metal door, you may have to remove the entire door frame and adjust the opening to allow a higher floor clearance, depending on the floor material you’ve chosen.
If you choose to raise the door frame, you may want to install a support post under the house or otherwise brace the house frame. Tensions and tolerances are determined for the original framing configuration, and adjusting the height of a doorway may degrade stability without the additional support.