Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How to Install a Floating Floor

I have been dying to get to this project! We finally replaced the floor in the mudroom, and it's every bit as transformative as I expected.

Remember what this floor looked like when we first moved in? Yeah.

Water-damaged vinyl, hooray.
Once the vinyl was up, we scraped up and sanded down leftover adhesive and repair damaged bits to make the subfloor level.

One square foot down, 89 to go...

Ready to start fresh!
Then we decided to do all the messy stuff before putting in the nice new floor. We hired a plumber to move the washing machine, so it could actually be next to the dryer. Crazy idea, I know. Then we patched up the drywall and painted the walls.

Bring it on!

Finally finally, we got to actually installing the floor! We were really lucky that someone from our local Buy Nothing group had leftover flooring to gift us. It's tongue and groove, which means it clicks together for easy installation, and floating, which means we don't have to glue or nail it down.

Here's what I learned: tongue and groove floating floors are the Ikea furniture of flooring. They sound like they'll be easy for you to put together on your own in an afternoon, and then seven hours later you're surrounded by disconcertingly unidentifiable leftover pieces and unicorn tears.

In theory, this is easy. Each piece of flooring has a tongue on one side and a groove in the other. This is true for both the short and long sides.

  1. Ideal: Lay out a row of flooring (short end to short end), and cut the last piece to the appropriate length. There should always be a 1/4" gap between the floor and the wall. (See: Floating.) The baseboard will cover this exposed edge later.
    Reality: Which part is the tongue and which is the groove? Why do they sort of look the same? And why does every piece look a little bit different? Am I holding this thing upside down?
  2. Ideal: Starting with a groove facing the wall, snap the pieces together on the short end. Moving down the row one piece at a time, insert the tongue into the groove and push.
    Reality: To "snap" or "click" the pieces into place is ... kinda optimistic. They don't always snap satisfyingly together, and you sort of have to wiggle and shove until the short ends are pressed tightly together.
  3. Ideal: Once the row is laid out the long way (boards all connected on the short end), do the same thing again for the second row. Make sure none of the seams between boards line up - they need to be staggered.
    Reality: Okay, we're getting the hang of this.
  4. Ideal: The first row has the tongues facing out. Line up the second row groove, and snap the entire first two rows together in one motion.
    Reality: OH MY GOD, ITS BEEN 20 MINUTES AND ALL WE'VE MANAGED TO DO IS BREAK THE FIRST ROW APART. Why are we doing this ourselves again? Do we have a contractor we can call? Is it too late to just tile over everything?  This part is really hard. One side clicks in nicely, but the other side pops up. We tap on that side, the entire floor scootches away from us. Brett assures me this will get easier once we get past the first few rows. (Spoiler: it doesn't. But we do get smarter about it.)
  5. Ideal: We do this repeatedly until we get to the end of the floor. Happy easy DIY!
    Reality: I realize that we can stop the floor from moving around if we shove 1/4" scraps in the gap between the floor and the wall as padding. My life improves immeasurably at this moment.
  6. Ideal: You're relaxing in a bubble bath with a glass of wine, reflecting on your lovely new floor.
    : Brett remembers a trick he's used before. He takes a piece of scrap flooring, an offcut from a piece we needed to shorten. He clicks that into the seam of any piece of flooring that's being stubborn, and then hammers on the scrap. This works pretty well! Although nearly every piece needs some nudging, at least the new method works more or less reliably, if not terribly quickly.
  7. Ideal: Clean and perfectly coiffed, you don your pearls, heels, and apron, and proceed to make a magazine-perfect dinner that's on the table at 7:00 sharp.
    Reality: At about midnight, we're finally done! Our lovely new floor is ... dirty. It's littered with scraps, covered with dust, and still a half-day away from having all its trim back in place. But damn it, we did it!!!
  8. Ideal: You have a beautiful new floor that you installed yourself.
    Reality: We have a beautiful new floor that we installed ourselves! 

Brett & Helper position the first piece

Hey, it almost looks like a floor!

Measure twice. Then measure again. Keep going, that's it.

Cutting around the bathroom fixtures.

A rare picture of the elusive me.



One last little wrinkle. I mentioned we were gifted this flooring - it was leftover from someone else's larger project. That means we couldn't control how much we had. Brett estimated that it was just enough, so we went with it. Let me show you how much was left over when we were done.

Yep - zero. Absolutely zero. We used every last piece. Yikes! At least that made cleanup easier.

Finished mudroom before and after pics coming soon!

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