Updated: Nov 9
“Ideas from Ed” (November 2019)
Ed is a do-it-yourselfer who is happy to share some of his ideas and experiences in this monthly column.
This month: I’m FLOORED!
Folks, if you’re working on a true historic house, then this article isn’t for you. However, if you need to install a quick, easy, and functional floor covering, this may interest you. In my particular situation, I was asked to get rid of the “peel-n-stick” 12” x 12” floor “tiles” in 2 small rooms. One is a kitchenette, and the other is a powder room (sink and toilet, but no tub or shower). The ideal solution was using vinyl floating, interlocking planks. They are inexpensive, and waterproof to boot, making them ideal for areas like this.
I forgot to take “before” pictures, so we’ll start with these, showing the areas after removal of the old tiles (which lifted off with absolutely no tools or mess). You can see the exact perimeters of each tile!
In the pictures above, I also removed the vinyl glued-on baseboards, which will be replaced by new ones. Obviously, some work would need to be done where heat/AC vents come through the floor, and at the toilet. It’s important to plan out the pattern and even try things on the floor. The planks have a tongue on 2 sides, and a groove on the other two, allowing them to snap together and interlock. This means that if you cut 12” from the left side of a 48” piece, for example, the remaining 36” section won’t have a tongue on the short edge. SO, it would need to be installed as the left-most piece (against the left wall) in another row, as it won’t have anything it can lock into. This worked out splendidly in my case, as with having 2 rooms to work in, leftover pieces from one room could be used as starters for rows in either room.
There are some general rules which probably apply to all similar floors, but these are pretty much right from the directions accompanying the Shaw brand I was using:
1) Normal row direction is parallel with the longest outside wall.
2) The work direction is from left to right, and you back up from the starting rows as you install others.
3) The tongue should be cut from the edges of the first row (against the walls).
4) The floor should not be adhered to anything under it so as to remain “floating”, which allows for expansion and contraction.
5) A small gap must be left around the perimeter, also allowing for movement.
6) Flooring should be allowed to “acclimate” to the install area for a day or so before installation.
7) Mix pieces from several cartons to minimize the chance to putting two identical pieces together, and to offset any color variation from box-to-box.
Let’s look at a piece to illustrate how I started. Here I’ve just trimmed off the tongue on the long edge of the first piece. It was easy, just using a hand-held razor utility knife:
I suggest starting the first couple of rows pushed hard against the far wall. That helps with engaging each piece into the prior row. Since the floor will have movement, once you get a few rows together, you can slide the whole thing as a unit (unless the room is very large) just a bit away from the wall to give you the needed “breathing room” for expansion/contraction.
No single piece should be shorter than about 6” for best appearance, even against a wall if possible. In addition, joints should obviously be offset one row from another so that they appear to be randomly laid. If you are REALLY serious about trying to make this look “correct”, you can make all the joints fall on what would be 16” centers. That would likely waste a lot of material, but would give the most realistic appearance that solid wood flooring was nailed directly onto joists.
Here we are with a couple of rows installed in each room. I cut around the toilet flange using an oscillating multi-tool (one of my favorite tools, by the way).
While planks can be sized to the proper length by the “score and snap” method with your utility knife, I found it super easy to score the surface with the multi-tool before snapping.
It’s a repetitive process, and goes very quickly. Simply trim around any obstacles.
If you planned things out well, you should be able to finish off the edge at a doorway using a transition strip. Note that I also used the multi-tool to undercut the door trim so that the flooring will simply slip under it. I did not have to trim the door bottom, but if you’re working with one that was a tight fit before flooring, you may need to.
To keep things simple, I installed new glued-on vinyl baseboard to cover the floor-to-wall joint and obviously to replace the old baseboard. Adhesive can be buttered onto the wall using a putty knife, or squeezed on from a “caulking gun” setup.
Here’s how both rooms look after re-installing the toilet and cleaning things up a bit.
I hope all your projects go well. Thanks for reading, and happy restoring!