Tips for installing a floating floor

Homeowner seeks smooth transition between bedroom, hallway

Q: I’m a 60-something-year-old woman in good health and I want to convert an extra bedroom into a home office/workout room.

The hallway is tiled with a transition to carpet at the bedroom door. The hallway floor is about 3/4 inch higher than the carpet. I want to replace the carpet with a floating floor, Pergo perhaps?

My questions are: Is this a do-it-yourself project? What is the best way to make the new floor the same height as the tile? And, can you pass along any tricks to make sure the job comes out right?

A: We applaud you for your willingness to take on this job. If you’re in good enough shape to spend hours working on your hands and knees, there’s nothing standing in the way of doing this job yourself. We warn that it will be a fair amount of work, but when it’s done you’ll have the room that you want at less than half the price you would pay a flooring contractor. And, what we think is even better, you’ll have the satisfaction that comes with saying, "I did that."

As in nearly all remodeling projects, the first step is demolition. Begin by taking up the old carpet. If you want to keep it, take it up in one piece. If it’s going to the landfill, make things easy on yourself by cutting it into strips with a utility knife and take it out one piece at a time. With the carpet and pad gone, remove the baseboard around the room. The new floor will be higher than the carpet so removal and reinstallation of the base is a must.

Score the joint between the baseboard and the wall to cut any caulking that may have been done and gently ease the base away from the wall with a small pry bar. Gentle is the watchword. The base is going to be reused so you don’t want to break any pieces, and you certainly don’t want to punch any holes in the Sheetrock.

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The next step is to prepare the transition between the tile and the new floor. You may have to trim the tile or the tile underlayment to make a smooth transition. For this task use a small, hand-held rotary device called a Dremel tool equipped with a diamond-studded, cement-cutting blade.

Then lay the new subfloor. Because the level of the tile floor is higher than the new flooring, the bedroom floor needs to be raised. Butt a piece of the new Pergo flooring including the pad against the tile. Measuring the difference in height will give you the thickness of the wood needed to build up the subfloor for a smooth transition between the tile and the new floor. Use four-by-eight sheets of plywood to build the floor up.

Another popular, and usually less expensive, product for subfloors is oriented strand board, commonly known as OSB. Attach the new subfloor to the old with construction adhesive and screw the boards every 8 inches on the sides and in the field.

The final prep step is to cut the base of the door casing to fit the new floor height. Place a piece of the new flooring and the foam underlayment against the casework and draw a line on the casing to get the correct height. Remove the flooring and cut the case with a Dremel tool equipped with a woodcutting blade.

Now it’s floor time. Pergo and other floating floor products come with detailed installation instructions.

There are a couple of tricks. Be sure to use the recommended underlayment, be it foam or cork. This is a sound deadener. Also, make sure to leave about a 1/4-inch gap around the perimeter of the floor for movement with changes in humidity. The gap will be covered when the baseboard is reinstalled.

When installing a floating floor it’s a good idea to kneel or sit on the installed area of the floor to prevent it from moving as you bang the new pieces into place. Stagger the joints to prevent unwanted separation of the planks. Finally, reinstall the baseboard and do a little paint touch-up.

All that’s left is to move your computer and treadmill into their new home. Like we said, projects like this are a lot of work and they may make you wonder why you weren’t satisfied with the way things were, but when all is said and done you’ll realize what a brilliant idea you had and that you made it happen yourself.

                                     

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