As a flooring professional, I am acutely aware, as the customer may also be, of the overwhelming number of choices when it comes to flooring, whether it is hardwood, laminate, vinyl plank or anything else. As a small business owner, I have had to strip down those choices to a manageable number so as not to overwhelm people (or myself!). The manufacturers and collections I have retained are a handful of the most trusted, reliable and high quality I have used and installed through the years.
Even so, the bottom line is that there are many good quality products on the market – many that perform equally well. Most woods have a lifetime structural warrantee and a 25- to 50- year finish warrantee. Most vinyl planks and laminates have a minimum 25-year or even lifetime warrantee. The point is: it’s not hard to find a decent product. However, it is hard to find high quality installation.
At the end of the day, no matter what product you choose, if the installation is poor, the floor will suffer or even fail. There are many ways in which an installation can be short-changed – too many to list, in fact. But, here are a few:
Floor Prep is Critical
Every subfloor needs floor prep. Some a little, some a lot. This typically means cleaning and scraping the subfloor, identifying high and low spots and remedying them. On a wood subfloor, OSB or plywood panels tend to peak at the seams and need to be ground down. On a concrete slab, there are frequently high rises and bulges or low spots. Grinding down highs and filling lows can take the worst of it out of a slab. If a new floor is installed hastily over an unprepared subfloor, the finished planks have to bear the stress of the uneven surface beneath them. Low pockets can cause the floor to flex and bounce or creak underfoot. Besides feeling lousy underfoot, the seams can become stressed enough to fail and separate. This is very common.
Plank and Seam Placement
Care and attention is required when assembling and installing planks of any kind. If seams are not properly spaced out and distributed evenly, the floor will be weaker as a result. It also will just look bad. Paying attention to the overall aesthetic flow of an installation is important. Evenly mixing dark and light boards, and knotty ones with clear ones is desirable and even essential. A grouping of all one shade or kind of plank together will look poorly in a finished floor. It is important that the installer not just throw planks down in a hurry, but take the time to create a visual harmony in the overall installation.
Attention to Details
As the cliché goes – everything is in the details. Keeping a jobsite clean, for example, will result in a smoother, less chaotic installation. Checking one’s own shoes for little rocks or staples (these always get stuck in shoe bottoms during the prep) will help protect the finished floor. Taking care not to damage baseboards or walls is an important element of the job. And then there are all the ways craftsmanship and excellence can make all the difference in an installation, from difficult cuts and challenging areas like stairs, to the layout of different planks. There simply is no substitute for attention to detail. It’s the reliability of that level of attention that puts a homeowner at ease, knowing the job is being done right. Anything less can ruin even the best floor.
So when it comes to installation, don’t take shortcuts. If you’re doing it yourself, learn about floor prep and other important steps. If you are hiring a contractor, make sure you find a good one, not the cheapest one! It will be worth it. QCBN
By Sylvan Incao
For more questions about flooring installation and hard surface flooring, please contact Desert Hardwood Flooring at 928-925-3084 or visit DesertHardwoodFlooring.com.
Sylvan Incao is the owner and lead installer of Desert Hardwood Flooring, and a Prescott resident since 1992. Desert Hardwood Flooring is a small craftsmanship-oriented company focusing on quality workmanship and attention to detail in the arena of hardwood flooring and other hard surface flooring. Their showroom is located at 115 E. Goodwin St. Suite A, in downtown Prescott and is by appointment only.