Things to take into account
The little things matter
Height of flooring to be installed
Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering different thicknesses of flooring.
- Is it important for you to have your floors at an even level?
- Do you need to add plywood to bring the height up to an existing floor
- Do you need to remove existing layers of flooring to bring the height down? Will your door casings still reach the floor?
- If you are going over an existing floor, how much height are you adding?
- Will doors need to be cut to accommodate added height?
- Will the height difference introduce a tripping hazard?
- What kind of transition do you need to span the different levels of flooring?
- How will baseboards and skirting trim flow through transitions at different heights?
Amount of preparation needed
Preparation of the subfloor and surrounding areas are crucial to the appearance, performance, and longevity of your floor.
- Maintain 35-55% humidity and a temperature of 10-25C (50-77F) before, during, and after the installation.
- Many different types of flooring can be faded or damaged by the intense rays of the sun. Have window treatments in place where needed.
- Any furniture present will need to be removed from the area of installation.
- Pictures, objects, and decor hanging on walls, as well as knick knacks and breakables on shelves, should be moved to prevent falling due to banging and vibrations that may occur during demo, prep, or installation. This also applies to rooms above, below, and adjacent to the work area.
- Remove baseboards and other skirting trim. They can be left on for carpet removal and installation in most cases. However going from a thicker carpet to a lower pile carpet may leave a gap under baseboards. You can also leave baseboards on if you are adding a skirting trim after.
- Inspect existing flooring to ensure that it is structurally sound if going over. If going over old vinyl or linoleum, you may need to cut back curling on the edges and patch.
- Remove existing flooring, staples, adhesives. Beware of asbestos in old flooring and adhesives. If you are unsure testing can be done by a 3rd party. Proceed according to OHSA guidelines. Also ensure proper safety when removing ceramic tile as inhalation of silica dust can be hazardous to your health.
- Undercut door casings, door jambs, and other trim where the flooring will need to slide under
- Fill dips, slumps and other problem areas with floor patch.
The subfloor is the foundation of your floor. The success of every flooring installation starts here. The focus is for your subfloor to be dry, smooth, flat, and free of contaminants. Many hard surface floor coverings require less than 3/16 depth change in a 10ft span to maintain warranty.
- Screw down plywood or floor boards to get rid of squeaks, movement, or in case it was loosened by flooring removal.
- Sand uneven plywood seams, or high spots. A planer can also be used.
- Scrape to remove anything that can cause bumps such as drywall mud, paint, or adhesives.
- All nails and screws should be countersunk.
- Additional plywood can be added to smooth out more severe subfloor issues.
- Deflection (movement of the subfloor) can also be an issue and will need to be addressed.
- Self leveling with use of the appropriate primer may be required to achieve the flattest floor possible. Edges and holes must be sealed so the self leveler remains contained when poured.
- Structural engineer is the last resort
- Follow guidelines from above where applicable
- Moisture testing is required on all concrete substrates. This should always be done by a professional with the proper equipment, even waterproof floating floors can be affected by excessive moisture
- A moisture mitigation system or vapour barrier should be in place
- Additional Alkaline testing should be performed if adhesives or bonding agents (primer for self leveling underlayments) are to be used as they may be compromised.
- Grinding may be required to remove high spots, imperfections in the concrete, or to remove paint or other contaminants for bonding purposes.
Sheet vinyl, vinyl plank, vinyl tile.
- It may be recommended to remove glued flooring if you are gluing down another floor as the new one relies on the adherance of the existing floor.
- You can install up to three layers of glued flooring before it all needs to be removed. An inspection must be made to ensure the existing flooring is still fully adhered. If the existing floor has cushion such as an airstep sheet vinyl, it needs to be removed.
- If going over existing glued flooring 1/8 inch thick coat of floor patch or self leveler must be applied to smooth out imperfections and fills embossing to avoid telegraphing ( may show through). It also creates a more solid foundation and a better surface to adhere to. Any loose areas need to be removed and patched or glued back down.
- Adding smooth 1/4 inch plywood or luan is the minimum requirement for glued flooring to be installed over a wood subfloor. It should be stapled 4 inches apart in the body and 2 inches apart along the seams. Floor patch is to be applied to the seams and sanded. Much like dry wall seams. Ensure all staples are countersunk.
- Flooring can be glued directly to concrete substrates if it meets the aforementioned criteria.
Laminate, click together vinyl plank/tile, glued together engineered hardwood
- Having a flat subfloor with less than 3/16 of an inch over 10 feet change in depth is most important. Wavy and uneven subfloors result in excessive movement and stress on the locking systems in the floor causing it to fail. Movement in the subfloor is also bad.
- You can go over most existing floors as long as it is solid, flat, dry, and structurally sound. Carpet or another floating floor must be removed.
- An underlay is needed for most floating floors. It helps mitigate slight imperfections in the subfloor, provides a vapour barrier, acts as an acoustic barrier, and adds cushion.
- A 1/4 inch to 5/8 gap (check product for specifications) must be maintained around the entire perimeter of a floating floor to allow for expansion. Look around to make sure this is possible while also being able to cover all of the gaps with trim.
Environmental stability is most crucial when it comes to hardwood flooring.
- All work involving water or moisture (plumbing, painting, masonry, plastering) must be completed prior to flooring being delivered.
- The hardwood flooring must be acclimated for a minimum of 72 hours before installation
- When installing parallel to the floor joists it may be necessary to increase rigidity of the structural subfloor system by installing an additional minimum of 1/2” (13mm) approved underlayment floor panel.
- Approved underlayment floor panels should meet or exceed the following:
- Plywood: Must be a minimum CDX grade (exposure1) and meet US Voluntary Product Standard PS1 performance standard or Canadian performance standard CAN/CSA 0325-0-92. The preferred thickness is 3⁄4” (19mm) as a subfloor (minimum 5/8” (16 mm) or 1/2” (13mm) as a floor panel underlayment.
- Oriented Strand Board (OSB): conforming to US Voluntary Product Standard PS2 or Canadian performance standard CAN/CSA 0325-0- 92 construction sheathing. Check the underside of panel for codes. When used as a subfloor, the panels must be tongue and groove and installed sealed side down. Minimum thickness to be 23/32” (18 mm) thick when used as a subfloor or 1/2” (13mm) as floor panel underlayment.
- Wafer board and Chipboard: Conforming to US Voluntary Product Standard PS2 or Canadian performance standard CAN/CSA 0325-0- 092. It must be 3⁄4” (19mm) thick when used as a subfloor and 1/2” 12.7mm) thick when used as a floor panel underlayment.
- Wood Subfloor Moisture Check: To increase reliability, moisture testing should be performed after the HVAC system has been in operation for a minimum of 14 days. Excess moisture on any flooring substrate if not identified and corrected prior to installation will cause floor covering failure.
- 3/4'' hardwood requires a 3/4'' expansion gap. 1/2'' hardwood requires 1/2'' expansion gap. Plan baseboards and trim accordingly.
- Engineered hardwood isn't quite as finicky as solid but the same precautions should be taken. One key difference is you can use glue assist method with approved adhesives that provides extra hold and stability allowing more tolerance of wood subfloors.
- Glue assist method is highly recommended for board width of 5 inches or more.
- Engineered hardwood can also be installed via full spread glue down.
Carpet can go over anything (within reason)
- Follow everything else mentioned where applicable thus far and you should be ok
Baseboards and Trim
Baseboards and trim such as quarter round and doorstop have a big impact on the finished look of the floor
- In many cases baseboard and trim can be removed and put back on after. If they are in poor condition, the new floor will make it stand out. It is best to at least throw on a fresh coat of paint. If the height of the new flooring is lower than the previous, a paint or caulking line may show. Make sure that if your new flooring has an expansion gap, that the thickness of the existing baseboard or trim exceeds it by a minimum of 1/8'' . If an expansion gap is introduced cupboards and built in cabinets etc. may now need trim. Same goes for railings and stair stringers as they may have been cut tight to with the previous flooring.
- When buying new baseboards and trim, follow the above guidelines to make sure it has the height and thickness to cover all gaps and paint/caulking lines. (unless you decide to repair the wall portion and repaint)