Flooring Installation: Intro and Basic Layout Techniques



In this section you'll learn how to install nine different types of floors, and how to trim them out, It includes a special section describing techniques for refinishing existing wood floors, or finishing new ones.

Although the right choice of materials and proper preparation of the subsurface are critical to producing a successful floor, the installation techniques themselves make the final difference in any flooring project. This chapter provides you with step-by-step guidelines for installing each type of flooring yourself, and the information you need to make appropriate decisions if you'll be working with a professional.

The first two pages focus on the beginning step of a quality installation: layout. The final look of the new floor will be affected by the alignment of patterns, grout lines, wood grain, carpet pile, or other repetitive features of the material; careful layout will ensure tight joints and well-matched seams. By using a precise layout to guide the installation, you ensure that the last piece of material installed will be as accurately placed as the, first. Layout can also compensate for the fact that a room's corners may not be square, or walls may not be straight; the flooring itself can visually mask these defects rather than exaggerate them.

The balance of the chapter illustrates installation techniques. These require varying degrees of skill, strength, and experience. All the installations described in this chapter are within the abilities of most do-it-yourselfers, though some are more technically exacting than others. The main requirements are the proper tools and the ability to apply these techniques to your particular situation. In many cases, you may want to use a helper.

In terms of time, flooring for an average-sized room can be installed in less than a day with resilient material, carpet, or prefinished wood. Unfinished wood will take an additional 2 to 3 days for sanding and finishing, and ceramic tile floors will take the same amount of time for grouting-and longer if they must be sealed as well. The drying time of adhesives and grouts will affect the overall installation time.

The first section on installation describes techniques for various types of wood floors-tongue-and-groove strip, square-edge strip, tongue-and-groove plank, and parquet. This section includes step-by-step instructions for blind-nailing square-edge flooring, countersinking and plugging screw-holes, and creating borders, as well as a special section on refinishing techniques for wood floors.

The next section features resilient materials. You will learn the techniques for a beautiful and lasting installation of resilient sheet goods, as well as tiles, a popular do-it-yourself material.

If you have selected ceramic tile for your floor, such as glazed or quarry tile, the next section will show you the techniques for installing it properly. You will learn how to align and set tiles with neat, uniform grout spaces, and how to grout and seal the floor.

The last section covers the installation of both conventional and cushion-backed carpet. Even if you prefer to have a professional install conventional carpet, you may want to put down the tackless strip or install the pad yourself.

Whichever materials you use, installation is really complete only when the trim is replaced or installed and the doors re-hung. The last two pages of the book guide this phase of installation. Then finally, you can move your furniture back in and enjoy your new floor.

Dark wood floors sparkle by day under a flood of sunshine, and gleam by night against contrasting white walls and furnishings. Wood floors can be dressed up or down, and graciously wear the effects of age with a pleasing patina.

Basic Layout Techniques

Layout is a critical process that determines both how the finished floor will look and how smoothly your work will proceed, Use the guidelines below to determine to what degree the room is in square. Then, decide on which type of layout is most appropriate. Some special layout considerations, unique to each type of flooring material, are discussed in detail in section 1.

Tests and Techniques for Layout

In construction terminology, rooms or walls are “in square” if the walls meet at right angles (90 degrees), or are precisely perpendicular to each other. Walls that are “out of square” create an irregularly shaped floor. Small irregularities can be overlooked, but walls that are badly out of square can clash with lines in the flooring material. The issue, then, becomes choosing the wall or walls to which you orient or “square” the floor layout.

Before starting the installation, identify the cuts or adjustments in the material you’ll have to make. Rigid flooring materials won’t conform to a wall that bows outward or wanders inward; if baseboards and shoe moldings won’t conceal the irregularity, you’ll have to cut the material to conform to it.

Regardless of which layout method you use, when you come to specific installations, you’ll need to test whether a line or wall is in square to some other line or wall. A carpenter’s square works for testing very small dimensions, but for the larger dimensions common in flooring installations, you need to use a classic carpenter’s method called the 3-4-5 triangle.

Is the room in square? To determine if the room is in square, measure both of its diagonals—that is, the distance between opposite corners as measured through the center of the room. If the two measurements are equal, the room is square and you’re safe to orient the flooring parallel to or perpendicular to any of the walls.

If not, the next step is to find which corners, if any, are in square. For a quick check, lay a carpenter’s square on the floor at each corner. If it fits any of the corners perfectly, measure them again with a 3-4-5 triangle (see below) to double-check.


Checking the Room: Measure the room’s diagonals to accurately determine if the walls are in square; Check the walls for square

If two adjacent corners are in square, then only one of the four walls is out of square. If it is an obscure wall, square the layout to the remaining three walls. If it is a dominant wall, a focal point in the room, or a very long uninterrupted wall, square the layout to it or to an “average” of its orientation and that of the opposite wall.

Are the wails straight? A quick way to check a wall to see if it’s straight is to measure out a distance of 3/4 inch from both corners. Snap a chalkline between those points. You will immediately see any deviations between the straight chalkline and the wall.

3-4-5 triangle. This test determines whether two intersecting lines are exactly perpendicular. Start at their intersection and measure out 3 feet along one line and 4 feet along the other, marking those positions. Now measure between the two marks. If this distance is exactly 5 feet, the intersecting lines are perpendicular to each other. For larger rooms, use multiples of 3, 4, and 5 feet, such as 6, 8, and 10 foot measurements.

Methods for Layout

There are three methods of layout, and the best one to use depends on three factors: the aesthetic effect you want to create, the unique characteristics of the flooring material, and the condition of existing walls.

Perimeter method. This method consists of establishing lines around the four edges of the floor, either to establish the inside edges of a border so that they are in square with the flooring field, or to keep a ceramic tile installation aligned in both directions.

Since the four walls of the room may be out of square, it is important, in laying out the lines, to keep them perfectly squared to each other rather than to the walls. The lines’ distance from the wall should match the full width of the border, plus any allowances you’ll have to make for expansion space, for grout lines, or for irregularities in the wall.

Starter-line method. This method of layout is for installations that begin with a single course, or line of flooring, established along one wall. It is used for wood strip and plank installations that do not have a border. It is an easy method to use, since you start laying the flooring at one end of the room with the first course aligned exactly with the starter line, and work across to the opposite wall,

Your choice of the starting wall depends on the direction in which you’ll install the flooring, and other aesthetic concerns. Since the starting wall may be out of square with the room as a whole, establish the starting line by measuring back to it from the room’s imaginary centerline rather than taking measurements from the wall itself. Because the wall and the starter line won’t necessarily be parallel, the expansion gap may be tapered. This can be covered by baseboard; if the base board won’t fully conceal the gap, a tapered piece of strip flooring will need to be cut to fit. If your installation includes a border, use the perimeter method to establish your borders, and then use the starter-line method to layout and install the field—the main portion of the floor.

Quadrant method. This method consists of dividing the room into four equal sections, or quadrants, in order to start the installation in the center of the room. It is used for tile floors (wood block, resilient, and sometimes ceramic) in which the center portion of the room is the visually dominant area—the one you want your eye to fall on when you enter or use the room. In addition, if a room has walls that are out of square, or ii there are jogs and nooks, cabinetry, or other elements that project from the wall, this method gives you an accurate starting point. It is also the method to use when you want to lay the tile diagonally, relative to the room as a whole. Essentially, the quadrant method allows you to create a symmetrical layout in the room and to finish the installation at opposite walls with cut tiles of equal size.

Establish the centerpoint by measuring the midpoints of both facing sets of walls, and snapping two chalklines between them, exactly perpendicular to each other. Begin the installation of each quadrant at the intersecting perpendicular lines, and proceed out along each axis.


Perimeter Method-- One tile width plus grout, or, width of border; Starter-Line Method-- Measure back from centerline; Quadrant Method-- Second chalkline snapped perpendicular to first, First chalkline positioned at wall’s midpoints, Chalkline at midpoints

Prev.: Preparing a Wood Subfloor

Next: Tongue-and-Groove Strip Flooring

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Sunday, 2011-04-10 19:37