Frequently Asked D.I.Y Flooring Questions

THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ARE PROVIDED AS A GENERAL REFERENCE ONLY.

Specific issues or situations should be evaluated on an individual case by case basis.
If you require further information please contact a store for further assistance.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate floors were introduced into the market in the 1970’s as an inexpensive alternative to hardwood floors. Laminate is actually made up of residual wood fibres that are mixed with resins and binders and then formed into high density fibreboard (HDF) panels. The panels are milled to form a click together locking system to allow for easy installation. A decorative wood grain paper is attached to the panel and then a top surface wear layer containing aluminum oxide to help resist wearing fading and staining. A backing layer is added to the bottom of the panel for stability and moisture resistance. These layers are laminated together under extreme pressure and then cut into the planks or tiles.

There are many types of edge joining systems used to connect laminate flooring panels together. Some laminate flooring locking systems snap together by hand while others require a light tap with a mallet and a tapping block. Newer styles of locking system designs allow for a “drop lock” installation. While most of the various systems work well to secure your laminate floor, it is important to read your laminate flooring installation instructions carefully. Familiarize yourself with how your flooring locks together before starting your installation. Follow the manufacturer’s installation procedures carefully and your new flooring will last for years.

Laminate flooring is an extremely versatile flooring product. It can be installed in virtually any room of your home, above or below ground, and over top of wood or concrete sub-floors. Because laminate flooring is a wood flooring product caution should be taken when installing in wet locations such as bathrooms, saunas, enclosed porches or verandas, or anywhere that may require wet-mopping.

One obvious advantage is that of price; laminate flooring is typically less than one fourth the cost of traditional hardwood flooring. Sometimes the savings are even greater, depending on the types of flooring in question. Additionally, laminate flooring is designed to be easy to install and is generally a good choice for most people wishing to install the flooring themselves, where solid hardwood requires a higher level of expertise. Laminate flooring is also much more scratch-resistant and fade resistant, two areas where solid hardwood and engineered flooring is known to be more vulnerable.

The thickness of the floor is not as important as the density. Thickness is not a bad thing but a denser core will react less to environmental changes caused by seasonal changes in the weather. Some 15 mm floors are not as dense as some 8 mm floors. The denser cores have less air voids to absorb spills and airborne humidity.

There are several things to consider before you begin to install a laminate floor. Careful preparation before beginning the installation will make installing your laminate floor a quick and easy process. Ensure that your sub-floor is solid, level, flat, dry, and smooth. Allow your laminate flooring to acclimatize to the room where it will be installed for as long as possible (min. 48 hours). Inspect each laminate flooring panel carefully for defects or damage before installing it. Follow your laminate flooring manufacturer’s installation instructions carefully.

Which direction to install your floor is strictly a matter of choice. Some individuals prefer to run the flooring parallel to the main direction of light while others prefer to run the floor perpendicular to the light. Other features in the room such as fireplaces, furniture or stairs may also impact your decision. For any installation, the starting wall should be as long and straight as possible.

In an average installation an additional 8% to 10% of the total area to be covered will be needed for waste. Smaller jobs may require slightly more waste and larger jobs may require slightly less. It is also a good idea to purchase an extra box or two for future repairs. Laminate flooring is extremely fade resistant and repairs can easily be done if extra material is available and not discontinued.

The first row should be started with a full plank, the second row with a 2/3 plank and the third row with a 1/3 plank. Once the first three rows are finished, the leftover cut piece from the last plank of the third row can be used to start the fourth row and so on. Depending on dimensions of the room it may be required to occasionally start the next row with a new piece. The distance between joints from one row to the next for the remainder of the installation should be 8″ or greater and a random staggered pattern produces a more realistic hardwood look.

Because laminate flooring is derived from wood, it is subject to expansion and contraction, caused by room temperatures and humidity levels. An expansion gap is a necessary part of any successful installation because it allows space for the expansion of the floor as it responds to these external influences of temperature and humidity. When it is exposed to warmer temperatures, or to increased humidity, laminate flooring planks expand outward. Leaving out the essential element of an outside gap can cause the buckling of the individual laminate flooring planks as the planks push outward against walls or other obstacles.

A floating floor is a floor built with all its pieces attached to each other but with none of these component parts fixed to the sub- floor. Virtually all laminate floors are installed as floating floors.

High density fibreboard, HDF, is basically a high-density, moisture-resistant fibre panel. It is made of wood residues (sawdust, shavings and wood chips) from wood processing factories. This ligneous material is ground into a pulp to which resins and binders are added and then dried and pressed into panels under extreme heat and pressure.

The melamine impregnated paper, called the décor layer, is thermo-fused to the core and then topped with an aluminum-oxide wear layer to provide resistance to wearing, fading and staining.

Concrete floors below ground are capable of storing a vast amount of water. It is crucial to avoid all direct contact between the laminate flooring and the concrete floor because the soil beneath the concrete can transmit humidity into the floor. Installing a moisture barrier over all concrete surfaces, on or below grade, is mandatory for a successful installation and for the ongoing health of a laminate floor.

Yes, laminate flooring can be installed on stairs but the planks need to be glued down with regular construction adhesive. There are different ways to finish laminate on stairs and careful planning is essential to a smooth installation.

No, laminate flooring must be installed in a climate-controlled area.

No, all carpet and padding should be removed completely prior to installation.

Minor scratches or nicks can be repaired with felt markers or stains.

Laminate planks can be replaced by taking the baseboard off and simply disassembling the floor to the position of the plank that needs to be replaced and then reinstall the plank(s) and baseboard. In some cases it is possible to cut a plank from the middle of the floor and glue in a replacement piece.

AC ratings are a standardized measure adopted by the Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring (ELPF). The AC measure rates abrasion resistance, fade resistance and resistance to staining. Here is a more detailed guide:

AC1 is suitable for lighter, more infrequent traffic, e.g. a bedroom
AC2 is suitable for general residential use in living rooms and dining rooms
AC3 can be applied to more varied locations, such as small offices and other light commercial locations
AC4 can be installed in higher traffic commercial areas, such as boutiques, busier offices, and restaurants
AC5 is the most durable and can withstand the traffic of heavier commercial applications
Although laminate is the most scratch resistant flooring option on the market, it is important to note that all floors are susceptible to scratching and it is important to take care and attention in caring for your new floors. Be sure to use protective pads for your furniture and always lift and gently place heavy objects instead of sliding them across the floor. It is also wise to protect front entrances and heavy traffic areas with mats and runners.

SPC Flooring

SPC is an acronym for Stone Polymer Core or Stone Polymer Composite. The name of the product is derived from the core which is typically made from limestone powder.

The core of SPC flooring is comprised of limestone powder, polyvinyl chloride and stabilizers and provides a core that is very dimensionally stable. The core is then topped with a decor layer, a wear layer and a UV coating. The product is then cut into the desired dimensions and milled to provide a click together locking system.

The limestone powder is very dense and the lack of product porosity provides a core that is very dimensionally stable compared to other flooring products. This enhanced stability allows for installations in more extreme environments where temperature and humidity are difficult to control. Some manufacturers claim that their SPC products will remain stable from temperatures ranging from 40 below to 40 above.

SPC can be designed to look like wood or tile and come in varying degrees of thickness. Different levels of wear layers are also available and some products are manufactured with an attached pad for increased comfort.

SPC is typically manufactured with a locking system milled into the edges allowing for a click together installation and could also be glued down to a properly prepared sub-floor.

The large part of the end result will be determined by the condition of the sub-floor which should be solid, dry and level and preferably smooth. High spots should be eliminated by sanding, planning or grinding and low spots should be filled with an approved floor levelling compound.

When installing SPC flooring the guideline for waste is similar to most floating floors which is to purchase 10% more than the area that needs to covered. This guideline can vary depending on the layout and size of the area. Smaller areas like bathrooms might require 20% waste or more and large wide open areas may require as little 5% waste.

Yes, the product is 100% waterproof.

Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl floors provide consumers with a soft and comfortable flooring option that is well suited for areas where moisture might be an issue. Today, vinyl floors come in a wide variety of sizes, styles, designs and colours to satisfy even the most discerning shopper. It is often referred to as “resilient” flooring and is mold, mildew and moisture resistant, making it a popular choice for kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and any other area where occasional spills or moisture might be a concern. Vinyl is also easy to clean and maintain.

Generally speaking, vinyl is made up of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), plasticizers, resins and stabilizers and offers unlimited design options. It is available in a sheet vinyl which comes in rolls up to 13’ wide and can be installed in one continuous piece and can also be seamed together for larger areas. It is also available as a luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and as a luxury vinyl plank (LVP) for customers who prefer to install their new floor as modular pieces.

There are three basic ways to install vinyl flooring including loose lay, perimeter glue and fully glued. The loose lay installation method should be limited to smaller areas (less than 100 sq ft) that are not considered high traffic areas and a perimeter glued installation might be more appropriate for medium size areas (up to 200 sq ft) or areas that have more foot traffic such as foyers. For larger size installations (over 200 sq ft) and areas that are considered high traffic a fully glued installation is recommended. For fully glued installations you can choose between permanent or releasable adhesives which offer the ability to reposition or remove the flooring with relative ease.

Although vinyl can be installed over top of other flooring products such as existing vinyl, tile and even some wood flooring, your sub-floor needs to be dry, clean, level and smooth. Vinyl can also be installed directly on concrete or plywood but you will most likely have to skim coat the surface with some type of floor patch to ensure that any imperfections in the sub-floor do not transfer through and be sure to fill in all cracks and imperfections prior to installing the new flooring.

Depending on your skill and ability and the size of the area you can definitely install the vinyl yourself. For most consumers, installing vinyl for the first time it might be difficult to handle a large piece of sheet vinyl and modular vinyl options such as luxury vinyl tile (LVT) or luxury vinyl plank (LVP) might be a better option. Proper sub-floor preparation is the key to a quality installation

Engineered Flooring

Engineered hardwood flooring is a product made up of a core of plywood or high density fibreboard (HDF) and a top layer of a hardwood veneer that is glued to the top surface of the core. The top veneer can range in thickness between 0.5 mm – 5mm (and more) and can be made from a wide variety of wood species.

The core of laminate is typically made of HDF and the top layer is a photograph of a wood species mounted on top of the core. The core of an engineered floor can be plywood or HDF and the top layer is an actual layer (veneer) of a hardwood species. This is a key difference between the two flooring types.

Solid hardwood is exactly what the name implies, a solid piece of wood, normally ¾” thick and available in various widths and lengths. An engineered floor is a thin layer of hardwood (veneer layer) mounted on a core made up of HDF or plywood.

Once the product is installed it is very difficult to tell the difference looking down at the floor, as you are looking at the top layer of wood with either product.

Not at all – the top hardwood layer is the same genuine hardwood you have with a solid hardwood floor, just thinner. The top veneer is available in most species of hardwood and typically has the same type of finish applied.

Engineered floors are much more structurally stable than solid hardwood floors because the core of the product is made up of pressed woods (plywood or HDF) which have fewer natural voids than a solid piece of hardwood. Engineered floors also offer more flexible installation choices including nailed down, glued together and even clicked together. Engineered floors can be installed on grade, above grade and even below grade where most hardwoods are more limited in the installation application.

Depending on the manufacturer, the top finish used on engineered flooring is essentially the same as what is used on a solid hardwood floor. Most manufacturers use several layers (8 – 12) of some type of polyurethane finish to protect the product from wearing and fading.

The instability of a wood floor is usually related to humidity as the wood expands when it is humid and contracts when it is dry. Under adverse conditions solid hardwood floors can warp, cup or buckle due the natural voids in the wood. Engineered floors overcome most of these issues by constructing a core that has multiple layers running in opposite directions which help to limit the amount of expansion and contraction of the floor. This makes engineered flooring a better choice for installing in environments with changing climates.

It depends on the thickness of the veneer layer but the reality is that 95% of hardwood surfaces are never refinished. With the high quality of finishes available from the factory and the factory’s ability to build up several layers of finish under optimum conditions are both hard processes to duplicate in the field. When refinishing is preferred, the professional sanding and refinishing procedure removes less than 1/16 of an inch (depending on the depth of gouges). Therefore, if your veneer layer is 2.5 mm thick you could refinish the floor 1-2 times.

Beside the unique characteristics of wood grain in the different species, the relative hardness of the species is considered to be an important factor when selecting your perfect floor. You can refer to the Janka Scale in order to compare the hardness of different wood species. Domestically grown species such as Birch, Oak, Maple and Hickory tend to be more readily available and therefore less expensive.

The Janka Scale is the industry standard for measuring the hardness of the wood. The Janka test is conducted by measuring the force needed to press a .444” inch steel ball halfway into the wood and the amount of force required is converted to a number. The higher the number – the harder the wood. Red Oak is probably the most common species of wood flooring used over the past century and is considered the bench mark in which to compare one species to another. Red Oak has a Janka rating of 1290 while Birch is slightly softer at 1260. Hard Maple has a Janka rating of 1450 and Hickory is rated at 1820. Some of the imported wood species such as Brazilian Cherry and Brazilian Walnut have ratings as high as 3600. Harder woods will not gouge or dent as easily as a softer species. They are also harder to cut and to nail down during the installation process.

Different appearances in the same wood species are usually a result of how the wood is sawn. The most common methods used for engineered flooring are Plain Sawn (Flat Sawn), Quarter Sawn and Rotary Peel.When wood is cut using the Plain Sawn method the wood displays a cathedral pattern on the face of the wood. This is the most common and economical way to cut lumber into hardwood flooring products. Quarter Sawn wood has a beautiful straight grain pattern that offers a unique look. Distinctive flecking becomes pronounced in Red Oak and White Oak and other wood species such as Walnut, Maple and Cherry also benefit from this type of production. Although this method will add to the overall cost of the product it also offers a more dimensionally stable floor. Quarter Sawn lumber exhibits almost no twisting, warping or cupping.Rotary Peeled veneers are generally less expensive because the process utilizes a higher percentage of the log with much less waste. The entire log is put onto a lathe and peeled (imagine an apple peeler) continuously to form larger pieces of veneer with wider grain patterns. Species like Oak and Hickory offer unique looks when cut this way.

WPC Flooring

WPC flooring consists of 4-5 layers and is made in a process that is similar to laminate flooring. However, one of the main differences between WPC flooring and what is traditionally called Laminate flooring, is the core itself. The core of WPC flooring is comprised of wood-plastic composites which are materials made of wood fiber/wood flour and thermoplastics. This waterproof core is then topped with a printed layer of Vinyl (PVC), a wear layer and a UV coating. The product is then cut into the desired dimensions and milled to provide a click together locking system.

Yes, the product is 100% waterproof.

The rigid core of WPC flooring provides for a much easier click together installation process when compared to click together systems consisting only of pure PVC as the PVC products are too pliable and not ideal for click together installations. The rigid core is also more stable than vinyl (PVC) products that are not attached to a core.

WPC is typically manufactured with a locking system milled into the edges allowing for a click together installation and could also be glued down to a properly prepared sub-floor.

The large part of the end result will be determined by the condition of the sub-floor which should be solid, dry and level and preferably smooth. High spots should be eliminated by sanding, planning or grinding and low spots should be filled with an approved floor levelling compound.

When installing WPC flooring the guideline for waste is similar to most floating floors which is to purchase 10% more than the area that needs to covered. This guideline can vary depending on the layout and size of the area. Smaller areas like bathrooms might require 20% waste or more and large wide open areas may require as little 5% waste.

WPC can be designed to look like wood or tile and come in varying degrees of thickness. Different levels of wear layers are also available and some products are manufactured with an attached pad for increased comfort.

WPC is an acronym for Wood Polymer Core or Wood Polymer Composite. The core of the product is made out of materials similar to composite decking.

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