The lowdown on hardwood floors

This weekend The Flooring Warehouse in Hamilton will be running clinics on how to install your own hardwood flooring.

As overwhelming as that kind of project sounds, Shane Taplay, a flooring consultant at the store, says today’s products have simplified the work involved. There’s no sanding, staining or sealing required.

According to Taplay, pre-finished wood flooring, which comes in a rainbow of colors, is made with a baked-on coating that is more durable than the urethane coatings available for unfinished hardwood.

At The Hardwood Flooring Stores in Burlington, sales representative Zane Kushnirak tells his clients that the hardest thing about laying their own floor is getting started.

He points out that consumer demand for hardwood floors is being influenced by the availability of product options, unheard of five years ago, and the fact that hardwood flooring isn’t as expensive as it once was.

“Most people are spending between $3.50 and $5 a square foot,” he says. “If they’re doing the installation themselves, we tell them that for every 200 square feet of flooring they should add on an additional $40 for materials they’ll require to lay the floor.”

When it comes to choosing pre-finished hardwood there are three categories to choose from — solid 3/4-inch, laminate or parquet.

According to Taplay, the first is the most difficult to lay because it has to be nailed down, get more information.

Concrete floors

Laminate flooring, on the other hand, was designed to go over concrete sub-floors and isn’t nailed down. Taplay explains that a foam underlay is glued or tacked down. Carpenter’s glue is applied along the outside groove of each plank of wood and the boards are then tapped together.

“They interlock much like Lego to create a floor. All you need for installation is a hammer and saw,” he says.

Taplay notes that consumers are often under the impression that laminate hardwood isn’t real wood and that it can’t be sanded and refinished.

In fact, just the opposite is true.

“If you can get four sands out of solid planking, you can get three sands out of laminate,” he says.

He also points out that laminate hardwood is ideal for basement applications because it isn’t affected by dampness. It can also be laid over vinyl flooring, ceramic tiles and hardwood.

As for parquet flooring, Kushnirak says it is the easiest to install. All that’s required is the proper adhesive and a saw.

At approximately $2 a square foot, he says it is also the best value for your money. The one drawback — parquet isn’t popular in Ontario.

Three grades

According to both men, pre-finished plank hardwood comes in three grades: select, mid-grade and rustic. Those divisions are based on such characteristics as grain, number of knots and mineral streaks and color continuity.

Kushnirak adds that parquet flooring comes in two grades: select and rustic.

The following are some tips about laying your own hardwood floors, courtesy of Taplay and Kushnirak:

There are a large number of hardwood-flooring manufacturers, 50 per cent of them Canadian. Keep in mind that sometimes you pay extra for the name not the quality of the product. Shop around and compare apples for apples.

Buy the proper product for the proper application. For example, waxed wood floors aren’t suitable for kitchens where they will be subject to water damage.

Consider which grade of hardwood will best suit your budget and your taste. Try to look at the products separately rather than putting select against mid-grade or rustic.

Fashion colors may be attractive, but they are also trendy. Natural wood grain colors never go out of style.

If you prefer waxed floors, some companies do produce pre-stained hardwood with a wax finish.

When you buy your wood flooring let it acclimatize before you lay it. Leave it in the room where it is to be installed for at least three days.

If you are going to rent equipment, such as a nailer, reserve ahead of time.

When you measure your room to find out how much flooring you’ll need, allow for an extra 5-7 per cent for cutting waste. Since wood flooring is sold by the box, the experts recommend buying an extra box just in case you need it. If you don’t, you can always return it.

Save left-over wood for future repair jobs.

Flooring stores that cater to do-it-yourselfers also lend tapes, and in some cases have instruction brochures.Staff will also provide you with all the assistance you need.

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