An advanced lesson in hardwood flooring


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Want to install new flooring in your kitchen (or any room, for that matter)? So did I. Here are a few lessons I’ve learnt – probably the hard way.Beautiful room with solid floor

Measure twice, cut once

Once my engineering teacher and numerous craftsmen told me this and its oh-so-true. Not just measure what you need, also what you already have.

Here’s my story: my open kitchen – living room had some stone-tile flooring and radiant heating below it. So far so good. Turned out, the stone needed breaking up as it was installed very-very badly – about seven years ago. I had a choice: either I break it up or it will come up all by itself soon. Not liking surprise-self-destructing floors, I’ve chosen the chisel. Worked like a charm.After the initial success, I’ve decided to install wooden flooring – it’s so much warmer, and so on. Checked out several companies, visited showrooms, chosen a beautiful floor. Got the wood, the contractor, everything went fine. “We need to level the floor, there’s some left of the former tiles’ cement. “Go on, find out what’s best, I’m not an expert in this” I told. Big mistake.

Floor leveled off, floor being installed. All fine up until the first door: it won’t open. Turned out, the tiles were about 5mm (0.2 in) thick while the wood was about 15mm (0.6 in). The material they’ve used for leveling the floor took up 0.1 additional inches. “Ok, so chop off half an inch from your doors” the contractor goes. (and raise the sill, move the hinges, whatever.)

Who-is-who in floor-land

  • Anatomy of a wood floorBefore I go further, let’s see what I’ve learnt a hardwood floor is made of:
  • Planks: yep, everyone recognises this: the actual floor. Can be solid wood, engineered wood, laminate, whatver.
  • Subfloor: the material the installer puts below the planks. Can be building paper, another layer of wood – usually plywood – the glue that keeps wood there or just concrete.
  • Base Molding: from 3/8″ to 5/8″thick, from 1 1/2″ to 4″+ high; protects the wall and frames the wood floor.
  • Shoe Molding: from 1/2″ to 1″ high. Used as “shoe” in some areas to cover the expansion space of the floor. It needs to be flexible enough to conform to irregular surfaces as well.

(I know it’s very basic, you can find everything you need to be up-to-date on wood flooring on the website of NOFMA – The Wood Flooring Manufacturers Association.

Know your base molding from the shoe moldingShoe molding

Or rather not, if you don’t really want to be involved. After the floor’s been laid, the finishing part – I thought – was the molding. I’ve chosen a molding about 4,5 inches high. “Oh, that’s a carpenter’s work, we do only shoe moldings” – says the contractor. They do only shoe molding, as they don’t have the machinery to cut higher molds. And on it goes.Base molding

Lesson learnt: it’s best to agree on (and write it down!) everything throughout before anyone lays a plank.

Maintenance matters

My floor is glued to the base cement – so it won’t creak, ever. Now that sounds good, doesn’t it? Sure it does, until one of the planks need to be changed – because of damage, warpage, a new wall or something else.

Also, the supplier gives warranty for properly laid floors – mine is, but if the guys who did it tell me they cannot change a plank, how does it exactly work? So please – please, look into these tiny details – an extra hour or two can save you days if not weeks later.

Want to know more? There’s a book for that! 🙂

  • Kitchen remodeling in a down economy – part 2.
  • Step 6 – Kitchen Floor Basics
  • Kitchen trends for 2011
  • Step 3 – The kitchen layout
  • History of the kitchen – Cooktops
  • 6 comments ↓

    #1 Dave C. on 10.26.07 at 8:41 am

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    This is a great piece. We’ll be including it in our weekly link list. Great site overall actually.

    #2 Weekenders - October 26, 2007 | Color Themes on 10.26.07 at 8:54 am

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    […] Hardwood Knowhow – Awhile back Michele talked a bit about hardwood floors. I found this post on Planakitchen.com that goes into more depth on the subject. Good info. […]

    #3 michele on 10.28.07 at 7:50 pm

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    If you have the budget, calling in the demo crew is so easy and no mess! But, if budget is an issue than you’re back to the chisel yourself. I commend you for the hard work.

    #4 peter on 11.08.07 at 1:03 pm

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    Thanks for all the encouragement 🙂 Michele: well, the demo crew is fine, but these things were said by them.. I think it depends on what kind of crew you’re getting…

    #5 Best Refrigerators on 07.01.08 at 3:28 am

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    Measure twice and cut once! Ha, reminds me when I put down hardwood flooring in my front room, I wasted way to many running boards!

    #6 Wooden laminate flooring on 10.05.10 at 11:55 pm

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    The hardwood flooring profiles look so nice!

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