Preparing for Flooring

The work is about to begin. Previous sections covered planning and selecting flooring materials. This section shows you how the pros prepare a room for new flooring. No matter what type of flooring you plan to put down, the surface will need preparation. You’ll need to remove the old flooring, repair the subfloor as required, and install any underlayment. Fortunately, you won’t be the first to prepare and install new flooring. In fact, during the time that you are replacing your floors, many thousands of other people across the U.S. and around the world are doing the same. However, it’s the professional flooring installers that you want to watch and learn from. That’s what this section is about.

  • Preparing Rooms

    The first job at hand is to prepare existing rooms for new flooring. The amount of preparation needed depends on the old flooring and the new. Preparation means making sure the floor surface is firm and without defect that can reduce the new flooring’s functionality or life. For example, if you’re installing ceramic tile you want to make sure that the subfloor will support the added weight. In addition, the surface must be firm enough to support traffic without cracking the tile or grout. Preparing for carpeting is relatively easy because padding and the carpet will absorb many imperfections in the subfloor. Installing laminate wood over vinyl tile, however, requires more preparation.

  • Removing Old Flooring

    You’re making progress. All the furniture and appliances are moved to a safe location and all of the trim is removed that can be. The next task is to begin removing whatever old flooring you have. Exactly how to do it depends on what type of flooring was installed¾and how smooth the surface needs to be for the next flooring material. As mentioned earlier, a new carpet doesn’t require the careful removal and preparation needed for installing sheet vinyl or other thin flooring materials.

  • Repairing the Subfloor

    As mentioned earlier in this section, preparing for new flooring is a job defined by what flooring you’re replacing as well as what you’re installing. For example, installing carpeting over sheet vinyl is relatively easy because the vinyl is a smooth surface and carpeting doesn’t telegraph. However, installing sheet vinyl flooring over a rough and damaged vinyl or old linoleum floor is more of a challenge because every lump and bump in the old floor will show up in the new one. That’s why, for many installations, it’s wiser to remove old flooring and work with the subfloor as a base.

  • Installing Underlayment

    Underlayment is a layer of material between the subfloor and the flooring material. Most flooring projects require some type of underlayment depending on the condition of the subfloor and whether there is moisture in or below it. The following FloorGuides outline the types of underlayment and how to install them.

  • Preparing Stairs

    Stairs are a series of steps that serve as a path from one level of a building to another. The horizontal part you step on is called the tread. The vertical board under each tread is the riser. Stairs, like other flooring in your home, may require replacement. That job is similar to installing flooring (as shown in coming sections), but not the same. For example, installing hardwood flooring materials on stairs requires more time for planning, cutting, and fastening materials. Trim, too, takes more time for installation on stairs. The easiest flooring installation on stairs is carpet because a single piece of carpet material is cut to fit the entire length of the stairs. Alternately, some carpet installers cut a single piece of carpet for each tread/riser. As with horizontal flooring, how much preparation needed depends on the type of flooring to be installed and the condition of the stairs’ subfloor. The process is similar to preparing horizontal flooring, so let’s discuss the differences.

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