We recently moved our family to Texas for my husband’s job. We found a house that we loved and closed on it fairly quickly. While the house and neighborhood are great (location is key!) some of the aesthetics of the house definitely weren’t what we wanted. We had to paint (every single bedroom, a bathroom, and part of the main room), move a door, redo some electrical work, and put down better flooring in the master bedroom.
All of this, as you can imagine, was pretty expensive. We didn’t want to break the bank so soon after moving in, so we hired professionals for the electrical work (not about to mess around with stuff that can kill us), and found a good painter/handyman for an affordable price. With the amount of rooms we needed to paint, plus a 9 month old, plus Kermit, I just couldn’t do it myself this time.
The original contractors we had give an estimate to do the flooring were so expensive that I actually got mad and decided to just do the flooring my damn self. So, that’s what I did. This was definitely the most ambitious task that I’ve ever attempted, and I also ended up getting a bit of help from our Jack-of-all-trades painter, and my dad who helps build houses for Habitat for Humanity. I ended up doing most of the heavy lifting though, and the floors turned out pretty nice!
Flooring is definitely doable by a novice, but it was also definitely more difficult than I expected, so know that going in, and be prepared that you will make mistakes and it might take longer than you think.
What You Need:
- crow bar (to pry up old flooring)
- Dremel Saw
- flooring kit
- rubber mallet
- moisture barrier
- tape measure
What I Did:
Our floors were originally a light wood color, but they had warped over time and it had gotten really bad on one spot in the room. The walls were also a dark purple. We knew we definitely wanted to paint the walls, and figured since the floor was warped we might as well replace it before we moved all of our furniture into the house.
We went to Home Depot and found the flooring we wanted. We chose Crestwood Gray and it was only $1.50 per square foot. Our new master is pretty big (almost 300 square feet) so we ended up needing to buy 19 cases of flooring. Home Depot’s website is great for figuring out how much you need. You just enter in the dimensions of your room and it tells you how many cases to buy and how much it will cost. The general rule is you want about 10% more than you’d need for the exact square footage of your room so that you have enough for mistakes and other waste when cutting the boards (Home Depot’s website automatically factors this in).
Once we had the flooring we wanted, I started ripping up the old flooring. I started at the warped section and used the crowbar to pry it up. Once I got up the first section, the rest was pretty easy. Be careful of the baseboards, you don’t want to damage them. You should also wear gloves so you don’t cut your hands.
Once all the flooring was up, we had to put down the moisture barrier. This keeps moisture out of the flooring so that it won’t warp. After taking up the old flooring we saw that the previous owners didn’t do this, which explained why the floors were so warped. I followed the directions and unrolled the barrier down on the concrete. There is a sticky strip on the side of the barriers so they stick to each other; once they are laid down you need to stick them together. I also taped the ends down around the walls because they kept coming up after I had cut them to size. This was the most frustrating part for me because it took some adjusting for it to lay flat and straight.
Once the barrier was down came the real work: laying the flooring. The first row was the hardest. You need to set up spacers (they come in the flooring kit) around the edges of the wall. The first row has three edges touching a wall, so it’s a lot of spacers at first. Our walls weren’t totally even so some of the spacers were really tight while some were much looser. I just went with it. I used the 1/4 inch spacers. Spacers are important because the flooring will swell with humidity and you need to leave room for it to do so.
The flooring has edges all around it so that each piece can snap into place. The directions told me to cut off the edge lengthwise on the first row, which is what I did, but looking back, it probably wasn’t necessary. The width of your room is probably not going to come out to an exact number of flooring pieces. Our room was 4 full pieces, plus a little bit of a fifth piece, wide-so there would be an extra bit left at the end. I tried to start with a full flooring piece, then cut the last piece at the end. This took lots of measuring, and trial and error. When you cut the flooring, you need to make sure that the edge you cut is the edge that is going to go up against the wall. Since each flooring piece has edges around it to snap it, once you cut it to fit the width of your room, you end up cutting an edge off. If you cut off the wrong edge, it won’t fit with the flooring next to it. I was using a jigsaw to cut the flooring pieces. This worked, but wasn’t the best option. A Dremel saw is best because it only cuts in straight lines, which is what you need when doing flooring.
As I went down through the room, it got easier and I found a rhythm. I just went row by row, snapping the pieces in and cutting the edges. I continued to put the spacers at each wall. You want the ends of the flooring pieces to be staggered by each row so that it’s more secure. I would start every other row with a full piece, and every row in between those with a half piece. You really aren’t supposed to have pieces of flooring that are less than about a foot long, but sometimes I just had to have a smaller piece to fit in, and it ended up being fine. Going around doors was a bit hard, and you should try to get as close to the edge as possible. I was kind of farther away at some points and had to cut smaller pieces to cover up the concrete.
The very last row needs to be cut lengthwise to fit (unless your room happens to fit the flooring exactly). You snap it in place and use the tool in the flooring kit to pull the flooring secure.
Once it was all done I was proud of my work, but exhausted. It took me about 2.5 days to finish everything. The first day was the hardest since I was just figuring it all out, but the second day passed quickly.
By the time it came to finish it all up, I was exhausted and a bit overwhelmed. We asked our painter, if he could do the final touches and, luckily, he said yes. The spacers left about 1/4 inch around the flooring. So that space needed to be covered. We bought quarter round from Home Depot, and had our painter install it around the edges of our room. Since he was already painting the trim, he just painted it white along with the baseboards.
Lastly, the areas around the doors to the hallway, bathroom, and closet weren’t finished. My dad came to the rescue here. We had bought some T-molding to cover the space between the flooring in the bedroom and the flooring in the hallway, bathroom, and closet. My dad cut it to size and glued it in.
While I’m not totally sure I’ll be installing flooring again any time soon, I’m definitely glad that we ended up going (mostly) DIY for this project. Bottom line: flooring is a big task, but it’s doable, so don’t be scared.