Preparation for Your Flooring Project

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Proper preparation of your subfloor is the foundation for an enduringly beautiful finish floor. This section shows you how to assess the existing floor structure and tells you what steps to take before the installation begins.

The factors that ensure your floor’s lasting beauty begin with selecting the right material, but they certainly don’t end there—having a beautiful floor also depends on how well the surface beneath it is prepared. Whether you install the new floor yourself or hire a professional, the preparation phase is critical. The more attention you give to preparation, the greater the success of your finish floor.

Why is preparation so important? Essentially, a finish floor is a relatively thin membrane. Depending on how thick or thin, or how rigid or resilient it is, the finish floor will conform to whatever is beneath it. The subsurface requires careful preparation to make sure that (1) the new floor will be properly supported, (2) its surface will be sufficiently smooth, (3) it will be protected from dam age by moisture, (4) it will be able to move with the house, and (5) its level will be at an acceptable height relative to adjacent floor surfaces.

Preparation is also essential because a new flooring material cannot be installed, willy-nilly, over any existing surface. Not all building materials are compatible with each other. Through careful preparation, however, the necessary accommodations can accomplish compatibility. For example, rigid ceramic tile is vulnerable to breakage over a wood subfloor that has an excessive amount of “give.” But if you “stiffen” the subfloor with an additional plywood underlayment, you establish compatibility between the two materials.

This section is structured to help you think through the preparation process, from start to finish. You may find that preparation is nothing more than confirming that existing flooring conditions are suitable for the installation you want, in which case your next step is to begin installation. On the other hand, you may find that preparation is actually more complex than the installation itself. In either case, understanding the requirements will be worth your time because attention to careful preparation will prevent surprises or problems later on.

The section begins by introducing you to the basic structure of a floor, discussing concrete and wood-frame floor systems as they’re typically constructed in the United States. This review of a floor’s anatomy focuses on how the floor’s component parts relate to each other, and how the characteristics of materials used in concrete and wood-frame construction affect a finish floor.

Next is an outline of the preparation steps necessary for installing each type of flooring material: wood, resilient, ceramic, and carpet. Besides describing techniques for handling the material and listing the tools needed for installation, it also tells you what type of sub surface is needed for each material in order to produce a smooth, dry, stable, and durable finish floor. By consulting the accompanying preparation chart for your chosen type of finish floor material, you can quickly find the basic preparation guidelines for the installation of that particular finish floor,

The rest of the section details the techniques for various preparation procedures, starting with incidental tasks like removing and trimming down a door or re moving baseboard and thresholds. Then it covers techniques for removing various types of existing flooring materials. Finally, it describes how to prepare the sub surface itself—how to make surface repairs, install an underlayment, or even install a wood sleeper subfloor over a concrete slab. With the preparation complete, you will be ready to install your new flooring.

Classic materials in a classic design make this marble checkerboard floor enduringly fashionable, Cafe chairs around a marble table, and the richly greened patio beyond, invite you to share in the surrounding life and light.

Prev.: Planning Your Floor Project

Next: Anatomy of a Floor

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Wednesday, 2011-05-11 4:24