Preparing subfloor questions..please help


Old 08-03-08, 09:26 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 9
Preparing subfloor questions..please help

hi there. I am planning on installing either hardwood or engineered hardwood in my living room and hallway. Currently there is vinyl with 1/4" ply underlayment in the hallway, and carpet that I have removed in the living room. So there is a 1/4'' difference in the floor height from the subfloor in the living room to the vinyl/plyfloor hallway. I would like it all even before I lay floor. What should I do? Should I add 1/4" plyfloor underlayment to the area that was carpeted, or should I remove the vinyl and the plyfloor underlayment from the hall way? The hallway leads to the kitchen which is also vinyl but I would like to have that tiled. So the hardwood or enginneered floor will eventually lead into a tiled kitchen. What would you suggest? I would like to do this myself but I've never done anything like this before. (only installed laminate in the past).
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Old 08-03-08, 06:22 PM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: sw sub chicago
Posts: 1,130
i would remove the hallway and do real hardwood. after the tile, i'm thinking it will come out about even.
Old 08-05-08, 09:09 AM
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 91
First thing that I suggest you to do is to chose the tile that you are going to install in the kitchen. This is due to the varying thickness's of tile(s) that are available. Prior to installing the tile in the kitchen you need to lay a 1/4" Luan subfloor (glued and nailed down) over the top of the current vinyl floor. There is no need to REMOVE the linoleum in the kitchen, but simply you need to install a plywood (Luan 1/4") subfloor down in order to facilitate cement underlayment for the tile to be installed.

So... these are the steps I would take, and in this order...

1- chose a tile and ask the store to allow you take one piece home with you to facilitate taking some measuments. Also ask for a scrap piece of Solid 3/4" hardwood (doesn't matter what kind!), and a scrap piece of 5/8" engineered flooring.

2- REMOVE the Hallway 1/4" underlayment. This will get the living room and hallway to the same height. Be prepared... the underlayment in the hallway may be a true pain to remove (lots of ring nails - I would assume and perhaps it is even glued down) Try removing as many of the ring nails as possible with a "cats paw" tool (available at your local lumber yard).

3- Place the tile sample down in the kitchen under TWO small pieces of the 1/4" underlayment that you removed from the hallway. **This will raise your tile up from the vinyl in the kitchen 1/2". You want to do this because - A). You need to lay down a 1/4" underlayment in the kitchen prior to laying the tile, and you also need to account for the tile cement you will be putting down under the tile as well.

4- So, to bring you up to speed... You now have a kitchen floor that is up just slightly from the hallway and living room (due to the vinyl floor still being installed in the kitchen area) but the hallway and living room are one substrate (same level). You have taking the sample piece of tile and two layers of scrap underlayment (from the hallway) and placed these three items untop of each other at an area that abbuts the hallway... NOW you want to take the SOLID 3/4" prefinished sample of hardwood flooring and lay it in the hallway, abutting it up against the stack of two pieces of 1/4" underlayment and the tile sample. This will give you an idea of how much of a height difference you may or may not have. My guess is that you will NOT have much of a height difference AT ALL (Using Solid 3/4" Hardwood flooring in the hallway and living room).

4- Purchase your Tile and Your 3/4" Hardwood Flooring, BUT don't bring the hardwood flooring into the house untill you finish the tile installation and grouting (see number 5 below).

5- Do the Tile job in the kitchen first!! It will save your new hardwood floor from any possible damage during the tile installation. Lay a temporary straight line of 3/4 scrap wood (plywood cut down to a 3-4" width, so that you know where to end the tile (at the junction of the hallway) and you have a straight line to start your hardwood floor installation. Once the tile installation is complete (grouting included - only because of the amount of moisture the whole process brings into the house and possibly spilling over onto the subfloor in the hallway).

6- You will want to check the moisture content of the subfloor and the moisture content of the Flooring*(Now at the flooring store and hopefully in a controlled enviroment!) (you do not want a differential between the two of more than 3%) and certainly do not bring the hardwood flooring into your house if your subfloor is more than 9-10% moisture content!!! You may be able to BORROW a moisture meter from the flooring store, but be prepared to spend $50-100 bucks for one if you can not borrow one. This is a step you DO NOT want to skip!!

7- Remove the temporary border you nailed down to do your tile installation. Careful, now - you do not want to crack any of your new tiles! Remove any excess grout or cement that is in the area of new hardwood flooring installation (hallway). You will be starting your installation of the Hardwood running parrallel with the Tile, but you MUST leave a 1/4" gap between the tile and hardwood flooring. This allows for expansion and contraction of the hardwood flooring and keeps the tile from being put under TOO much pressure during the expansion. You will go back and fill this gap with a SILICONE Caulking that is the SAME color (or as close as possible) as the grout color that you chose ** Make sure that there IS a caulking color at least CLOSE to the grout color that you chose BEFORE you pick out grout color!!!**

8- Get the first row of flooring installed (Dry lay out the floor boards to get the right number of boards dry layed... then using a table saw, carefully run all of these boards through the table saw (set with a 2-3 degree bevel cut) cutting off the TUNG SIDE then snap a line prior to starting the first row (using the tile, measure out 6-8 inches in two places and snap a line on these marks). This will ensure you are running straight off the tile!! Now if you need to run your flooring IN THE OPPOSITE direction of the first row you installed next to the tile, **YOU NEED TO RUN YOUR FLOORING PERPENDICULAR TO THE FLOOR JOISTS!!!**... , start at one end and run to the other end (Lock the tung of the flooring into the groove of the border piece you installed up against the tile).

**if your border piece up against the tile is running perpendicular to the floor joists - the step above does not TOTALLY apply, obviously) So this will allow you to install all in one direction. BUT... if this is the case, then the STARTER row up (the one you lay first using your snapped line as a guide to run parrallel to the tile...) THIS STARTER ROW GETS DRY LAYED OUT FIRST AND THEN YOU RUN EACH BOARD THROUGH THE TABLE SAW WITH A 2-3 DEGREE BEVEL CUT ON THE GROOVE SIDE **YOU WANT TO CUT 1/4" OFF OF THE GROOVE SIDE (Getting rid of the groove all together will make sure that there is no splitting going on after installation!, otherwise you would have the top of the groove succeptible to pressure of walking on it... so cut the groove right off. **You may need to make a heavier bevel cut on these boards, depending on the height difference.

Like I tell all Do It Yourselfer's... It is great to get self satisfaction from doing a project like this, but there are allot of tricks and learned talent to installing a hardwood floor correctly- protecting your investment. And in most cases, a professional installer will be in and out, allowing you to get your house back in order... and sometimes that is a necessity to staying SANE!! LOL

If you are proficient in basic geometry, basic carpentry... you can get this done and be proud of what you have done. If you have any questions along the way, shoot me a private message and I will try to help you out along the way.

Greg (Retired Hardwood floor installer/refinisher)

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