My flooring dilemma, what would you do?

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Old 08-11-14, 02:34 PM
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My flooring dilemma, what would you do?

Rather than focusing on everything I have to do between now and the point where I'm actually ready for flooring, I've been distracted by which flooring I'm going to choose. I'd like to get it finalized, once and for all, so I can move on with the other aspects of this condo renovation!

The condo, my first home, is 2bd/1ba, 714 square feet, on the second floor of a two story complex. The living room, hall, and bedrooms were carpeted, which I've removed and disposed of to get a jump on minimizing the cigarette odor. The kitchen has hardwoods, which will be replaced. The current sub-floor is particleboard. I don't plan on every selling the place, though it'll likely be a rental in 5-6 years.

I want to have the same wood or wood-look flooring throughout, minus the bathroom. The look I'm going for is a smooth Brazilian Cherry (or Brazilian Cherry look) I must have looked at, decided on, then circled back on each type of flooring there is! I believe I've finally narrowed it down to two options, laminate or real hardwood. I don't like the look or feel of LVT. Engineered hardwood and bamboo seem to cost very close to the real thing, can't be refinished the same (a couple times or not at all), and don't have the upscale prestige of the solid wood. If I'm going to make the investment, I want to do it right, otherwise there's no reason for spending the extra money.

My main hang-up, of course, is the kitchen and potential damage. I've lived in three homes with hardwoods in the kitchen, and three relatives have had laminate in their kitchens for a few years now. None of them have had an issue, nor have I seen any issues in houses or rentals I've visited. I believe the majority were real hardwoods, it seems kitchen installs are fairly common in the Northwest. Again, just my experiences, this is why I'm asking you guys

My dilemma, in a sentence:

I'd like to go with real, solid hardwood floors, but I'm not sure if it would be worth the cost, since I've heard they're just as susceptible to water damage as laminate.

The pro's of hardwoods are numerous: I really like the warmth, look, and feel of a solid hardwood floor. Hardwood floors can be refinished many times (you don't see other 100 year old residential floors still in use today). Hardwood floors increase value and add upscale finish. The only negative is the cost, and that's what has me thinking about laminate. If it's true that they're just as susceptible to water damage, I think laminate is the way to go. Most people buy a few extra boxes, in the event they need to replaced damaged pieces. If I did go with laminate I could install it myself, and float it over the existing particle board. If I go with hardwood I'll have to lay a new subfloor (materials, I can do this myself), and hire a company for the actual flooring install. An upside is that it would likely have a warranty, right? Likely not against water damage, but other things?

I know you can't seal laminate, and I've read all kinds of mixed things about hardwoods. Some say you can seal them and it'll make them more resistant to water and UV fading. Some say you can't seal them, because they wouldn't be able to expand and contract. Which is it?

I believe I could install a decent laminate myself for around $3.50/sq ft, on the high end. This would total $2450.

I haven't shopped around for hardwoods, but earlier I called a reputable flooring company for a very rough, sight unseen, sq foot quote, to see if I could possibly afford it. I don't have a bunch of money, but I plan on living here for a long time, and I believe hardwood floors would be an investment. They quoted me $2.25 for the nail down installation (providing I lay and prep the plywood or OSB subfloor), and around $5.99 sq ft for the Brazilian Cherry flooring. This would total $5768, not including the materials for the new subfloor.

One last question about subfloors, do they all require two 'layers'? I'm guessing the answer will be yes, but if I have 3/4"-1" plywood under the particleboard (attached to the joists), do I still need to lay another sheet of subfloor, or can the hardwood be laid directly on that?

I'd really appreciate any and all input you guys could provide me.

Examples of the look I'd like:







Photos of my condo:

First Photo's - Imgur
 
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Old 08-11-14, 02:42 PM
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Hopefully you don't have "particleboard" on top of your subflooring. You'll have to remove it in its entirety if you do. Figure what you will have with laminate.....HDF with a picture of wood on it coated with Aluminum Oxide. Eh. Hardwood is completely hardwood, refinishable, solid, no clacking, and no movement. It wouldn't be a choice for me, regardless of the difference in price for the long run. Yeah, if you are dumping a house, put in laminate.
 
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Old 08-11-14, 02:43 PM
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The particle board should be removed, it doesn't make a good base to nail the hardwood to!
I assume you are talking about prefinished flooring ?? While you could sand it lightly and apply a coat of poly to help seal the joints, it won't be as tough as the factory finish.
 
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Old 08-11-14, 02:43 PM
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I have site-finished oak flooring in my kitchen. My house was built in 1987 or so and the flooring shows no sign of any water damage. I suspect it has the Swedish finish rather than some simple polyester finish. I doubt that the floor has been refinished since its initial installation and I am not the most careful person when it comes to sloshing water around. I DO mop up any large spills though.
 
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Old 08-11-14, 03:09 PM
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Thanks for the replies guys. I do have particleboard above my subflooring.

One last question about subfloors, do they all require two 'layers'? I'm guessing the answer will be yes, but if I have 3/4"-1" plywood under the particleboard (attached to the joists), do I still need to lay another sheet of subfloor, or can the hardwood be laid directly on that?
And I was thinking of the factory-finished hardwood.
 
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Old 08-12-14, 03:30 AM
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I'd remove the PB and either nail the hardwood directly to the 3/4" plywood subfloor or if there is any concern with the floor height or any deflection in the floor, replace the PB with another layer of plywood. Hardwood will not nail securely to particle board!
 
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Old 08-12-14, 03:35 AM
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I'm not trying to be at odds, but could you post a picture of the particleboard. I'd hate for you to go through a bunch of trouble just to find your definition of particle board was really OSB. How old is the condo?
 
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Old 08-12-14, 06:02 PM
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Thanks for the reply mark. I was thinking that is an option, but I'm not sure if the plywood is thick enough with my joist spacing. Please see below.

I appreciate the concern, chandler! It's definitely particle board, basically compressed sawdust. I attempted to gently pry up two pieces today, to check my joist spacing (measured the nails holding down the plywood underneath). Both pieces disintegrated into multiple pieces

Here you can see a couple pieces which were laying around after I pulled it up from the bathroom (yes, particle board in the bathroom!).



Today I verified, I have 1/2" particle board on 3/4" plywood on joists sitting 24" apart. Sorry about the long-winded post!

I've been thinking about it over and over again, and I'm now thinking engineered hardwood might be my best bet, then solid hardwood, then laminate. Honestly though, I think I'm going to opt for one of the two real woods.

As I mentioned, water damage is my biggest concern, since this will be installed in the kitchen. From what I've read, it seems that engineered hardwood is much more water resistant than solid hardwood. Is this correct? If so, I guess that's my best option...

For the flooring prep and installation, I'm a believer in the old adage "Your final result is only as good as your prep work". I want to make sure my subfloor is ready to quietly support a long relationship with my finish flooring. I'll be doing all the subfloor work myself. I'm not sure if I'll install the hardwood floor or if I'll have it installed, but I'm leaning toward the latter for warranty purposes. As I mentioned above, I have 1/2" particle board, on 3/4" plywood, on joists sitting 24" apart. I've read that, with the wide joist spacing, for solid hardwood floors, it's recommended I lay another sheet of plywood or OSB to bring the total subfloor thickness to 1"+, correct?

When it comes to the installation, what are the big differences in nail down, glue down, and floating, when it comes to potential issues longevity, and performance of the flooring? Only the engineered hardwood can/should be floated, right? How can I quantify whether it'd be worth the substantial expense of pulling the particle board and laying down another sheet of subflooring for a nail down installation? I don't hear of glue down installations much, is that something I should be considering for my installation, or should I choose between nail down and floating?

It appears the cost for engineered or solid is about the same. If floating an engineered floor is anything like installing laminate, I'm pretty sure I could do it myself. Cost for a nail down installation is around $2.25/sq ft, or $1575, plus the cost of laying 700 sq ft of additional subfloor.

Another question! My bottom cabinets are sitting on the current hardwood in the kitchen, so I assume I have to remove them for the install? Any chance of not cracking my tile countertops?
 
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Old 08-13-14, 03:06 AM
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I have parquet on my kitchen floor. I installed them about 12 yrs ago and coated them with 1 coat of poly to seal the joints. I've had one plumbing leak and no telling what all has been spilled on it [cleaned up immediately] and the parquet still looks good.

You should be able to cut the existing floor at the cabinet base and install the new up to it. Will the new floor be the same thickness as the flooring being removed?
 
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Old 08-21-14, 08:34 AM
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That's good to hear. Can you seal a factory finished engineered hardwood?
 
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Old 08-21-14, 10:29 AM
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Yes, all you need to do is lightly sand and wipe down with a deglosser before applying a coat of oil base poly. The bad news is the poly you apply won't be as tough as the factory finish.
 
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