Strip Flooring 4 - Prepping and Repairing Strip Flooring 4 - Prepping and Repairing

Margin of Error: Within 3/16" of level

  1. Installing over a badly damaged, damp, or sloping floor.
  2. Not correcting problems before applying floor.

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Oftentimes, the wood strip floor can be installed directly over an existing floor. Sometimes, however, you are not so lucky. Be sure you closely inspect your floor to ascertain how much preparation will be needed. It's tempting to just forge ahead, but resist the temptation, because, if a badly damaged or uneven floor is not properly prepared, you will not be satisfied with the final product. Also, if you are using adhesives to apply your new floor, you will often have to remove old resilient sheet or tile floors, if the floor is not in good shape, and prepare a clean surface for the adhesive to adhere to. Applying a new plywood or hardboard subfloor directly on top of it may be easier. If, however, the resilient floor is in good shape and well bonded, simply removing old wax by rough sanding or scrubbing with a household scouring compound will suffice. Many cannot be applied over rubber tiles. Check manufacturer's instructions.

If the problem is just a few small dings and gouges, these can be quickly prepared with some wood putty. The real problem occurs if the floor is not level or has a lot of bumps, dips, or ridges; or if the floor is spongy and the substructure inadequate. A visual inspection may suffice. You may want to use a level or a steel ball that will roll to the low spots if the floor is not level. Also, check the corners to see if they are dipping. Sometimes, if the floor is off level, you can correct it by installing support from below. This may not be easy to do and may not level the floor adequately. The floor needs to be level within 1/4" over 10'.

If the floor is very uneven or very much off level, I recommend that you apply a thin layer of underlayment over it An underlayment is simply a thin (3/8"-1/2") piece of plywood, hardboard, or particle board spread over the floor to create a new smooth and level surface.

If the floor is simply rough with ridges and small dips or gouges, installing the underlayment will suffice. If, however, the floor is off level, you will need to fill in the low areas before the underlayment is applied, to create a level floor. Use a leveling compound in all the low and dished areas, and then allow it to dry before installing the underlayment Be sure that the underlayment is well secured to the old floor or you will have squeaks. To do this, use a 6-penny (6d) ring shank nail. Ring shank nails have a greater holding power than regular nails and are used specifically for this purpose. Nail every 4 to 6" around the edges and every 4" in the middle. Also, leave a 1/2" gap between the plywood and the wall all the way around, to allow for any possible expansion of the plywood. Many professionals leave a 1/16"-1/8" gap between the plywood sheets as well. This expansion could cause buckling or warping over an extended period of time.

Also, check to be sure there are no loose boards if you are not using a new underlayment. Repair these before beginning. When applying directly over an old floor, countersink any protruding nails and sand off any paint, wax, or varnish that might affect the adhering ability of the adhesive. Clean the floor thoroughly and remove the shoe molding (the baseboards are usually left in place). Use a utility knife to cut the paint where the shoe molding meets the baseboard. Use a pry bar, hammer, and a wedge to remove the shoe molding, being sure not to mar the baseboard as you go. Number each piece of shoe molding so you know where to install it later. Also, check to be sure all water and moisture problems are solved. You may want to install a 4-6 mil. polyethylene sheet to cover the ground directly below the house if you are installing the flooring over the crawlspace. This will help reduce cupping due to moisture.

After the underlayment is installed (assuming one was needed), your last step in preparation is to "undercut' your door jambs. This avoids a lot of notching. Undercutting is a process of cutting away some of the doorjamb (the trim around the door) so that the new strip flooring can be installed underneath it rather than notched around it.

To do this, simply take a scrap piece of the strip flooring to act as a guide for the correct thickness and place it on top of the floor in front of the jamb. Then, holding your handsaw flat cut away the bottom of the jamb the thickness of the strip. After you have done this you are ready to start installing the flooring.

Tip: If you can't get a roller, a kitchen rolling pin and all your weight will adhere vinyl to the floor sufficiently.

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