The Complete Guide to Rubber Roofing

The Complete Guide to Rubber Roofing

An Introduction to Rubber Roofing

Owners of homes with flat and extremely low sloping roofs have traditionally had a problem with leaks. Because there is no way for rainwater to roll off, it builds up and eventually seeps through the ceiling.

Rubber roofing offers a solution, as it repels rainwater, allowing it to dry naturally.

Pros of Rubber Roofing

Rubber roofing has a number of advantages over traditional felt flat roofs. With felt roofs, the slightest tear can cause the roof to leak.

– Rubber roofing is durable, lasting anything up to 50 years without needing to be replaced, and does not tear anywhere near as easily as felt.

– It can survive in temperatures ranging from -62 degrees to 300 degrees Fahrenheit without cracking or deteriorating.

– It is low maintenance—rubber roof repair is easy and can be done by merely applying a low-cost rubberized solution available at any hardware or building supplies store.

– Rubber roofing adds value to your home, too. It has a class A fire rating and is favored by most home insurance companies.

– Finally, it is an excellent insulator. It can absorb heat in hot weather and release it in colder weather, thus reducing your heating and air conditioning bills.

– Another advantage of rubber roofing is cost-effectiveness. It is by far the least expensive type of single-ply flat roofing material and weighs less than a third as much as slate roofing tiles.

Cons of Rubber Roofing

Not everyone is enamored of rubber roofing, however. Modified bitumen roofing systems being erroneously described as “rubber roofing” has sometimes caused realtors and building inspectors a headache. In addition, there is a very low margin of error for roofers.

– If installed incorrectly, it can leak even worse than felt roofing. Fortunately, most rubber roofing manufacturers offer certification schemes to ensure that their products are fitted properly.

– Make sure your rubber roof is installed by a roofer with the appropriate certification unless you are doing it yourself, in which case you need to make sure that every seam is flush and that there are no gaps.

– Rubber roofing is also relatively new to the market, so there could be problems that have not been noticed yet. They first appeared around 30 years ago, which is generally regarded as the minimum lifespan for this type of roof, so the first ones are starting to wear out around now.

– The effects of this will become clear as time progresses. Until then, they remain a hard-wearing and inexpensive option for people with flat roofs.

Installation of Your Rubber Roof

This part of the article will provide a step by step guide to rubber roof installation for those who wish to perform this task themselves rather than employ the services of a professional roofer.

Tools & Materials

The list of items required for rubber roof installation is a fairly short one. Apart from the roofing material itself, all you will need is a :

  • knife or scissors
  • bonding adhesive
  • a paint roller to apply the adhesive
  • a broom to sweep away any debris
  • In addition, it is advisable to wear gloves to protect your hands and some form of eye protection
  • If you are installing a rubber roof over the top of an existing roof, you will also need some kind of plywood baseboard to lay underneath the rubber.

In order to bond properly with the rubber membrane, the baseboard should be sanded, thoroughly cleaned and completely dry.

If you plan to attach the rubber to vertical surfaces such as walls, you may need some metal strips to affix the rubber properly. You can buy inexpensive aluminum termination bars, especially for this purpose.

Rubber Roof Installation Step By Step

If you are installing black rubber roofing, it is best to do so on a cool, dry day with a fair amount of cloud cover.

Not too cool, though, since latex bonding adhesive requires an ambient air temperature of at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit, or 10 degrees Celsius, for a period of 48 hours after application.

One needs to get the temperature just right because on a bright, sunny day, the rubber roofing membrane can become hot very quickly due to the black rubber absorbing the heat from the sun’s rays.

Also, since the rubber is very heavy, it is advisable to have at least one other person to help you with it.

The good news is that rubber roofing material comes in rolls of anything up to 50 feet wide and 100 feet long, so the amount of cutting and shaping that you will need to do is fairly minimal, especially when compared to tile roofing. It should be possible to cover most roofs seamlessly.

You are now ready to begin the installation of your rubber roof.

  • Start by sweeping the roof thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris.
  • Once the roof is clean, you can begin applying the latex bonding adhesive with the paint roller. Make sure that the adhesive is applied evenly, to prevent air bubbles in the rubber, and be careful not to paint yourself into a corner.
  • Lay down the rubber roofing and then sweep it again with the broom to make sure that it lies flat against the surface and that there are no wrinkles.
  • Wait half an hour for the adhesive to bond, and then repeat the sweeping, from the center outwards.
  • Use the scissors or utility knife to trim any unwanted rubber from above the termination bars, if applicable, and apply latex tape over any seams that may exist.
  • Your rubber roof installation should now be complete for a typical flat roof. A more complicated roof, for example, one that is an odd shape or has pipes and other fixtures that you need to work around, may require more specialist advice.
  • Home improvement stores should be able to advise you of any special equipment you may need, or whatever else you need to take into consideration when dealing with the hard cases in rubber roof installation.

How to Repair Your Rubber Roof?

One of the greatest advantages of rubber roofing is that it requires very little maintenance. But occasionally, your rubber roof will need repair. This part of the article presents a quick and easy guide to show you how to repair your rubber roof, should it ever become necessary to do so.

Sealants for Rubber Roof Repair

Whilst very serious repairs may require replacement of your rubber roof coating, minor rubber roof repairs can be carried out using a liquid rubber sealant cement that comes in a tube, or by applying special rubberized tape.

Tubes of rubber roof repair sealant cement typically come in 10oz sizes and contain oils mixed with the liquid rubber that help it to penetrate and fill any cracks that may have appeared.

You can also buy tapes to help in rubber roof repair. Ordinary duct tape won’t do the trick here. The tape needs to be a specialized type made specifically for repairing rubber roofs.

It is made from a combination of resins and rubber and is backed with a powerful adhesive that is able to withstand extreme heat and cold, and which is resistant to ultraviolet rays so that it does not deteriorate due to the ravages of the weather.

Liquid rubber cement for rubber roof repair comes in a variety of colors, in order to match the color of your roof.

The Effect of Cleaning on Rubber Roof Surfaces

In 1992, the US Army released the results of a study assessing the results of 16 different cleaning methods on the rubber roofs of its installations when preparing them for patching.

The study concluded that the application of a droplet of dimethylformamide, commonly abbreviated to DMF, applied with an eyedropper, can adequately indicate the bonding condition of aged rubber roofing.

It recommended that all contaminants be removed so that the original color of the roofing material is restored before any patch is applied.

When cleaning rubber roofs for repair, make sure that you change brushes or cloths often, to avoid re-depositing dirt on the surface.

The Army’s recommended method for cleaning was a wire brush applied to an electric drill, to apply vigorous abrasion to the surface.

The results of this study show the durability of rubber roofing. With cleaning, the condition of the roofing can be returned to almost the same as when it was new. Such cleaning allows it to be patched in such a way that it can last a lifetime, even if a crack or wear and tear should occur.

Coatings for Your Rubber Roof

When merely patching up your rubber roof with sealant or tape is not enough, it may become necessary to apply a new coating to your rubber roof. 

Rubber roof coatings come in two varieties, a liquid rubber that you apply like a coat of paint, and rubber sheeting that is bonded to your original rubber roof installation with a special adhesive. In this part of this article, we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of each type of rubber roof coating.

Liquid Rubber Roof Coatings

Liquid coatings for your rubber roof come in a range of colors, most commonly black, white and grey, in order to match the original color of the roof.

They are applied with a brush or roller, just like paint, and you can apply up to six coats, depending on how thick the replacement rubber needs to be.

This makes it a more versatile solution than sheeting. No primer or topcoat is needed; the liquid rubber is applied straight to the surface.

Manufacturers claim that liquid rubber roof coatings can extend the life of a rubber roof by up to 20 years if applied correctly.

When applying liquid rubber roof coatings, you must be sure to take care that the surface is even. If you have ever seen a rushed paint job, you will know how ugly uneven paint can be.

Now imagine that applied to the surface of a flat roof. If your supposedly flat roof resembles a topographic map of the Himalayas, it would not only look bad (which doesn’t really matter that much, since few people will see your roof), but could also cause surface water to gather in the ridges after a rainstorm, a process known as ponding.

This makes it more difficult for the water to evaporate once the rain clouds part, and can shorten the lifespan of the coating.

However, you have to bear in mind that rubber roof coatings are extremely durable, and so will not bubble and crack like other roofing materials, so this shortened lifespan is only relative.

But naturally, most people will want to prolong the life of their roof as much as they can anyway, and taking that little extra care provides a way to do this.

The Use of Sheeting for Coating Rubber Roofs

Rubber roof coatings also come in sheet form. Some manufacturers will provide them custom made for the shape of your roof, in sheets of up to 10,000 square feet. If you are looking for a less expensive solution, you can buy them off the shelf.

Sheets should be applied in a grid-like fashion, with the edges slightly overlapping. Make sure that the joins are airtight, otherwise water could seep in between them.

The advantage of this type of rubber roof coating is that it is easier to apply than a liquid coating, though it does require a primer and the use of special adhesive to make sure that it bonds to the original surface correctly.

One must be careful to lay it absolutely flush with the original surface, otherwise, air bubbles could appear underneath the rubber sheet.

The Joy of Rubber Membrane Roofing

In days of old, flat roofs were made of asphalt, with gravel used as ballast. This made it very difficult to locate the source of a leak, as the gravel would hide it better than the illustrations in a Where’s Waldo book.

Now, thanks to the invention of rubber membrane roofing, this problem has largely been eliminated.

The Rise of Rubber

In recent years, rubber has grown in popularity as a roofing material. Whilst rubber roof shingles are available for those who want to maintain a traditional appearance for their roof, rubber membrane roofing is the most common option for those with flat or gently sloping roofs.

Coming in either roll or sheet form, it allows people to seamlessly cover most roofs. It can even be used on your RV.

The rubber membrane roofing material is known as EPDM, which stands for Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer, and comes in a variety of different thicknesses.

45 mil EPDM, about the thickness of a dime, should be sufficient for most flat roofs, but in areas with an increased risk of puncture, such as a place with overhanging tree branches that could fall and pierce the roofing membrane, 60 mil (about the thickness of a quarter) and 90 mil EPDM is also available.

EPDM first came to prominence as a roofing material in the late 1970s, after a history of being used in hoses, tires and other molded products since the early 1960s.

In the last decade or so, it has really taken off in popularity and now has a 22% market share among roofers, making it the most popular material for new roofs as of February 2018.

Rubber Membrane Roofing for Your RV

One area in which rubber membrane roofing is becoming increasingly popular is as a roofing material for recreational vehicles or RVs.

As with flat-roofed housing, it has gained in market share with RV owners over the last few years because of its lightweight and ease of installation. It has disadvantages over more traditional metal or fiberglass RV roofs, however, due to the risk of being torn by overhanging branches.

RV owners should maintain their rubber membrane roofing at least twice a year by cleaning it with warm soapy water and applying two coats of UV protectant spray.

It is possible to buy a complete kit containing everything you need to install rubber membrane roofing on your RV.

These kits contain the rubber membrane roof itself, the adhesive needed to affix it to the RV and butyl tape to seal around the edges. They are available from all good RV supplies stores.

Installing a Curbless Shower

Installing a Curbless Shower

Whether it’s part of a complete wet room or installed as a standalone feature, a curbless shower combines easy access for those with limited mobility, convenience for other users, and a look that is trendy, sophisticated, and attractive.

The trick to installing one of these water features is to ensure the moisture stays inside the shower.

Once upon a time, creating a reliably waterproof enclosure for a curbless shower was no small chore.

It meant putting a lot of work into creating a custom shower pan. This kind of project was usually above the skill level or desire of the weekend DIYer, and it generally meant hiring a contractor.

Now you can buy curbless shower-pan kits that make installation a breeze.

The manufacturers have thought through all the issues that can arise and have developed the kits and shower pans to be as foolproof as possible, while also meeting prevailing codes and best standards and practices.

Installing a curbless shower using one of these kits is a realistic project for any home handyperson with even moderate DIY skills and a weekend to spare. These pans come with preconfigured slopes to ensure optimal drainage away from the shower’s edges.

The product we used for this project, the Tuff Form kit from Amazon, includes an offset drain hole that offers the option of rotating the pan in the event of a joist or mechanicals that are in the way.

This product is offered in nine different sizes and can be cut with a circular saw to just about any shape including more unusual, curvy shapes for a truly custom look. Curbless shower-pan manufacturers also sell pans with trench drains for an even sleeker look.

The pan we used for this project is typical of the prefab curbless pan construction; it can support 1,100 pounds even though the pan itself weighs less than 70 pounds.

It sits right on floor joists, with the addition of blocking to support the area around the drain and to provide nailing surfaces around the edges.

Kits like these offer advantages beyond the ease of installation and a thoughtful configuration of parts. Usually, the plumbing can be completely adjusted and connected from above, so you won’t need to work in the basement or crawl space, or open up the first-floor ceiling to install a second-floor shower.

The kits themselves generally include almost everything you’ll need for the installation.

TOOLS & MATERIALS

  • Curbless shower kit
  • Circular saw
  • Jigsaw or handsaw
  • Caulk gun
  • Torpedo level
  • Cordless drill and bits
  • PVC cement and brush
  • Screwdriver
  • Speed square
  • Putty knife
  • Palm sander and 120-grit pad
  • Scissors
  • Rubber gloves
  • Synthetic paintbrush
  • Roller and roller handle
  • Caulk/ construction adhesive
  • Blocking
  • Sealant
  • Waterproofing tape
  • Membrane
  • Ear and eye protection
  • Work gloves

WET ROOMS AND UNIVERSAL DESIGN

Because a wet room allows the bathroom to be designed with fewer barriers and a single-level floor surface, these rooms are natural partners to a universal design approach.

If you’re thinking about converting a bathroom to a wet room, it’s worthwhile to consider a little extra effort to make the space as accessible as possible for the maximum number of users.

Walls. Where codes allow it, consider using thick plywood rather than cement board for the wall subsurfaces. Plywood allows for direct installation of grab bars without the need for blocking or locating studs.

If you’re set on using cement board, plan out locations for grab bars near toilets, behind and alongside bathtubs, and in showers.

Most codes specify that grab bars must be able to support up to 200 pounds—which usually means adding blocking in the walls behind the grab bars.

Shower stall. One of the benefits of adding a curbless shower is easy wheelchair (or walker) access. For maximum accessibility, the shower area should be at least 60″ wide by at least 36″ deep (60″ by 60″ is preferable).

This allows a wheelchair user to occupy the stall with a helper. And, although the idea is a wide-open shower space, it’s always a good idea to add a fold-down seat. This allows for transfer from a wheelchair or a place for someone with limited leg strength and endurance to sit.

How to Install a Waterproof Sub-Base for a Curbless Shower

1. Remove the existing flooring material in the area of the shower pan (if you’re remodeling an existing bathroom). Use a circular saw to cut out and remove the subfloor in the exact dimensions of the shower pan. Finish the cuts with a jigsaw or handsaw.

2. Reinforce the floor with blocking between joists as necessary. Toenail bridge blocking in on either side of the drain waste-pipe location, and between joists anywhere you’ll need a nailing surface along the edges of the shower pan. If trusses or joists are spaced more than 16″ on center, add bridge blocking to adequately support the pan.

3. Set the pan in the opening to make sure it fits and is level. If it is not level, screw shims to the tops of any low joists and check again; repeat if necessary until the pan is perfectly level in all directions.

4. Install or relocate drain pipes as needed. Check with your local building department: if the drain and trap are not accessible from below you may need to have an onsite inspection before you cover up the plumbing.

5. Check the height of the drain pipe. Its top should be exactly 23⁄8″ from the bottom of the pan—measure down from the top of the joist. If the drainpipe is too high, remove it and trim with a tubing cutter. If it is too low, replace the assembly with a new assembly that has a longer tailpiece.

6. Lay a thick bead of construction adhesive along with the contact areas on all joists, nailing surfaces, and blocking.

7. Set the pan in place and screw it down using at least 2 screws along each side. Do not overtighten the screws. If you’ve cut off the screwing flange on one or more sides to accommodate an unusual shape, drill 1⁄8″ pilot holes in the cut edges at joist or blocking locations and drive the screws through the holes.

8. Disassemble the supplied drain assembly. Be careful not to lose any of the screws. Place the drain tailpiece on the waste pipe under where the pan’s drain hole will be located and measure to check that it sits at the correct level. Solvent-glue the tailpiece to the end of the waste pipe.

9. Position the supplied gaskets on top of the tailpiece (check the manufacturer’s instructions; the gaskets usually need to be layered in the correct order). Set the drain flange piece on top of the tail and into the drain hole in the pan. Drill 1⁄8″ pilot holes through the flange and into the pan. Screw the flange to the pan.

10. Thread the tail top piece into the tail through the drain flange. Use a speed square or other lever, such as spread-channel lock pliers, to snugly tighten the tail top piece in place.

11. Install tile underlayment for the rest of the project area. If the underlayment is higher than the top of the pan once it is installed, you’ll have to sand it to level, gradually tapering away from the pan.

12. Scrape any stickers or other blemishes off the pan with a putty knife. Lightly sand the entire surface of the pan using 120-grit sandpaper to help the sealant adhere. After you’re done sanding, wipe down the sanded pan with a damp sponge. Make sure the entire area is clean.

13. Seal the edge seams at the wall and between the pan and subfloor with waterproof latex sealant. Caulk any pan screw holes that were not used.

14. Cut strips of waterproofing tape to cover all seams in the tile underlayment (both walls and floor). Also, cut strips for the joints where walls and floor meet. Open the pail of liquid waterproofing membrane and mix the liquid thoroughly. Beginning at the top and working down, brush a bed of waterproofing liquid over the seams. Before it dries, set the tape firmly into the waterproofing. Press and smooth the tape. Then brush a layer of waterproofing compound over the tape

15. Trace a hole in the center of the waterproof drain gasket using the bottom of the drain clamping donut. Cut the hole out using scissors. Be careful cutting the gasket because it is a crucial part of the drain waterproofing. Check the fit with the gasket against the underside of the clamping donut top flange.

16. Apply a thin coat of the waterproofing compound around the drain hole and to the back of the drain gasket. Don’t apply too much; if the waterproofing is too thick under the gasket, it may not dry correctly.

17. Put the gasket in place and brush a coat of the waterproofing over the gasket. Screw the clamping donut in place on the top of the drain and over the membrane. Hand-tighten the bolts and then cover the clamping donut with the waterproofing compound (avoid covering the slide lock for the drain grate).

18. Use a roller to roll waterproofing compound across the walls and over the entire pan surface. The ideal is 4mm thick (about the thickness of a credit card). Allow this first coat to dry for 2 hours, then cover with a second coat. This should conclude the waterproofing phase of the project, and you’re ready to begin laying tile once the waterproofing compound has dried thoroughly.

How to Install Tile for a Curbless Shower

TOOLS & MATERIALS

  • Ear and eye protection
  • Work gloves
  • Tile
  • Spacers
  • Thinset tile adhesive
  • Trowel
  • Pencil
  • Tile saw or nippers
  • Grout
  • Towel
  • Sponge

Installing Steps

1. Set the floor tile first. Begin by placing a sample of the floor tile directly next to the drain so you can set the drain grate height to match. The adjustable mounting plate for the grate should be flush with the tops of the tile.

2. Begin laying floor tile in the corner of the shower. Lay a bed of thin-set tile adhesive, using a notched trowel. The thinset container should specify the notch size (3⁄8″ square notch is common).

3. Place the corner tile into the bed of thin-set and press it to set it. Don’t press down too hard or you will displace too much of the material. Continue laying tile, fanning out from the corner toward the drain opening. Leave space around the drain opening as it is likely you’ll need to cut tiles to fit.

4. Install tile so a small square of the untiled area is left around the drain opening (which, in the system seen here, is square, making for an easier cutting job)

5. Mark the tiles that surround the drain opening for cutting. Leave a small gap between the tiles next to the drain-grate mounting plate.

6. Cut the tiles along the trim lines using a tile saw. If you are not comfortable using a tile saw, score the tiles and cut them with tile nippers.

7. Apply thin-set onto the shower pan, taking care not to get any on the drain-grate mounting plate. You may need to use a small trowel or a putty knife to get into small gaps.

8. Set the cut tiles around the drain opening, doing your best to maintain even gaps that match the gaps in the rest of the floor. Once you’ve finished tiling around the drain, finish setting floor tile in the rest of the project area.

9. Let the floor tile set overnight and then apply grout. Using a grout sponge, wipe the grout over the gaps so all gaps are filled evenly. After the grout dries, buff the floor with a towel to wipe up excess residue.

10. Snap the grate cover into the cover mounting plate (if you’ve stuffed a rag into the drain opening to keep debris out, be sure to remove it first). The grate cover seen here locks in with a small key that should be saved in case you need to remove the grate cover.

11. Begin setting the wall tile. Generally, it’s easiest if you start at the bottom and work upward. Instead of thinset adhesive, an adhesive mat is being used here. This relatively new product is designed for walls and is rated for waterproof applications. It is a good idea to use a spacer (¼” thick or so) to get an even border at the bottoms of the first tiles.

12. In the design used here, a border of the same mosaic tile used in the floor is installed all around the shower area to make the first course. Dark-brown accent tiles are installed in a single vertical column running upward, centered on the line formed by the shower faucet and showerhead. This vertical column is installed after the bottom border.

13. Next, another vertical column of accent tiles is installed on each side of the large, dark tiles. These columns are also laid using the floor tile, which connects the walls and floor visually in an effective way.

14. Finally, larger field tiles that match the floor tile used outside the shower area are installed up to the corner and outward from the shower area. Starting at the bottom, set a thin spacer on top of the border tiles to ensure even gaps.

15. Grout the gaps in the wall tiles. It’s usually a good idea to protect any fittings, such as the shower faucet handle escutcheon, with painter’s tape prior to grouting. If you wish, a clear surround may be installed to visually define the shower area, as in the photo to the right, but because the shower pan is pitched toward the drain it really is not necessary.

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How to Install Carpet

How to Install Carpet

Carpet remains one of the most popular and versatile of all floor coverings. Almost every home has wall-to-wall carpet in at least a few rooms. It’s available in an almost endless variety of colors, styles, and patterns. It can also be custom made to express a more personal design.

Most carpet is nylon-based, although acrylic and polyester are also popular. Wool carpeting is more formal and more expensive but also quite popular. All are suitable for basement installation, but avoid carpet with a thick pile.

Wall-to-wall carpet is usually installed with a pad beneath it, although some are sold with a preattached foam pad. Carpet with a preattached pad tends to be of lesser quality, but some prefer it for basements because it does not require stretching and tacking so it can be removed quickly if need be and reinstalled with little difficulty. If you are installing a carpet pad, choose one that is made of waffle-pattern rubber rather than one that is fiber-based (the less absorbent the pad is, the better).

Now I will teach you about laying carpets with every detail I have learned and found it in all my carer, keep reading.

Pros

Part of carpet’s appeal is its soft texture. It’s pleasant to walk on—especially with bare feet since it’s soft and warm underfoot—and comfortable for children to play on. It is a great way to warm up a cold basement floor. Because carpet has a pad underneath that acts as a cushion, carpet can help reduce “floor fatigue.”

Before Starting

Buying & Estimating Carpet

When choosing a carpet, one thing to consider is color and pattern. Lighter shades and colors show dirt and stains more readily, but they provide an open, spacious feel. Darker colors and multicolored patterns don’t show as much dirt or wear, but they can also make a room appear smaller.

The materials used in a carpet and its construction can affect the carpet’s durability. In high-traffic areas, such as hallways and entryways, a top-quality fiber will last longer. Carpet construction, the way in which fibers are attached to the backing, impacts resistance to wear and appearance.

Available widths of certain carpets may affect your buying decision; a roll that’s wide enough to cover an entire room eliminates the need for seaming. When seaming is unavoidable, calculate the total square footage to be covered, then add 20 percent to cover trimming and seaming.

The type of carpet will dictate the type of pad you should use. Check carpet sample labels for the manufacturer’s recommendations. Since carpet and padding work in tandem to create a floor covering system, use the best pad you can afford that works with your carpet.

In addition to making your carpet feel plusher underfoot, the pad makes your floor quieter and warmer. A high-quality pad also helps reduce carpet wear.

Tips for Evaluating Carpet

Fiber
Type
Characteristics
Nylon Easy to clean, Very durable, Good stain resistance,
Colors sometimes fade in direct sunlight.
Polyester Excellent stain resistance, Very soft in thick cut-pile constructions, colors don’t fade in sunlight.
Olefin virtually stain and fade-proof, resists moister and static, not as resilient as nylon or as soft or as polyester.
Acrilyc Resembles wool in softness and look, good moisture resistance, less durable than other synthetics.
Wool Luxurious look and feel, good durability and warmth, more costly and less stain-resistant than synthetics.

Labels on the back of samples usually tell you the fiber composition, the available widths (usually 12 or 15 feet), what antistain treatments and other finishes were applied, and details of the product warranty

Tools & Materials

  • Measuring tape
  • Seam irom
  • Edge Trimmer
  • Hammer
  • Aviation Strips
  • Stapler
  • Duct Tape
  • Utility Knife
  • Power Stretcher
  • Chalk Line
  • Knee-Kicker
  • Scissors
  • Seam tape
  • Double-Sided Carpet Tape
  • Tackless Strips
  • Carpet Padding

Planning for Carpet Installation

Before installing or laying any type of carpets I need to make sure that the installation will be right, easy, and good, for this you must:

Keep pile direction consistent. Carpet pile is usually slanted, which affects how the carpet looks from different angles as light reflects off the surface. Place seamed pieces so the pile faces the same direction.

 

Maintain patterns when seaming patterned carpet. Because of this necessity, there’s always more waste when installing patterned carpet. For a pattern that repeats itself every 18″, for example, each piece must be oversized 18″ to ensure the pattern is aligned. Pattern repeat measurements are noted on carpet samples.

 

At seams, add an extra 3″ to each piece when estimating the amount of carpet you’ll need. This extra material helps when cutting straight edges for seaming.

 

Add 6″ for each edge that’s along the wall. This surplus will be trimmed away when the carpet is cut to the exact size of the room.

 

Measure from the closet wall to the closet door. Closet floors are usually covered with a separate piece of carpet that’s seamed to the carpet in the main room area.

 

How to Lay Carpet

Starting in a corner, nail tackless strips to the floor, keeping a gap between the strips and the walls that’s about 2/3 the thickness of the carpet. Use plywood spacers. Angled pins on the strip should point toward the wall.

 

Roll out enough padding to cover the entire floor. Make sure the seams between the padding are tight. If one face of the padding has a slicker surface, keep the slick surface face up, making it easier to slide the carpet over the pad during installation.

 

Use a utility knife to cut away excess padding along the edges. The padding should touch but not overlap the tackless strips.

 

Tape the seams together with duct tape, then staple the padding to the floor every 12″.

 

Position the carpet roll against one wall, with its loose end extending up the wall about 6″, then roll out the carpet until it reaches the opposite wall.

 

At the opposite wall, mark the back of the carpet at each edge about 6″ beyond the point where the carpet touches the wall. Pull the carpet back away from the wall so the marks are visible.

 

Snap a chalk line across the back of the carpet between the marks. Place a scrap piece of plywood under the cutting area to protect the carpet and padding from the knife blade. Cut along the line using a straightedge and utility knife.

 

Next to walls, straddle the edge of the carpet and nudge it with your foot until it extends up the wall by about 6″ and is parallel to the wall.

 

At the corners, relieve buckling by slitting the carpet with a utility knife, allowing the carpet to lie somewhat flat. Make sure that corner cuts do not cut into usable carpet.

 

Using your seaming plan as a guide, measure and cut fill-in pieces of carpet to complete the installation. Be sure to include a 6″ surplus at each wall and a 3″ surplus on each edge that will be seamed to another piece of carpet. Set the cut pieces in place, making sure the pile faces in the same direction on all pieces.

 

Rollback the large piece of carpet on the side to be seamed, then use a chalk line to snap a straight seam edge about 2″ from the factory edge.

 

Keep the ends of the line about 18″ from the sides of the carpet where the overlap onto the walls causes the carpet to buckle.

 

Using a straightedge and utility knife, carefully cut the carpet along the chalk line. To extend the cutting lines to the edges of the carpet, pull the corners back at an angle so they lie flat, then cut the line with the straightedge and utility knife. Place scrap wood under the cutting area to protect the carpet while cutting.

 

On smaller carpet pieces, cut straight seam edges where the small pieces will be joined to one another. Don’t cut the edges that will be seamed to the large carpet piece until after the small pieces are joined together.

 

Plugin the seam iron and set it aside to heat up, then measure and cut hot-glue seam tape for all seams. Begin by joining the small fill-in pieces to form one large piece. Center the tape under the seam with the adhesive side facing up.

 

Set the iron under the carpet at one end of the tape until the adhesive liquifies, usually about 30 seconds. Working in 12″ sections, slowly move the iron along the tape, letting the carpet fall onto the hot adhesive behind it. Set weights at the end of the seam to hold the pieces in place.

 

Press the edges of the carpet together into the melted adhesive behind the iron. Separate the pile with your fingers to make sure no fibers are stuck in the glue and the seam is tight, then place a weighted board over the seam to keep it flat while the glue sets.

 

Continue seaming the fill-in pieces together. When the tape adhesive has dried, turn the seamed piece over and cut a fresh seam edge as done in step 7. Reheat and remove about 1-1/2″ of tape from the end of each seam to keep it from overlapping the tape on the large piece.

 

Use hot-glue seam tape to join the seamed pieces to the large piece of carpet, repeating steps 14 through 17.

 

If you’re laying carpet in a closet, cut a fill-in piece and join it to the main carpet with hot-glue seam tape.

 

Before stretching the seamed carpet, read through this entire section and create a stretching sequence similar to the one shown here. Start by fastening the carpet at a doorway threshold using carpet transitions. If the doorway is close to a corner, use the knee kicker to secure the carpet to the tackless strips between the door and the corner. Also secure a few feet of carpet along the adjacent wall, working toward the corner.

 

Use a power stretcher to stretch the carpet toward the wall opposite the door. Brace the tail with a length of 2 × 4 placed across the doorway. Leaving the tail in place and moving only the stretcher head, continue stretching and securing the carpet along the wall, working toward the nearest corner in 12 to 24″ increments.

 

As you stretch the carpet, secure it onto the tackless strips with a stair tool and hammer.

 

With the power stretcher still extended from the doorway to the opposite side of the room, knee-kick the carpet onto the tackless strips along the closest wall, starting near the corner closest to the stretcher tail. Disengage and move the stretcher only if it’s in the way.

 

Reposition the stretcher so its tail is against the center of the wall you just secured. Stretch and secure the carpet along the opposite wall, working from the center toward a corner. If there’s a closet in an adjacent wall, work toward that wall, not the closet.

 

Use the knee kicker to stretch and secure the carpet inside the closet (if any). Stretch and fasten the carpet against the back wall first, then do the side walls. After the carpet in the closet is stretched and secured, use the knee kicker to secure the carpet along the walls next to the closet. Disengage the power stretcher only if it’s in the way.

 

Return the head of the power stretcher to the center of the wall. Finish securing carpet along this wall, working toward the other corner of the room.

 

Reposition the stretcher to secure the carpet along the last wall of the room, working from the center toward the corners. The tail block should be braced against the opposite wall.

 

 

 

 

Use a carpet edge trimmer to trim surplus carpet away from the walls. At corners, use a utility knife to finish the cuts.

 

Tuck the trimmed edges of the carpet neatly into the gaps between the tackless strips and the walls using a stair tool and hammer.

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Proven Methods to Prepare a concrete slab for wood flooring

Proven Methods to Prepare a concrete slab for wood flooring

concrete slabs are a common substrate in single-story buildings and on the first floor of multiple-story ones. in much of the south and west, slab-on-grade construction is standard. in the north, most homes have basements and owners often want to finish them.

can concrete slabs bring their own problems to flooring installation?

of course yes, first, because they’re installed on the ground unless detailed properly they can be a direct conduit for moisture. And unless you’re there to see the slab installed, there’s no way to know for sure if it’s properly detailed. And unless expertly placed and finished, concrete slabs are notorious for being out of flat.

Can you put hardwood floors on a slab? installing a wood floor over a concrete slab may require building some sort of wooden subfloor assembly first.

Which way do you lay wood flooring on concrete?

There are a number of ways to install wood floors over concrete (including direct glue-down, floating subfloors, and the screed method), but in all cases, the slab should be clean, flat, dry, and structurally sound.

Before You Start

the slab should be clean, flat, dry, and structurally sound. The concrete should be flat within 3⁄16 in. over 10 ft., or 1⁄8 in. over 6 ft. if it’s not, the remedy is to apply a self-leveling compound such as Bostik SL 150 high-compressive strength, self-leveling, cement-based underlayment to level low spots and to grind down the high spots.

humidity affects the cure rate of moisture-cured adhesives to a greater degree than temperature—the higher the humidity, the faster the cure. Under normal conditions, light foot traffic is acceptable after 8 to 10 hours and normal traffic after 24 hours.

Install the Vapor Retarder First

concrete slabs are like large rock sponges. They have the potential to supply large amounts of moisture that can damage wood flooring.

Be sure to perform proper moisture testing, although testing indicates only that the concrete is within the correct moisture level range at that particular time.

Because of concrete’s potential to supply a tremendous amount of moisture to wood flooring, I use a vapor retarder with a lower perm rating than I do over a wood subfloor.

installing a vapor retarder with a perm rating 0.13 or lower between the concrete and wood flooring is imperative to avoid future problems. there are three common ways to do this.

You can use a minimum 6-mil construction grade polyethylene film. The plastic should meet Astm d-1745 (the information should be on the package) and have a high tensile, tear, and puncture resistance.

in the past, it was common to apply two layers of #15 asphalt-saturated paper, adhering both layers with an appropriate adhesive (usually asphalt mastic).

Because of concerns about VOCs, this method is now rarely used. normal sheet vinyl may also be an effective vapor retarder, but you cannot use cheap adhesive to install it (cheap adhesive generally fails when subjected to moisture).

finally, a urethane membrane such as Bostik mvP4, or other chemical system accepted by the flooring manufacturer, can give good results. I prefer this method.

Direct Glue-Down

Once the slab is level and a vapor retarder such as mvP4 urethane applied, it’s possible to lay some wood flooring directly on top of concrete. strip flooring under 1⁄2 in.

thick, solid parquet flooring and engineered wood flooring can be glued to concrete, though it can be a challenge to force and hold the pieces of solid wood flooring together while the adhesive cures.

even though some adhesive manufacturers warrant it, I don’t recommend solid (3⁄4 -in.-thick) strip flooring and plank flooring for direct glue-down to concrete. many boards are not perfectly straight and the tongue and grooves don’t fit tightly.

This is relatively easy to work with when you’re using a flooring nailer that both helps to force the boards straight and then mechanically fastens them to the subfloor.

however, there are no mechanical fasteners used when directly gluing flooring to concrete, and it’s extremely difficult to draw imperfect flooring tightly together and then hold it there while the glue sets.

however, the practice is becoming more common in order to save money when installing over concrete. gluing flooring directly to the concrete slab is the most economical method.

in addition to direct glue-down, there are several other ways to install wood floors over concrete. They all involve creating some sort of framing or subfloor between the concrete and the finish flooring.

The most cost-effective of these methods is to create a floating subfloor composed of two layers of plywood. All other methods require the expense of gluing or fastening the subfloor and any framing to the concrete slab.

Screed Method

Screeds are generally pieces of 2×4 nailed, screwed, or glued to the concrete slab. Since it is difficult to obtain perfectly straight lumber, pieces shorter than 48 in. are used to be sure they conform to the concrete.

Standard 3⁄4-in. strip flooring can be installed directly over screeds, and thinner engineered flooring can be installed over screeds if there’s a 3⁄4-in. plywood subfloor installed first.

Using Screeds or Sleepers

nailing hardwood flooring directly to screeds (or “sleepers”) installed over a vapor retarder is a common method of installing over concrete slabs. screeds or sleepers are usually made from kiln-dried, pressure-treated 2×4s laid flat and fastened to the concrete with masonry nails or screws.

tongue-and-groove solid board flooring at least ¾ in. thick and less than 4 in. wide may be installed directly over screeds spaced 8 in. to 10 in. on center. no subfloor is needed, though an alternative is to space the screeds at 16 in. and add a layer of 3⁄4-in. subfloor.

Because boards are typically less than 3⁄4 in. thick, engineered wood flooring generally is not recommended for installation directly over screeds. for many years it was common practice to lay screeds directly on their flat face into hot (poured) or cold (cutback) asphalt mastic.

The end joints were staggered so the ends lapped at least 4 in. As you might imagine, the smell of the asphalt drove this method from favor, and urethane adhesives have been substituted instead.

I generally do not use screeds. They’re more expensive and labor-intensive, and adhesives have improved so much that most floors are directly glued to the concrete or installed on a floating plywood subfloor. (today, screeds mainly reside under athletic floors.)

About the only time, I use them is if the concrete slab is in such bad shape that other methods won’t work, or if insulation is required under the floor.

Plywood Subfloor on Slab

Plywood nailed or screwed directly to a concrete slab is an economical alternative to screeds. Additional layers may be necessary to accommodate the length of fasteners.

Mechanically Fastened Plywood Subfloor

one way to install a plywood subfloor over concrete is simply to nail or screw it into place. The minimum recommended plywood thickness is 5⁄8 in., and it must be thick enough to accept the length of fastener required by the wood flooring being installed.

The plywood needs a designation of exposure 1 to ensure it’s manufactured with exterior adhesives. if pressure-treated plywood is used, it must be kiln-dried and not have an elevated moisture content (check with a moisture meter if you’re unsure).

fasten the plywood with either powder-actuated fasteners or concrete screws every 6 in. along the edges and every 12 in. in the field (at a minimum).

And fasten the plywood working out from the center to ensure it will lie flat. stagger the sheets of plywood, spaced 1⁄8 in. from other sheets and ¾ in. from vertical obstructions.

Glued-down Plywood Subfloor

plywood to a concrete slab creates an incredibly strong bond and minimizes the number of holes through the vapor retarder.

The minimum recommended thickness for the plywood is 5⁄8 in., and it should be designated as exposure 1.

You may need to use thicker plywood or multiple sheets so it’s thick enough to accommodate the flooring fasteners you intend to use. The plywood is generally cut in half, either lengthwise or in width, and its bottom is scored in about a 1-ft. grid pattern using a circular saw adjusted to cut to approximately half the plywood’s thickness.

These measures ensure the plywood is flexible enough to conform to minor irregularities in the slab. stagger the sheets of plywood, spaced 1⁄8 in. from other sheets and 3⁄4 in. from vertical obstructions.

I use Bostik’s Best moisture cure urethane adhesive for all such installations, applying the adhesive over Bostik’s MVP moisture retarder.

holding the plywood down firmly enough to make full contact with the adhesive while it cures is the biggest challenge. You can weigh it down (i often stack the hardwood flooring on the plywood) or shoot in concrete fasteners at strategic locations.

Floating wood Subfloor

A floating wood subfloor, which is the preferred method used by most wood flooring professionals, is made from two layers of minimum 3⁄8-in., exposure 1 plywood.

floating floors are not fastened to the concrete, so there are no holes in the vapor retarder and no glue to mess around with. The first layer lies in line with the walls. stagger both layers of plywood, spaced 1⁄8 in. from other sheets and ¾ in. from vertical obstructions.

lay the second layer at an angle (45 or 90°) to the first layer. (Plywood is generally only placed on a 45° angle when it needs to span multiple rooms. installing on an angle helps to avoid joints in the doorways, which might lead to problems with the finish floor.)

fasten the layers together on a 12-in. grid pattern in the field and every 6 in. around the perimeter. my floating subfloors generally consist of two layers of 1⁄2-in. plywood glued with construction adhesive and screwed together.

Floating Wood Subfloor

Two layers of plywood comprise a floating subfloor. The layers are fastened only to each other, and “float” above the slab. This method is the author’s preferred installation over concrete.

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Removing Existing Floor Covering and Safety

Removing Existing Floor Covering and Safety

If you’re installing a hardwood floor in new construction, all you have to worry about is the condition of the subfloor. But if you’re working on a remodel project like what we do here, you’ll likely have to remove an existing floor covering, which might be carpet, linoleum, or vinyl. Removing old floor coverings is my least favorite part of installing wood flooring.

and I’m here to give you all that you need in order to do it with yourself, I did a long search about removing floors and I have done it before several times just keep reading and focus to claim your knowledge.

Removing Carpet

no matter how many times a carpet is cleaned throughout its life, removing all the animal dander, dirt, and dead bugs are just about impossible. With that in mind, I always wear a respirator when tearing up the old carpet. unlike dust masks, respirators are certified by u.s. government to ensure that they meet specified minimum filtration requirements, as well as specific manufacturing quality levels. Also, many dust masks do not seal tightly to the face and allow airborne hazards to passing.

  1. Given that you never know what sort of hazardous material can become airborne when removing old carpet, wearing a respirator is a must.
  2. To remove carpet from the tack strips, grab a corner with stout pliers and pull. You can cut the carpet into manageable pieces for disposal, just be careful to avoid cutting into the floor below if you’re saving it.
  3. Tack strips hold carpets in place. Use a taping knife below a pry bar to avoid damage to old floors you want to save, and be careful—the tacks are sharp.

many carpets are held in place by tack strips installed next to the walls. These narrow wooden strips have small, sharp, angled nails that point up to hold the carpet’s backing. The strips themselves are nailed to the floor.

to begin removing old carpet, pull back a corner with pliers. continue around the outside of the room, releasing the rest of the carpet from the tack strip.

cut the carpet into manageable strips to haul away. if there are existing wood floors under the carpet that you simply plan to refinish, be careful not to damage them while cutting the carpet.

Vacuum the subfloor as you remove the carpet strips to limit the amount of dirt that becomes airborne. once you’ve removed all the carpet, pull up the tack strips using small pry bars, a claw hammer, and pliers.

A drywall-taping knife can be placed between the floor and the pry bar to protect the wood floor from damage. A cat’s paw–type nail puller can also be used to remove nails from a stubborn tack strip.

Wear gloves while removing the tack strips. The tack strip has sharp little teeth, and at least one will find its way into your fingers.

Removing Old Linoleum or Vinyl Floors

You need to be careful when removing old resilient flooring. many linoleum and vinyl floors from the 1970s and earlier contained asbestos in their backings or adhesives. Various federal, state and local government agencies have regulations that require specially licensed abatement contractors to remove material containing asbestos.

I never remove old resilient flooring without having it tested for asbestos first. it is just not worth possible health problems, breaking the law, and contaminating the home. An alternative to removing old linoleum, vinyl, or any flooring material that possibly contains asbestos is to install a new one over it.

This requires that a proper subfloor exists under the resilient floor or that new underlayment has been added. I am usually able to verify the presence of the subflooring by looking at a preexisting plumbing hole, loose flooring, or a heating vent or by removing a transition piece.

The wood flooring fasteners need to penetrate the resilient-type floor and at least 5⁄8 in. into the actual subfloor material. if needed, install plywood underlayment over the old resilient flooring. most manufacturers recommend that a 3⁄8-in. or thicker underlayment be used.

increasing the height of the floor can sometimes present problems. for example, new wood flooring installed in an existing kitchen usually runs up to the bottom of the cabinets and in front of appliances such as dishwashers or trash compactors. This additional flooring height might make it impossible to remove such appliances for service or replacement.

Also, large transitions in height to other rooms can trip an unsuspecting guest. many homes I work on have particleboard underlayment, a material that is unsuitable for use as subflooring, installed below the carpet.

I remove it by cutting it into manageable 2-ft. squares. I find this makes it easier to pry off the floor and remove from the room without damaging the walls.

Note: Particleboard is considered an unacceptable substrate, so it must be removed prior to nail-down and most glue-down flooring installations. Use a circular saw with its blade set just shallower than the particleboard thickness to cut it into 2-ft. squares to ease removal.

Safety Equipment is Paramount

installing wood floors requires an incredible amount of cutting and nailing, but the most important equipment I own doesn’t cut or fasten anything. nothing comes before safety equipment. With all the cutting, nailing, and chemicals flooring installers work with, it is only a matter of time before an injury will occur if you don’t have the proper protection.

many old-time wood flooring contractors are partially deaf because they didn’t protect their hearing when using nailers and power tools.

Before I started wearing proper respiratory protection, some exotic woods I used made my nose bleed. many old-timers have severe respiratory problems.

Wood dust is a carcinogen, and I have visited flooring friends who have cancer. Without safety glasses, I have had things go into my eyes, and I once had a close call with a deflected pneumatic nail. Kneepads are a very important piece of equipment.

I have too many friends with permanently damaged knees. one of them almost lost his leg when a splinter in his knee became infected.

Hearing Protection

one in 10 Americans has a hearing loss severe enough to affect their ability to understand speech. it’s more common among wood flooring contractors. nearly everyone I know in this trade has hearing loss, which has made me all the more adamant about hearing protection.

noise is measured in decibels or dB. The dB scale is logarithmic rather than linear. An increase of 10dB isn’t additive; it represents a tenfold increase in noise. consequently, even a small increase in dB can have a larger effect than is immediately apparent.

noise levels of 85dB or higher can damage your hearing. most floor sanding equipment reaches 90dB or more.

if you look on any earmuff or earplug package, you’ll find a government-mandated noise-reduction rating (NRR). The NRR represents how many decibels the product reduces noise.

Because the arms of glasses interfere with how earmuffs seal to the head, wearing them diminishes earmuffs’ effectiveness.

to be on the safe side, it is best to wear earmuffs and earplugs together. This isn’t a bad idea anyway, particularly when sanding flooring. one caveat: use only clean earplugs. Dirty ones can lead to infection.

Make Safety a Habit Like all construction work, installing wood flooring has inherent risks. Cuts from edge tools are one obvious hazard. Others are less obvious, but perhaps more readily prevented. Reduce the risks of eye injuries, hearing damage, lung disease, and bad knees with proper safety gear. Comfort is one of the most important factors when selecting safety equipment. I tend to rely on 3M® for safety products, but you may find other brands fit you better. Try out several. Safety equipment does no good if you take it off because it’s uncomfortable.

Eye Protection

I cannot say enough about eye protection. Without it, there is little chance that you will avoid an eye injury sometime in your career.

safety glasses have saved my eyes more times than I can count. Protective eyewear should be made to ANSI standard Z87.1-2003, which means it should not break when smacked by a 1⁄4-in. BB moving at 150 ft. per sec.

eyewear should also provide generous side protection for the corners of your eyes. The lenses, frames, and packaging should all be stamped Z87+ to indicate that they meet this safety standard.

eye ware has come a long way from the goggles of years past. What’s available today borders on stylish, and it’s far more comfortable. glasses with anti-fog and anti-scratch coatings are available. You can even buy prescription safety glasses through your eye doctor and from several online sources.

Lung Protection

sanding and finishing wood flooring exposes you to fine dust particles and chemicals that attack your lungs. The American conference of governmental industrial hygienists recognizes wood dust as a human carcinogen. The size of the dust is important.

Dust particles 10 microns in diameter and larger are likely trapped and expelled by the hairs and mucous of your upper respiratory system. Particles up to 2.5 microns in size settle in the lungs where they may enter the bloodstream to be filtered by the liver.

some toxic particles transport through the bloodstream to the kidneys and central nervous system.

The body’s immune system tries to destroy and expel toxins, but our immune system is not always successful and our cells may become cancerous if overwhelmed by toxins.

Particles that aren’t expelled and don’t dissolve can stay in the lungs, possibly causing allergies, respiratory problems, lung diseases, and cancer.

some finishes such as polyurethane (particularly if it’s sprayed) may, over time, coat lung tissue so that it can no longer transfer oxygen to the blood. The only cure is a lung transplant.

I wear a respirator, as opposed to a nuisance dust mask. Respirators have replaceable filters that capture at least 95% of particles 0.3 microns in size or larger. They are designated by a letter followed by a number, such as n95.

Respirators designated with an n are for use where there is no oil present in the air. An R designation means it’s resistant to oil mists, and a P-labeled respirator is even more resistant to oils.

The n-filters are most commonly used when sanding wood flooring. half-face or full-face respirators with the appropriately activated charcoal cartridges should be worn when applying floor finishes.

full-face respirators are best because they stop the toxic vapors from entering your bloodstream through your eyes.

Charcoal cartridges for respirators are always working. Store them in a clean, sealed plastic bag or container when not in use. If you leave them out, the cartridge will be used up next time you need it.

Knee Protection

Working on your knees without kneepads can lead to prepatellar bursitis. Knees have a small sac called the bursa in front of the patella (kneecap).

The bursa holds a small amount of fluid that allows the skin over the knee to move independently of the underlying bone.

if the bursa becomes inflamed, it fills with fluid and causes swelling at the top of the knee. Without the padding provided by the bursa, kneeling would always hurt.

I like kneepads with doughnut-shape pads that transfer the weight away from the kneecap. I like the shell of the kneepad to be hard enough to stop objects that might penetrate my knee. Any penetration into the fluid of the knee can cause a serious infection that may require surgical cleaning to prevent loss of the leg from infection.

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How To Install Subfloor

How To Install Subfloor

Subflooring is a key structural component. and today I will share with you this informative article that I prepared after doing deep searches and of course as always with my experience in this field by giving the pieces of information and answering the questions as What thickness subfloor is recommended? Can I put plywood over subfloor? Is OSB or plywood better for subfloor? and more related other questions just keep reading and focus.

Installing a Subfloor

The type of subfloor you choose depends on moisture conditions and the flooring you will install. Once you have the moisture issue figured out, prepare a subsurface suited to your flooring material.

  • If you will install carpeting or carpet tile, the subsurface need not be very smooth or very firm. You may need only to patch large cracks or holes in concrete, or you can install onto a plywood subsurface. Small imperfections will not show through noticeably.
  • If you want to install resilient flooring like sheet goods or vinyl tiles, the subsurface must be very smooth, but it need not be extremely firm.
  • Use the existing concrete floor only if it is very smooth, the material will telegraph every dip and bump. It can be very difficult to patch a damaged concrete surface to this level of evenness, so you may need to apply a layer of the concrete backer board or a plywood subfloor as you see later.
  • For ceramic or stone tile, the subsurface does not need to be very smooth, but it must be very firm.
  • The thin-set mortar that you set the tiles in will fill imperfections, but if the surface on which the tiles are set flexes at all, the tiles or grout joints could crack. Usually, these tiles are set onto the concrete surface or onto a layer of concrete backer board applied directly to the concrete.
  • If you need to install a new subsurface that is insulated because the concrete gets moist, then you will need to install first a sheet of air-gap underlayment, then a layer of 3⁄4-in. plywood, and then top it with a layer of 1⁄2-in. concrete backer board.

Removing and cutting trim

Butting new flooring up against existing wall trim will certainly lead to a sloppy-looking result. Before you install any substrate and finish floor material, clear the walls of base trim and other obstacles.

If your baseboard has a base shoe at the bottom, you could just remove that and replace it after the floor is installed.

However, that could make the baseboard look a good deal narrower, depending on your installation.

If you will reuse the existing baseboard, use two taping knives and a flat pry bar to keep from damaging the trim. If the trim doesn’t look great, it will look out of place next to your new floor, so plan to replace it with new trim.

Don’t Feed the Mold To grow, mold needs not only moisture but also anything organic. It’s not picky and will thrive on things like glue, wood, and drywall paper (as well as soap residue left on the surface of grout).

So if your concrete is certain to get moist on a regular basis, avoid applying anything that mold likes to munch on. That includes mastic adhesive (often called “organic mastic”). The concrete backer board is free of organic mastic, as is the thin-set mortar.

Applying concrete backer board

Applying concrete backer board to a basement floor smooths out imperfections and helps consolidate the floor, it also offers a certain amount of protection against moisture infiltration.

It’s a good first step if you will install resilient flooring, and it is often done in preparation for ceramic or stone tile as well. Simply applying directly onto the concrete means you will raise the height of the floor 1⁄2 in., which may be a consideration if your ceilings are low.

  • Plan the layout. Chisel away any protrusions and sweep the floor thoroughly. Measure the room’s width and length, and plan for an installation that avoids any strips of backer board narrower than 6 in. or so. If the room includes cabinetry, measure to avoid narrow strips there as well.
  • Mix a batch of thin-set mortar. Use a notched trowel to apply an even coat to the floor.
  • You can take this opportunity to fill in small holes. Use long, sweeping strokes to form an even surface. Lower the first sheet into the adhesive.

  • If the wall it snugs up against is less than straight, you may need to adjust its position slightly so its outer edge forms a straight line. Position two or more sheets in the thinset, check for alignment and nudge them into position if needed, and then drive screws.
  • The thinset will provide most of the holding power, but you need to drive screws to ensure the sheets lie flat.
  • Using a masonry bit sized to match the masonry screws you will use, drill a series of holes spaced 16 in. apart or so.
  • Drill additional holes where the sheet needs to be held down. The holes should be about 1⁄4 in. deeper than the length of the masonry screws you will drive; wrap a piece of tape around the bit to use as a depth guide. Periodically dip the bit in water to keep it from overheating.
  • If the bit starts to smoke, take a break to let it cool down. Drive masonry screws into the holes so their heads are slightly below flush with the surrounding surface.
  • Wherever possible, position a sheet against an obstruction to mark for cutting. Elsewhere, use a tape measure. Here, a straightedge is used to mark for a notch cut. As much as possible, avoid small pieces, which can make the surface less than even. To cut backer board, you will need to slice deep enough to cut through the embedded mesh.

  • Then bend the piece back and finally cut through the mesh on the other side. Make at least some of the cuts with the sheet lying on the floor, so you can press hard. On a cutout like the one at left, you will need to cut with several passes on the short side until you slice all the way through; then cut along the long side. After bending the cutout back, slice through the mesh on the other side or cut from the front.

note: In small areas where a subfloor slopes up or has other problems, it is often best not to cover with backer board, this area can be filled with mortar, either now or when you set the tiles.

If you have a lot of backer board to cut, consider buying a special backer board cutting knife, which cuts deeply with ease. However, if you have a dozen or fewer sheets to cut, a knife works fine. This work dulls blades quickly, so replace the blade often.

WHAT CAN GO WRONG Don’t try to make backerboard fit tightly. Make your cuts about 1⁄4 in. short, so the pieces will fit easily.

Can I put plywood or OSB over subfloor?

In order to install nailed down tongue-and-groove strip flooring, sheet goods, or resilient tiles, it is often best to install a plywood (or OSB) subfloor. It is possible to simply attach plywood (preferably pressure treated) directly to the floor, but that invites moisture damage, and attaching to concrete is a difficult undertaking.

It’s better to install a subfloor along with an air-gap underlayment. This can be done by first laying out the membrane and setting plywood on top, or by purchasing 2-ft.-square OSB tiles that have a similar membrane affixed to their undersides.

Air-gap underlayment

  • This type of dimpled underlayment comes in large rolls that cover over 150 sq. ft. The type shown here has a top layer of foam; other types are hard plastic on both sides. It is roughly 5⁄8 in. thick and has insulating properties. Buy the special tape meant for the rolls. To install, roll out the sheets and place them side by side. Make any cuts with a utility knife. Cutting does not need to be precise; within 1⁄2 in. of the wall is close enough.
  • Fasten sheets together first with 12-in.-long pieces of tape across the seam every 24 in.
  • The sheets may not lie flat at first. Push gently with your knees as you apply tape along the seam to seal the sheets together. Be sure to press the tape firmly, so it forms a moisture-tight seal; otherwise, vapor could damage the plywood underlayment you will put on top.
  • To further encourage the underlayment to lie flat, slide a fairly heavy board along the surface. Engineered hardwood, laminate, or other floating-type floors can be installed directly on top of this product. If you want to install flooring that gets nailed down, install an OSB or double-plywood subfloor first for a nail surface.

OSB ON TOP OF AIR-GAP UNDERLAYMENT To install OSB or plywood underlayment on top of the air-gap underlayment, cut 3⁄4-in. sheets so their seams are offset by at least 2 in.

The sheets should basically lie flat, but you will need to drive occasional screws at places where the sheets rise up. Drill masonry holes using a bit of the right size for your screws, then drive screws long enough to penetrate the concrete by at least 1 1⁄2 in.

INTERLOCKING UNDERLAYMENT PANELS An alternative to the rolled underlayment sheets is to install tongue-and-groove underlayment panels that have a layer of air-gap underlayment laminated to their undersides. Attach together by slipping tongues into grooves and cut using a circular saw.

PLASTIC SHEETING If you are confident that your floor will only occasionally have minor moisture, here’s a minimalist approach that has worked for many people over the years: Simply apply a double layer of 5-mil or thicker plastic sheeting to the floor. If you snap clear layout lines on the concrete, you can see them through the plastic.

Doubled plywood

If you will drive staples or nails to attach flooring, 3⁄4 in. of nailing, the thickness may not be enough and you don’t want your staples to penetrate the subflooring. First, lay air-gap underlayment. (Here we show a black version.).

Lay one layer of 1⁄2-in. plywood on top of the underlayment with joints offset. Then lay another layer of 1⁄2-in. plywood with joints offset from each other and from the layer below. You will need to drive occasional 3⁄4-in.-long screws to keep the sheets from rising up here and there.

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