Flooring Remodeling Projects: A Step-by-Step Guide

A Step-By-Step Guide To Flooring Remodeling Projects
You walk across it countless times a day — your floor. More than serving a mere utilitarian function, your flooring can enhance or detract from the beauty of your home. Does it look worn or dated? Perhaps you have started thinking about a flooring remodel? If so, this step-by-guide can get you going in the right direction.

However, renovating what lies beneath your feet is not a feat for the faint of heart. It takes considerable planning and effort, but the results are worth it. Here is your step-by-step guide through a flooring remodeling project that will enhance your property value and leave you smiling every time you walk through your front door.

Determine Your Flooring Budget

Your floor is a long-term investment, so it makes sense to save up and tackle this chore when you can afford to do so the way you like. On average, it costs anywhere from $6 to $10 per square foot if you have a professional manage the installation. However, some DIY homeowners spend as little as $3 per square foot, while others shell out as much as $18.

Other factors, most notably the materials you choose and the amount of square footage you have to cover, likewise influence cost. However, please don’t let the initial sticker price compel you to settle for an inexpensive — yet less desirable — option. Remember, your flooring is an investment that you will live with for years. Plus, you recuperate much of what you spend when you eventually sell by raising your property value.

Therefore, unless you plan to sell your property soon, it’s best to wait if you don’t have enough to install the flooring of your dreams just yet. Installing new flooring is a daunting task that requires moving furniture and disrupting your living environment for weeks, sometimes even months. It’s not worth it to have to repeat the effort when your financial picture improves.

One approach you might consider is doing a single room at a time. If you take this money-saving tactic, begin with the finished product in mind, even if it might take years to redo your entire home. That way, you’ll end up with a uniform theme instead of a patchwork look.

Choose the Best Flooring for Your Needs

How to Remodel Flooring

What type of flooring will you choose? There’s no need to stick to only one. Many homeowners divide their homes into zones, even using their flooring choices to create divisions where no walls exist, such as between an open kitchen and the dining area.

Consider what you will use each room for before making your choices. For example, many homeowners prefer carpeting in the bedrooms. This choice does eliminate the unpleasant winter sensation of hopping out of bed and freezing your toes on tile.

Does your family include furry, 4-legged members? If so, consider them when making your flooring choices. It’s probably unwise to choose a white shag carpet for your family room if you have a doggie door to your backyard installed there and your labrador loves nothing more than to go out and frolic in the mud. Likewise, cleaning hairballs out of plush fabric is few people’s idea of fun.

Consider family members with special needs — and your future — when making flooring decisions. It’s nearly impossible to push a wheelchair or walker over thick carpeting. A smooth surface allows you to move freely without impediment. Even if you don’t use an assistive device now, consider your golden years if you intend to age in place.

Here’s a closer look at seven of the most frequently used types to help you choose the right one to make your flooring remodel project a success.

1. Tile

One considerable advantage of tile is its durability. This flooring choice can last as long as your home when you care for it properly. Another advantage is the ease of replacement if one should happen to crack. You don’t have to replace the entire floor — only the damaged one. When ordering your materials, ensure that you get some extra for repairs in case the manufacturer later discontinues your style choice.

Tile has few drawbacks other than being rather hard and slippery when wet. You might need to invest in comfort kitchen mats if you spend considerable time prepping new recipes if you opt for this choice. You also need to use care when you mop, especially if you wear socks.

2. Hardwood

Tile and stone come in close seconds, but hardwood might win first prize for the most durable flooring remodel option available. When properly laid, this choice will last for generations.

Indeed, you might get lucky if you purchased an older home. Some homeowners have discovered beautiful hardwood flooring underneath their aging vinyl when they rip it up. If you are among the fortunate, you might find that all you need to do is apply the requisite elbow grease to restore your newfound treasure.

You can opt for either finished or unfinished. The latter is ideal for kitchens and bathrooms. You’ll need to apply the finish once you complete the installation, and it will run between the cracks, creating a waterproof seal. Finished flooring, conversely, shortens the installation process.

You can also choose between solid and engineered hardwood. Engineered hardwood shares much in common with laminate. You can only sand and refinish it once or twice before you need to replace it, making it slightly less durable than solid woods. Solids cost more, and you are best choosing a hardy species such as oak, cherry or maple.

3. Vinyl

When it comes to overall affordability, vinyl is among your best bets. You have two options — sheet or tile. While sheet vinyl wins first prize for ease of installation, many homeowners prefer the way tile replicates the look of granite or ceramic.

However, if you move heavy furniture in and out, this flooring is prone to damage. Therefore, it might not be the best choice for a rental despite the low price. Another issue is sun fading, which can occur from UV radiation from nearby windows.

4. Laminate

Laminate offers the smooth look and feel of hardwood but has the added advantage of easy installation. This choice comes in planks or tiles with edges designed to fit together, making this product ideal for novice DIYers. Plus, it doesn’t use any old-growth trees in its production, a feature that will delight your inner Lorax.

Unfortunately, laminate flooring is prone to moisture damage. It isn’t the best choice for kitchens, laundry rooms or bathrooms. Furthermore, you can’t refinish it, and the plastics used in production often don’t disintegrate in a landfill — it is not the most eco-friendly choice. Some laminates may contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC) that can impact your indoor air quality and cause health issues in some.

5. Carpeting

Carpeting is a classic choice because it feels delightful on your bare feet. It’s ideal for many families with little ones who crawl and frequently fall in their first attempts to stand — it won’t bruise little knees the way that hard surfaces will. It also invites you to sprawl out while watching TV and practice yoga without a mat, all while keeping your toes warm in winter.

For all its delights, carpet does have its dark side. One is that it can hold allergens like pet dander trapped in the nap. You might not see it, and your vacuum might not touch it — but it can still make you sneeze.

Another drawback is the upkeep. Many experts recommend giving your rugs a deep shampoo at least once per year, but you might need to do so more frequently if you have spill-prone toddlers with juice cups or pets who have the occasional accidents. Eventually, you will have to tear it up and replace it when stains become ingrained, or the pile starts to wear.

6. Stone

Stone is a slightly less usual flooring choice, but it earns a high score in overall durability. Like hardwood, it can last for generations when you care for it.

Drawbacks of stone include the cost and the challenge of installing it. It isn’t the best choice for those who use mobility aids. While you can roll a wheelchair or walker over it, the bumpy ride could jar achy joints.

7. Cork Guide to Installing New Flooring

Cork flooring has come into vogue recently because it is a green flooring choice that doesn’t require felling old-growth trees to manufacture. It comes from the bark of a living tree, letting environmental types sleep soundly at night. Even better, it rapidly degrades in landfills when it finishes its life cycle.

Cork feels divine on your feet. It doesn’t have the plushness of carpet, but it does have significant give, producing a soft feel. It is also a sound-friendly choice — if you own an apartment building, you won’t have to worry about downstairs neighbors complaining about heels on tile.

Like vinyl, cork can fade if in sunlight, although you can refinish it much like hardwood. If you have puppies or kitties, their nails might scratch the surface, so this choice isn’t ideal if you run a doggy daycare. While it’s easy to clean, you need to sop up spills immediately, or they can stain the surface.

Gather the Requisite Tools for Your Flooring Project

The right tools make your job go much more smoothly. If you plan to DIY your flooring, please ensure you have the following:

1. Saws

The right saw for you depends on your flooring choice. However, you should have the following on hand:

  • Jamb saw
  • Miter saw
  • Circular saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Undercut saw
  • Wet saw with a diamond blade (for tile)
  • Table saw
  • Hand saw

If you do not have all of the above, your local hardware store may help. Many have devices onsite that can cut your materials into the perfect shape and size. Remember, the easier you make your flooring remodel on yourself, the quicker the project will go.

2. Moisture Meter and Barriers

Your flooring job will likely take longer than you expect, especially if you DIY. However, even if you hire a professional installation team, you need to protect your subfloor from spills and moisture from excess humidity.

A moisture meter monitors your material’s condition. It also lets you know when conditions are right for beginning the installation process. You’ll also need plenty of plastic to keep the area free from spills.

3. Safety Equipment

Please protect yourself during any DIY project. Whenever you work with saws, you need to guard your precious peepers from flying debris. Please wear safety goggles.

Likewise, ear protection is advisable when working with power tools. You can cause hearing damage without noticing it, and earplugs only cost pennies at most hardware stores.

Gloves will not save you from a nasty cut, but they can prevent splinters. Depending on your flooring choice, you may need rubber ones for mixing mortar. Always remember to have the necessary equipment available, or at least accessible,  to avoid pitfalls that can disrupt or stop your flooring remodel before it can pick up steam.

4. The Rest of Your Toolbox

Additionally, you should have the following in your home toolbox before you start your project:

  • Hammer
  • Level
  • Measuring tape
  • T-square
  • Masking tape
  • Painter’s tape
  • Utility knife
  • Chalk line
  • Drill and drill bit set
  • Compressor
  • Rubber mallet
  • Shop-vac
  • Chisel
  • Pry bar

Tear Out Your Existing Flooring

The last item — the pry bar — comes into play when it’s time to rip out your existing flooring. This part of your project can be fun but potentially dangerous. Please keep small children safely away from the work area, as stray nails and broken shards can puncture and cut.

If you are tearing out tile or stone, you’ll need your mallet or even a small handheld sledge. You’ll have to break it into smaller pieces to remove it, and the edges can be sharp — cover everything with sheeting to protect it before you begin.

Prepare Your Subfloor

How to Install New Flooring

Once you’ve removed your existing flooring and swept up any debris with your shop vac, it’s time to inspect your subfloor. Use your moisture meter to determine if humidity has caused the floor to weaken. Other clues include squeaking when you walk and visible sagging. Now is also the time to repair known moisture damage from past flooding that seeped through to this space.

If water is the issue, please use a dehumidifier for a few days to soak up the excess. Then, remove the damaged portion along the joists on either side. If your floor feels soft, but not wet, between the beams, cut a small piece of joist material and anchor it between the two existing ones for added support.

One step you don’t want to overlook is leveling your subfloor. You may need to use a self-leveling cement layer to get it perfectly flat before installing your new material. You also want to thoroughly clean the area of all dust and debris.

Lay Your New Flooring

At long last, it’s time to lay your new floor. Be careful not to proceed too hastily once you reach this stage. Yes, you’re anxious to see your project’s end, but remember — you want the finished product to last for years.

Take your time, doing a small portion at a time and stopping when you get tired. After laying out the entire floor to your aesthetic, start attaching your new flooring at the innermost corner. You might be able to install some materials, such as carpeting or vinyl, in a single day, especially if you restrain your remodeling to one room at a time. Others, like hardwood, tile and laminate, take considerably longer — please use a baby gate to keep people safely away from the work area.

Mistakes to Avoid While Laying Your New Floor

To create beauty that lasts for years, please ensure that you avoid these common mistakes that first-time and some experienced DIYers make when laying a new floor:

  • Not accounting for expansion and contraction: Wooden floors installed during a cold, dry winter are at their loosest. When humid summer conditions arrive, they might crack. The same goes for laminate flooring if you don’t adjust for dilatations by leaving sufficient gaps for expansion and contraction around the perimeter of each room.
  • Rushing through the job: This tip goes along with expansion and contraction. It’s best to let your new flooring sit for a few days to acclimate to your specific environment to avoid warping and cracking. Likewise, it gives you a chance to adjust the layout, which brings us to another frequent mistake to avoid.
  • Not laying out your entire floor first: Your room might look perfectly square or rectangular — but it’s not. If you start laying flooring in one corner and work your way out, attaching it as you go, you could end up with an uneven mess by the time you get to the opposite corner. To create an allover pleasing aesthetic design, lay out the entirety of the floor to adjust for uneven spacing.

Add the Finishing Touches

Once you finish your new floor, it’s time to add the final touches. If you had moldings previously, it’s time to replace them — or add new ones. The right trim adds an elegant separation between two separate materials, such as where your living room carpet gives way to kitchen tile.

Other details to consider include using gliders under your furniture. These devices will minimize indentations on vinyl or carpeting from heavy couches and let you move them without damaging your work. Polish off your job with a thorough cleaning so that you’re ready to take model-home-perfect Instagram photos for your social media feed.

Final Flooring Renovation Tips

Multiple factors determine how much you will pay, including how much of the work you do yourself. If you have the right tools, you can save considerable cash, although your project might take you longer than it would if you have a full crew.

A flooring remodeling project is not for the faint of heart. Please use this step-by-step guide to get the job done right the first time.

If you found this article on flooring remodeling helpful, please share the article so other consumers can also benefit from the information.

Tips on How to Remodel Your Floors 

About Anita Clark Realtor

Anita Clark has written 610 posts on this blog.

Anita is a residential Real Estate Agent in Warner Robins Georgia, with Coldwell Banker Access Realty (478) 953-8595, aiding buyers and sellers with all their real estate questions on her Warner Robins blog.