Drop this LVT under your feet

You know you’ve developed a flooring product that’s pretty special when the installation video requires about 30 seconds of your attention, and carries a retention and comprehension value of at least 95 per cent.

In other words, by the time the 30-second instructional video has run its course, you’re going to have a full understanding of how this flooring product works.

It’s like the first time you saw the commercial introducing the public to the plastic milk bag as a cheaper and more convenient alternative to buying milk in cardboard cartons.

Required tools for using this new plastic bag option? Scissors.

From that point, it basically took me one view to understand that the process of retrieving milk from this container would begin with me dropping the bag into a decanter, then snipping a chunk of plastic off the appropriate corner. Although some of those initial snips may have created too minimal, or too heavy, a flow of milk. Or, had the user mistakenly cutting the plastic corner closest to the handle, creating the somewhat awkward and potentially messy situation requiring the delicate 180-degree turning of the bag, I think most home dwellers experienced relative success on the first shot.

So, what is this innovative product that we speak of?

‘Smart Drop Elite’, by the Fuzion Company. Smart Drop Elite is essentially a luxury vinyl tile (LVT), and is one of several types and styles of premium floor products available on the market today. However, what separates the Fuzion series of Smart Drop products from other luxury vinyl planks is its new format of sizes.

Most luxury vinyl floor products are available in either six- or seven-inch wide planks that measure between 36 to 48 inches long, resembling wood flooring; and, 12×24-inch tiles, which duplicate the look of a marble or ceramic product. The Smart Drop Elite series offers a beautiful selection of wood styled planks that are nine inches wide by 60 inches long, and a marble series where the vinyl tiles are a very impressive 18×36 inches in size.

Is bigger better? Always.

Actually, the larger format of planks and tiles speaks more to what the fashion or décor market is trending towards. At one time, residential hardwood flooring was limited to either 2.25-inch or 3.25-inch sized planks, with ceramic tiles being an easy to figure out 12×12 inch in size.

Today, if you were to walk into a retail establishment and ask for 2.25-inch hardwood flooring, or 12×12 inch ceramic tiles, the sales clerk would certainly question how you had managed to get yourself trapped in a 1970s time warp, or be ready to offer their condolences, since it’s more likely you just inherited grandma’s place, and are faced with having to complete a few repairs.

When it comes to flooring, in basically any format, be it wood, ceramic, or vinyl, big is certainly in, and big is definitely beautiful. Although the wider, nine-inch wood style vinyl planks are quite attractive, it’s the large 18×36 inch marble replica tiles, previously seen in only those grandiose type home or hotel entrances that are really impressive.

Tools for installing the Smart Drop Elite include a utility knife, measuring tape, and a carpenter’s square. Pretty simple stuff— no drills, chop saws, or power tools of any kind needed. If you can read a measuring tape, and carefully pull a utility knife along a straight edge without creating bloodshed, then the Smart Drop product is definitely something you could install.

With no “tip n’ click” or “tongue-in-groove” mechanism to deal with, the Smart Drop Elite, like most LVT tiles, has a square edge, which requires the installer simply butting one edge up against the other.

In commercial applications, the LVT planks or tiles should be glued down, but for residential purposes, the tiles simply lay directly on the floor, with only a two-way tape required along the perimeter of the room.

Need flooring? Be sure to consider the LVT line of products.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Improving your stairway (to heaven?)

Today we’re making the switch from carpeted stairways, to one of hardwood treads and risers.

Why remove the carpeting off your stairs? Well, presuming you’ve already replaced your once-carpeted floors with hardwood, this natural progression completes the project, enabling your stairs to have the same clean, good looking status of your hardwood flooring.

Step one, carefully tear back the carpeting off of “one” step. Don’t remove all the carpeting just yet. The removing of only one step of carpeting will allow you to do some measuring, followed by a bit of research, with the development of a strategy to come next.

This as opposed to creating a scenario where the carpeting has been completely removed, exposing your family members to a minefield of carpet staples until the point in time when you get yourself organized.

The most efficient way of replacing stairway carpeting with hardwood treads is by choosing the “simple tread” kit. These tread kits provide you with one hardwood tread and one riser, in either an oak or maple species of wood.

The wood grain patterns of oak and maple differ considerably, so be sure to inspect the grain patterns of your flooring to ensure compliancy with the treads.

If your hardwood treads are to be painted, choose maple, its smoother and harder finish will provide better results.

Basically, we’re installing new treads and risers over the existing treads and risers.

The advantage to re-treading, as opposed to buying regular stair treads and risers, is the kits’ tread is a thinner, laminated version of what’s standard, allowing you to more easily secure it to the existing spruce or particle board tread. The re-tread also comes with a wide, decorative nosing, which creates a ledge that will be strategic in hiding the edge of the existing tread.

The strategy to using the simple tread kit will involve removing the nose (portion of overhang) of the existing tread, creating a square or flush surface to which to mount your hardwood tread and riser. So, measure the overhang or nose portion of the existing tread (which should be about 1.25 to 1-3/8 inches) then subtract this figure from the total depth of the tread. Hopefully you’ll be left with a depth of 9-1/8 inches or less, with 9-1/8 inches being the total maximum depth that your re-tread will cover.

If for some reason, we’ll call it carpenter’s choice, the person who installed the treads 25 years ago chose to make the treads a little deeper than standard, then you’re going to have a situation where the re-tread’s depth is insufficient.

This is when you either pursue further re-treading strategies, or re-tack the carpeting back in position and get back to your basement beer-making venture. However, and in the interest of progress, since the odds of you causing an explosion, or creating a barely consumable sludge, likely outweigh that of you driving an air nail through your thumb, let’s stick with the stair project.

If the existing tread, once cut, exceeds 9-1/8 inches, then options to solving this spacing issue will include adding a cove or quarter-round molding where the re-tread meets the riser, alternatively using a standard tread, or if possible, trimming the nosing on the re-tread. Regardless, it’ll simply require a little bit of extra finishing carpentry.

If the existing tread, once cut, will be 9-1/8 inches or less, then we’re in business to go forward with the simple tread kit as is.

Keys to success?

One, pre-stain and clear-seal (three coats) your simple treads and risers, as well as any other necessary trim pieces or moldings, beforehand, letting them cure for at least a week before installing. Staining one day, clear coating the next, should you choose to install first, then finish, will undoubtedly leave footprints, which will be disastrous.

Two, put a new blade on your chop saw and table saw.

And three, limit chipping by first scoring the finished surface with a utility knife, then cut on this finished side.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Think before you build, part one

If you’ve got plans to build a new home next spring, or are thinking about major renovations involving your existing home, let’s go over a few of the do’s and the don’ts regarding your building strategy.

Home building strategy No. 1: Avoid bumps, stair splits, or varying levels of any kind. Essentially, once you, your family members, or your guests, have climbed the three or four steps leading up to the front door, the challenge of further obstacles and light cardio activity should be minimal.

Known as the split level, some home designers have seen it useful to have the homeowners, once comfortably in the home’s entrance and after having placed their shoes and jacket in the closet, climb another four or five steps in order to get themselves into the parlour or lounging area of the home.

Then, after this short climb, designers have often further challenged the home’s occupants with a third, lower tier, in the form of a sunken living room.

If this were an industrial or commercial type of setting, such rises and drops would require a line of yellow caution tape forewarning occupants about the change in floor-scape. Cautioning people to the varying floor heights of a home would be a good idea, but incorporating these yellow caution lines into the colour scheme might be a challenge for your decorator.

On the other hand, there’s no quicker way to sending grandma hurtling to the floor than with the installation of a few strategically placed speed bumps, referred to as ‘thresholds’ in the home biz.

Thresholds can be strips of wood, composite material, or metal, and are used to transition one type of flooring into another when two floorings either differ in thickness, or when floors continue from one room into another.

Regardless of their convenience in joining two floors of varying heights, the inconspicuous quarter-inch bump is often just high enough to catch a passing sole, which is hilarious for everybody except the victim.

Generally, thresholds can be avoided by either adding a layer of subfloor to the thinner flooring, or in the case of ceramic tile, which often finishes to a thicker-than-average height, choosing a cement board or dimpled plastic type of substrate, which is a thinner alternative to the often used spruce plywood sheeting.

Home building strategy No. 2: Avoid stairs. There are a few things in this world that are best left to the young, such as playing contact sports, letting your hair grow long, and climbing stairs.

So, if you’re 30- or 40-something in age and are looking to build a home, incorporate all the various levels and build all the stairs you want. Don’t stop at two stories, but perhaps even go for three, real old-school stuff, with your workout room and stair-master machine located at the top of these two flights of stairs, allowing the homeowner endless opportunities to climb.

However, know that by doing so you’ll be limiting the re-sale potential of your home to a very small demographic.

So, do we avoid stairs and stick to one-storey homes? If possible, and if your lot size will allow it, then absolutely.

There are a number of challenges, like general home maintenance and upkeep, that aging homeowners are going to have to face, so avoid adding climbing stairs to the list.

Home elevators? They exist and they’re costly, but if you’re determined to own a two-storey home well into your 70s and 80s, definitely explore this option. If your budget will allow for an in-home Otis, but you feel you’re a little too young for the elevator option at this point in your life, don’t worry, you’ll eventually get there.

In the interim, if your plans involve staying in your new build for as long as you can stay healthy, then have your architect design the stairway in a manner that will allow for an easy transition to such an option.

Next week, more building options to ponder.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Take the ‘opportunity of silence’

One type of stone-wool insulation is this Canadian-made Roxul STEVE MAXWELL/OTTAWA CITIZEN/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

If you’re planning a renovation this winter, then don’t pass up the opportunity to make your home a little quieter.

The ‘opportunity of silence’ refers to the fact most renovations involve the total gutting of the room needing attention.

Gutting a bathroom or kitchen means removing not only the existing cabinetry, but the flooring, light fixtures, and the drywall, thereby exposing the studs— essentially bringing the room back to its original state of framing.

Gutting a room becomes necessary when basically every component in the room is being replaced.

Replacing fixtures often results in having to re-direct the electrical wiring and plumbing pipes, or updating them to today’s codes and standards.

The error homeowners make, is after all the electrical and mechanical changes have been made, the wall simply gets closed up again with drywall in preparation for the cabinetry. That’s what’s referred to as a missed opportunity of silence.

The thing about rooms, especially kitchens and bathrooms, is they create noise, noises that in most cases need not be leaked or transmitted into neighbouring rooms. So, if you were lucky enough to score tickets to the Habs game, yet unlucky in your choice of the burrito special at Senor Rodriguez’s take out Tacos, the continued tooting of your horn after arriving home need not be advertised any further than your washroom.

How to make a wall increasingly more sound proof means first understanding a few terms.

A wall assembly will have a STC (sound transmission class) rating, based on how effectively the wall prevents sound from moving from one room to the next. So, the higher the STC rating, the better that wall will be at blocking sound.

Decibels (db) are simply a measurement of how loud something is, based on a sound pressure scale. For example, a casual conversation will register at 40 db, a large truck driving by at 80 db, and your home’s fire alarm at 100 db.

Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz), and relates to the tone, or time cycle of a sound. So, the low sound created by a tuba would register 30 Hz, whereby the clashing of two cymbals might register 10,000 Hz. Humans can only hear sounds that occur between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz, with the capability of registering and effectively translating sound frequencies, and range of frequency, declining with age.

This might explain why after 25 years of marriage, men can still effectively receive and translate the low frequency sounds being emitted from the television, yet have difficulty registering the higher-pitched sound of their wife’s voice when asking them to take out the garbage.

With the wall cavity opened up, now’s the time to make your soon-to-be renovated bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen, a little more sound proof.

A standard 2×4 wall with half-inch drywall on both sides has a STC rating of about 30. If casual conversation creates about 40 db, a standard wall assembly will somewhat muffle the room-to-room sounds of regular conversation passing through, but will do little to impede the decibel frequencies created by any loud music or television sounds.

Muffling this noise transmission, or creating a transmission loss, will mean having to slightly modify and beef up our regular wall assembly with a number of sound-absorbing products.

The easiest modification one can make to a wall assembly is the addition of Roxul Safe n’ Sound insulation. At 3.5 inches thick, the Safe n’ Sound batts conveniently fit into any 2×4 or 2×6 wall, and bump up the STC rating by 10 to 12 points. Now you’ve got a wall assembly that’ll at least muffle out most regular low sounds.

Bonus to the Safe n’ Sound’s ability to block sound, is its ability to limit the spread of flames, somewhat creating a safe room, at least for a few key minutes.

So we’ve managed to block the sound of casual conversation, now what about the clash of cymbals? That’ll be next week.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

LVT a real game-changer

Luxury vinyl tile is very durable and more importantly, it looks good. Postmedia Network

Game changer; an event, idea, or procedure that affects a significant shift in the current manner of doing or thinking about something.

Exhibit A, Otto Rohwedder’s 1928 invention of a machine that sliced bread. One, it eliminated the dreaded bread crumb situation faced every morning by toast and sandwich making mommies and daddies. And two, the procedural challenges of handling a serrated knife, with many a lopsided slice frustratingly jamming Charles Strite’s 1919 relative game changer, the pop-up toaster, became an immediate thing of the past. Otto’s bread slicing machine was so successful a tool, every invention since then is inevitable compared to it on the “greatness” scale. Now that’s a game changer.

The latest game changer in the flooring biz is a product known as LVT (luxury vinyl tile). The current manner of thinking has most executive home owners believing vinyl as a possible choice for the laundry room, second bathroom, or some area requiring the easy maintenance of a vinyl product. However, if we’re talking the kitchen, living room, front entrance, or any area to be seen by persons other than the hired help, how shameful would it have been to have your well educated and socially privileged guests walk on vinyl? That was before LVT.

What makes the LVT so desirable is its looks. Basically, it’s a really attractive looking product. And, not because it’s managed to copy hardwood or ceramic so effectively, but because it interprets the look and feel of these two natural products in its own, very attractive way. So, when you see LVT flooring, you’re not necessarily thinking, “hey, this really looks like hardwood”, but more, “hey, I really like the look of this floor”.

Now, what about hardwood flooring and ceramic tile, will LVT be forcing these two house staples into extinction? No. Hardwoods and ceramics will forever keep their appeal. The vinyl people have simply changed the game by having the likes of Sydney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, and Connor McDavid, show up to play for their keg league, Tuesday night hockey team.

Although the product would sell on looks alone, the big advantage to LVT flooring is that it’s of course made of vinyl. While hardwoods and ceramics have specific manners of pose, and limitations regarding where they can be installed in the home, along with the required substrates, the LVT’s versatility and areas of service is unlimited. So, whether weère talking above or below grade, over concrete or plywood, in the bathroom, sunroom, basement, or kitchen, there isn’t a room in the home that can’t be serviced by an LVT floor.

What about durability? Durability, or how well a floor handles the day to day activity in a home, is subjective to scrutiny. As an example, we’ve got hardwood flooring throughout the majority of our home, with ceramic tile in the entrance and bathroom areas. Sounds good, and that’s the way I would sell it. However, upon scrutiny, we actually have dented and scratched hardwood flooring throughout, with slightly discolored grout in the bathroom area as a result of twice having to replace several ceramic tiles due to cracking, while the porcelain tiles in the entrance have totally lost their sheen. That’s the reality, and what you would only find in the small print if we were selling the place.

Although varying LVT products differ, LVT floors generally carry a limited lifetime residential warranty (with limited referring to the warranty not being transferable to the next homeowner) and a 10-year commercial warranty. The fact that LVT floors carry any type of commercial warranty is huge, and attests to how scratch, dent, and water resistant this flooring really is.

Installation? LVTs don’t click together. The planks simply butt up against each other, and can be allowed to float, but are better glued down into position. So, if you’re in need of flooring, check out the LVTs, the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Goodbuilding

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

The gambler

Replace a few cracked tiles, or do the whole thing over? Our handyman gives his answer. Postmedia Network

Case #465, titled “Dealers Choice” has a Mr. Jacques Chardonnay, aka “Black Jack”, due to his propensity to lay down a few bucks at the gaming table, unsure as to where to place his next bet. At stake is the future of his ceramic kitchen floor.

Black Jack very much likes his ceramic floor, but with six to seven cracked tiles in need of replacement, the question is, does he roll the dice, and surgically remove and replace each cracked tile individually? Or, with a five-pound sledge, cover all his bets, pound the hell out of the floor, then replace the entire surface?

Jacques, a gambler, and with several spare ceramic tiles in the basement (because a good gambler always hedges his bet) he’s leaning towards the strategy of replacing the six to seven tiles, since it would would be far less intrusive to the general workings of the household, rather than having to destroy and replace about 200 pieces.

The gamble of course, or risk factor in replacing only the cracked tiles, lies in the fact his kitchen floor may inherently be compromised. In other words, if the integrity of the floor’s joist system falters as guests linger around the center island, thereby allowing for a little bounce, or the plywood used as the underlay was too thin, these newly cemented tiles may crack as easily as their predecessors. After all the effort that would be required to carefully remove, reinstall, and grout even a small number of tiles, it would be heartbreaking to watch them crack all over again.

Decision? We’re replacing only the cracked tiles. Are we carelessly throwing caution to the wind, tempting fate, or playing a game where the odds overwhelmingly favor the house? Perhaps. However, before setting these new replacement tiles in position, we’re going to tilt the odds a little more in our favor, load the dice, or mark the cards, so to speak, in order to lessen our risk of going bust.

The reason for tile failure is most likely related to the floor moving, as opposed to these tiles being simply defective. Once the cracked tiles have been removed, and before we simply mortar the new tiles in position, we’re going to re-strengthen the bond between the 5/8” plywood floor, and what’s in this case, a half-inch plywood underlay. Once standard issue, spruce plywood is no longer the preferred choice as an underlay. Plywood is strong, but it always remains somewhat flexible, which is great in most cases of general household construction, except for the case of ceramic tiled floors, which need an underlay to be inflexible and rock solid.

Today’s first choice for ceramic tile underlays include Fiberock and Durock, both fiber-cement based sheathings, or Schluter’s Kerdi matting, an orange colored, dimpled plastic.

With some of the cracked tiles sporadically spaced amongst the good tiles, and others creating only a small cluster of cracked tiles, it’ impossible in this case to replace the underlay. With the cracked tiles removed, make sure to completely remove the old mortar and grouting from the space. Because any mortar or grout residue left behind will either lessen the strength of the bond between ceramic and plywood, or interfere with how the replacement tiles lay in position, really cleaning out the space is key. Use a Shop-Vac and water dampened cloth to ensure every bit of dust is removed from the plywood underlay. Next, use 1-1/2 inch laminating screws, screwed every four inches apart, to effectively bond this weak spot in the underlay to the plywood subfloor.

Don’t use regular wood or floor screws. Floor screws work well to fasten plywood to spruce lumber, relying on their length for strength. Laminating screws have a heavier thread that runs the entire length of the shaft, and are more effective at bonding two sheets of plywood together. With this weakened area now a lot more solid, the tiling can begin. Then, we wait and see how the cards fall.

Case #465 closed. Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Ceramic surgery

When pulling up ceramic tiles, patience is key.

Today we replace the few cracked ceramic tiles in our kitchen and/or bathroom floor areas.

One of the keys to this renewal attempt will be, of course, having the available replacement tiles on hand. That’s why buying a couple of extra boxes of tiles, just in case, is good insurance against having to replace the entire room, or simply leaving things as is, both undesirable situations.

So, with our replacement tiles (either actual, or hopefully close replicas of the originals) in hand, let’s review our goal, procedural strategy, and compile a list of the necessary tools for the job.

Our goal? As always, to specifically and successfully complete the task at hand, without the careless creation of collateral damage that may incur further, unrelated type repairs or renovations to unspecified portions of the home, incurring further expense and emotional strain between you and your spouse.

Procedural strategy? As mentioned in today’s headline, this will be a surgical procedure, thereby requiring patience and pinpoint accuracy. If we were talking total tile replacement, then the headline would have been “No Holds Barred” or “Seed of Chucky Renovation Day” relating to the fact a five-pound sledge, pry-bar, and a whole lot of blood and mayhem, would have been the order of the day.

Basically, we will begin by removing the grout surrounding the tile, followed by tapping the tile lightly in order to encourage it to pop off its mortar base. Next, insert a chisel into the crack on the tile’s surface, and begin chipping away at this week point in the tile until you’ve made your way through to the plywood substrate. Once you’ve hit plywood, tap the chisel so that it wedges under a small portion of the tile, then begin to gently pry the tile upwards. Pry forward, by tilting the chisel handle upwards, instead of forcing the chisel handle down towards the floor. This way, the tile is forced up in a manner that is less threatening to the neighboring tiles.

The process of removing a tile can be painstakingly slow at first, but its necessary risk management. Damaging a perfectly good neighboring tile should you work too aggressively will be lousy, and frustrating, since you’ve now created another 30 minutes of patient, careful work for yourself. Once the tile has been broken up and removed from the space, use your chisel to pry up any remaining grout and mortar. Key point. The road to success regarding the removal of a tile starts with the removal of the grout. Because the grout connects and somewhat bonds the side of each tile to its neighbor, it needs to be completely removed. Otherwise, even the most careful prying might cause you to damage an adjoining tile should they still be connected by a bridge of grout.

Tools for this procedure? Because the removal of grout is so important, and the most technical, meticulous part of the task, I would strongly recommend you either borrow, rent, or invest in an oscillating tool. A carbide tipped utility knife could remove the grout, but you’d be hating yourself five minutes into the task. You may consider using a grinder, since it’s likely an existing weapon in your tool arsenal, but its high speed action is far too aggressive, risking you damaging adjoining tiles, while spreading a fine dust into every crack and crevice in the home. The shimmering, or vibrating action of an oscillating tool (along with the proper carbide tipped blade) will safely and effectively cut through the grout like it was butter. A three-quarter inch wood chisel and three pound mallet serve well to pry up the tiles and remove bits and pieces of grout and mortar, while a dust mask, safety glasses, knee pads, and Tylenol (taken before and after the job to ease the lower back pain) complete the cast of supporting tools.

Next week, floor prep and tile installation. Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Hardwood flooring

When it comes to hardwood flooring, know what you’re paying for. Postmedia Network

Case #502, tag name “Quick Draw” has a Mr. Bill ‘shorty’ Remington looking to purchase hardwood flooring for his newly constructed home. Shorty had seen some ‘Gunsmoke’ stained, pre-finished oak hardwood on special at the local Big Box outlet, and was wondering if we, the local family owned building supply center, could match their price by either procuring the same stuff, or finding something comparable in color and price.

The code on the product tag indicated this product was exclusive to the Big Box people, while the perspiration stains on the cardboard boxes were obviously those of exploited sweat shop workers and the under-aged, further evidence of product derived from the Orient. The advantage to having an exclusive product is that the consumer can’t really compare it, price or quality wise, with products from other retail outlets, since the “exclusive” supposedly represents, or signifies, a product only available through them. As a result, and without the information available to properly search this product’s grade ranking and origin, the buyer is left to make a decision based on this flooring’s general appearance. And, with a sales sticker overhead indicating some great, limited time offer, consumers may feel the urge to take advantage of this perceived special buy.

However, further examination of this exclusive product showed it had an uncanny resemblance to the ‘Buckshot’ series of pre-finished hardwoods, available nationally from Dodge City Distributors. So, the only thing exclusive about this hardwood flooring was the cardboard box, along with its almost undecipherable coding . . . almost. The Buckshot series of flooring is a mid-range product whose grade falls somewhere in between rustic grade flooring, which is recognizable by its color variated, knotty complexion, and select flooring, which is more uniform in color, has generally longer pieces, and no visible knots. So, this flooring could be what we call a natural grade, which is the usual tag name given to those floorings having a little bit of color variation, with only small, pin head sized knots.

But it wasn’t quite that either. To further confuse the grading issue, the planks of this Gunsmoke oak were finished with a micro-v bevel on the edges only, and not the butt ends, while the knots (although small) were filled and somewhat camouflaged with a color matched paste. The micro-v edge is a crucial feature in pre-finished flooring because the planks aren’t sanded after they’re installed. Unfinished flooring must be sanded after installation in order to smoothen the transition from plank to plank, due to the always slight variation in plank height. Otherwise, as people shuffle over the floor, slide chairs, or move furniture over top, the flooring would be subjected to chipping. Because pre-finished flooring essentially skips the post installation sanding stage, it requires a micro-v edge to smoothen the slight difference in plank height that you still get with a pre-finished product. This micro-v edge should be on all four exposed edges.

So, why was the v-edge omitted from the butt edges of these pre-finished flooring planks? Not sure. Either the grade school aged children who were given the task of v-edging couldn’t reach the router’s table top, so the task was forgotten in exchange for milk and cookie time, or the elimination of the butt edge micro-v was simply heralded as a strategic cost saving measure.

Next, paste filled knots look fine enough, but with hardwood flooring in a constant state of flux, there’s the likelihood that these fillers will become loose, exposing the knot, thereby dropping  your floor down a grade.

“So Shorty, wha da ya think?” I inquired, “I can source you the same stuff, at the same price, or you can pay an extra buck per square foot and get something you’ll really be satisfied with”, I concluded. Shorty paused for a moment, weighed the options, thought about which flooring his wife would prefer, then loaded up the wagon with the better grade.

Case #502 closed. Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

More on vinyl vs. laminate

Vinyl or laminate? Might depend on how warm you want to keep those tootsies. Postmedia Network

Still in the basement, and trying to figure out which type of click flooring, be it vinyl, or be it laminate, will work best for our application, let’s examine a few installation strategies.

Two advantages to using vinyl click flooring in the basement include the fact this product is usually 5-6mm (aprox. ¼ inch) thick, and a one-step installation process, requiring no underlay foam or vapor barrier. As a result, those persons dealing with a potentially compromised basement floor to ceiling height that could possibly put the basketball and volleyball playing enthusiasts (aka taller people) in your family at risk of concussion, having to sacrifice only about a quarter inch of ceiling height is a bonus indeed.

The only drawback to a thinner vinyl floor is that it replicates whatever it’s laid on top of. So, your vinyl click flooring may deliver a welcomed new look, but if your concrete basement floor is hard (which of course it certainly is) and cold, with maybe little wave from one side to the other, due to a not so perfect leveling job, then your vinyl floor will be adapting those not so enviable traits.

Regardless, if looks and saving an inch or so on ceiling height inevitably trump comfort, whereby all you require is a clean space for the kiddies to rough house in, or for you to put a few pieces of fitness equipment, then vinyl’s an easy choice.

Laminate floors are generally 12mm (1/2 inch in thickness) and minimally require a thin foam underlay. Two bonuses to 12mm laminates. One, they’re usually of the drop-click variety, which means the short edge of the plank simply lays into the adjoining butt edge, which makes for an easy install. Although vinyl flooring uses the click technology, the tongue edges usually need to be worked, or coaxed, into the groove of the adjoining planks in order to ensure a snug fit. This process can be somewhat frustrating to the first time poser, since simultaneously coaxing the clicking edges of both the long and short side of a vinyl plank into position, can be akin to coaxing a cat out of a tree. If profanity, threats, and the throwing of something nearby result, accept these actions as a sign of the installer needing to step back and reassess the situation.

Installing vinyl plank flooring involves the following. Basically, with the plank to be installed set closely beside the existing row of flooring, tip the short edge of the plank into the groove of previously laid piece. Then, reach over to the far edge of the long side of the plank being installed, lift up this edge to about a 30 degree angle, and begin to click into position this far end, slowly working your way towards the short side joint. Moments after securing this long edge, the short side of the plank inevitably de-clips slightly. Without a wingspan somewhat close to the Wandering albatross (measuring 8-11 feet across) you’ll be hard pressed to stretch yourself into the position of having to manipulate both edges of the plank. This element of body physics, combined with your knees starting to go numb due to the pain of being pinned in this crouched position for some time now, is what gets most people frustrated.

Regardless, once you get the hang of things (be sure to YouTube ‘installing vinyl click flooring’ for some viewing tips) the coaxing, manipulation, and the occasional use of a tapping block, will have you laying this floor down in no time. The second bonus to laminates is that due to the various choices in underlayment materials, these wood based composites tend to be a little warmer underfoot, while having slightly more bounce or forgiveness in the way the floor compresses. As a result, laminates are inevitably a little more comfortable to walk on if slippers or sandals aren’t already a standard in the home.

Next week, choosing the proper extension ladder for de-treeing your housecat. Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Battle for the basement

Most laminates today look very authentic and are used as basement floors. Postmedia Network

Today’s “battle for the basement” topic, just to be clear, has nothing to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs annual failure to make the NHL playoffs, and their inevitable plunge into the depths of hockey misery, all in the hope of picking up some highly-touted draft choice.

More dealing with the retail side of things, today’s subject examines the battle for basement floor supremacy between the industry’s two most favoured basement floor products, those being traditional composite (wood fiber) laminates and vinyl plank flooring.

When composite laminate flooring first hit the market 25 years ago, the task of laying it down was a horrible process. Not only did every plank need to be glued around the edges, but once fitted together, they had to be weighted down, then clamped with ratchet straps that would extend the full width of the room. Talk about a process.

Regardless, it was still a do-it-yourself, achievable project that certainly took less expertise than having to lay carpet or linoleum flooring. Those early glued laminates led to snap, or tap n’ click laminates, otherwise known as the age of chips, since connecting the laminate planks required a rather firm, and relatively violent blow, to effectively jamb a boards tongue into the receiving boards groove. Then came click flooring, followed by today’s drop click, compiling an innovative 20-year engineering journey that effectively made the traditional laminate floor installation process a whole lot friendlier.

And, now that the composite people have finally got things right, in come the vinyl plank folks. Having basically adopted the laminate click technology, vinyl clicks are seriously challenging the composite laminates for market share, and are definitely trending as the product of choice for today’s generation of shoppers. All good for the consumer, I suppose, since the friendly click system of installing a floor now includes a very versatile vinyl product.

So, how does the consumer choose one click product over the other? Well, let’s examine the attributes of the new vinyl clicks, and see how they compare with our traditional laminates.

The competitive edge that vinyl has over its fellow manufacturers, whether it be composite flooring, wood siding, ceramic, or basically any natural product, is that it’s a great imitator. Basically, vinyl can be molded, coloured, and imprinted, to look pretty much like anything. And, it can achieve this metamorphosis, or copy of the real thing, for a fraction of the cost of the original product.

Now, will vinyl perfectly match what it’s duplicating? Perfectly, no, but darn close. And, when you consider the vinyl alternative to slate or ceramic will never crack, while the real stuff almost always does, eventually, vinyl suddenly becomes a real good value. A further advantage is that while vinyl can be made to look like wood planking, slate, or ceramic tile, it still installs with the ease of vinyl, which is either by click form, or in some cases, a simple glue down application. What also makes vinyl flooring attractive to a person finishing their basement, is the fact that it’s extremely water resistant, or water impermeable.

I don’t like to use the term “waterproof”, even though the product is somewhat marketed that way, because the word “proof” is a little too encompassing. Sure, vinyl planking will handle spills and mop up easily. However, if you were to have a flood, or sewer backup, I’m not sure if most of us would be willing to dismantle the floor, clean each plank piece by piece, then spread it out on the back deck, or hang it out on the clothesline to dry, in order to salvage it.

Although composite laminates are available in a variety of thicknesses, the 12 mil (1/2 inch thick) v-edge product is what I would recommend. Looks good, assembles easily, and although limited in colour choices, 12 mil laminates are half the price of vinyl flooring, making them still a great value for your basement floor.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard