It sounds like it could be a relatively simple process with a big payoff, especially if you’re just doing one room rather than your entire house. We sought advice from Chuck Khiel, senior vice president of Fred home improvement at Bethesda; and Annie Elliott, owner of Design Annie Elliott in Washington. Both responded via email and their responses have been edited.
What are the biggest mistakes homeowners make when trying to DIY new flooring?
Khiel: One of the biggest mistakes made by the owners is not to think the project through to the end. They don’t have the right tools or knowledge to get the job done. Or something is going on with the floor that they didn’t take into account and they find themselves stuck not knowing what to do.
What types of flooring are the easiest to work with? What are the best ones to avoid for a DIY?
Khiel: Deluxe vinyl snap lock or click lock floor are quite easy to install. Tiled floors are the best to avoid. Too many things can go wrong.
Does the type of floor depend on the room? What else goes into choosing the right DIY flooring?
Khiel: The types of flooring may depend on the use of the room, but the size of the room does not matter. Certainly, things like maintenance should come into play when considering the use of the room. Another factor is durability. Some floors are more resistant than others to the claws of pets and children’s toys.
Elliot: Offices need tightly woven rugs or carpeting so that chairs can roll over them easily. The carpet is great, but it’s a commitment. Carpet tiles are a fantastic alternative. They aren’t cheap, but you can install them yourself, they don’t damage the floor, and you can replace individual tiles if they get stained.
I installed the FLOR “Fedora” tiles myself in my office, and I love them. The office was already furnished, so my method was to move the furniture to one corner and start tiling it, then once I had a few rows I moved the furniture to that part and continued. The great thing about carpet tiles is that you can install them almost wall to wall without a lot of cutting. I laid the floor tiles straight, starting about an inch from the wall, but since the walls are crooked, sometimes an inch of floor is revealed, sometimes half an inch, sometimes two inches, but it looks great – very intentional – and I didn’t have to cut every tile to fit the wall perfectly.
Some people are reluctant to install hardwood floors in kitchens. Do not be! First, if the rest of the house has hardwood floors, continuing them into the kitchen provides nice continuity. Second, an average stain shows no crumbs or spills – you’ll get clean eventually, but your kitchen won’t look awful until then. (Dirt practically shines on white or light floors, and dark floors show every speck of dust.) And third, a glass or plate will have a chance of surviving if you drop it on a wooden floor. If your floor is ceramic tile, forget it.
What tools do you need to install new flooring?
Khiel: The type of tools needed directly depends on the type of flooring to be installed. Luxury vinyl floors may only need a knife and tape measure. Tiled floors may require a wet saw, grinder and trowels. You may need more than one type of saw to install wood floors.
How to be sure to measure correctly?
Khiel: Typically, you measure the length times the width to get the square footage, then add 10%. Tiles, depending on the pattern, may require the addition of 20% (for diagonal patterns).
Do you have any other tips for improving your flooring?
Khiel: I know you can learn a lot on YouTube, but some floor installations just require someone with certain skills to keep the project running smoothly. For a DIY flooring project, you really need to consider the ins and outs, as best you can, before attempting the project.
Elliot: If you have a 60-year-old house with original wood floors, chances are you can’t redo it: the floors have probably been sanded so many times that the nail heads are showing. If you don’t want to replace it, painting the floor is a viable option. I was completely charmed when I walked into a house with a checkerboard painted floor: dark green and the original natural wood, with an all-over polyurethane coating.
Painting the floor a single color is also an option, of course, and it’s a much easier project to do. White, light gray and light blue are fantastic color options for a country house or an informal space. Super dark blue or dark green floors create a more formal look, but I can’t lie: painted floors won’t look as formal as stained wood – unless your home is in Colonial Williamsburg, California. is to say. The painted floors look quite refined.