A River-ton Runs Through It

A few of you wanted to check in on our progress in our flooring addition (no, it’s not done yet). As much as I’d love to show a finished product, unfortunately, it’s a lengthier process than I thought, especially as we’re trying to extended the flooring into multiple rooms.

As a reminder, here’s where we left off after working on the ceilings and walls:

 
As you can see, all our dark wood baseboards have been removed to permit our flooring lay; this was actually a lot simpler than we thought it might be. Since we’re trying to recycle as much of the original baseboard trim as possible, we were worried that any ripping from the wall would completely destroy that goal.
 
Rest assured, if you plan on refinishing your baseboards, removing them from your existing drywall is snap, or rather a pry. You’ll need the standard safety gear, a crowbar, hammer, putty knife, and a drywall protection block. If you don’t have a flat tapping block to use, a makeshit one can be made from a scrap piece of wood or you can do like I did and tape two paint-stir sticks together (worked like a champ).
 
 
I started on the ends of each trim piece (near a corner or entryway) to make sure the trim was only being pulled from one direction as opposed to stress from both sides (like a bow). I tapped the putty knife into place, and then placed the protection block and crowbar into the now-created gap, and pulled up on the crowbar (into the protection block). The ends make take a little fenagling, but overall, the baseboards should come out very easily with continuous smooth tension.
 
 
At first, you might only get a little separation between the trim and the wall, but keep working down the baseboard line, and you’ll eventually give the board enough slack to come loose. Once you have one end loose, keep working down the line of that particular baseboard until you near the next corner or overlapping connection. I made a conscious effort to not pull on the baseboard itself; rather, use the crowbar to create separation, and wiggle the board loose once you have completed the line.
 
Once all the baseboards were removed, I set each piece aside to be resanded and repainted later. We finished our wall painting down to the base of the drywall, cleaned up the debris, and set to work to lay down our first line of flooring. 
 
Like I’ve mentioned previously, my Type-A personality gets me in trouble sometimes, and would probably end in a heart attack some day if I didn’t have my lovely wife to keep me in check. Flooring so far has been a combination of precision, art, and ingenuity. Here’s what we’ve accomplished so far:
 
Step 1 (The Prep Stage): Clear the area of all debris, or as much as you can with a older concrete slab. If you haven’t yet, bring your wood indoors to the room you’ll be installing it and let it acclimate for 24-48 hours. Try not to punch yourself for forgetting this and further delaying your install. This will allow the wood to shrink/expand given the humidity and relative temperature of the room.
 
To prevent multiple trips to your hardware store, ensure you have a list of all the tools you’ll need: safety gear, the wood, underlayment, T&G glue, small hammer, tapping block, expansion gap spacers, painter’s tape, duck tape, tape measure, pencil, miter saw for size cuts, jig saw for cuts around piping, walls, etc., and a table saw for length-wise cuts.
 
Step 2 (Create a Gameplan): We needed to figure out how to lay the floor with respect to the room, and determine a scatter to prevent any wierd patterns (H-gaps, lightning bolts/stair step, straight lines). Figure out a good way to use your cuts to minimize waste. When we started our first line, I didn’t think much about this, but then realized that the “remainder” of each line couldn’t be used for follow-on lines without some pre-planning. Using a little math, here’s what I determined:
 
If I started the line with a full 48″ piece, I would have a 23″ gap to fill when I reached the other side of the wall (specific to this room). By making a cut to create that 23″ piece, I would have a 25″ piece to be used for the 2nd row. If I used that 25″ piece on the 2nd row, I would have a 46″ gap when I finished that particular row. I realized without really thinking out each set of rows, I would be creating a lot of waste, because I would have to keep these cuts going until I got to a point where I have a bunch of odd-length remainder pieces that I might not fit a particular setup; I also needed to consider where our gaps would fall.
 
The rule of thumb is to have your adjacent gaps separated by 2x the width of your flooring, so for our house, 10″ separation between gaps.
 
Back to the drawing board! I figured out a system that would allow me to reduce my waste to 2″ of hardwood for every two rows layed (that’s not bad considering you should have an approximate 5% waste factor for the house if you’re a pro). If I was able to carry that reduction through the whole room, I would end up losing a little less than two boards worth of wood in scrap; even though I hate to waste our supplies, that was something I could live with.
 
Determining where each first plank gap should reside took a more artistic eye; I enlisted Ines’ help to figure out a good place to start the next row so that the finished product would have a non-repeating pattern in it.
 
Lost yet? Yeah, I spent a whole sleepless night googling how to best lay out our flooring to reduce waste; I found it incredible that it’s not mentioned anywhere how to figure out an arrangement that will reduce the number of cuts, or what to do with remainder cuts, and further, reduce the amount of wasted hardwood. You might be thinking, why not just keep your remainder until you don’t have any left? The problem is, tongue-and-groove planks only allow for two cuts before you create an unusable scrap piece, shown below:
 
 
 
 
I limited my cuts to one per row with a 2″ waste; here’s the “work” my brain spit out on paper:
 
Luckily, by using this pattern, I had a slew of viable cuts to choose from (i.e. 1st row X = 13″, Y = 10″, 2nd row cuts from left to right are 38″ – 2″ for waste and 25″). All we had to do from then on was figure out where to lay the first plank as to create the “random” look between gaps.

 
Step 3 (Snap a Line): any installer will tell you that a straight line reference is the most important part of laying flooring. What they don’t tell you is the difficulty in snapping a line when you have a concrete floor with underlayment on top. We gave the chalk line snapping our best attempt using a Bostitch line and orange chalk, but I’m not sure it provided the reference we were looking for. In hindsight, I think it would be best to snap the chalk to the concrete, and then attempt to match the underlayment line to the chalk, or just short of it so that you can line up the actual flooring.
 
Step 4 (Underlayment): we used a Bellawood Premium underlayment provided to us by Lumber Liquidators; it comes in rolls of about 40′, and has a overlapping tape strip to connect the rolled out lengths together (not the easiet thing to do). We layed down our first length, cut the underlayment to size, and used some heavy objects to hold the underlayment in place until our first strip of flooring was installed (eventually, the wood will be heavy enough that it will hold the underlayment down on its own). To connect lengths of underlayment together, we rolled out the 2nd row, butted the ends together, removed the film from the tacky strip, and overlapped the film from the previous row on top of the tacky strip.
 
Step 5 (Install the floors, finally): we installed the flooring with the tongue and groove section pointing “into” the room (e.g. the grooves against the starting wall). We layed our first piece into the corner of the room, using black plastic spacers to create the required 1/4″ expansion gap for wood growth/shrinking. To continue the row, we ran a bead of glue on the top of the tongue from the previous piece, and a bead on the bottom of the groove for the current piece. Then, we slid the groove portion onto the tongue and used a tapping block to remove any gaps. Once we felt that the gaps were removed (as much as possible), we used painter’s tape to hold the pieces together to cure; the recommended cure time is 48-72 hours. When you reach the end of a row, you can use a end-wall tap to create leverage for your tapping hammer.
 
Here’s our first row, woohoo!
 

 
And our progress after day #2:
 
 
We let the first set of rows cure for 72 hours before removing the painter’s tape.
 
Our next obstacle is figuring out the measurements to carry the wood into the dining room and still reduce the number of cuts; also, how we’ll cut the wood around the entry way (I think I’m going to use a jigsaw to make a cut to hug the wall and still leave a 1/4″ gap). For now, we’re at a bit of a standstill because numb-nutz (Mr. Manship) forgot to bring in more boxes to let them acclimate to the room, URG!
 
Until then, we’re using the time to finish up some of our planting (outside), and a few other projects around the house. Stay tuned for more!