What kind of flooring can be installed over in floor radiant heating?

Young happy smiling woman lying with laptop on carpet over radiant in floor heatingIt’s the gift that just keeps giving: warm in floor radiant floor heating.  Just ask anyone who has in floor heating in their home and they’ll tell you how wonderful it is to have a warm floor underfoot (especially during winter!)  If you decide that radiant floor heating is an affordable luxury you want in your home, you have two options.  If you use a boiler to heat your home, radiant heating can be installed with your hydronic heating. For a home without a boiler, an electric mat can be purchased and installed under these kinds of flooring:

Carpet

If you really want to combine warmth and softness, let the sales associates at the flooring station know when you order the carpet.  They can recommend the ideal carpet pad that ensures you can feel the warmth from the in floor heating through the pad.

Laminate

Wood flooring is not an ideal product to install over in floor heating, but laminate is the next best thing.  Because laminate is a floating floor, it’s easy to install over radiant floor heating.  And with the look of wood or stone, laminate flooring gives you the look you want and the warmth from your in floor heating.

Tile

Tile is one of the most popular floors to install over in floor radiant heating.  It’s easy to see why: without radiant floor heating, tile can be cold to the feet.  With in floor heating underneath, tiles conduct the heat from a radiant floor heating system and look great.

Engineered hardwood

Engineered hardwood floors differ from wood floors in construction; engineered wood floors are manufactured in layers, making some products suitable for installing over in floor heating. To find out what engineered hardwood products would work, ask an expert at your flooring store to point out what products give you warmth and beauty.

6 Last Minute Preps that Get Your Home Ready for Thanksgiving

family making last minute preparations for ThanksgivingThere are a lot of tips floating around about getting your home ready for the holidays, but when the clock’s ticking down, tips like “start early” don’t really count.  If you’re up against the clock, use these (fast) tips to get ready for your family Thanksgiving.

Finish your home projects.

If you’ve started home projects (like a beautiful laminate accent wall), now is the time to get it done so your guests aren’t wading through the dust during the holidays.  Stop in for any last minute supplies you need so you can get your project completed and wow your guests over the holidays.

Make a plan.

Don’t get so frantic about getting ready for Thanksgiving that you don’t take the time to make a plan.  Make a list of tasks that need to be done, and designate tasks to family members or cleaners that you bring in for the occasion.  For your plan for the day of, make sure your list includes time for prepping and cooking your dishes.  You don’t want ornery guests waiting for dinner because you were too busy cleaning.

Abandon areas of your home that don’t count.

Devote your cleaning efforts to areas of your home where your guests are going to be.  We know it’s tempting but if your guests won’t be in your basement or closets, let them be. Move on to areas where your guests are going to be hanging out and eating.  Save any other projects for after the holidays when you don’t have the clocking ticking down.

Have fans ready.

When you clean your laminate or wood floors, don’t leave puddles for the safety of your guests and for the good of your floors (more tips for wood floor cleaning here).  Use fans to make sure your floors dry completely so you don’t end up with water damage.  After you get your floors dry and ready, keep a rag on hand over the holidays so you can clean up any spills.

Don’t clean your floors  (or anything) without testing.

Holiday cleaning—even rushed holiday cleaning—is not the time for experimenting.  If you’ve never used a certain cleaner before, go back to what you know or visit your local store for cleaning advice.  Using unproven cleaners can damage your floors, counters, and surfaces and even void the warranty of your floors.  No matter how much you want a perfect clean, it’s not worth it if you end up with damage that costs more to fix.

Carry your cleaning supplies with you.

Once you have your list, gather up all your cleaners and cleaning supplies and put them in a container that you can carry with you.  This simple step keeps you from wasting time running all over the house looking for your next cleaner or paper towel.  Best yet, carrying your cleaners allows you to make fast and short work of your holiday prep—and move you forward to enjoying the holidays with your guests.

50+ Tips that Get Your Home Ready for Thanksgiving (& Complete Home Cleaning Checklist!)

dining room with four chairs ready for ThanksgivingThe clock is ticking until Thanksgiving, which means your time to get ready for another Thanksgiving meal with your family and friends is getting smaller as well.  To make sure your home is ready in time, we’ve compiled a checklist of 50 cleaning tips that’ll help you ready you and your home ready (especially your floors!) for the big day.

Preventative

  1. Use a list (like this one!) so you can efficiently get all your Thanksgiving preparation done.
  2. Start early with deep cleaning tasks so your pre-Thanksgiving cleaning is not frenzied chaos.
  3. Plan your Thanksgiving meal carefully so you don’t have to run out for last minute ingredients (leaves you more time for last-minute cleaning).
  4. Compile all your cleaning supplies into a basket so you don’t have to keep running back for cleaners and supplies (it’s more efficient and faster!).
  5. Set an alarm or timer so you are attending to the Thanksgiving meal as you do last minute cleaning (you don’t want your guests to wait for dinner).
  6. Set time aside to finish any DIY projects so your guests’ don’t notice the dust.
  7. Clean your pets’ paws off at the door so they don’t track mud in.
  8. Put down rugs by all doors to keep gravel, mud, and snow outside.
  9. Sweep your floors daily to get rid of the debris that gets tracked in and prevent damage.
  10. Ask your local flooring store about cleaners BEFORE you mop your floors; they can look up approved cleaners so you don’t void the warranty.

Entryway

  1. Clean your front door windows.
  2. Wipe down your door.
  3. Clean any light fixtures.
  4. Dust any entryway or foyer furniture.

Carpet

  1. Vacuum before you carpet clean your floors.
  2. Soak up the stain first before you clean.
  3. Blot at the stain; don’t scrub or twist carpet fibers when you clean carpet stains.
  4. Schedule a professional deep carpet cleaning shortly before Thanksgiving to avoid staining the carpets after the cleaning.

Bedrooms

  1. Wash windows.
  2. Pick up your floors.
  3. Wash your bed sheets well in advance.

Wood floors

  1. Thoroughly wring out your mop to avoid puddles on the floor.
  2. Be VERY careful when using a steam cleaner on your wood floors, or don’t use one at all (this could affect the warranty on your floor).
  3. Only use approved cleaners on your wood floors for a deep hardwood clean (avoid vinegar and ammonia cleaners and follow these other hardwood cleaning tips).
  4. Make sure your floor is completely dry (use fans if necessary).

Bathrooms

  1. Scrub your tub and shower stall.
  2. Clean your bathroom door or wash your shower curtain.
  3. Wash any windows.
  4. Clean your toilets.
  5. Wipe down your counters.
  6. Clean any light fixtures.
  7. Wash your mirrors.

Kitchen

  1. Wipe down your cabinets.
  2. Wash backsplash.
  3. Clean the top of your cabinets.
  4. Wash the walls behind your appliances.
  5. Clean the floor under your appliances.
  6. Wipe down your counter tops.
  7. Clean off light fixtures.
  8. Wash windows.

Dining room

  1. Dust any cabinets and shelves.
  2. Clean the table.
  3. Wipe down the chairs.
  4. Add felt pads to all your chairs, table legs, and furniture to avoid scratches on hard flooring.
  5. Put felt tips on all your folding chairs so they don’t damage your floors.
  6. Set the table.

Tile floors

  1. Scrub your grout with an approved cleaner.
  2. Mop your tile floors regularly.

Laminate floors

  1. Do not use water (or excessive water, depending on your floor cleaner directions) to clean your floors (standing water can damage laminate floors).
  2. Use a soft padded mop and approved cleaner to give your floors a deep clean.
  3. Don’t use a steam cleaner on your laminate floors (this could affect the warranty and damage the floor).
  4. Make sure your floors are completely dry (use fans if necessary).

Living areas

  1. Dust shelves, cabinets, and tables.
  2. Clean off fireplace mantels and tile.
  3. Dust the top of frames and clean picture glass.
  4. Wash windows.

DIY Laminate Flooring Installation Tips That Guarantee a Perfect Project

home design trend laminate flooring on wall

Courtesy Armstrong Floors

Whether installing laminate on your floor or wall (don’t doubt us, it’s a beautiful accent!), there are a few important things to know to get your DIY flooring project ‘before’ to the ‘after’ photos you see on the internet—and to get there with less DIY stress.

Buy in bulk

It seems that every project is prone to unexpected surprises; buy extra flooring and supplies for those ‘just in case’ situations (you can also get a discount if you buy in bulk).  If you end up short (as some of our customers do-we’ve helped many frantic customers), don’t be afraid to go back for more flooring during the project.

Acclimate your flooring

Before you install your flooring and to make sure you don’t end up with damaged planks, bring your flooring into the room where you want to install it.  Let the box of flooring sit in the room for a few days before your project is set to start.

Plan for disposal in advance

accent wall done with laminate flooring

Courtesy Armstrong Flooring

If you are removing flooring or paneling, plan for your method of disposal.  If you are working in a big room, you may need to rent a dumpster or have boxes on hand to handle the load (or loads).  For a wall project, test out wallpaper removal before you start your project.  You may need extra supplies to get wallpaper and the wallpaper glue off the wall.

Prep your surface thoroughly

Before you start your project, make sure your sub-floor or surface is clean.  Don’t install laminate on a sloping wall, or a surface with existing wallpaper or paneling.  Thoroughly vacuum the area, and make sure your surface is level.  If you are adding a floating floor that runs between rooms, compare the sub-floor in the two rooms and level the surface.

Ask for advice

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice about your DIY flooring project at your local flooring store.  After all, they assist customers every day with purchasing and installing new flooring.  They can give you information about purchasing the right product and supplies (i.e. saw, nails, etc.) and give you tips that help make your project smoother and look fantastic.

5 Tips for Deep Cleaning Your Hardwood Floors

warm wood floors in home that need deep cleanThere are a million different tips on the internet about deep cleaning hardwood floors: use ammonia and water, don’t clean with ammonia cleaner, combine vinegar and water, only use water.  Really, the basic steps of deep cleaning hardwood floors is pretty uniform:

  1. Sweep and vacuum wood floor.
  2. Mop wood floors (don’t leave excess water on the floor).
  3. Rinse floor if recommended on cleaning product.
  4. Make sure wood floor dries.

The basics steps for deep cleaning your wood floors sounds simple, but as you can tell from those websites, advice is all over the board (and not always for the best).  That’s why it’s best to ask the experts (us, not the internet chat rooms) for tips that’ll get your wood floors clean and keep them looking as good as the day they were installed.

Sweep and vacuum thoroughly

The first step in cleaning your wood floors is a thorough sweep to get rid of all the dirt and grime.  Back up your sweep with a vacuum (or a vacuum cleaner attachment) to pick up any small stones, gravel, or debris so your floor is completely clear for your deep cleaning.

Only use hardwood cleaners

As tempting as it may be to buy a simple household cleaning product like ammonia or vinegar at the grocery store and dilute it in water, think twice.  Vinegar can damage the finish on your floors, leaving your floor looking dull.  Instead, ask the experts (who actually install and deal with wood floors regularly) for recommendations for hardwood cleaners that get your floor clean and won’t void the floor warranty.  Once you have your cleaner, follow the directions and start to mop your floors.    

Thoroughly wring out the mop

This is very IMPORTANT: don’t leave puddles as you mop.  Wring as much water out of the mop as possible, and apply it to your floor.  If your floor is incredibly dirty, such as a floor that hasn’t been cleaned in awhile or in a home that was previously vacant, you may need to get on your hands and knees with a soft cloth (or hire someone who can deep clean your floor).

Make sure your floor dry.

If the weather is very humid (like during one of our hot summer days), use fans to dry your floors out.  Water is a wood floor’s worst enemy, and can cause warping, buckling, and staining that can permanently damage your floor.

Ask for help when removing marks on the floor

Before you tackle those scuff marks and stains, ask your local flooring experts for tips on removing marks and stains so you can avoid scratching or damaging your wood floor.  A little bit of research now can benefit you in the long run, especially when you’re enjoying your beautiful wood floor.

When should I get my carpets cleaned? Why should I clean my carpets?

How often should I clean my carpets?

clean off white carpet after a professional carpet cleaningWe know this is the answer you don’t want to hear because it’s not a definite number, but the general rule is that carpets should be cleaned every 12-18 months—more often if you have kids or pets.  If you do, your carpets should be cleaned more often, but not with that rent-a-cleaner you can get at the local hardware store.

As convenient as a rental carpet cleaner is (and as great as it is for emergency stains), consider investing in a professional carpet cleaning to get maximum results.  Professional carpet cleaning gives your carpets a deep clean that those rent-a-cleaners only dream of (and with a clean machine and water), and with better cleaning products—and natural ones if you contact a real pro.

Why should I give my carpets a good carpet cleaning?

While it’s easy to think about carpet cleaning after a pet accident, spill, or, in the case of one of our clients, a paint spill on her new area rug, a thorough deep carpet cleaning can have benefits beyond an emergency clean-up.

Allergen Removal

Vacuuming is a great first step in your fight to remove allergens, but it only keeps allergens like dust, pet dander, dust mites and mold spores at bay—and it may not remove every allergen (even if you used our tips for keeping allergies away and buy an allergy-friendly vacuum). Think of vacuuming as the battle, and carpet cleaning as the winner of the war.  Schedule a professional carpet cleaning to remove the allergens all the way down to the pad.

Warranty

Once you’ve invested in a new carpet, it’s time to move on to the next step: taking care of your new carpet.  Many carpet manufacturers even require you to take care of it by scheduling a regular professional carpet cleaning for the warranty.  When, and how often, those carpet cleanings occur depends on the manufacturer’s specifications.

Pet Stain (& Odor) Removal

Once puppy training is done—and there is an end in sight (don’t worry dog owners!)—or while you’re still in the process of house training, scheduling a professional carpet cleaning can remove the stain and any odors from puppy accidents.  Removing odors is important not just for your nose, but also for your puppy’s because puppies often pee or soil in the same spot—which they can smell, even if you can’t smell or see it.

Resale Value

If you don’t carpet clean your carpets, three scenarios could arise if your carpets are stained: 1) you may have to carpet clean the carpets anyway; 2) the home owners could request a lower price to accommodate the cost of new flooring; or 3) your home may not sell because of the “gross” carpets.  Needless to say, scheduling a professional carpet cleaning puts your home’s best foot forward—and can add dollar to your sale price.

Easy Entertaining/Holiday Clean

Whether before or after your family holiday or night of entertaining, a professional carpet clean can bring new life to your home and carpets.  If someone spilled on your brand new carpets or you need to cover up your latest carpet stain, schedule a carpet cleaning to get your home ready—or back in shape after your party.

Best Flooring Options for Your Dining Room

dining room floor with chair, table, and tile flooringIt took only a few months with a new baby in a high chair to realize that the previous owner’s choice of white carpet under our dining room table was not going to work with a growing family.  If you’re in the same boat, or thinking ahead before your next big family holiday meal (you know, with everyone gathered around the Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter dinner), choosing the right flooring for your dining room is more than just bringing home the right sample that looks good with your wall color.

The right dining room floor can handle everything life can throw at it: water, food, foot traffic, pets begging at the diners’ feet.  After all that, the dining room floor needs to be easy-to-clean from food and drink spills, and resilient enough so you aren’t still seeing the stains from an accidental spill.  The good news is that there are several dining room flooring options that meet the criteria.

Wood

Solid wood flooring and engineered hardwood floors are both ideal for dining rooms. They’re beautiful, easy to clean, and incredibly durable—as long as you clean up any water spills as soon as possible.  If you want a soft feel under your feet while you eat, get a custom-made, spill-proof rug to go under your table.  A custom-made rug gives you the option of choosing the right pattern and size that fits perfectly around your table.  Talk to the professionals at your local flooring shop for options and any precautions you need to take to keep your wood floor in great shape (i.e. protection under the rug, etc.)

Laminate

kitchen and dining room with island, table, and laminate floorsLaminate floors have come a long way over the years; today’s laminate flooring is so realistic many people can’t tell the difference between laminate and real wood flooring.  Laminate floors come with the same disclaimer as wood floors; you do need to clean up water spills as soon as possible to prevent damage, but they are durable enough to handle heavy foot and pet traffic and easy-to-clean in case of accidental spills.  Laminate floors are a floating floor, meaning they can be tackled as a homeowner do-it-yourself project.

Tile

We’ve wrote about the benefits of porcelain tile in the past: it’s durable, water resistant, and easy-to clean.  Today’s tiles also come in long, rectangular slats that are stunning; some porcelain tile products even have the look of wood.  The one disadvantage of tile is t820_vp02_00-1000x731the cool feel under your feet when the temperature drops.  This problem can be resolved with radiant heating, which can be naturally conducted through porcelain tile.

Luxury Vinyl

Luxury vinyl is one of the newest products on the market, and for good reason.  New luxury vinyl products have the look of wood or tile, are incredibly durable, and some products that come in slats can be an easy DIY home project.  For more information about luxury vinyl, stop in at your local flooring store (or send them a message) to find out more about this dining room flooring option.

Best Entryway Flooring Options for Your Home

tile flooring in entryway with front table and lampEntryway. Foyer. Front hall. Whatever you call the main entryway into your home, we call it the front line of defense against all the dirt, gravel, sand, water, snow (that’s right, our famous Wisconsin snow!) and everything else tracked in through your front door.  It’s also the first room of your home your guests see, making it vital to find the best entryway flooring that can be beautiful and handle everything that comes in with your family and friends (the good news: there are ways to protect your floors, read here).

Porcelain Tile

Pros: Porcelain tile is durable and water, odor and mildew resistant—two BIG reasons to put porcelain tile in your entry way. The tile also comes in many different colors and looks, giving you a ton of beautiful flooring options for your entryway.  Porcelain tile comes in stone and wood designs, and in a million different colors that coordinate with your home.

Cons: Porcelain tile can feel very cold under your feet when the temperatures drop.  If you’re worried about the cold feeling of this tile, you can install radiant heating underneath and enjoy toasty toes even on the coldest Wisconsin days.

Wood

warm wood floors in entryway of homePros: Wood floors are incredibly durable—just look at the wood floors in a historic home.  Wood floors can last for years and handle heavy foot (and paw) traffic.  Hardwood floors can also be sanded down and refinished, making it a long-term flooring option for your home.

Cons:  Wood floors cost more than other flooring options, and are more susceptible to water damage.  If you do install wood floors in your entryway, make sure you use rugs and these tips to keep your wood floors looking new.

Laminate

Pros: Laminate floors have the beautiful look of wood, but are more affordable than their wood flooring counterpart.  They are also durable, easy-to-clean, and can handle everything that gets tracked in.

luxury vinyl flooring that looks like woodCons: Laminate floors have the same weakness to water as wood flooring.  To keep them looking great, use the same wood flooring tips and be ready to clean up water.

Luxury Vinyl

Pros: Some of the newest vinyl products could fool even the most hard-core hardwood admirer. Whether your preference is stone or hardwood, these tiles can mimic both styles with colors that floor everyone who enters your home. Vinyl is also durable and soil and stain resistant, perfect for the room that takes the brunt of the elements on a regular basis. There’s another bonus: some luxury vinyl floors come in planks, which make it a good DIY project for any handyman.

Cons: Luxury Vinyl flooring can be one of the more expensive options.  To find out more about luxury vinyl floors, stop in or contact the flooring pros to find out more about luxury vinyl flooring products.

Vinyl Sheet

Pros: Vinyl sheet flooring is very durable and budget friendly, perfect for your front entryway. It comes in a variety of patterns and colors, making it easy on the eyes and easy to clean.

Cons: Vinyl sheet floors can be scratched if you’re not careful.

If you want to see samples of floors perfect for your entryway, or want to know what works in other homes in your area, head into a local flooring store or contact them for more information.  They can suggest flooring products that’ll wow your guests and impress you with their durability.

4 Cleaning Tasks to Add to Your Fall To-Do List

Couple raking up lawn autumn leavesNow that Labor Day is done, we can start using the ‘fall’ word. After all, apple orchards are opening, trees are starting to turn beautiful autumn colors, and kids are heading back to school.  Fall also brings a fall maintenance checklist for homeowners, who are trying to get their homes ready for winter with HVAC maintenance, pressure washing the exterior or your home, winterizing your lawn mower—you know the standard fall maintenance list.

If you’re one of those homeowners, consider going the extra mile by adding these to-do’s to your fall maintenance list so you and your home are set for all that winter is going to throw at it—and its residents.

Carpet cleaning

There are three reasons to schedule a carpet cleaning during autumn; if you have allergies or other respiratory issues, make that schedule a carpet cleaning as soon as possible.  A professional deep carpet clean can rid your carpet of allergens and dirt, which can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms (especially during winter when we’re all trapped inside).

Another reason to add carpet cleaning to your list is to keep your carpets looking new—and to ready your home for all the snow and mud that’s going to get tracked in over the winter months.  If you schedule your carpet cleaning during fall, you can still open your windows during the carpet cleaning (while the weather’s still okay!).

Fireplace & stove inspection and clean up

Before you start cuddling up to that warm fire on a cold and windy day, have your fireplace or stove chimney inspected and cleaned—for both a gas and wood-burning fireplace and stove.  A professional can inspect the chimney for build-up, check the firebox to make sure it is safe, examine all lines and structure, and give your fireplace, stove, and chimney a full clean.   A pro can make sure that your chimney is clean and safe for all your winter fires.

Duct cleaning

We’ve seen studies that estimate Americans spend as much as 90% of their time indoors—especially during winter.  If you have allergies, you know that indoor allergy symptoms are often caused and exacerbated by the most common indoor allergens: dust mites, pet dander, mold. All of those allergens re-circulate though our air ducts every time you turn on your furnace. To avoid sneezing, wheezing, and all those other annoying indoor allergy symptoms, add a professional duct cleaning to your fall maintenance list.  One call (or email) to a professional duct cleaning company can clean your ducts of all those allergens, making your time indoors this winter allergen-free (or at least, less allergen).

Smoke & carbon monoxide detector inspection

This addition to your fall maintenance checklist is one that you can perform yourself—and it’s easy to do.  Clean the area around your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and test the detectors to make sure they still work.  As long as you’re testing your detectors, do a full run-through of your emergency escape plan with your family to make sure they know the drill.  Finally, swap out batteries in every detector to make sure they work during the winter if you need them (hopefully not!).

5 Tips that Keep Your Carpet Clean (& Looking Great)

Young happy smiling woman lying with laptop on clean carpetSome days it seems like your family, pets, and dirty work boots are conspiring against you and your carpets.  Between the dirty foot prints and carpet stains, your carpets take a real beating from the daily traffic—and it can seem almost impossible to keep your carpets clean.  We’ve seen a lot of carpets installed in high traffic areas, and we’re here to tell you it is possible. Don’t lose hope—especially if you use these tips to keep your carpets clean and looking great.

Choose the right carpet for your space.

The most beautiful carpet you see at the flooring store may not be made to handle the kind of traffic you need. Use these tips to select the right carpet for high traffic areas (main home rooms, frequented areas, rooms where you keep your pets, kid spaces, etc.).  When you buy carpet, consider how much traffic the carpet gets, what kind of traffic (pets, kids, etc.), the chance for spills, and maintenance needed. Don’t hesitate to ask the experts—the staff members at the flooring store who help homeowners, families, and even business owners choose the right flooring. They’ve seen what carpet works at other homes in the same kind of spaces.

Choose your vacuum carefully—and use it regularly.

You’ve seen all the commercials about the super powerful vacuums.  Believe it or not, some vacuums are so powerful they can damage the fibers in your carpet. Determine what vacuum cleaner is right for you (here are tips for choosing the right vacuum), and for your carpet. Use your new vacuum at least once a week to keep your carpet clean.

Place rugs in all the right places, especially the door.

Stop carpet stains and residue at the door.  Use mats in your mudroom and at your exterior doors to keep dirt, water, and grime off your carpet.  In high traffic areas, such as a hallway, put down area rugs to protect your new flooring.

Clean carpet stains ASAP.

When you find a carpet stain, don’t wait.  Clean the stain promptly, and be careful not to scrub the stain too hard.  Too much elbow grease can damage carpet fibers, so it’s best to blot at your carpet with a moist cloth to remove the spill AND keep your carpet looking new.

Schedule an annual carpet cleaning.

Give your carpets a deep clean.  Not only does it help members of your family with allergies, a good professional carpet cleaning keeps your carpet looking new—a professional carpet cleaning.  Rented carpet cleaners may look like they do the job, but in reality those carpet cleaners can’t deliver the same kind of deep, thorough clean. Want to keep your carpet clean and looking great? Trust the carpet cleaning pros (and enjoy the results!).