BIG (and Costly) DIY Flooring Installation Mistakes to Avoid

wood DIY floor project in progress

Homeowners considering a DIY flooring project, file these tips under the “I wish I’d known before I started installing….” Whether installing laminate, vinyl plank, tile, or engineered hardwood, these tips (and this list of DIY flooring ideas with instructions) can save homeowners from a lot of headaches—and a healthy dose of do-it-yourself disappointment.

Not researching flooring options for a high-moisture room

When selecting the right floor, DIYers purchasing floors for a kitchen, bathroom, mudroom, and laundry room need to add “waterproof” to the list of criteria. These rooms are prone to high-humidity and have a high risk of water spills; wood and laminate floors can warp in high-moisture rooms.

The same note of caution applies to basements, where moisture seeping through the slab can damage wood and laminate floors (there are a few exceptions, ask a flooring pro to show waterproof products). Unfortunately, many homeowners find out that the floor is not suitable until after installation.

Buying the exact amount of flooring needed

Even the best-planned projects can go awry, requiring more flooring. This do-it-yourself mistake can lead to additional trips to the flooring store. The solution is to always purchase more flooring than needed. For an exact idea of how much extra flooring to purchase, ask a flooring pro for a recommendation.

Ignoring the manufacturer’s instructions

Some laminate manufacturers recommend using a tapping block, while other manufacturers don’t. When DIYers don’t follow the manufacturer instructions, the result is damaged flooring, additional cost, and a voided warranty. Before installing, always read and follow the floor manufacturer instructions for a smooth flooring project.

Not installing on a level surface

Almost every kind of floor, especially tile, can crack or show other signs of damage over time if installed over an uneven surface. Before installation, always take the time to check to see if the slab or sub-floor is level; even newer homes can have issues.

Not prepping the sub-floor

In addition to an even surface, sub-floors need to be cleaned and prepped for installation. Tile floors should be installed over backer board, which is an essential safeguard against moisture. These floors should never be installed over existing flooring or plywood.

Tile is not the only kind of flooring that requires preparation. Before installing wood, laminate, and vinyl flooring, remove drywall compound and other contaminants off the slab. When pulling up carpeting, make sure every staple is pulled up.

Keeping the flooring outside

Most types of floors should be moved into the room well in advance of installation. Laminate, vinyl, and wood floors need to come in at least 24-48 hours before starting the do-it-yourself project. The simple step of acclimating the floors can prevent cupping, buckling, and problems stemming from expansion of the floors.

Installing floor without considering expansion

Laminate, wood, and luxury vinyl floors can expand based on temperatures and humidity. (Read here about protecting wood from damage from humidity.) Because of this, these floors should be installed with an allowance for expansion. If floors are installed tight to cabinets or walls, they can cup, buckle, and crack over time.

Not removing trim

Baseboards do not always need to be removed before installation; however, there are many situations where not removing trim boards can be a mistake. If baseboards are tight over the floor, the flooring can get damaged from expansion. When the opposite is true, a noticeable gap between the flooring and trim can mar an otherwise excellent floor installation. In these cases, ask a flooring pro about molding that covers the gap and makes it hard to tell that the installation was anything other than professional.

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