6 “Must Know” Tips for a Successful DIY Flooring Project

gray laminate floor installed as a diy flooring project

Installing flooring in your Wisconsin home is not the easiest task. It comes with a long list of DIY flooring tips and tricks—all of which can determine whether the end result is beautiful or a redo.

A DIY floor also comes with a list of terms, like expansion gap and subfloor, that are important to know before the install. This DIY flooring guide lays it all out, and can help Wisconsin homeowners as they navigate through the floor prep and installation process. While a DIY flooring project isn’t the easiest, it does come with an awesome end result: a beautiful new floor that refreshes the room and adds function to a space.  

DIY Flooring Tips

DIYers, do LOTS of research.

The internet is a gold mine for do-it-yourselfers who haven’t installed flooring before. A simple Google search can provide a long list of DIY flooring tutorials. Take advantage of it. Do as much research before the day of the install as possible, but remember that every flooring product comes with its own list of specifications.

To make the process easier, here is a quick list of tips and tutorials:

LVP Installation Tips

How to Install Luxury Vinyl Plank Floors Video (from Shaw Floors)

How to Install Ceramic Tile Floor in the Bathroom (from Family Handyman)

How to Install a Laminate Floor (from DIY Network)

Choose the right flooring for your home, room, and level of experience.

The right flooring product can be the difference between a successful DIY install and many years of satisfaction or a lackluster project that demands a redo within a few years.

When choosing flooring, consider these factors:

  1. Amount of traffic (both paw and foot) in a room
  2. Level of risk for water spills
  3. Amount of maintenance desired
  4. Budget
  5. Whether radiant heating is installed under the floor
  6. Desired look and fit with existing décor
  7. Ease of install

Every one of these factors plays a part in the long-term success of the flooring. Some floors wear better than others in a high-traffic space—especially when there are pets to consider. Pets can also be prone to accidents, which is why it is important to choose a water-resistant floor for a room (or have clean-up supplies close at hand for a prompt cleaning).

The amount of moisture in a room is also an important part of choosing the right DIY flooring, especially in a mudroom, bathroom, and laundry room. Typically, wood floors are not recommended for these spaces because they can be damaged by water spills and humidity. Fortunately, there are plenty of water-resistant floors that look like wood and don’t come with the worry about water damage. In these rooms, vinyl and tile are the best choice because they are water-resistant.

Even radiant heating can play a part in choosing the right floor. This flooring addition feels great underfoot and requires a natural conductor that allows homeowners to enjoy the warmth of radiant floor heating. Many tile floors are a great choice for these homes, but it’s always best to ask a professional to recommend the best floors for homes with radiant floor heating.

For do-it-yourselfers, the right floor is also easy-to-install. Some flooring products are specifically made for DIYers and interlock for an easy install. (Ask a flooring pro to recommend these products if you are thinking of installing the floor yourself.) Typically, floors that are available in an interlocking product include laminate, luxury vinyl, and engineered hardwood.

Other resources:

Pet-friendly Floors

Should you install wood floors in a kitchen?

Vinyl Versus Laminate Floor

Hardwood Versus Laminate Flooring

14 Luxury Vinyl Plank Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons of Laminate Flooring

5 of the Toughest Living Room Floors

Amazing Basement Flooring Ideas

Bring in your flooring before the day of installation.

Flooring expands and contracts with the seasons, making acclimation an important part of a DIY flooring installation. At least 48 hours before installing, flooring should be brought into the room to acclimate to the conditions. If floors are not acclimated, they may buckle after installation and be damaged permanently.

Prepare subfloor for the install.

A level subfloor is an essential step in a do-it-yourself flooring project because it prevents cracking and long-term damage. The exact prep is different depending on the flooring and subfloor. Rooms with a cement floor (like a basement) require leveling and, in some cases, an underlayment. The underlayment keeps moisture from penetrating the flooring.

In a room with wood subflooring, rotten subfloor should be replaced and the floor should be leveled. If tile is being installed, cement board may need to be installed over the subfloor. DIYers should always check the flooring manufacturer specifications for additional installation instructions.

Abide by the old adage, “Measure twice, cut once.”

This adage applies to both the preparation and installation process. The right tools are essential for a smooth install, so DIYers should check and double check to make sure they have the correct tools for the project.

During install, each tile needs to be cut to the correct length so the end results looks great. A little extra diligence (and precise measuring) can also minimize the amount of flooring that is wasted during installation. On the other hand, it is also normal to need extra flooring during an install. For that reason, it’s always wise to buy extra flooring for the project. A flooring professional can recommend the amount of extra square footage to purchase.

Be realistic about the amount of time needed for a DIY flooring install.

It’s normal to want an installation to be done, but don’t rush a flooring install. When planning a DIY flooring project, always allow for plenty of time to ensure that the floor is installed well—well enough that everyone can enjoy it for a long time.

DIY Flooring Terms

Expansion Gap

An expansion gap is the space that should be left around a floor during installation. This measure is an important part of installation because it allows the floor to expand. If flooring is installed without an expansion gap, it can buckle because it doesn’t have room to expand.

Subfloor

A subfloor is the floor under the floor. Typically, a subfloor is plywood and should be completely level before installing another floor over it. When installing tile, cement board should be installed over the subfloor.

Underlayment

An underlayment is a flooring layer that should be installed under flooring. Underlayment protects flooring from moisture. Some flooring manufacturers require DIYers to install flooring with an underlayment. If this layer is not installed, the manufacturer may consider the warranty voided.

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