Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tale of Two Floors

We needed to replace the gross, old carpeting pretty much all over our house.  Last year we began tackling the job.  There was a lot of back and forth in my mind as to what kind of flooring we should use.  I knew that I wanted a hard surface on the main floor as it is one continuous area that includes the entrance, kitchen, dining area, and living room (aka the main TV watching area).  It finally came down to two choices for me, vinyl plank or laminate. Engineered hardwood had been in the running, but we decided it was too costly.
Vinyl plank sounded like such a great idea.  The main reasons why were that it seemed to be very easy to install, it didn't require a table saw, and it is totally waterproof- a great thing for a kitchen or a basement.  I found a reddish color that I liked and my husband even liked it too.  I did have some reservations.  In my online research I found that the main complaint seemed to be that the pieces didn't stay stuck together very well.  Some people also complained about the smell.  We decided to give the vinyl plank a try in the basement.

When it came time to redo the main floor, we decided to go with laminate instead.  Finding a spectacular deal on some Brazilian Cherry laminate flooring online at Thanksgiving sealed the deal.  We also got a great deal on a table saw on Black Friday.

Here's a run down of my experience with floating self stick vinyl plank and click and lock laminate

There were some similarities between the two projects.  In both projects we started with pulling up the carpet.  I ended up getting a tetanus shot after a run in with some rusty carpet tacks.  The back of my hammer, a small pry bar, and a staple remover (office supply variety) were handy tools for carpet strip and staple removal.  Both of the sub floors needed leveling but due to the different sub floor materials we ended up using different leveling methods.
before leveling
mixing leveling compound was messy work
The basement floor was concrete, so we used a self leveling compound to level it out.  It was quite difficult to mix up and pour out the amount we needed to cover the whole floor.  It kept drying in between batches and the drill we were using to mix kept overheating.  The floor didn't end up perfectly level, but it did end up pretty flat which was good enough.

Sorry cricket, you picked the wrong day to hop into my basement.

The main floor had a plywood sub floor.  After tightening up a few of the loose boards (good bye squeaks!) we used roofing felt to build up the low areas.  We also used a foam underlayment per the laminate installation instructions.

Vinyl Plank Installation and Performance
The vinyl plank we used was a floating floor but it did not require an underlayment.  Each plank is basically two planks of vinyl stuck together such that each piece over hangs on two sides.  These sticky edges are what hold the various planks together.  We cut the planks with a utility knife, and it was sometimes more difficult than we thought it would be.  My husband ended up with a large cut on his finger.  It was also difficult to line the planks up perfectly.  If you wanted to adjust a piece after placing it, it was hard to unstick the pieces then they didn't stick as well when you restuck them.
We were overall pleased with the look and the feel of the vinyl plank.  It has a bit of texture to it so it's not as slippery as other options.  It did have a smell which didn't last too long.  The worst part has been seams coming apart.  We tried laying heavy things on top of the problem seams, but it didn't really help.  We ended up resorting to super glue.
In the end, I am glad to have a totally waterproof type of flooring in the basement.  I was especially glad when the washer water came up through the downstairs toilet!  The basement also seems less dank since we've put it in.  We've scuffed the finish up in a few places, but it's not too noticeable.

Laminate Installation and Performance
The laminate flooring we used was a click and lock floating floor.  We used a table saw to cut the pieces and a jig saw for detailed cuts.  We also bought a special tool for tapping the pieces in at the end.  It's hard to say if this installation seemed easier than the vinyl plank because we did the vinyl plank first, because we had better tools, or if it was just easier.  The laminate was easy to adjust, take up and put back down, or tighten up the gaps at any time.
The laminate is more smooth which means it is more slippery.  We've already dinged it a couple of times dropping heavy things on it as well.  It is water resistant but not water proof.  We've spilled plenty of liquids on it so far and haven't had any problem.  I definitely wouldn't let water stand on it for long periods though.  Despite it's downsides, I've been very pleased with the laminate floor.  Overall it looks really good.  We were also able to get a matching stair nose piece to use at the top of the basement stairs.  There wasn't anything like that available with the vinyl plank.

As for price, the vinyl plank ended up being by far the more expensive project.  Even if we were to include the price of the table saw, the laminate was less expensive.  The vinyl plank itself was nearly $2 per square foot.  The leveling compound was also quite expensive.  We did get a very good deal on the laminate, around 68 cents per square foot, but I have seen other laminate flooring for sale at comparable prices year round.

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