Installation Options Over Tile

Q: I’m just bought a brand new house that was built on a concrete slab and the entire 1st floor is tiled. I would love to put in hardwood floors everywhere except the kitchen and powder room, but my husband believes we are limited to a thin, floating floor or ripping up the entire floor– neither of which sound like good choices. Please help! What are my options besides keeping the ugly tile?
A: With tile you have two installation options. The first and easiest option would be to float a floor. The good news about a floating floor is that they are very easy to install, and with right materials you can get a very good floor that will not only look great, but will stand up to the test of time.
Your other option would be to look into a glue down floor. The problem with a glue down installation over tile is that you will first have to rough up the surface of the tile in order to ensure the adhesive will properly adhere and cure. Glue down installations are fairly messy and are the most likely of all installs to fail if not done by a professional installer with experience with this type of install.
As far as product is concerned, you will not be forced to have a “thin” floor if you go with a floating install. Many high quality engineered hardwood floors which can be installed as a floating floor are around 1/2″ thick. Also, there are several very nice floating cork, bamboo and laminate floors which are thicker. The easiest way to make a floating floor perform well is to use a premium underlayment. Underlayment is the key to success with a floating floor.
The only limitation you will have is how tall you want your floor to be in the end once it is laid on the tile. Beyond this, the only alternative you have is to remove the tile and install directly over the subfloor.

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Finally

Ok I am back in the office, a bit of catch up to get after, but I expect normal posts for next week.

Keep your eye on the website for some exceptional offers coming over the next couple days. You will be glad you did. 😉

Can I Install Laminate Flooring in My Kitchen?

Q: Can I install laminate flooring in my kitchen?
A: The short answer to this would be that you can put any floor anywhere you want, but that doesn’t mean you should. Laminate can succeed very well in a kitchen as long as you get a product which is very good at standing up to moisture and you take time to ensure the install is done right. This means making sure the cuts are accurate, locking mechanisms are well engaged and proper underlayment is used.
Another important factor to making a wood floor work in a kitchen is to prevent spills whenever possible and to clean up any spills ASAP. Another trick that can work is using a filler or sealer at potential danger zones (such as near a sink) to give some added moisture protection. Most laminates have a color fill or similar product which will perform well in these cases.

Berry Flooring – Frustration – Need Help

Today’s question makes several references to Steve’s Stage of Floor Shopping, which I highly recommend to folks who are just beginning their floor shopping experience. Adam also makes reference to Laminate Brand Wars II: A Laminate Showdown, which is another great article from Steve giving lab and experience based comparisons of many popular lines of laminate flooring.
Q: My wife and I, thought we were at Stage 4, but we’ve slipped back to stage 3. Part of our research into laminate floors, has been to visit local stores, as it’s easier to obtain a sample that way. We were pretty well set on Alloc Original, or Wilson Art Estate, until our last local store visit, when the salesperson started pushing the Berry Floor line, which I had previously never heard of (which just goes to show, I had not done enough research on Alloc). The sales person said that Alloc, while good, hadn’t innovated in several years (which seems in line with the laminate wars 2 article on your site, although the Alloc original, still rated high), and that the Berry Floor was also superior to the Wilson Art because it was thicker (by maybe 1 mm), and had a better joint locking system. Furthermore, he stated that the underlayment that comes with the alloc is not very good because it is so thin, and pointed out the brand of underlayment the store carries as an add-on (Silent Walk). However, as soon as I heard the price on the Berry Floor, I knew something was up, as it was considerably cheaper then both the Wilson Art and Alloc.
I went back home and started doing more research and found out that Alloc and Berry Floors are related thru the Berry group, Berry Flooring, while as thick as most HPL, is only DPL, and the warranty on Berry Flooring, while saying it’s a lifetime warranty, is pro-rated after 5 years. On the topic of underlayment, I realized that just because it’s thin, doesn’t mean it’s poor quality. The Sound6 underlayment that you carry, is extremely thin, but has better acoustic ratings (but also higher cost), then the Silent Walk.
So my questions to you, the flooring expert are:
• Excluding price, is my assumption that Wilson Art Estate and Alloc Original are better than Berry Flooring?
• What is the relationship between Alloc and Berry Flooring?
• How good is the attached underlayment on the Alloc Original? I was unable to find any specs so that I could compare it to the stuff in the store, or other options that you carry.
• Is there any truth in the statement that the Wilson Art joint system is an inferior quality?
Thanks
Adam Salvo

A: I am going to answer your questions a bit out of order, but I do have answers to them all. First off, Alloc and Berry Flooring are both owned by Beaulieu International Group. As we all know, many companies in the corporate world are owned by a larger parent company. In the case of flooring, 90% of all flooring comes from two companies: Mohawk and Shaw (assuming you include carpet in the numbers here). The relationship here is simply that Alloc and Berry are owned by the same parent company, but the flooring itself is different. Berry uses the Uniclic locking system made by the Unilin Group. This is the same locking system featured on Quick Step products and is essentially the best locking system in the industry.
Alloc is the wider known brand of Beaulieu International Group and has unique claim to fame in its use of a metal portion to its locking system. Alloc also had several innovations years ago where as Berry has simply used effective patented material to make their product. In saying this, Alloc and Wilsonart are not “better” than Berry on a brand level nor is Berry better than Alloc and Wilsonart, but rather think of them as each having their own benefits and that from collection to collection there will be different choices as to which is the better product. Berry’s benefit is that it is a lesser known brand so you see some savings from that end. This is similar to companies like Westhollow and Woodstock whom choose not to advertise themselves heavily in order to pass savings on to their customers while still providing a quality product.
The warranty being pro-rated after 5 years would concern me some, which I would be wary of before purchasing. Most flooring warranties have the same benefits for an entire time period so ensure you know all of the details about a warranty before making a purchase.
Is Wilsonart’s locking system inferior? Somewhat when compared to the Uniclic system, but keep in mind it is still a good locking system and Wilsonart still makes some of the best stuff on the market, especially the Red Label collection.
The attached underlayment on Alloc’s Original Collection is ok. This is similar to many products which feature an attached underlayment, where the underlayment is a good value, but not necessarily the best stuff out there when compared to premium underlayments like Cork and Sound 6. One suggestion that has worked well for customers in the past is to add a bit of additional underlayment, normally 3mm cork as it works as a much better substrate than foam based underlayments, then laying the floor with attached underlayment over the top. This gives you the added benefits of additional sound suppression and cushion while still being rather affordable. As far as performance is concerned for attached underlayment, it is heavily dependent on the laminate manufacturer, but these attached pads tend to work better than cheaper combination underlayments.
So let’s sum up here: Alloc and Berry flooring are owned by the same parent company Beaulieu International Group. When comparing brand to brand there is no way to say one is better than another as this is more opinion than anything else, instead, compare products at a collection level and you will be able to easily weigh the benefits of each product to determine which one is best for your project. The laminate industry has several different locking mechanisms and directly comparing them tends to show the Uniclic system as the best on the market, but the locking mechanism alone does not make one laminate better than another.

Flooring Over Black Mastic Adhesive

Q: I removed carpeting in my concrete basement and wooden stairs leading into basement. When we pulled up the carpet there were 9×9 tiles that were stuck to the carpet. So we removed the remaining tiles, and now am left with black mastic on the concrete floors and wooden steps. I got a few quotes on removing the mastic ranging from $1200 – $2500, some didn’t include the stairs. Some suggested I just leave it and put new flooring over it. Some suggested I have a carpenter come and replace the stairs. I have a limited budget and don’t have the extra money for removal of mastic or stair replacement. So I would like to be able to cover the mastic. What type of flooring would you recommend for concrete floor and wooden stairs with black mastic on it. My floor appears to be dry, though my basement is humid. I would like something moisture resistant. Can you give me some options, and what type of underlayment and/or moisture barriers would be required for each option? I did have the black mastic tested for asbestos, and it came back with none. I have read about encapsulating the mastic. I have been researching this and there are such differences of opinions, I don’t know what to do.
Any help will be greatly appreciated.
Thanks so much
Janet

I forgot to add a couple of things to my questions below. I have heavy exercise equipment and a desk that can’t be removed from the basement, during installation, without having to disassemble them. I know certain floors require that nothing can go on it right away. I was hoping for flooring that will not only hold the weight, but that it can be put on the floor right away. Perhaps doing one section of the floor then moving the stuff over onto it and then doing the rest of the floor. Any suggestions and/or recommendations would be very helpful as well.
Thanks again.
Janet

I did some follow up with Janet to address to moisture issue she mentioned and to ensure I gave the best advice possible.
I have a humidity meter that I bought. It has been ranging from High 40’s to High 60’s percent humidity. I have purchased a humidifier that I have to empty every 24 -48 hrs. I have a/c and gas heat. To me it doesn’t seem humid, I never thought it was. But I had rain come in from my chimney trap door, that was coming onto the carpet (though I thought originally it was coming up from the drain, so I tore up my carpet to get to the drain (because it was covered with carpet), only to find out, that was not the source. Finally I happened to be downstairs during a heavy rain fall, and notice where the water was coming from. That problem has been corrected, and since then I bought the humidifier and meter, so it appears my basement is humid, even though it is dry (or at least appears to be). My floor has the black mastic on it, but it is always dry. I have try the plastic taped on floor test in a couple spots, and it was dry.
A: That level of humidity isn’t too bad. The goal line level of humidity in the air should be between 40 and 50% for a wood floor of any kind. As far as the mastic is concerned there are few options to look into. Aside from carpet you will want to choose a floor that can be floated. The problem with a floating floor is that you will not be able to easily match your stairs. The reason behind this is that for stairs your flooring will be glued directly to the stair and this should not be done with the mastic remaining.
Beside flooring over the top of the mastic you can remove it yourself using a scraper in order to keep within your budget. The mastic should be somewhat brittle which will make it relatively easy to scrape away, but don’t use a sander or grinder as this will wear the mastic down and actually make it a bit harder to remove. I know this may not be an answer you want to hear, but these are really the only feasible options you can look into considering the mastic. What I would heavily suggest is to acclimate any product you get for at least a week to make sure that the product’s moisture content is within 2% of the subfloor’s moisture content.
As far as your exercise equipment is concerned, you will want to install the entire floor before putting any equipment over it. The reason why I say this is because as a floating floor, having weight on part of the floor without it being fully installed will cause a it to raise on the unfinished end which can cause quite a few problems when trying to engage the locking mechanisms on the rest of the floor. Since this is a bit heavier, I would use cork underlayment because cork’s natural density will hold up better to the weight. Also, I would suggest placing a pad over the floor then putting your equipment over the pad to protect your floor. Also, since this is a basement, make sure you use a moisture barrier over the mastic just to be sure you’ll have no worries or moisture vapor seeping up through the mastic into the floor.
Flooring wise, I would look into a laminate or cork as these will be better suited for handling your exercise equipment and the desk.

Hardwood in the Basement

Q: I am going to install hardwood in my basement. I will most likely use the engineered wood, but I was wondering if I need to install a vapor barrier? Also, have you ever heard of someone installing a foam layer beneath the wood to offset the “unlevel” concrete basement floor and prevent popping zones from occurring?
Thanks,
Don

I tossed a few emails back and forth with Don to get a few more details about his project. He mentioned he was thinking about a floating installation, but is open to either floating or gluing his floor depending on which will give him the best result.
Don mentioned that he will be doing this project himself and that this is relatively new construction. We had a short phone call to discuss necessary items and what will give him the most bang for his buck. He plans for this area to contain a bar, arcade game and to be used for hosting parties and a general rec room.
A: Based on the room itself and what you intend to use it for, I would highly suggest looking into a good floating floor. Also, to account for the traffic, I would use a 6mm cork underlayment. Product wise, look into a 5 or 7 ply product as a minimum and try to find something with thicker plies as this will give you a much higher quality product which will resist denting and expansion/contraction better than lower quality product. As far as accounting for slight changes in subfloor height, as long as the difference is 1/32″ or less the underlayment should account for this. If you have more variation than this, use a self leveling compound to even this out, but it is likely that this will not be an issue since this is new construction.
Also, look into a floating cork floor as an option. These floors are well suited to a good amount of foot traffic. Should you want a hardwood floor only, make sure to find a dense floor with a hardness rating equal to white oak at a very minimum, although I would personally look into something nearing the 2000 Janka rating or higher hardness as better options.
Don also mentioned he had looked into tile for its durability, but he had been told that with the concrete underneath and the movement that will occur (no matter how solid and unmoving concrete may seem, it still moves folks) that it would crack the tile. This is true, but there is a solution for this problem. Using an uncoupling membrane such as the ones made by Schluter will prevent this, but the installation takes quite a bit of work, so Don has decided he’ll look into a floating floor.
Product wise I suggested looking into Bellefloor, BR-111 and Saso for good engineered floors and APC or Westhollow for a good Cork floor.