Wood Floor Transition – New to Old

Q: We are trying to decide what to install in the kitchen, wood or tile. The problem is the existing 2″ white oak wood floor in the adjacent rooms is about 60 years, but in great shape. We are re-finishing those floors, but I know we can not exactly match those due to the age of the wood.
From the kitchen, one of the case openings goes to the dining room with the old floors and the case other opening goes into the foyer with the old floors. The new kitchen floors and adjacent existing floors will directly transition to each other.
Should we go with maybe a 3″ wood floor in the kitchen and finish a completely different shade so that it does not look like we tried to match and messed up? Or, should we go with a completely different wood such as walnut or cherry? Or, should we just go with tile? What is acceptable in the design world when mixing hardwood floors?
Thank you,
Greg Davis

A: When it comes to “acceptable” in the design world, I like to think that as long as the owner loves it, its acceptable. I won’t claim to be an interior designer with all the design answers, but I do know what I like and what can work.
When it comes to trying to match an existing floor, I generally prefer mixing floor colors as it can be nearly impossible to match a floor after this much time. The benefit here is that it gives each area of your home its own unique look and feel and with proper transition work the change will look good as well. This usually involves getting a transition to match the new floor, and allowing that transition (which will most likely be a t-mold) to cover the new floor. This will give a much more professional look. Personally, when mixing floors I like to go toward entirely different species because this makes it so every part of the floor is different. You go from having the nice grain and look of oak, to moving to a new color and grain pattern.
In the end though, find a floor YOU love. As long as you love it, it will look great because it fits what you want in your home. I’ve told many folks in the past with similar situations this: I can show you all the floors I love, but if you don’t love it we’ve both failed our jobs; me to help you find what will fit your project and you to find something you want in your home.
That being said, let’s talk logistics here. In kitchens you run risk of water getting on your floor. This being said your best bet will be tile for durability. However, I have seen many wood floors succeed (and look amazing) in a kitchen. I would suggest a wider plank for your kitchen if you choose to go with wood, and during installation, put a thin bead of tongue and groove glue into the plank’s groove to act as an extra seal against moisture.
Here’s the breakdown to keep in mind for your project:

  • Tile will be the most resilient floor you can install in a kitchen.
  • Wood can work in a kitchen, but take some precautions during installation and use wider planks
  • If you choose wood, find a floor you love and will fit what you want in your home
  • Don’t worry about matching to the existing floor, with some careful transition work the change in floors will look great

Molding Questions from a 1st Time Installer

Q: I am planning on installing laminate floors in my kitchen and have been doing a lot of research on how to perform the installation and the products involved. I want to say thank you to your web site as it has provided me with the most valuable information thus far.
I have one question, my molding in the kitchen has a quarter-inch round molding from the floor to the molding on the wall, can I just remove the quarter-inch round molding and bring the laminate close enough to the other wall molding, then replace the quarter-inch round molding to cover the gap between the floor and the wall molding?

A: As you might have seen in the installation videos Westhollow has put out, typically what you will do is use a pry bar to remove the molding along your walls (be careful if you wish to reuse them) then install the floor and reinstall them. So simply put – yes you can.
If you have a base molding of some form, then quarter round installed beyond that, I would suggest getting all the way to the wall where possible, but as long as you leave a proper expansion gap, cover it in anyway which looks best to you. Look at the molding currently on your wall and if it can be removed so you get all the way to the wall and do not have any molding in the way. In the end if you have a proper expansion gap from the molding, then cover with quarter round, you should be fine.

Flooring Choices – Hardwood, Laminate, Cork, Bamboo and so much more…

The world of flooring is getting more interesting by the day.

We are seeing some really cool 2008 introductions including the new lines from Ming Dynasty, True Flooring, Saso and many more.

I expect to see some really cool new introductions of “NEW” species used for flooring over the next couple months. I don’t want to spoil the surprise (or let the competition know what is being cooked up), but I can say that there are some breakthrough innovations coming in the following categories:

1) Cork Flooring – Innovation in dimension, color and technology
2) Hardwood Flooring – Innovation in sustainable species, certifications and choices. (not to mention nano-technology finishes!)
3) Laminate Flooring – High Definition patterns, new patented methods for making the floor that will revolutionize the business.
4) Bamboo Flooring – more differentiation related to what makes a good bamboo vs. what makes a mediocre bamboo and how YOU can tell the difference. Hint: iFLOOR carries the good stuff 😉

I am jumping onto another plane now so more soon.

Hardwood – not Laminate – can use Refresher

A great product to use for annual maintenance on certain floors is the “hardwood refresher” by Bona.


Read about the product – it can be a great way to refresh your floor.

As a side note: REFRESHER or any other topical coating should never be applied to laminate. It will not add value, in fact it will make your laminate harder to maintain and look worse.

This is a friendly tip for anyone who thought that refresher on laminate was a good idea. 😉

Condo Installation – Laminate on Wooden Subfloor

Q: I am embarking on a remodel project of an older condo project built in 1985, the unit is on the 4th floor and the structure I am told by the current manager is a wood strucutre, so its not the typical concrete slab you would find in new buildings. I was informed that since its a wood structure it would be very noise for me to install or rather have installed wood or laminate flooring in the unit and that was the reason why only carpeting was usually allowed by the HOA. I have gotten clearance for the installation of my hardwood/laminate floor by the HOA if I can prove to them I can install it so its not so loud. I am looking at installing a laminate floor and wonder is this at all possible if I say install a cork sub-flooring before hand or is this method simply not going to work? I would love if someone could let me know if I’m on a wild goose chase. I would prefer to install a laminate floor instead of another carpet but would love any type of suggestions you guys may have. I really liked the Brazilian Cherry Quick Step Home 7mm Series you guys offered for $1.49/SF but I’m not sure if this product would be alright. Thanks again for your time and efforts in responding to my question. In short the unit is around 1200/SF and about 800/SF would be needed to be converted from carpet to laminate flooring.

With Regards,
Lawrence R. Hsu

A: The key to ensuring that this project succeeds will lie in two things: underlayment and the floor’s thickness. Underlayment is critical – so if you want to make sure you can have a laminate floor I would use a 6mm cork underlayment. 6mm cork is the premium underlayment when it comes to condos and its STC ratings should reduce enough noise to remove any worries your HOA may have.
The other major key here is the thickness of the laminate you choose. Thinner laminates will produce more noise when they are walked over than thicker laminate. Quick Step makes a great product, but I would suggest looking into something that is at least 10mm. There are several rather well built and great looking laminates made that fit this spec.
One final tip I have for you to ensure some success and reduce noise is to check your subfloor for noisy areas. If you find any areas which creak or make noise when you walk over them, use some flooring screws and screw down the noisy areas to the joists. This will help reduce noise over all and when combined with the cork and a good laminate should prove to be a winning combo.

Bamboo Bows? Bamboo flooring that is handcrafted into something special

Wow what a cool customer!

Recently we received pictures from a customer that talked about a VERY unique and inspiring usage for bamboo flooring:

You can make an Archery Bow!

Obviously Art A. – a self professed “Bower” is a talented and visionary craftsman.

Art says that Bamboo cores make the best bows ever and our bamboo is just the stuff to get it done!

Thanks for your pictures Art. They are great. Keep up the good work.


Adding to a Subfloor and Underlayment Help

Q: I am working on laying new 3/8″ engineered wood flooring over a wood subfloor. I also have ceramic tile floors which will meet with the new wood floor and which are just under 3/4″ higher than the existing subfloor. I am planning on adding another 1/4″ (or maybe 3/8″ if necessary) layer of plywood subfloor in order to help bring the wood level with the tile. At this point I have two questions: First, someone told me that when laying an additional layer of plywood subfloor that (at least in the case of vinyl) you should glue it rather than nail it since the nails can work up and out. Is that true for engineered wood floor also? Second, which kind of underlayment is best with a 3/8″ engineered wood floor, the foam or the cork? My concern here is that while the foam may initially bring the wood up to the level of the tile it might eventually compress, while the 3mm cork would be less likely to compress to the point of being noticeable. The specific installation instructions do not make a recommendation.
Thanks for you help.
Sandra Romero

A: Nails can loosen over time. When nails loosen in your subfloor, more movement occurs and this is what causes most of the noise in a floor you might hear in a home. Usually to remedy this problem you would use a flooring screw to screw the plywood into the floor joists. This being said I would use screws rather than nails to add additional plywood to your subfloor. You could use an adhesive, but screws will be an easier and cheaper solution which should provide the exact same result.
In regards to underlayment I personally prefer cork because of its many natural benefits, density being one of the major factors. Foam underlayments, even the premium ones, have a bit more spring to them and thus will give your floor a bit more movement than something as dense as cork. In the end if you want the best feel under foot and will hold up the best over time would be cork.