Laminate Near Limestone Fireplace

Q: I’m interested in putting laminate flooring in my family room but I have one problem. We have a limestone fireplace, and there is about a 2 inch variation at the bottom of it. So obviously I cant just lay the flooring up next to it. What would be some of my best options?
Chase G

Here is a picture of Chase’s fireplace. You can see the variation he mentions from the different sized and shaped limestone pieces.



A: There are two options you can do here. If you are fairly handy with a jigsaw and scribing, then I would suggest scribing each plank to fit around the shape of the stones in the fireplace. This is a fairly common practice in commercial installations, fitting the planks to the stone. As long as the run from the fireplace to the wall on the other side of the room is not very long, you should have little problem with expansion, just leave a very small gap at the fireplace and a proper expansion gap at the opposite wall. This will require a bit more planning, but the benefit is that you are not affecting the stone of the fireplace, so if you change your floor the fireplace is untouched. Don’t forget to use a silicone based caulking between the fireplace and the scribe. make sure it is silicone and not latex-based, especially if you choose a colored caulking, which tends to look better, as the latex based colored caulks can bleed color into the stone.

Although this method will take a bit of time, a couple of hours or so to scribe and cut all of the planks to fit the fireplace well, it will provide the optimal appearance and utility should you later decide to change out your floor.
Another option would be to treat the fireplace similar to a door jamb, and cut a relief into the stone so that the laminate can slide underneath with a hidden expansion gap. I will stress that I don’t suggest this method as it will be messy and once done, changing floor coverings while keeping the fireplace looking good is tough.
To undercut the fireplace, you will want to use a pocket door saw with am abrasive blade, preferably a masonry blade or stone cutting blade. Measure for just a bit higher than the final height of the floor plus underlayment, scribe a line and then begin your cut work. While cutting, its a good idea to have someone there helping by having a shop vac on near the exit area of the saw so that all the dust that will be thrown out will get sucked up. Masonry cutting causes a lot of dust and unlike saw dust, it does not settle quite as quickly so without a good vacuum it will look like someone was blowing flower all over the place. Again, I stress that this is not the method I would suggest because it will permanently change the fireplace and cause quite a of a mess.


Streaks on Shaw Laminate

Q: I purchased a Shaw laminate floor about 6 years ago. I was told by the sales associate in the flooring department at Home Depot to treat the floor just like a laminate counter top. So I started out mopping it with pine o pine. That left a definite streaking on the floor. So I stopped that right away and went to a product “Bona Hard Surface Cleaner.” The label said it was recommended for laminate flooring and left no dulling residue. I have notice a definite dulling and no shine whatsoever on my floor for a few years now.
I recently contacted Shaw on their consumer helpline and they recommended a product just for their floor that I should have been sold in the first place, I don’t have it with me but I think it is RX2 or something like that exclusively for their floor, but they said since I had been using a Bona product on my floor I should contact Bona to find out how to safely remove their product from my floor without damaging it. I contacted Bona by phone where you have to leave a message and by email and I have not received an answer yet and I am growing frustrated.
I went back to Home Depot and they recommended using Mineral Spirits to clean the residue off the floor. I am a bit skeptical since they did not sell me the correct cleaner years ago in the first place. I just feel very frustrated with my floor that I purchased and installed with a 15 year warranty and I am not sure exactly what to do at this point, the floor surface in my family room is approximately 990 sq. ft. Any professional advice would be great!!
Pearland, TX

A: Typically when switching between cleaners after finding that one cleaner is causing a problem, you can see something like a dull appearance. I can’t say I’ve known of any issues with the Bona products when used initially, as many of the cleaners out there made by companies mimic a formula similar to Bona’s.
What is likely happening here is that the streaking you saw from the pine o pine, left a residue layer that the bona tried to remove, but instead caused the dull appearance as the two cleaners react with each other. Now you could try using mineral spirits to remove this, as mineral spirits is very mild, but if you do make sure that you wipe with the mineral spirits, then follow up with a mop which is lightly damp over the floor, then take a terrycloth towel and go over the floor to ensure any remaining moisture is pulled up.
It may take a couple of tries to get up all the remaining cleaner, but remember not to use too much of the mineral spirits and do NOT leave mineral spirits on the floor without following up shortly with a damp mop or some regular cleaner.
Shaw’s R2X is very similar to the Bona Hard Surface cleaner, and should work for you once you remove the current residue. If you continue to have troubles remove this residue, I would suggest contacting pine o pine as the residue/dull look you are getting is most likely caused by the initial streaky appearance from the pine o pine. Remember, when cleaning wood floors, less is more – lightly mist a cleaner over the floor then follow up with a dry microfiber mop.

Scratched Laminate

Q: I just installed a laminate floor in the living room and it has a scratch. Is there anything I can apply to hide the scratch???

A: There are a few products out there which can help to hide scratches. Several companies make an acrylic color fill type product which is built to repair dents and is color matched to many of their floors. You could use a small amount of this applied with a rubber spatula or putty knife to color in the scratch.
Another option would be some of the crayon or pen like coloring item which are built to color in scratches to help hide them some. Now a cheaper solution along these lines would be to go out and find some regular crayons, typically the 64 packs have enough colors to cover you, then use a color which is closest to your floor, then lightly use it to color the area of the scratch.
Your best bet would be a color fill type product to match the floor, but there are several other options out there to help hide scratches, but keep in mind if you are looking for the scratch, you will still see it, it is just more likely to be missed by those who walk in or only glance at the floor.


Can you use flooring for your porch (or exterior deck)?

Although I didn’t rehearse I got most of the answers to this question wrapped into this video. Take a peek.

Because the question arises so often about people asking to put their vinyl flooring or laminate flooring or even hardwood floors on their deck, patio or porch we wanted to discuss it briefly. The bottom line is that interior products are not designed for exterior settings. Even if the area is covered the humidity and temperature changes would be too variable to be considered a “normal” living condition so you would be on your own if you decided to go that route.


Installation in a Perfect World vs. The Real World

A few days ago I posted this blog entry:


Basically that was the video how things go in the perfect world.

However this video is a slightly humorous view of some of the “real world” obstacles that can stand in the way.

The video was originally to be designed to have a live narration to talk through some of the photos that illustrate some of the every day “jackpots” that we find as we put together a job.

So as you watch this one just imagine us saying hey in a perfect world the dog would be biting us, the traffic wouldn’t be slowing us and the mountains of funiture wouldn’t be there.

Anyway I think it is a fun point- counterpoint to really talk about some of the very tough challenges that our professionals overcome day in and day out. I am so proud to be associated with them. (Of course they do all the work and I try to share a little of the credit, but the truth is they deserve all the credit!)

Take a peek at both to really get the idea of what we are trying to illustrate.


Hardwood Floors Damaged by Dog

Q: I have a large dog who has put scratches and some poke holes in my hardwood floor.
1. How can I fix the floors without taking them apart and re-doing.
2. Is there something that I can put on the floor to make it harder and prevent further damage.

A: More than likely you have a fairly soft species of wood if you are running into denting from your dog’s nails, but there are a few things you can do to repair this damage and some methods to prevent it in the future.
Let’s first look into preventative care for scratches and denting. When it comes to pets, there are a few important things to do to help extend the time your floor remains beautiful, the most important being to regularly trim your dog’s nails. When the nails are kept trimmed, they also remain duller and are less likely to dig as strongly into your floor. Also, if your dog has longer fur, make sure that any fur covering the pads of the paws is trimmed away. Dogs will begin to rely on their nails for grip when moving when their paws are no longer providing as much aid, typically this happens when longer fur covers the pads of their paws.
Also, make sure you regularly sweep and clean the floor to prevent dirt and grit from getting on the floor. Most scratching is cause by larger grit which is dragged around the house by pets and normal walking.
Now as far as repairs goes, you can repair the dents by getting a color-matching floor putty, which is typically used to fill in holes from face nailing, then just rub a bit of the putty into each dent and it should fill well. Scratches on the other hand are typically only at the finish layer, and not damage to the wood itself. Most scratches will just fade a bit over time and the brighter white appearance will darker and become harder to see over time. It helps to have a regular cleaning schedule to speed this process along and prevent further scratches. Now if you are really worried about the appearance of scratches you can screen the floor.
Screen is a process where the top-most layer of finish is roughed up or buffed with high-grit sand paper, typically 220 grit, then new layers of finish are applied over the top of the buffed finish surface.
The most extreme option for repairing your floor, rather than replacing it, would be to have the floor refinished, but I would not suggest this unless you are massively displeased with the appearance of the floor as it can be somewhat expensive. This would involve getting a finisher to come out, sand down the floor to lessen the dents, then apply entirely new finish layers to the newly sanded wood surface. Honestly I would leave this option as a final resort because of the time needed and cost for the work.


Flooring Below Grade

Q: We want to float a floor in our basement over a cement slab, but can’t tell when looking through all the products out there, which are recommended for below grade installation? I know in our local home shop they have them on display by grade (above/below) but when looking on line I can’t seem to find where that’s indicated in the product description. Any helpful tips you can supply to help us find the right product?
Thank you,

A: The easiest way here is to look for any floor which is floating. Basically you need to look for laminate, engineered hardwoods, and cork flooring. There is one exception to this which would be 5/16″ solid hardwood floors, but they must be glued down as they can not float. Due to the moisture concerns in basements, certain floors can not be installed because they are not dimensionally stable enough, but floors which can be glued down or installed floating are good for basements.