Laminate Flooring – The highest value

The best value laminate flooring choices are rarely those floors that are advertised for 59 cents per foot. Those lost leader items often are not built to last, but built to offer a nice look for a cheap price. If you have ever walked through an IKEA that has had a laminate floor installed for a 6-12 months you can see how terrible those cheap floors hold up over time.

The best value laminates are most often those in the $2-$3 per foot range which have a series of features and benefits that are impossible to see, but are there nonetheless.

Some of these features include a higher density fiber board core, which will resist moisture without polluting your home with formaldehyde – a known cancer causing carcinogen. Do you think logically the core in the 89 laminate is the same quality standard as the core on a $3.00 laminate?

The grams of aluminium oxide are also very critical to a tough wear surface. Ratings of AC2 are for lower wear areas and may be fine for a bedroom or non-critical areas, but having AC3 or AC4 is better and more durable for the long run.

Surface effects like handscraping, high gloss, easier cleaning and so much more are all a part of these better quality floors.

There are countless other factors that are important, but are so technically boring that it is not important to list them. It’s just important that you understand they exist.

Maybe it is true that you get what you pay for, but there is one exception: Brand names will charge a premium for their flooring that probably adds another $1-$2 per foot. So just because you see a laminate floor that is $5.00 per foot doesn’t automatically make it better. Brands have to support their marketing investments and often they sell to a distributor who sells to a retailer who sells to you. (sometimes there is even another buying group/agent middleman in there!) All that that inflates the price without adding value.

Finally there is a margin expectation in a store that is higher than alternative sources like the Internet. A store which often buys from the 2-4 step supply chain and then still needs a 50% margin will have a much higher price on the exact item than a more direct seller.


Common Flooring Mistakes

People who have flooring (which is most of us who don’t live on dirt floors) often make some basic mistakes that later cause problems for their flooring that were preventable.


1. When selecting a flooring it is critical that the usage of the floor is consistent with the flooring capabilities. For example selecting a cheap builder grade laminate floor and putting it in a commercial bank lobby will only lead to problems. Simialarly you must consider environmental restrictions or other cautions with the specific product you put in (low humidity and radiant heat capatible?) to be sure that you aren’t voiding your warranty before you start.

2. Set your own expectations clearly to the flooring provider so that they can guide you toward something that meets those expectations. Sometimes your expectations are higher than your budget may allow so it may be important to reset those before making a final flooring selection.

3. Maintenance is the most overlooked and often ignored part of flooring until the problem occurs. Too little maintenance will lead to dis-satisfied customers and ironically too much water used during maintenance of wood based flooring will led to disaster. Follow the suggested maintenance and DO NOT OVERWET your wood base floors. (wood based floors include, laminate flooring, hardwood flooring of all types, bamboo floors, cork floors and any floor with an HDF core and more.)

Refinishing Flooring Checklist – Top 3 Things

Here is a Top 3 Things checklist of some basic things to consider when refinishing a hardwood floor:


1. Do I really need to sand the floor or is a recoat an option. A recoat is a less expensive, no sanding and faster option that is appropriate for many situations. Finding out if a recoat will give you that fresh feeling is an important first step.

2. Select your stain ahead of time, but have the crew sand and show you a larger sample as they begin the job (at least a 4’x4′ area) so that you can double check your own choice. Larger samples in the actual room are often very different than small swatches.


3. Onsite finishing is not like a factory finish. Be prepared that you may see some swirl marks under direct lighting from the buffer that is used between coats. Set reasonable expectations going in. Although Swedish Finish which basically means site finished can be a great process it is not like a factory sealed environment.



Cork Flooring –

Cork Flooring has been a flooring choice for over 100 years, yet few people know very much about it.

So rather than give a complete history hear are some of the highlights:

1) Cork is resilient – that means it is inherently tough.

2) Cork is hypoallergenic – that means it is good for people with allergies.

3) Cork is unique visually – that means you will either hate it or love it.

4) Cork is very dent resistent – although denting is something that most cork can recover from due to it’s natural structure it can gouge easier than other floors

Recently there a new e-commerce introduction from caught this blogger’s attention by also adding an important key additional feature:

5) Cork is very affordable – prices vary by pattern – but the prices that are available on Cork Flooring at are very compelling.

All of those reasons together makes cork flooring a great choice for kitchens, family rooms, offices and more. The only caveat on cork is that if your finish starts to wear then you should recoat the floor with a hardwood flooring finish to insure a long life span. The other note is that bright direct sunlight can cause cork to fade which is not a huge issue, but you should at least be aware of it.


Photo via




Engineered Hardwood – watch what happens to prices

Due to the recent government regulations (translation: incompetent beaurocrats fueled by self interested giant US based conglomerates-yes Warren Buffet, your company is involved) the anti-dumping and counterveiling duty for engineered hardwood flooring looks like it will make a large leap upward. Although the results are not yet final the speculation is a range of 50% duty to 237% duty added to the cost of imported engineered hardwood flooring that is made in china and imported in the USA.

The immediate impact is a large disruption of this particular flooring category’s supply chain – which represents about 40-50% of the engineered hardwood sold in America today. This will force prices higher during a shortage of supply assuming demand holds level. (of course customers may also decide to buy other products besides engineered woods as the supply shrinks and re-sellers are interested in maintaining revenue.)

The funny part: products imported from other countries like Vietnam, Brazil, Ukraine, Portugal, Malaysia and any country besides China are not subject to these new fees.

Therefore the net effect will only be disruption and probably a net cost increase overall, but not 50%-200%.

If you are planning on buying engineered hardwood anytime in the next 12 months now is the time to act before all of these disruptions get priced into the market. After about 12 months it will all settle down and should be a more realistic price level.


Mike Rowe Works

Mike Rowe who is has brought us great shows like DIRTY JOBS, funny Ford Commercials and even   narration on Discover’s Deadliest Catch and is now at least a B level celebrity. (maybe B+?)

Either way Mike has become a very salient and proud voice about the value of trade skills and classic good ‘ole hard work in an era filled with a culture pushing people to do less and less real work and rely on the government more and more.

Mike tell’s the best stories and makes the most compelling arguments about hard work and why there is extraordinary value in skilled labor for the individual who learns the trade and why there is such a critical need for it to make our world to go ’round. To check out his new site go here:


For the official press release read below:

Mike Rowe Is No Expert, But He Knows Where to Find Them

After being an apprentice on nearly 300 dirty jobs, Mike Rowe is still no expert, but he sure knows where to find them. In 2008, Mike launched mikeroweWORKS, a website dedicated to championing the cause of hard workers and reinvigorating the skilled trades.  Since then, mrW has provided resources, news, and a community forum for folks from all kinds of trades. Now, with the launch of the Trades Hub, the goals of mrW can be expanded even further and across many more website portals.

Think of Trade Hubs as a “first cousin” to mrW. With this new platform, we’ll be able to pull together even more experts from such diverse trade fields as constructionplumbinglandscaping, manufacturing, machinery and HVAC just to name a few.

Here’s what you can look for at the Trades Hub:

More High Quality Content: The mrW Trades Hub will be pulling together all kinds of blogs, articles and news stories relating to the trades, by the trades and for the trades. They will be updated throughout the day.

One Stop Shop: With an easy to navigate site, users will be able to quickly source out those areas of interest that appeal to them on any given day. The links will take them right to where they want to go without sorting through all kinds of search engine pages for the right site.

Finding the Diamond in the Rough: When you consider the millions of new pages and posts uploaded across the internet everyday it’s hard to find the best representations for your interests. Trade Hubs takes internet searching to the next level by identifying those popular blog and websites that might normally go unnoticed if you’re not a regular subscriber.

Building Up the Trades Community: “The skills gap is a real concern that’s getting more worrisome every day.  Fewer skilled tradesmen in the workforce will affect us all.  Younger folks need to have a better understanding of how they can benefit from learning a trade, and parents need to encourage their kids to consider this worthwhile and important path.  mrW strives to reinvigorate the trades.  The mrW Trades Hub will help us in that effort.”

mikeroweWORKS would like to thank Tony Karrer with assistance from John Sonnhalter for their efforts in getting the Trades Hub up and running.







Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is not as complicated as people may believe.

There are just a few key things to think about:

1) What color/style do you like? This is an obvious home decor related topic and the most important question as long as the technical features and benefits match your answers below. So the best advice is to answer the questions below FIRST and then pick a color and style from the products that meet your requirements noted below.

2) How long do you want it to last – or in other words how long will you be in the home? This helps establish a budget. If you are just preparing a home for sale then your flooring budget will be less than if you are making your dream home and want the flooring to last forever. Yes you most often do get what you pay for. (However, watch out for predatory companies that like to come to your home promising 100% off sales or buy an entry way get 10 houses free. These guys are sharks most often and WAY overprice their products.)

3. Don’t forget underlayment. Having premium underlayment is CRITICAL if you are in a room that sound matters either in the room itself or in the room below. This is a mistake people often make in laminate – and then people are surprised and or disappointed that the sound of the floor is hollow. I love the cork underlayment at HERE IS A LINK TO: CORK UNDERLAYMENT


If you have the right budget (which is setting expectations about longevity), the right underlayment for the right ambiance and the right color – you will have the perfect lamiante floor!

armstrong laminate
Armstrong high gloss laminate flooring