Last week, I unveiled our shiny new DIY laminate floors with you guys. (Thank you so much for your kind responses! They made my week.)
Even though I tried not to get bogged down in too many details, it was a marathon-length post, jam-packed with information – and I still have more to share!
One transformative piece of blogging advice I’ve taken to heart over the years is to know exactly what your post is about… and if you have something to say that doesn’t fit your post’s “thesis” (thanks English class!), then it should really be another blog post.
Which brings us to today and the run-down on the most helpful tools and supplies I’ve encountered in my DIY flooring adventures.
There were a few things that surprised me in this project: First, how easy the actual flooring installation was. Second, what a royal paint concrete leveling is. And third, how many supplies and tools I actually needed to pull off the whole project by myself.
Does anyone else forget to factor those behind-the-scenes expenses into your initial project budget?
I’m happy to have my new tools like my table saw and nail gun for future projects, and even with all my purchases, I still came out far ahead of the cost of hiring installers – but it’s definitely something to keep in mind if you’re planning a flooring installation of your own!
Lucky for you, I’m sharing tons of details and following the same framework as the post outlining my flooring installation – so now you can walk through and get the skinny on exactly what I was using each step of the way.
*Today’s post may contain affiliate links. Affiliate links generate income to help keep The Gathered Home running and don’t cost you anything extra – win-win!
Ripping Out The Carpet
If you have any pent-up aggression towards your carpet, now is the time to let it loose, because those heavy rolls are carpet are kind of beast to remove! If you aren’t giving away or donating your carpet, you can slice it into smaller, more manageable strips with a utility knife…
But please – don’t feed the landfill! Throw it up on Craigslist, your local Facebook sales group, or donate it to your local Habitat for Humanity Restore. Those big rolls of carpet are a bit more of a pain to deal with, but the good karma is worth it!
Crowbar – After you peel the carpet up from the tack strips around the perimeter of the room, you have to pry those jerks up – and a nice, heavy crowbar or wrecking bar really helps. Plus, you’ll be ready for any surprise zombie attacks.
Dead Blow Hammer – This heavy hammer minimizes rebound and is perfect for tapping the crowbar underneath the tack strips. If you hit the crowbar just right, it will lift the tack strip and pop out the nails at the same time! Magic.
Safety Glasses – I’ll say it again: tack strips are jerks. They splinter, they pop up, little nails and pieces of metal go flying… Wear safety glasses.
Work Gloves -I chose fingerless gloves in a compromise of protection versus mobility. The padding on my palm helped a lot to cushion the blows from the hammer, but I did end up stabbing my fingers multiple times with nasty nails and wood splinters.
Prepping The Concrete Subfloors
Because we have concrete subfloors, and because they were not smooth and level, I had to take several additional steps to prep them – grinding down the high points and filling in the low points.
Angle grinder + diamond cup grinding wheel – I borrowed my dad’s angle grinder and used a diamond cup grinding wheel. Those wheels are not cheap, but they shave right through the concrete, sparks flying!
Be warned, this generates diabolical amounts of concrete dust. Turn off your A/C or heat and seal off the room, if you can! In one room, I was able to tape tarps over the doorways, but in the open living room, that just wasn’t an option.
For the spot I needed to grind down, I made a shallow retaining wall out of rope caulk (modeling clay or play dough should also work) about 2′ in diameter and filled it with water, so I could grind the concrete under water. There was still dust, but nowhere near as much as before!
Shop vac – Whether you’re creating concrete dust or not, the shop vac is super helpful to make sure your subfloors are perfectly clean before you move on to the next step.
Mixing paddle – If you need to mix any concrete, you’ll definitely want a mixing paddle that attaches to your power drill, and while you’re at it, you’ll need a 5 gallon bucket to mix in. When working with concrete, I like to wear a pair of good old kitchen dishwashing gloves – they are nice and thick, so they don’t tear, and they protect my skin from caustic concrete.
Trowel – Really, anything with a straight edge can be a trowel, but I picked up one of these cheap adhesive trowels and it helped me smoothly feather the edges of my concrete patches.
Again, this is a concrete-subfloor-specific step. If you don’t have concrete subfloors, your installation will look a little different (and probably a little easier).
6 mil underlayment – The laminate flooring I used has a foam backing already applied to each plank, so the only underlayment required was this thick black plastic moisture barrier. It usually comes in 120-square foot rolls, and I had to use three rolls for the big rooms. Not a huge expense, but definitely something to factor in!
Seam tape – Debatably necessary but I felt better using this tape to seal everything up!
Explanatory note from last week’s post: I didn’t pull out the baseboards in the rooms where I installed the flooring. Technically, you are supposed to, and then you’re supposed to run the moisture barrier up the wall behind the baseboards.
It’s a long story, but because we have other flooring of different heights in our house that I wasn’t replacing, and because of the way the baseboards run all the way throughout the open floor plan below the height of the already-installed tile (DON’T ask me why!), I decided to do my flooring with the existing baseboards in place and use quarter round/shoe molding to cover the installation gap.
So I actually just taped the moisture barrier to the baseboards in such a way that the future molding would cover it up.
Cutting The Planks
I definitely took a big step forward in my tool-ownership as a result of this project. I went from a handsaw and little hacksaw to being the somewhat confident and competent user of a compound miter saw and table saw!
Compound miter saw – I purchased a Kobalt 7-1/4 inch sliding compound miter saw because I found it on a good sale. However, I do have two complaints and I wanted to share them so you can make an informed decision.
First, while the 7-1/4 inch blade was fine for cutting across the width of 6″ flooring planks, I ran into issues where I needed to cut my planks at 45 degrees (thanks to some fun angles in our house), because the blade was just not wide enough to make that cut. I was able to make it work, but in hindsight, I wish I had gone with a miter saw with a bigger blade.
Secondly, halfway through the project, the laser level just stopped working. It still glows, but it seems like it somehow got out of alignment and doesn’t cast a helpful guiding line any more. The owner’s manual specifically warns against attempting to do anything with the laser yourself, so I’ll need to contact the manufacturer and try to sort that out.
15 amp 10-inch table saw – I kept my table saw purchase as economical as possible with a Ryobi 15-amp 10-inch table saw and I have no complaints. It’s affordable and the small footprint is perfect for our garage, exactly what I needed for ripping down the length of laminate planks.
Square – Confession: when I started this project, I didn’t even own one of these cheap, indispensable little tools… A huge thanks to my dad for sending one over!
Extension cord – Another confession: at first, I only owned one extension cord, so I was constantly switching it back and forth from the miter saw to the table saw. A second one definitely proved extremely useful!
Safety glasses – Are you tired of hearing this yet? Don’t forget to protect your nice little eyeballs!
So. All that being said, while I used a combination of a miter saw and a table saw for cutting my flooring, I’ve seen people recommend circular saws, jigsaws, what have you. There are all sorts of ways to cut your planks, but the one that I kind of wish I had come across before embarking on this adventure is this one:
Skil flooring saw – This baby makes cross cuts, miter cuts, and rip cuts – aka, just about all the cuts you need for flooring – at a fantastic price! Like I said earlier, I’m still looking forward to using both saws for future projects, so I’m still pretty happy with my purchases, but if you just need a saw to get you through your DIY flooring project, this one looks like a total winner!
Finishing Touches – Shoe Molding & T-Molding
Even after I overcame my fear of the miter saw and table saw, I was still nervous to get to the nail gun. Maybe I’ve just seen too many horror scenarios on tv – but I was pretty intimidated to use a tool that literally shoots nails through wood.
Imagine my surprise when my air compressor + nail gun combo quickly became my favorite new toy!
Air compressor + brad nailer – This is the exact combo I purchased, because it was a great deal and it came with literally everything I needed to get started, except the nails. I used the 18-gauge brad nailer for the shoe molding – but I’m really looking forward to trying out the 16-gauge nail gun and the crown stapler for future projects! (P.S. Don’t forget those safety glasses while you’re using a nail gun!)
Once I figured out the correct PSI setting by a little bit of trial and error, the shoe-molding phase of the project went by super-quickly! Measuring my cuts and figuring out inside and outside corners took the longest, because my brain is so not geometrically inclined. But in the end, I’m pretty happy with the way my molding job turned out!
Hammer drill + concrete anchors – To install the T-molding tracks (those pretty trim pieces that finish off the transition between our laminate and tile floors), my dad brought over his hammer drill, because we had to screw them into the concrete. Honestly, we were both amazed at how smoothly the hammer drill worked – I held the shop vac at the base of the drill and there wasn’t even any mess from the concrete dust! We used 3/16″ x 1-1/4″ concrete anchor screws and they were perfect for the job.
It might seem a little overwhelming at first, but if you take it one step and time and bring all your new skills together, you end up with something wonderful born out of love and perseverance, and it just might become the most beautiful place on earth to you!
I know our home still has a ways to go, and I can name twenty projects right now off the top of my head that I want to do next… but I’m thankful for the boost of confidence DIYing my own laminate floors has given me that I can tackle those projects!
I hope this post has been helpful to you, if you’re considering installing your own flooring, or even just looking to boost your power tool arsenal. Let me know if you have any questions! I’m always happy to share any [admittedly-amateur] knowledge I may have!