Category: Flooring & Stairs


How To: Clean Laminate Floors

With regular maintenance and careful cleaning, you can keep your laminate floor looking shiny and new.

How to Clean Laminate Floors

Photo: pergo.com

Laminate floors are so beautiful when first installed, but over time they can start to look a little worse for wear. Of course, unsightly streaks and blemishes need not be permanent. By following these simple guidelines, you can clean laminate floors effectively and restore their original sparkle and luster.

How to Clean Laminate Floors - Flat Mop

Photo: shutterstock.com

Basic Cleaning
If you’re going to coexist happily with this particular flooring material, then you’ve got to know one thing: Laminate hates water. If you allow the flooring to get overly wet, then the installation may warp as moisture seeps between and under the boards. That said, mopping is often the best way to clean laminate floors. So how the heck do you mop the laminate surface without putting it in jeopardy?

There are two methods:

• Use a flat mop and wring it out often; it should remain damp but never make contact with the floor when dripping wet.

• Working in sections, use a spray bottle to mist the floor, then promptly go over with a dry mop. If the floor still looks wet a minute after you’ve mopped it, that means you’re probably using too much water.

Chemical Cleaners
When plain warm water doesn’t cut it, consider using a store-bought commercial cleanser. Take care in making your product selection, however. Some chemicals in common floor cleaners can damage laminate, so it’s prudent to double-check the packaging to be certain you are purchasing something that’s laminate-safe. Also, remember that using twice the recommended amount won’t render the floor twice as clean. Rather, the excess leaves a streaky, cloudy residue that actually makes the floor look dirty.

Stain Removal
For a tough stain that neither water nor floor cleaner can budge, try an acetone-based solution, such as nail polish remover. Apply it directly to the stain, in as small a quantity as possible. Once the solution has done its work, wipe it away with a soft, clean cloth (not with a scouring pad or anything else that could leave scratches). Another good thing to know: If you’re trying to remove a hard, stuck-on substance like wax or gum, harden it first with an ice pack, then scrape it away with a plastic putty knife.

Regular Maintenance
The least demanding, most reliable way to clean laminate floors is through light but consistent maintenance. Once a week—or as often as traffic in the room demands—sweep or vacuum the floor to control dust and debris. Given the sensitivity of laminate floors to moisture, wipe up spills swiftly after they occur.

Laminate floors shown in magazines and catalogs always shine brilliantly, don’t they? Well, yours can too! Once you’ve managed to get the floor clean, follow up with a soft cloth (or an old T-shirt) and buff the surface using circular motions to achieve a gleaming polish.


What Would Bob Do? Polishing a Concrete Floor

Sleek, shiny, and easy to maintain, polished concrete is a great flooring choice, particularly for modern interiors. If you'd like to create this look in your own home, here are the basics on the polishing process.

How to Polish Concrete - Living

Photo: kaplanthompson.com

I am living in Spain and redoing an old house in the country. I’d like some of the floors to be polished concrete. Can anyone tell me how to do this?

It’s no wonder that homeowners have adopted polished concrete floors. They’re quick to install and don’t cost a lot. They also wear well and require minimal maintenance. Years ago, you’d see polished concrete only in public spaces—at the mall, say, or in office building lobbies—but nowadays it’s a common sight in private residences.

How to Polish Concrete - Foyer

Photo: cromadesign.com

To polish concrete the do-it-yourself way, you’re going to need a concrete grinder. If you can’t borrow one from a friend in the trade, you can rent one from your local home improvement center. In addition, you’ll have to get your hands on an assortment of grinding discs (in a wide variety of grits, from 30 to 3,000) as well as polishing pads.

Polishing concrete bears some similarities to sanding a hardwood floor. One of the big differences, however, is that with concrete you are going to make many more passes with the grinder than you would with a sander on a wood floor of a similar size. Also, you should expect to spray on a densifier or hardener between passes with the grinder.

Near the end of the polishing process, swap out the grinding disc in favor of a burnishing pad. At this point, you’ll notice the floor starting to get really smooth. Before burnishing one last time, put a thin coat of concrete sealer over the floor. The result will be a stone-like surface that gleams without the aid of floor waxes or oils.

The best concrete grinders typically include a skirt and a vacuum, both of which are designed to contain dust. Look for a unit that is also equipped with a built-in liquid dispenser. To polish concrete near existing walls without causing damage, it’s best to use a specialized edging machine (another tool you can rent from the home center).

Renting a concrete grinder can be a little pricey—as much as $1,000 per week for the grinder itself, plus $250 per week for the edging polisher. That being the case, if you have a small job on your hands the most cost-effective option might be to hire a professional, as counterintuitive as that may seem. I recommend gathering estimates from a few local crews, then comparing those quotes to the amount charged by the tool rental depot.


Is Cork Flooring Right for You?

Offering easy maintenance, sound absorption, warmth, and comfort underfoot, cork is a smart, eco-friendly flooring choice for many of today's homeowners. Is it the right choice for you? Find out here.

Lisbon's Tobacco Road Cork Flooring at Lumber Liquidators.

In our ongoing quest to make our homes beautiful reflections of who we are, the question of what to install underfoot is an important one. For some people, gleaming oak is the answer; for others, salvaged pine planks or Mediterranean-style tiles. In recent years, cork flooring has become yet another popular option.

“There are natural benefits of cork flooring, including easy maintenance, sound absorption, warmth, and comfort,” says Ebony Costain, a buyer at Lumber Liquidators. “What consumers may find most surprising, however, are the attractive varieties that have been brought to market.” Cutting-edge technology has allowed manufacturers to offer flooring with the amazing look of hardwood or marble, while keeping all the benefits of cork. To determine if cork is a good choice for your floor, consider how well the following statements apply to you.

You have cold feet—literally. If you usually wear socks or slippers around the house to avoid cold floors under your feet, you’ll appreciate cork’s ability to stay at room temperature and therefore feel warm to the touch. Like a cushion underfoot, cork flooring also eases stress on your back and legs, making it a good fit for any place in your home where you’ll be standing for long stretches of time, like kitchens, laundry rooms, and workshops.

Lisbon's Silves Cork Flooring at Lumber Liquidators.

You have an artistic eye. Cork flooring comes in a wide array of colors and grain patterns, so the design possibilities are limitless. Just about any floor motif that can be made with paint or ceramic tile—think checkerboards, stripes, or chevrons—can be made with cork. Let your imagination soar! Some owners even play with the pattern of the cork itself to create a design that mimics exotic wood grains like tiger maple, or the stone striations of marble or granite. Whatever style you choose, you’ll enjoy the surprised expressions when guests first step into a room.

You have a sensitive ear. Cork’s acoustic properties make it a sensible choice for any home in which echoing presents a problem—in pared-down interiors with few carpets and curtains, for example, or in apartment buildings where downstairs neighbors tend to call at the slightest footfall. The pitter-patter of tiny feet becomes a bit less thundering with a layer of cork, while the material’s pliancy would be an added benefit should any tot happen to stumble. Music rooms, too, are logical places for cork floors to mute the reverberations of instruments.

You strive to be green. Most trees would quickly perish if their bark were removed. By contrast, cork trees—native to Spain and Portugal—have a type of bark that regenerates after harvesting and can be trimmed again in nine years’ time. Cork floor tiles are made from the remnants of cork wine-stopper manufacturing and are a truly sustainable option for homeowners in search of eco-friendly materials.

Lisbon's Rossio Cork Flooring at Lumber Liquidators

You have a high-traffic household. Forget “high-traffic area” —your whole house is in constant motion with kids, pets, and projects in flux. Cork’s durability makes it a natural choice in such settings and explains its frequent use in public buildings that have a steady stream of visitors, like libraries and museums. Small dents in cork flooring fill themselves in again and shallow scratches visually blend into the overall pattern, unlike marring on wood floors, which is typically easy to see and a hassle to refinish.

You crave easy maintenance. As it does with small scratches, the highly textural pattern of cork helps mask light stains and marks. Sweeping and occasional mopping with a damp cloth are all that’s needed to keep cork floors looking their best. That said, putting felt pads on furniture feet—just as you would with hardwood flooring—can help extend the life of cork tiles.

You’re budget-conscious. At about $3 to $8 per square foot, cork is comparable in price to other flooring options such as hardwood, carpeting, or tile. Whether you choose cork tiles that are positioned with an adhesive or those that feature a tongue-and-groove system, installation is easy for most do-it-yourselfers, which helps to keep costs low. And once the floor is in place, cork’s thermal properties maintain room temperature even in cold weather, which can alleviate your heating costs in winter.

All in all, if you’re thinking about putting in a new floor, cork is an option worth considering.

 

This post has been brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


When in Doubt, Revive Your Grout!

If your floor, backsplash, or tub surround is looking a little tired and outdated, the solution may be as simple as cleaning, reviving, or replacing the grout.

cleaning - replacing grout

Photo: lovingmyfloors.com

Tile has always been a popular choice for floors, walls, and other surfaces due to its durability and long life. In fact, it’s typically the grout that starts to fail or show its age before the tile itself, and when grout gets dirty or worn, the entire tile surface can appear old or tired-looking. The best way to breathe new life back into your tile is to restore your grout, and there are some very affordable ways to do so. Replacing tile can cost thousands of dollars, whereas the options we are going to discuss could run you less than a hundred!

Cleaning – In some cases, the grout might just be stained or dirty, particularly if you are dealing with a floor that gets a lot of traffic. There are plenty of grout and tile cleaners on the market, but hydrogen peroxide and baking soda may work just as well. Pour a little hydrogen peroxide onto the grout lines and use a grout brush to work it in for a few seconds. Then pour baking soda on top and brush your little heart out. Clean up with water after you have covered the entire area, and your tile and grout will look fresh and new.

Coloring – If the color of your grout is simply outdated or faded, you may want to use a grout colorant to make it look new again. Grout colorants are applied directly to your existing grout; the process is not difficult, but it is a little tedious and time-consuming. Keep in mind that this will work only if your grout is porous (like most grout) and your tile is nonporous. Sometimes colored silicone caulk is used where tile meets other materials such as hardwood or tubs; grout colorant will not work on these areas. Also, when choosing a grout color, stay away from white or light colors because they will inevitably get dirty and stained. If you choose a darker color, then you won’t have to worry so much about the grout getting stained from foot traffic.

Replacing – If your grout is chipping, cracking, or coming loose, you can actually get rid of it and replace it with fresh, new grout. This may seem like a daunting task at first, but the old adage “the right tool for the right job” certainly applies here. The HYDE Regrout Tool makes removing grout unbelievably easy. It removes both sanded and unsanded grout at a rate of about 1 inch per second, and works with grout lines up to 1/8 inch wide. If you have ever tried to use other grout removal tools, you know that they are frustrating and dangerous, and they can actually damage your tile. The HYDE Regrout Tool eliminates these problems—it’s very easy to use and surprisingly affordable as well. The carbide tips are able to get into tight, awkward places, and they are even safe to the touch when the tool is running. Again, once the grout is removed, consider replacing it with darker colors that will not show dirt.

Sealing – After you have cleaned, colored, or replaced your grout, be sure to use a grout sealant to protect it and make it easier to clean in the future. Grout sealants help keep your grout from getting stained, and they protect it from moisture and mildew. It is well worth the small investment of time and money to protect your hard work and your refreshed tile surface! So before you start tearing out your tile, look into giving your grout a facelift. There’s a good chance that fixing up the grout using these helpful tips will give you the same results as replacing your tile, for a fraction of the cost!

This post has been brought to you by HYDE®. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

 


How To: Inlay Sheet Vinyl Flooring

For a unique custom look, why not inlay vinyl flooring with a contrasting yet complementary color or pattern?

Here’s how to inlay sheet vinyl flooring for a designer look. Measure your design on the floor with chalk lines. Secure your inlay sheet on top of the base sheet with masking tape. Carefully cut through both layers, using a very sharp utility knife. Remove your base layer, trim the edges, and lay floor adhesive. Set your inlay in place and roll the floor to evenly spread the adhesive. Finish the edges with seam sealer and you’ll have a perfect fit.

For more on flooring, consider:

How To: Clean a Vinyl Floor
Quick and Easy Vinyl Flooring
Vinyl Flooring Installation (VIDEO)


How To: Cut Vinyl Flooring

Creating a paper template makes it much easier to cut vinyl flooring so that it fits into a room with irregular dimensions.

It’s easier to cut vinyl flooring to the exact shape and size of your room when you make a template first. Staple sheets of paper felt to your subflooring and trim close to the wall. This line doesn’t have to be exact. Transfer the contours of the wall onto the template using the inside of a square. Tape the template onto your new vinyl sheet goods and cut the true outline of the wall using the outside of the square. You should have a perfect fit.

For more on flooring, consider:

Quick and Easy Vinyl Flooring
Vinyl Flooring Installation (VIDEO)
8 Easy and Affordable Garage Floor Options


How To: Scribe Tile

Follow these tips to scribe tile correctly and achieve professional-level results in your bathroom or kitchen flooring project.

Here’s how to scribe a floor tile to fit around an uneven edge. Set the closest full tile in place, then use another full tile to mark the overlaps with a grease pencil. Keep moving the scribe tile to transfer the outline of the wall. Cut and trim along the penciled lines, then set the cut tile into place for a perfect fit.

For more on tile, consider:

Tiling Tools
How To: Cut Tile
Bob Vila Radio: Laying Tile


How To: Stain Concrete

Applying stain to a concrete floor can add beauty and depth to this hard-wearing material, and make it even easier to maintain. If your concrete floor is already in good shape, you're just a few easy steps away from a durable, dramatic new finish.

How to Stain Concrete - Basement Floor

Photo: dmarcht.com

Homeowners used to think of concrete as being strictly utilitarian stuff, resorted to only when a better-looking material would be either unsuitable or far too expensive. Today, many people appreciate not only the hard-wearing durability of concrete, but also its aesthetic qualities, which can be greatly enhanced by a number of different techniques. One popular way to finish concrete is through either acid- or water-based stain. I recommend acid: It lasts longer and looks better. The downside of acid stain, however, is that it can be somewhat unpredictable.

Rather than coating on like a wood stain, acid concrete stain generates color through a chemical reaction. Results depend in part on the stain you’ve chosen and how much of it you apply, but also on the concrete itself—its location, age, and mineral composition. The color you end up with may be quite different from the one you expected to get. And there’s no way to erase or undo the stain once you’ve applied it. Your only option is adding more stain to intensify the effect.

STEP 1
To stain concrete successfully, the first step is to prepare the surface, being sure that it’s free of residual adhesive, flaking paint, and similar debris. Scrub the concrete with a solution of TSP and water. Treat stubborn stains aggressively with a degreaser or chemical paint stripper. Mechanical abrasion is a last resort.

How to Stain Concrete - Open Floor

Photo: arkintilt.com

STEP 2
Tape off any sections of the concrete surface that you do not wish to stain. Do this very carefully, as it may prove impossible to remove the stain if it lands somewhere you didn’t intend it to go.

STEP 3
To get an impression of how the stain is going to look, test it in an inconspicuous corner or along a remote edge of the concrete. Don’t love how it looks? Adjust the stain accordingly, diluting or intensifying it.

STEP 4
Now you’re ready to start applying the stain. The goal here is to achieve even coverage. To that end, many choose to employ a sprayer (whose parts are plastic so as not to corrode upon contact with acid). After spraying—never so much that there’s puddling—use a shop broom to ensure that no parts of the surface look relatively darker or lighter. If necessary, spray again to eliminate marks left by the broom.

STEP 5
Different stains take different periods of time to set properly; consult the label on the product you have chosen. While the stain is setting, the chemical reaction actually continues. It ceases only when you neutralize it by washing the floor in a solution of water and detergent (and sometimes baking soda).

STEP 6
Finish up by protecting the stained concrete with a sealer. Again, consult the product label; it’s a good idea to use the manufacturer-recommended sealer. Indoor concrete flooring is usually sealed with wax, although in a high-traffic area, I would opt for epoxy beneath urethane. Note that you can use a buffing machine to facilitate the sealing process, so long as you are working on a floor surface indoors.


Pro Tips: Decorative Floor Painting

Painted floors can create a homey, warm atmosphere or make a bold graphic statement. Here are some helpful tips on how you can enhance any wood floor with a decorative pattern.

Painted Floors

Photo: jeanniebalsam.com

You can’t deny the decorative appeal of painted floors, whether they’re patterned in checkerboard, stripes, or some other graphic design. “Painted floors allow your unique creative expression to flourish,” says decorative painter Elise C. Kinkead, author of 50 Ways to Paint Ceilings and Floors. “Painted floors are also an inexpensive way to nudge a well-worn floor into a few more years of service.” But where to begin? Kinkead offers the following advice to guide do-it-yourselfers in the process.

PLAN
Browse magazines or search the Web in order to find a pattern that you love. Then lay out a paper version of the design, securing your “test run” to the floor by means of low-tack tape. Experiment with different positions around the room before deciding which looks the best. If the room in question has a focal point, such as a fireplace or bay window, consider orienting your floor pattern in such a way that it draws the eye toward that striking main feature of the space.

PREP
With the exception of laminates, whose damage-resistant finish does not accept paint well, most any wood floor can be painted successfully. As in other painting projects, it’s essential that you do a good job of preparing the surface. In the case of painted floors, proper preparation involves three steps. The very first step is to remove any waxy residue from the floor surface. Commercial wax removers are commonly available; inquire at your local hardware store.

After cleaning the floor thoroughly and allowing it to dry out completely overnight, continue on to the next step: sanding. Lightly abrade the floor with 120-grit sandpaper secured to the end of a sanding pole (alternatively, rent a floor sander for the day). Once you’re finished, vacuum the sawdust and then wipe away any lingering grit with a slightly damp cloth. Again, allow the wood to dry completely.

Now complete the final step, which is to repair any cracks or gouges by means of wood filler. Of course, if you appreciate and prefer the look of a time-worn surface, then skip this step. Imperfections in the floor won’t compromise, and may even enhance, the project.

PRIME
Clean, sanded, and dry, the floor is now ready to be primed. Opt for an oil-based primer if you wish, but Kinkead prefers water-based products, both for their low odor and fast-drying characteristics. The primer coat goes on mainly with a roller; along edges or in corners, cut in with a paintbrush. Note that if you are painting the floor in a single hue, you can use a primer tinted to your chosen color to cut down on the need for multiple top coats. Remember also that primer may serve as one of the colors in a multicolor design. The point is that there are ultimately strategic, timesaving advantages to choosing a primer carefully.

Painted Floors - Taped

Photo: arvadacarpetcleaningbest.com

TAPE
Having given the primer ample opportunity to dry completely, proceed to outline your pattern on the floor. Do so with chalk or a carpenter’s pencil, making the faintest mark possible that’s still visible over the primer. Lay tape just to the edge of the marks, pressing down on the tape edges with a dull putty knife for optimal adhesion. At this point, wipe away all chalk or pencil with a damp cloth. And before you start to paint, check again to be certain the floor surface is still dry.

PAINT
Believe it or not, there are paints formulated especially for application on floors, and the range of available colors has only expanded over the years. Regular latex wall paint is fine to use, too, provided you finish it with a sealer. In applying the top coat, as you did with the primer, use a roller wherever possible and a paintbrush in those areas where a roller just won’t do. Allow each coat to dry before painting on the next one. For solid coverage, two coats ought to be enough. Remove the tape very carefully, at a 45-degree angle, only after the paint has dried.

SEAL
Plan on sealing your paint job with two coats of either oil- or water-based polyurethane (unless you’ve painted with an oil-based product, in which case you must use an oil-based poly sealer). Generally, a pad is the recommended applicator for sealers of this type, but manufacturers’ instructions vary. Read the label on the can of sealer you plan to purchase before committing to any specific tools for this final stage of the project.

For a slightly worn appearance, leave the floor unsealed for a period of time, or hand-distress the surface with sandpaper. Once it has developed the patina you want, proceed to add the sealer. How long does it take before you can bring furniture back into the room? That depends on the sealer. Again, read the label. Usually, you need to wait no more than 24 hours.


How To: Remove and Replace Grout

Even the best tiling jobs show their age eventually. When that day comes, remove the grout and replace it to rejuvenate the installation and make the surface gleam again.

How to Remove Grout

Photo: shutterstock.com

Several years after you complete a bathroom or kitchen renovation, it inevitably starts to show some wear. One culprit is grout: Over time, it stains, cracks, and becomes loose, even if it was professionally installed. And if the grouting was done poorly to begin with, then the job really isn’t likely to last very long. Fortunately, it’s well within the range of the average do-it-yourselfer to remove and replace grout. Indeed, regrouting tile can restore lost luster and is well worth the time and effort.

How to Remove Grout - Tool

Photo: milwaukee.com

How to Remove Grout
It’s certainly possible to remove grout by hand, the old-fashioned way, but it’s recommended that you opt for a power tool. Doing so makes much quicker work of what can be a labor-intensive, time-consuming, and potentially frustration-inducing home project.

If you’re up for taking the power-tool-free route, you need a manual grout removal tool. These typically come in one of two flavors. One looks like a screwdriver with a triangular carbide blade mounted on its end. How does it work? You pull the tool through a grout joint until at least one-eighth of an inch has been removed. The second type of manual grout removal tool features a carbide grit-edged blade—that’s why it’s sometimes known as a grout saw. To use one, you simply saw into the the old grout in the same way that you would saw into wood.

If power tools are more your style, you have at least a couple of effective options. One is to outfit your reciprocating saw with an accessory that is specially designed to remove grout (pictured at right). Alternatively, you can opt for an oscillating tool, such as the Dremel Multi-Max; these excel at smaller jobs, because they afford a high degree of control. No matter what power tool you end up choosing to help you remove grout, remember to keep a chisel or a flat-blade screwdriver on hand. The stubborn bits often need a little coaxing to come out.

Related: Top Tips for Cleaning Grout Lines

Regrouting Tile
The first step in regrouting tile is to mix a certain amount of grout powder with a specific quantity of water. Stick closely to the manufacturer’s directions. Whether you pick sanded or unsanded grout depends on the desired width of the joints between tiles. Unsanded grout is typically used to achieve relatively thin grout lines; the sanded variety is recommend for joints any wider than one-eighth of an inch.

Photo: shutterstock.com

Once you have properly mixed the grout in a bucket, apply it with a plastic towel, then use a grout float to press the mortar deeply into the joints. As you do this, hold the float at a 45-degree angle to the wall or floor surface. Once you are satisfied with the distribution of grout, the next step is to clean off the excess before it has the chance to harden. To do this, use the grout float again, this time holding the tool at an 80-degree angle to skim the excess grout from the face of the tiles. In concert with the grout float, a large, damp sponge can be handy for wiping off any lingering grout haze. (Rinse the sponge often and change the rinse water as it becomes cloudy.) Finally, allow the grout to harden for a period of 24 to 48 hours. Walk on the tile surface only after that amount of time has elapsed.