Flooring & Stairs - Bob Vila

Category: Flooring & Stairs

What’s the Difference? Plywood vs. OSB

Protect an unfinished home from the elements—and a finished home from the consequences of plumbing disasters—by starting with a durable subfloor built from the right materials.

Plywood vs OSB Subfloors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Though building codes treat both materials equally as “structural panels,” plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) are quite different compositionally. Plywood is made from glued thin strips of wood veneer (called plies) that are layered at alternating 90-degree angles and placed in a hot press; the resulting cross-laminated and layered material is structurally enhanced and resistant to the expansion and contraction that affects solid wood. OSB, on the other hand, consists of 3-inch to 4-inch strands of wood that are also layered and configured in a crossing pattern, then glued and pressed.

RELATED: Be It Ever So Humble: 12 Amazing Things Made with Plywood 

When plywood was developed to replace solid-board sheathing for subfloors and decking, builders were generally reluctant to switch to the new product, which ultimately became the standard for subfloor applications. So, unsurprisingly, when OSB came on the scene as an alternative to plywood, detractors were quick to point out its deficiencies. Its affordable price aided its growing popularity, and it soon surpassed plywood as builders’ choice in home construction—floors as well as wall and roof sheathing. Which is the better option, plywood vs. OSB? Well, each has their own strengths and weaknesses when used as exposed decking or subflooring.

Understanding the Differences in Plywood vs OSB Subfloors

Photo: istockphoto.com

OSB is considered more structurally consistent than plywood. Since a sheet of plywood consists of several large veneers of wood, it’s susceptible to instances of knots and other imperfections (which, if aligned, could create slightly softer spots throughout the material). Meanwhile, OSB compacts as many as 50 layers of strands into a single sheet the same thickness as that plywood, ensuring a much denser—and heavier—product throughout.

• OSB absorbs less moisture, but plywood dries out faster and more completely. How the subfloor materials react to water matters during both an open-air construction phase of a house as well as homeownership when a leak or flood might compromise the subfloor. Slower absorption of moisture is ideal for throwing a tarp out over an unprotected subfloor or catching a leak before real damage. But OSB also takes a longer time to dry out, giving the trapped moisture more time to degrade the material than a quick-drying plywood subfloor.

• OSB does not have the delamination issues that can plague plywood, but it’s prone to edge swelling when exposed to moisture. Though both are examples of laminated wood (meaning that each consists of thin sheets of wood that have joined with glue and compressed into a larger, rigid sheet), water damage is more likely to cause plywood’s glue to fail and its layers to bubble. This swelling effect can disappear when the plywood dries completely without impacting its structural integrity. OSB’s biggest weakness is at its edges, which will remain swollen even after the board has dried. In fact, due to the problems that edge swelling creates underneath a finished floor, a couple of national ceramic tile associations have discouraged the use of OSB as a subfloor or underlayment below a tile floor.

• OSB generally costs less than plywood. Sure, the cost of any wood product will fluctuate by region and supply, but this cost comparison generally holds water. It’s the reason a good number of high-volume builders had turned to OSB. The cost of plywood will vary depending on wood species, a factor that can also affect performance. For either of these materials, enhanced versions (which are detailed in the next section, “Understanding the Upgrades”) will cost more, but the savings come in time and materials. The enhanced plywood or OSB installation should survive exposure to moisture, meaning builders likely won’t need to install a partial replacement or second subfloor in order to install finish flooring.


Understanding the Upgrades: Enhanced Plywood and Subfloor Products

When a roofless, partially built structure takes on water, the plywood or OSB used for floor decking can absorb water, swell, delaminate, and require sanding or replacement before finish flooring can be installed. “Wood and water just do not mix well,” says Jeff Key, marketing manager for wood products at Georgia-Pacific. To address these water issues, OSB and plywood manufacturers are refining their products. The fix is to use water-repellent or water-resistant products in place of ordinary plywood or OSB.


Understanding the Differences in Plywood vs OSB Subfloors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Enhanced OSB
Products like AdvanTech, an OSB product by Huber Engineered Woods, were brought onto the scene to meet the need for moisture-resistant OSB. Essentially an enhanced OSB material, AdvanTech uses a resin integrated with the wood to resist water absorption and reduce the swelling that plagued the original OSB subflooring. Huber even offers a 50-year warranty on AdvanTech.

Using a water-resistant subfloor product saves the builder time and money because they make compromised deck sections a thing of the past. “I use the AdvanTech sheets so I don’t have to worry about sanding the edges later,” says James Langeway, a Vermont contractor. LP Building Products offers Top-Notch, an enhanced subflooring system with an edge coating to prevent water absorption and a self-draining notch design that drains standing water away from the panels.


Understanding the Differences in Plywood vs OSB Subfloors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Enhanced Plywood
Acknowledging that some builders are going to be loyal to plywood, Georgia-Pacific went national with a line of enhanced plywood, called Plytanium DryPly. DryPly is plywood treated with a water-resistant coating that prevents 40 percent of the absorption that occurs when uncoated plywood gets wet. “Our product comes with a 100 percent builder satisfaction guarantee against delamination, edge swelling, and joint sanding,” says Key. By combatting moisture issues, this new generation of plywood aims to go head-to-head with the enhanced OSB products. “There really isn’t another plywood product out there like it,” adds Key.

This evolved plywood may claim an overall advantage over OSB, since plywood is a stiffer, longer-lasting subfloor option. It will also hold up better under flooring accidents like leaks or flooding, and has greater nail withdrawal strength to hold the nail in under stress. “The difference with plywood is not felt initially during the first walk-through by the owners,” says Key. “It is made for long-term durability.” This sentiment is backed by Georgia-Pacific’s lifetime warranty on the product.
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5 Little-Known Advantages of Linoleum Flooring

First patented in the mid-1800s, this durable flooring can still be found in kitchens, bathrooms, mudrooms, and foyers more than a century later. Find out what makes linoleum so desirable.

Linoleum Flooring in the Mudroom

Photo: forbo.com

Think linoleum and vinyl flooring are one and the same? Think again. While many people mistakenly call vinyl tile ‘linoleum’, the two couldn’t be more different. Unlike vinyl tile—a floor covering developed in the 1930s from chips of a synthetic resin called polyvinyl chloride (PVC)—linoleum boasts a more-natural makeup that has been in production even longer. Patented in the 1860s, it’s made with renewable materials including linseed oil (also called linoxyn), tree resins, recycled wood flour, cork dust, and mineral pigments, all of which mounted on a jute or canvas backing. To understand how this material remains a viable flooring option in homes for centuries, get to know linoleum flooring’s history and best features.

A Brief History of An Original Eco-Friendly Building Material

The first commercial linoleum was manufactured by the American Linoleum Manufacturing Company of Staten Island, NY, a company formed by English inventor Frederick Walton and partner Joseph Wild in 1872. The resilient and water-resistant material didn’t take long to gain favor with American homeowners. In fact, it became one of the most popular flooring choices used in American homes throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, installed everywhere from high-traffic areas like hallways to moisture-prone zones like kitchens and bathrooms. (Its water-resistant properties even appealed outside of the home! Indeed, a special heavy-gauge linoleum known as “battleship linoleum” was commissioned by the U.S. Navy to be used on interior warship decking.)

Despite its affordable price point, linoleum was considered a luxurious material for many years—it was actually used in the Grand Ballroom, the dining room, and other areas of the Titanic! But gradually cheaper vinyl flooring overtook linoleum in the 1940s. While vinyl is more economical and easy to maintain, it’s simply a printed design with a protective layer on top. Once that protective layer wears down or is damaged, the flooring must be replaced. The benefits associated with linoleum flooring, on the other hand, ran deeper. Here are five key reasons homeowners choose linoleum.


Linoleum Flooring

Photo: forboflooringna.com


Durability: Most manufacturers back linoleum flooring with warranties of 25 years or more, but proper care and maintenance can extend the product’s lifespan up to 40 years—more than double the expected lifespan of vinyl flooring. Some of the product’s longevity is due to its inherent colorfast construction: The color and pattern are throughout the entire width of the material, not just printed on the surface (as it is in tile). Just make sure that you’re outfit homes with linoleum flooring that includes a protective coating added by manufacturers to prevent the surface from darkening or taking on a yellow tinge (a process called “ambering”), especially when exposed to direct sunlight—it’s not necessarily included with every linoleum flooring option. This protective top layer reinforces the material’s resilience against dirt and scuffs, but linoleum is not altogether impervious. Still avoid damage like dents and tears by sharp objects, including high heels, metal furniture legs, and dropped knives.

Why Choose Linoleum Flooring in the Kitchen

Photo: istockphoto.com

Water resistance: Beyond rigidity that holds up under the normal wear and tear of foot traffic, linoleum features a basic water resistance that you won’t find in flooring options like wood. This advantage makes it an intelligent choice for spaces that welcome wet shoes and snow-covered boots from the outdoors as well as those that see splashes, like kitchens or bathrooms. Linoleum floors should never be immersed in water, however, because excessive moisture can cause the edges, corners, or seams to curl. Floods, burst pipes, and even high humidity can do damage. For a more waterproof option, research comparable vinyl tile options instead.

Easy maintenance: Linoleum is one of the easiest flooring materials to clean and maintain. While its protective top layer wards off dirt and scuffs, you’ll still need to clean it regularly with mild, non-ammonia-based cleansers. A quick sweep or vacuum periodically will remove the abrasive dirt particles that could scratch up linoleum over time, as would an occasional damp mopping with warm water. Stains can be easily removed with a rag and mild detergent. Since the color in linoleum runs all the way through the material, if it does get stained or scratched, you can buff out the damage and refinish your floor. Linoleum that is not factory-coated to protect against ambering will also need to be cleaned and waxed every two or three years to prevent yellowing and also to protect the surface from scratches and water damage.

Eco-friendliness: The name linoleum reflects the product’s all-natural roots, coming from the Latin words “linum,” meaning flax or linen, and “oleum,” meaning oil. Linoleum is also easily recycled and biodegradable. Thanks to its wood components, after 25 to 40 years you can toss the material out guilt-free—take the used linoleum to an energy-recycling incineration plant or, if the discard pile is small enough, even compost it for your garden as you might do with mulch or wood chips. And its all-natural composition ensures that it does not emit any harmful VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions, to boot!

Myriad options: Today’s linoleum comes in an enormous variety of colors, styles, and patterns, including designs that mimic the look of wood, stone, or marble. Linoleum’s appearance isn’t the only decision to be made, though; it’s available in a number of options for installation and overall looks, too.

Sheet linoleum flooring offers the largest variety of colors and patterns and comes in jumbo-sized rolls that are suitable for covering large, open areas.

Tile linoleum flooring is similar to ceramic, porcelain, and stone tiles but much less expensive.

Click-and-lock linoleum is designed to be used as part of a floating floor system and comes in tiles or planks. Sheet and tile linoleum is typically glued in place, while click-and-lock flooring snaps into place on a floor frame and therefore does not require any additional adhesive.


Linoleum Flooring in the Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Montclair, NJ

To DIY, or Not to DIY?

Updating the kitchen floors with linoleum can be a do-it-yourself project, particularly if you’ve gone the route of tiles, which often come in a “snap-together” configuration designed to be installed as part of a floating floor system. For sheet linoleum, however, you might be better off calling in a professional flooring contractor—this variety of linoleum flooring is much stiffer than sheet vinyl and can be difficult to measure, cut, and fit accurately. If you’re hiring out, be sure to budget for labor when planning your remodel. The cost for installation typically ranges from $716 to $2,068, with the national average at $1,378, according to Home Advisor’s True Cost Guide.

Installing a new floor is a series of steps beyond simply making sure you know how pieces click. Since prep is key to end results you’ll love to live with, take these considerations into account prior to installation regardless of whether you take the DIY path or call in a pro:

• Make sure the underlying floor is level.

• Remove any old flooring material, staples, tack strips, nails, or debris.

• Have a properly-installed subfloor.

• Maintain a gap of at least 3/8-inch between the subfloor and the top of the baseboards to allow for natural expansion and contraction of the linoleum floor.


Linoleum Flooring Pros and Cons

Photo: istockphoto.com

Cost Comparisons

Linoleum is an extremely cost-effective flooring option, especially when compared to hard surface flooring such as hardwood, ceramic, or stone. Average prices for linoleum typically run in the neighborhood of $2.50 to $3.50 per square foot—that’s slightly more than vinyl flooring, which can start as low as $.50 per square foot and go as high as $5 or even $8 per square foot for the newer, luxury vinyl alternatives. Meanwhile, hardwood may cost you between $5 and $15 per square foot, ceramic tiles between $5 and $15, and stone tiles between $7 and $20 per square foot, according to Home Advisor’s Flooring Costs Overview.

If linoleum flooring’s pros outweigh its cons for you, start researching your options with the one company now selling the majority of the linoleum for residential use here in the U.S.: Forbo Marmoleum. (Armstrong Marmorette had been recently discontinued, and now recommends comparable vinyl products for those flooring options no longer in production.) Its linoleum comes in sheets or tile form, in a wide variety of colors that can look just as great in a Craftsman-style home as a super modern one. Kitchen, bathrooms, entryways, and mudrooms could all benefit from the easy-care, quality material.

All You Need to Know About Parquet Flooring

Get the 411 on this handsome hardwood flooring option that’s currently enjoying a renaissance.

Parquet Flooring 101

Photo: istockphoto.com

When it comes to elaborate flooring, parquet reigns supreme. Constructed from small pieces of hardwood fitted together in geometric patterns, parquet flooring adds a dramatic design element to any room. In the United States, parquet reached its popularity peak in the 1960s, and then, as with many boom trends, demand slowed.

Recently, however, parquet flooring has shown signs of a comeback, due in part to new manufacturing techniques that offer consumers a wider range of wood species and motifs. So keep reading to learn about the parquet pros and cons, prices, installation, and maintenance to decide if this bold statement underfoot is right for you.


Parquet Flooring 101 - Its History, Pros and Cons, and Possibilities

Photo: istockphoto.com

Parquet comes from the French term “parquetry,” meaning “small compartment.” It originated in France in the 17th Century, where artisans created elaborate designs by cutting and fitting small geometric pieces of wood together, one at a time, and then gluing them to the floor. Because of the skill and time required, parquet floors were initially the province of wealthy households and public buildings. A few of the earliest specimens still exist—such as the Galerie d’Hercule at the Hôtel Lambert, Paris—and are considered works of art in their own right.


While artisans can still piece together a custom parquet floor, the vast majority of modern parquet flooring comes in square tiles, featuring strips of hardwood bonded to a mesh or thin plywood base.

Custom parquet is rarely found in residential homes today because it still requires individually cutting wood pieces and assembling them in puzzle-like fashion to form mosaics, mandalas, and other intricate designs. The few companies that specialize in custom parquet charge $20 to $45 per square foot or more, depending on the level of complexity.

Parquet flooring tiles are the product of choice for homes today—and they’re do-it-yourself-friendly. An assortment of hardwoods, including oak, chestnut, ash, and walnut are popular in these tiles, and you can also find some exotic wood species and bamboo. Parquet flooring tiles sell by the carton, in 9-inch, 12-inch, and 18-inch squares. When installed by a homeowner, parquet flooring runs $3 to $5 per square foot. Professional installation of parquet tiles will raise the cost to around $7 to $10 per square foot.


Before investing the time and money in parquet flooring, carefully consider the positive and negative aspects of this feature floor.


• Variety, with dozens of complex patterns available.

• The warm appeal of real wood.

• Tile installation is DIY-friendly, with no nailing required.


• Can be a challenge to refinish (see below).

• Should not be installed below grade (in basements) due to common moisture issues.

• Not suitable for high humidity areas, either, including bathrooms and laundry rooms.


Many contractors and flooring professionals are adept at installing parquet tiles, but whether you choose to go with a pro or tackle the job yourself, the following pointers will give you an idea of what’s involved. Keep in mind that manufacturer specifications vary, so always follow the instructions enclosed in the carton of parquet flooring tiles.

Parquet Flooring 101 - Its History, Pros and Cons, and Possibilities

Photo: istockphoto.com

Prep for installation. Parquet flooring should be installed on a stable substrate, such as a sturdy subfloor. The substrate should be dry and level. Remove baseboards prior to installation.

Let it acclimate. Parquet is real wood and needs to acclimate to the room where it will be laid to reduce the risk of gaps developing later between the strips. The standard acclimation time for hardwood is two weeks. Simply set the cartons in the room; no need to take the tiles out. The wood strips may move imperceptibly during this time as they adjust to temperature and humidity.

Figure your layout carefully. Parquet tile designs repeat with every subsequent tile, and if the rows are not perfectly straight, or not aligned precisely with the walls, the end result will be amateurish. Not all rooms are perfectly square, and you’ll need to take that into consideration when creating a layout. Tiles come with detailed instructions on how to develop a floor layout. Follow these directions to the letter for professional looking results.

Use the recommended materials and tools. The recommended tools and materials are designed to give you the best results, so don’t just wing it with what’s at hand. Not only can the type of adhesive vary depending on the brand of tile, the manufacturer will often recommend a trowel with specific size notches.

Cut with a jigsaw, not a circular saw. While it’s standard practice to cut other types of wood flooring with a circular saw, parquet often comes with small wires embedded in the wood strips. These wires can get tangled in the spinning blade of a circular saw, creating a hazard, ruining the tile, and potentially damaging the saw. The up-and-down motion of a jigsaw cuts right through the wood and wire without problems.


Protect your investment with the right care and your parquet floors will look beautiful for years.

• For daily care, dry mop the floor with a microfiber or wool dust mop to remove dust and lightweight crumbs.

• Wipe up wet spills promptly with absorbent paper towels. Use a damp washcloth or sponge on sticky stains.

• Vacuum once a week, or as needed, using a brush attachment.

• Use a cleaning product designed for wood floors, once a month, or as needed, to maintain a bright, lustrous look.

• Avoid wood furniture dusting products, which can make parquet floors dangerously slippery.

• Do not use a steam mop. The heat and moisture can damage the finish and even swell the wood grain.

• Do not apply floor wax or polishing products intended for vinyl or ceramic tile floors—they could damage the finish.

• Put rugs in high traffic areas to protect your floor’s finish.

• Use stick-on silicone or felt protectors under furniture legs to prevent scratches.


Parquet Flooring 101

Photo: istockphoto.com


With care, your parquet floor should maintain its luster for 10 to 15 years, or longer. Over time, however, even the most well-kept wood floor can start to look a little dull, especially in high-traffic areas. When the surface coat wears thin, refinishing is an option, but it should probably be done by a wood flooring professional.

Refinishing a parquet floor can be difficult because removing the old finish involves sanding, and wood should always be sanded with the direction of its grain to prevent cross-grain marks. Because a parquet floor features pieces of wood grain running in different directions, removing the old finish without damaging the surface of the wood beneath requires painstaking care.

How To: Make Your Own Hardwood Floor Cleaner

Safely banish dirt and grime from your fine flooring with this all-natural recipe and top-notch technique.

The Best Homemade Hardwood Floor Cleaner

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether newly installed or more than a hundred years old, hardwood floors are a striking feature in many homes. Wood is a naturally resilient material, and sealed with a urethane finish hardwood flooring can take even the heaviest use for many years before needing to be refinished or, in rarer cases, replaced. Yet while wood floors are on many a “must” list for their traditional elegance underfoot, they do demand more finicky care and maintenance than such materials as laminate, vinyl, or tile, which resist scuffs and are easier to clean.

While hardwood floor cleaners abound on the market, there are several smart reasons to make your own. Some commercial products contain chemicals that can irritate the eyes, skin, or respiratory system, or be toxic if ingested. If you have young children or pets often playing on (or eating off) the floor—or you simply appreciate the health and environmental benefits of a “green” home—you may wish to avoid commercial cleaners in favor of an all-natural approach. Plus, store-bought products specifically formulated for hardwood floors can be pricey, around $7 to $20 for a 32-ounce bottle, while the homemade hardwood floor cleaner recipe here can get you nearly 200 32-ounce mixtures from a single $16, 32-ounce bottle of castile soap.

That being said, not all natural cleaning products are appropriate for hardwood floors. Harsh acidic ingredients like vinegar or lemon can strip the urethane finish, making floors appear cloudy and dull. And too-vigorous scrubbing—either with a cleaning tool or by adding an abrasive ingredient like baking soda to a cleaning solution—can also damage the finish. The best homemade hardwood floor cleaner will remove dirt without harming the finish of the floors below. Our recipe relies on castile soap, an eco-conscious alternative to dish detergent or other cleansers, and a microfiber pad to clean gently.

Before using the formula, sweep or vacuum flooring well to remove any loose dirt or debris. Then simply mix, mop, and admire your handsome hardwood!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
1 teaspoon pure castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
4 cups water, plus more for rinsing
5 to 10 drops essential oil of your choice (optional)
Spray bottle
Mop with microfiber pad

The Best Homemade Hardwood Floor Cleaner

Photo: istockphoto.com

Step 1
Add the castile soap, water, and—if you’d like a light scent—essential oil (like peppermint, orange, or lavender) to a spray bottle. Screw the top on tightly and shake well to mix.

Step 2
Before using any new cleanser on your entire floor—this one included—test it on an out-of-the-way spot, such as under a piece of furniture. Apply following the directions below and rinse, then check for any hint of damage before continuing with the rest of the floor.

Step 3
Working in small areas (about three square feet at a time), spritz the cleaning mixture onto the floor.

Be careful not to spray too much of the homemade hardwood floor cleaner at once to avoid water sitting too long on the surface. Excess moisture can penetrate the wood and cause serious damage to the boards along the lines of swelling, cupping, warping, and even separating.

Step 4
Using back and forth motions along the grain of the wood, work in the cleaning solution with a dry microfiber mop. (Avoid pre-dampened pads; there’s ample moisture in the spray). Continue working in small patches, rinsing and squeezing excess water off your mop as it becomes soiled until you’ve done the whole floor.

Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.

How To: Clean Marble Floors

Marble, the epitome of luxury, requires special care to stay in top shape. Protect your investment with these techniques.

How to Clean Marble Flooring

Photo: istockphoto.com

There’s nothing more elegant than marble, a timeless material available in a variety of colors and veining styles that makes fabulous flooring. This delicate, porous stone is notorious, however, for its susceptibility to stains—and only certain cleaning agents can be used on it without causing damage. How’s a homeowner to keep them looking brand new? If you’re curious about how to clean marble floors in your own home, keep reading for all the tips you’ll need, from routine care to stain removal.

Steer Clear of Tough Stuff

• Stay away from harsh cleaners. As a calcareous stone, marble is highly sensitive to anything acidic. Just as cutting lemons directly on a marble counter is a recipe for disaster, using acidic cleansers such as those containing vinegar on marble floors will create dull spots called etching. Abrasive cleaning agents like scouring powders or creams, dry or soft cleansers, and bathroom, grout, and tub and tile cleaners should be avoided as well. Even a cleaner formulated for granite will be too harsh; granite is a siliceous stone that can handle acidic agents.

• Beware of vacuums, which may scratch the stone surface.

• Similarly, forego scrubbing brushes in favor of soft cloths to stave off scratches.

• Always test in a small, inconspicuous area before using any of the methods for how to clean marble floors recommended below.

Keep Tabs on Dust and Dirt

• Clean marble floors frequently—especially when the presence of dirt and grit is apparent—with a clean, non-treated dust mop. A good rule of thumb to determine frequency is to dust mop once weekly per person or pet living in the home. So in a household of two people, dust mop twice per week.

• Place non-slip mats and rugs around entrances to make your job easier. These floor coverings will help limit the amount of abrasive dirt that’s being tracked into your home from outside and damaging marble floors.

How to Clean Marble Floors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Schedule Deep-Cleaning Once a Month

Periodic cleaning, at least monthly but more depending on traffic or the presence of dirt, is a must for marble floors. Use a soapless cleaner with a neutral pH (pH7) if possible, which will minimize streaks or film left behind. You can also use a mild, phosphate-free dishwashing detergent or stone soap specifically formulated for marble.

To clean, first wet the stone’s surface with clean water—you can use a spray bottle or wrung-out mop to avoid soaking the floor. Then apply the cleaning solution according to the manufacturer’s instructions with a soft mop. Thoroughly rinse the surface afterward with clean water—making sure to change out the water with fresh as needed—and dry the surface with a soft cloth. Drying the marble floors is an important step after every cleaning or spot treatment, according to the Marble Institute of America. Some marble contains iron oxide, and water may bring it up to the surface and leave behind rust stains.

See to Spills, Stains, and Scuffs ASAP

Treat stains as soon as you notice them—the longer you wait, the harder it may be to remove them. If something spills on the floor, blot it up immediately with a soft cloth, taking care not to spread the stain by wiping or smearing it. Flush the spot with water and mild soap, then rinse with more water. Repeat as needed and dry.

If a stain escapes your notice at first, a more targeted treatment approach may be needed, because different stains require different treatments. Organic material (such as most foods, coffee, tea, and fruit)—perhaps the most common culprit on light-colored marble—can be banished with 12 percent hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of ammonia. (Note: While it’s safe to mix hydrogen peroxide with ammonia, do not mix in any other cleaners as they can cause a toxic chemical reaction.) Pour enough of the solution to cover the stain and give the solution between 10 and 30 minutes of dwell time, then flush with water. If you’re left with etch marks, wet the surface and apply marble polishing powder. Buff it onto the stone with a damp cloth and dry.

For scuffs, the Marble Institute of America recommends an age-old trick: Rub a tennis ball around the mark. The soft material will safely lift the scuff out.


Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.

How To: Remove Laminate Flooring

While tearing out floors would normally seem like a headache, removing laminate flooring isn't as a big of a challenge as you might expect. With the right tools and this handy guide teaching how to remove laminate floors, you'll be able to pry up those planks in no time.

How To Remove Laminate Floors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Laminate flooring has been a popular floor choice since its invention in the late ’70s. With a typical lifespan of 15 to 25 years, the material is durable, but it will inevitably get faded, scratched, gouged, or go out of style. Whether you want it gone because of its condition or because it’s no longer in fashion, the process for how to remove laminate flooring is simple enough to do yourself.

That said, you’ll want to recruit some friends to help you haul out the bulky and heavy flooring. You might also want to consider renting a dumpster. Compare prices from several local dumpster operators since your garbage hauler may not be the cheapest—and know that prices vary widely between haulers.

Types of Laminate Flooring
Before you can start tearing up your laminate floors you need to know which kind of laminate you’re working with, so you remove it properly.

• Glued laminate was the first generation of laminate floor. As you might have guessed, the planks are held together with glue. This kind isn’t as popular anymore, but if your floor is old, this might be what you’re dealing with. Glued flooring can’t be reused, so you can remove the planks with reckless abandon.

• Floating laminate or snap-together laminate is when the laminate floor isn’t attached to the subfloor, instead the flooring “floats” on top of a foam cushion. This the next generation of laminate. Its planks were designed to fit together without glue. The tongue and groove edges are coated with a sealing product and the planks snapped together. This type of laminate can be reused. Go slowly and handle with care to avoid chipping if you want to use it again.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Heavy leather gloves
Leather shoes or boots
Eye protection
Utility knife
6inch drywall knife
Flat bar with “J” end
Side cutter
Felt tip marker
Floor scraper (if you have glued seams)
Heat gun (to soften glue if used)
Shop vacuum

How To Remove Laminate Flooring

Photo: istockphoto.com

Put on heavy leather gloves and boots before removing and handling the planks. Laminate floor edges are sharp and can slice through your skin. Also, laminate planks chips easily and the flying chips can cause serious eye injuries, so wear eye protection the entire time you’re removing and hauling laminate planks.

Move all the furniture out of the room so that you can access all of the laminate planks.

Then, get ready to remove the baseboards, which cover the edges of the flooring around the room’s perimeter. Use your utility knife to cut along the top edge of all the baseboard molding. Your goal is to slice through any paint that’s bonding the base to the wall so you don’t tear the drywall as you pry off this woodwork.

Slide a wide, 6-inch drywall knife between the wall and the baseboard. Then, insert your flat bar between the knife and board. The drywall knife will protect the wall from damage while prying. When the board is removed, use side cutters to clip the nails stuck in it or the wall. You can use your hammer to drive any remaining protruding nail shanks flush into the wall.

Before you move on to the next piece of molding, use the felt marker to number the wall and piece(s) so you know where it goes back once the new floor is in place.

Repeat until you’ve removed all the baseboard from the entire room.

Pull up any transition strips, or the strips often found in the doorway(s) to a room covering seams in the flooring between rooms or smooth transition between two flooring types (say, from laminate to carpeting). Slide the “J” end of your flat bar underneath transition strips and pry up. Then, remove the screws holding the retaining channels to the floor. Be gentle during this part if you want to save the transition strips, as they can easily break.

To remove the laminate floor itself, slide the “J” end of the flat bar into the gap between the wall and the first row of planks to pry up the first one about 45 degrees. Floating laminate planks will separate from those adjacent as you bend it up. If it’s glued, grab the plank with your hands and snap it back until the glued seam breaks.

Repeat this procedure with each plank in the first row.

With the first row removed, simply slide the chisel under each additional plank to lift it up. Then remove plank after plank and row after row until you’re done.

Remove the foam padding from the subfloor. If your laminate was glued, use the floor scraper and heat gun to remove any residue stuck to the floor.

Vacuum the entire floor with a shop vacuum to remove any wood or laminate chips. Store the base trim pieces in a safe place so they don’t get damaged in the time it takes to fill the blank slate with a new floor.

5 Reasons to Bring Brick Floors Indoors

Not for walls only, these rectangular building staples are catching on beneath the feet! Here’s why the multi-faceted material may deserve a place in your home.

Why You Should Consider Brick Floors in Your Mudroom

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Norwich, VT

Brick, the hard-working earthen blocks basic to so many structures, is becoming a trendy flooring option for high-traffic interior spaces with connections to the outdoors. Think foyer, kitchen, laundry room, and mudroom—areas calling for visual impact that downplays tracked-in dirt. If you’re considering new flooring in such a space, read on to find out why a new breed of brick is a price-wise, easy-care option. Then, get some tips for preserving brick floors’ natural beauty.

Why You Should Consider Brick Floors in Your Entryway

Photo: istockphoto.com

1. It’s a bargain!
Whereas solid or hollow bricks are commonly used on exteriors, interior brick floors generally consist of brick pavers or tiles: flat, 1-¼”- to 1-¾”-thick clay or salvaged brick material mounted either directly on the subfloor or on an underlayment above the subfloor like cement backerboard. These lightweight pavers or tiles range from $3 to $10 per square foot, in the same ballpark as ceramic tile ($2 to $5.50 per square foot) and at a lower starting price than natural stone ($5 to $10 per square foot). Budget an extra $3 to $5 per square foot for professional installation—less than what you can expect to pay for professional tile ($4 to $8 per square foot) or stone floor installation ($6 to $10 per square foot). Budget-conscious DIYers, keep in mind that the task generally entails leveling the subfloor, mounting an underlayment, applying mortar, and then laying down individual pavers.

2. It’s sustainably smart.
Eco-conscious homeowners are drawn to brick pavers and brick tile because their raw ingredients—clay, shale, and kaolin—are natural and reusable. Contrast this with vinyl flooring, made from synthetic polyvinyl chloride, or stone floors, a nonrenewable resource that requires vast amounts of energy to quarry. Reclaimed brick pavers or tiles, salvaged from old buildings, add a distressed look with historic relevance while reducing environmental waste. What’s more, unlike some traditional vinyl or laminate floors that emit high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), planet-friendly bricks are free of pollutants and allergens, a plus for allergy-prone family members.

3. It offers design flexibility
Brick pavers or tiles can be laid in a number of traditional or bespoke configurations. Those with a classic aesthetic can opt for the “straight lay,” in which bricks interlock in a conventional grid pattern. The “running bond” creates a simple offset motif while a basket-weave or herringbone pattern gives a more ornate effect to your brick floors. For something more modern, consider the V-shaped chevron. You can also pair brick with wood for a diamond inlay effect or even create a custom pattern. Brick pavers and tiles can also be painted for a more contemporary, less timeworn look.

4. It’s virtually slip-proof.
Even when wet, brick floors have an inherently rough and gritty texture that offers more traction than vinyl, laminate, tile, and non-textured stone flooring. Of course, brick will lose this non-slip quality with the application of glossy protective surface sealers, so consider leaving brick floors unfinished or use an anti-slip penetrating brick paver sealer (which sinks in and protects from below the surface) such as LastiSeal Penetrating Brick & Concrete Sealer.

5. It’s really rugged.
Fireproof, fade-proof, and rot-proof, brick can’t be beat for durability. It’s bound to last for decades without fear of damage from heavy foot traffic, sunlight exposure, weather fluctuations, or home fires. This sets brick floors apart from carpet, which is easily frayed or stained, or laminate floors, which can become warped by moisture and generally require replacement once damaged. In the rare event that a brick cracks, the modular nature of brick pavers and tiles make it easy to remove and replace.


Why You Should Consider Brick Floors in Your Entryway

Photo: Zillow Digs home in La Jolla, CA

Brick Floor Maintenance

If you decide on brick floors for your home, preserve its beauty and prolong its life span with these floor care tips.

• Vacuum with a dusting brush attachment or sweep with a broom or microfiber dust mop once a week to remove light dust and dirt.

• Banish grease and grime on a quarterly basis by working a wet microfiber mop dipped in a solution of one cup of vinegar and a gallon of warm water into three-by-three-foot sections at a time. Before the solution dries, make a second pass over the wet section with a dry microfiber mop to pick up loosened grime and prevent white spotting.

• Eliminate stains in mortar or grout around brick pavers or tiles by working a phosphoric acid cleaner (diluted with water according to manufacturer’s instructions) into the seams of the brick floors with a scrub brush. Perform this treatment as often as stains arise, but always in a well-ventilated room while wearing gloves.

• If you sealed your brick floors, reseal them at the interval recommended by the manufacturer (anywhere from one to three years on average). First vacuum the floor and then removing old sealer with commercial brick paver stripper. Reapply fresh brick sealer to the entire floor (pavers and seams) with a foam brush. Keep in mind that because penetrating sealers don’t form a film on the brick, they retain the natural appearance and texture of brick better than surface sealers.

How To: Acid Stain Concrete

Go from gray to gorgeous with this simple technique to impart your patio, floor, or countertop with deep, stylish color.

How to Acid Stain Concrete

Photo: flickr.com via artistryinconcrete

Concrete is durable, dependable—and, naturally, a bit cold in tone. If this steely neutral isn’t your style, you can update your patio, basement floor, or concrete countertop in a range of eye-catching colors using acid stain technology. Metallic acid salts and hydrochloric acid in the stain penetrate the surface and react with concrete’s natural lime content to impart deep hues that won’t fade or peel off.

Acid stain is available from home improvement centers for about $60 per gallon and can also be ordered online. To determine how much you may need for your particular project, consider that a gallon of stain will cover approximately 200 square feet of concrete. Then, choose from a dozen or so translucent colors including earthy browns and tans, rich greens, deep golds, rustic reds, and terra cotta tones that complement concrete both outdoors and in. The finished result is a striking marbled effect that can be waxed to achieve an attractive satin sheen.

While the process for how to acid-stain concrete is fairly straightforward, each step should be performed carefully before going on to the next step. Concrete should be fully cured before applying acid stain, so if your surface is new, wait a minimum of 14 days before staining.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS Available on Amazon
Protective eyewear
Long sleeved shirt and long pants
Chemicalresistant gloves
Concrete cleaning solution
Grinder (for large rough spots)
Acid stain
Pump sprayer
Naturalbristle push broom (optional)
Trisodium phosphate (TSP)
Wet/dry vacuum (for indoor concrete surfaces)
Concrete sealant
Surface wax

Clean the surface to be stained with a concrete cleaner labeled for use on the specific type of dirt or blemish you wish to remove. You might have to use more than one cleaner; a product designed for grease might not tackle paint splatters. For stubborn marks, such as hardened tar or paint, use a grinder (see Step 3).

Tip: Some grease can be difficult to see, so to spot it, lightly spray the surface with plain water. If the water beads up in spots, you’ve probably found grease stains.

If applying acid stain indoors, cover adjacent walls with plastic sheeting, held in place by painter’s tape and open windows for ventilation. Outdoors, protect any nearby siding, lamp poles, etc., with plastic sheeting and move patio furniture away.

Poured slab concrete isn’t meant to be perfectly smooth, but large protrusions (called “fins”) or rough patches should be removed before staining. Smooth the surface with a grinder (available for rent at construction rental centers) fitted with an abrasive silicon carbide disk.

How to Acid Stain Concrete

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Escondido, CA

Don your long sleeved shirt and long pants, protective goggles, and chemical-resistant gloves. Dilute the acid stain with water in a pump sprayer as directed by the stain manufacturer. Spray the concrete evenly, starting along one edge of the slab and working your way to the other side. For concrete countertops or other small items, you can mix the acid stain in a smaller plastic bucket and apply it with a regular paintbrush.

Immediately after spraying a strip, while the solution is still wet, use a natural-bristle push-broom to brush the solution into the surface of the concrete with even, back-and-forth strokes to create a uniform look. If you’re going for more of a mottled look, skip this step.

Allow the acid stain to penetrate the entire concrete surface and fully develop its color for from five to 24 hours (check manufacturer’s instructions for exact timing). The longer you leave the acid stain on, the deeper the final hue will be.

When the concrete reaches the desired color, apply an alkaline neutralizing solution such as trisodium phosphate (TSP)—which you can pick up in hardware stores—to stop the chemical reaction. This involves some elbow grease and a lot of water! Mix the TSP with water as directed on the container and apply the solution liberally to the concrete, scrubbing thoroughly with a heavy-duty push broom. If you’re working indoors, you’ll need a wet/dry vacuum to suck up the water solution as you go. Afterwards, rinse thoroughly with clean water. It might take three or four rinse cycles to remove all acid and TSP residue.

Once the stained concrete is clean and completely dry, apply a penetrating concrete sealer to protect the surface from stains. When purchasing sealer, read labels carefully to ensure you get the right product—an interior concrete sealer is not suitable for exterior use.


Pro Tips for How to Acid-Stain Concrete Successfully

• Before applying acid stain to the entire concrete surface, test it in an inconspicuous area to ensure you like the color.
• If an acid stain manufacturer recommends a specific application tool, use it. They know their own product!
• Apply surface wax to interior floors or concrete countertops. Floor wax should be suitable for use on concrete. For concrete countertops, use a food-safe wax such as carnauba to coat the countertop and give it a lustrous sheen.

Video: Here’s How You’re Ruining Your Wood Floors

If you love your wood floors, treat them right and nix these flooring faux pas from your routine.


When it comes to floors, carpet is no longer king. Today it’s all about hardwood flooring—timeless, classic, and clean. If your home is blessed with beautiful hardwood floors, remember to practice proper maintenance to keep them in good condition. And whatever you do—avoid these seven deadly sins of hardwood floor care.

For more home advice, consider:

12 Laundry Mistakes You’re Probably Making
10 Reasons Bugs Love Your Home
11 Things It’s Illegal to Throw in the Trash

Tongue and Groove Flooring 101

Find out why these smooth, level surfaces have triumphed over their predecessors—and get top tips for DIY installation.

Tongue and Groove Flooring 101

Photo: istockphoto.com

Plank flooring has come a long way from the frontier days when rough-hewn boards were nailed to floor joists, resulting in rugged, and somewhat uneven, walking surfaces. Today’s hard-surface flooring is smooth and level, due in large part to the way it’s installed. Tongue and groove, a method of connecting board planks, creates a uniform floor surface that’s durable
and attractive. Whether you’re considering a new floor or you’re just curious about tongue and groove construction, read on for the 411 including tried-and-true installation tips if you’re planning on laying your new floor yourself.

Tongue and Groove Basics

Developed in the late 1800s, tongue and groove flooring took off as manufacturers began mass-producing interlocking hardwood planks that eliminated the need for exposed nail heads had been a mainstay in wood flooring. Tongue and groove technology has expanded to include different types of flooring, yet it remains the best way to get a great hardwood floor.

Here’s how it works: One side of a tongue and groove board has a protruding ridge (the tongue) that runs the entire length of the board, while the other side of the board has a groove from end to end. During installation, the ridge side of one board is fitted into the groove side of an adjacent board, creating a snug seam. The short width sides of tongue and groove flooring planks also feature either a ridge or a groove, which creates a fully interconnecting floor when installed.

Tongue and Groove vs. Non-Groove Planks

Nearly all hardwood flooring today is tongue and groove because it solves the pesky problems—such as shrinking, warping, and working loose—commonly experienced by face-nailing planks to floor joists. Because the boards interlock, they’re less likely to heave or show gaps between the planks if the flooring swells or shrinks, which wood has a tendency to do over time and as humidity levels change.

While smooth, level tongue and groove flooring is widespread, you still find plain board planks to recreate the look and feel of an old-time, rustic floor. Non-groove planks are rarely seen in interior residential flooring today (unless it’s part of a historical restoration project). They are better suited to exterior decking applications where a space between the planks is desirable for drainage.

Material Matters

In the past few decades, tongue and groove flooring assembly expanded from hardwood to engineered flooring, which opened up a world of new choices for consumers. Engineered flooring features planks made from layers of compressed wood fibers, resins, and polymers, which is then topped with a thin layer of surface veneer. Consumers can choose from dozens of textures, patterns, and colors, including veneers made from real hardwood and bamboo, in addition to styles made from other laminate products designed to mimic the look of wood, cobblestone, or tile. Unlike hardwood flooring, engineered flooring can be installed over concrete or existing flooring, such as tile or linoleum.


Installing Tongue and Groove Flooring

Photo: istockphoto.com

Pro Tips for Installing Tongue and Groove Flooring

Although tongue and groove solid hardwood flooring does fit together, it must still be nailed to a subfloor. Engineered tongue and groove planks, however, snap together to create a “floating” floor that is not physically attached to the floor below. This results in engineered flooring being more DIY-friendly than hardwood flooring.

Engineered flooring comes with installation instructions in every box of planks, but solid hardwood flooring, often installed by flooring professionals, does not. If you plan to install your own solid hardwood, it’s a good idea to observe the installation process “in person” before attempting to lay your own floor.

Hardwood Flooring Pro Tips

• Prevent wood squeaks by using a sound-absorbing underlayment between the subfloor and the hardwood flooring. The most common underlayment is 15-lb. felt paper, which effectively muffles sounds that occur when wood rubs against wood. Skip the underlayment and you’re bound to hear loud squeaks and creaks loudly when someone crosses the room!

• Rent a hardwood flooring nailer from a construction rental store to make installation easier. The traditional method of nailing hardwood tongue and groove flooring is to drive nails at an angle through the tongue of a plank and into the subfloor below, but this is time-consuming and can result in poorly inserted nails. A hardwood flooring nailer is a power tool that shoots nails through the tongue at the correct angle while driving the hardwood plank snugly against the previous plank. Hardwood flooring nailers rent for around $40 to $60 per day and are well worth the cost.

Engineered Flooring Pro Tips

Installing Tongue and Groove Flooring

Photo: istockphoto.com

• Use the underlayment specified by the flooring manufacturer. Like solid hardwood, engineered flooring requires sound-absorbing underlayment, but because engineered flooring can be installed over concrete or existing flooring, the manufacturer may recommend a cushioned polyethylene-type barrier that also resists moisture.

• Snap, don’t force the planks together. The tongue ridges and groove channels are narrower and deeper in engineered flooring than they are in solid hardwood flooring. The sides of the planks fit together by positioning the tongue of one plank against the groove of the previously installed plank at an angle and then pushing downward and inward at the same time, which causes the planks to snap together.

• Tap the ends of the planks together using only an installation block approved by the manufacturer. Installation blocks sell separately, and they’re designed to protect the ends of engineered planks. Attempting to tap the planks with a mallet (which is done when installing hardwood) is likely to result in damaging the end of an engineered plank.

• Keep in mind that installing engineered flooring over existing flooring will raise the level of the floor between 3/8” and 5/8”. This may result in the need to cut off the bottom of a door if the floor is too high for the door to open and close easily. If the floor in an adjoining room is lower, install a transition floor threshold between the rooms. A transition threshold acts as a gentle ramp down to the lower floor to eliminate a “lip” that can cause tripping.