Flooring & Stairs - 3/14 - Bob Vila

Category: Flooring & Stairs

All You Need to Know About Plywood Floors

Get the facts and then go on to gorgeous DIY results with this inexpensive alternative to hardwood.

Plywood Floors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Once reserved for subfloors and sheathing, construction-grade plywood is now making a splash as affordable residential finish flooring. There are two basic ways to go: Remove the existing flooring, such as carpet or vinyl, and then refinish the plywood subfloor beneath, or install new plywood, cut into planks, squares, or even small shapes to form a medallion design, atop an existing subfloor. Whichever route you choose, if you take your time, pay attention to detail, and apply a tough topcoat such as polyurethane to stand up to everyday foot traffic, you can create a stunning, one-of-a-kind floor.


Here are some must-know plywood basics:

• While hardwood is solid all the way through, plywood consists of multiple thicknesses of thin wood veneer, layered at angles, and then glued and compressed under heat to form a strong laminated sheet. The layering process makes the end result resistant to expansion—giving it an edge over hardwood. But plywood’s softer surface has a tendency to chip and dent, making the final application of a hard top coating vital to the success of your floor.

• Plywood floors are suitable for any room where you’d otherwise install hardwood, though kitchens and bathrooms are less desirable since frequent water spills are likely. Basements are not recommended for plywood flooring because they’re typically a bit damp, and a concrete floor can transfer moisture from the soil to the plywood, which could cause it to delaminate and swell over time.

• A 1½-in thick, 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of CDX plywood (the kind used in subflooring) sells for around $15. Higher grades of plywood are available, but they’re more expensive and intended for finish cabinetry. If you have your heart set on using high-end plywood with an oak veneer face, expect to pay between $50 and $100, or more, per sheet, depending on the quality of the veneer facing.

Plywood Floors - Staining

Photo: istockphoto.com


Consider these various ways to create incredible plywood floors.

Paper bagging: This finish involves applying irregular-shaped pieces of brown kraft paper to existing plywood for a marble-like appeal. It can be a great fix after you’ve torn out old carpet and are wondering how to treat the plywood subfloor. You’ll fill and smooth gaps between plywood panels with fast-setting drywall compound and a trowel. Then, torn pieces of brown kraft paper—soaked in a mixture of watered down glue—is applied. After the paper layer dries, add a stain followed by a protective finish. Check out our complete guide on how to create a beautiful paper bag floor finish.

Wallpaper as floor paper: For this stunning DIY finish, fill and smooth gaps in the plywood subfloor with fast-setting drywall compound and a trowel. Then put down wallpaper in your pattern of choice, followed by three or four coats of polyurethane or other clear hard floor finish. You could cover the entire surface as you would a wall, or cut wallpaper strips to imitate the look of an area rug, complete with a border around its perimeter.

Perfectly painted plywood: Create a classic checkerboard pattern, go for stripes or circles, or mimic cobblestones or bricks. The sky’s the limit when it comes to design and, since your painted plywood floor will be covered with a few coats of polyurethane, you can use virtually any paint, even artist-type paints for special details. The key is to prep the plywood floors as discussed above, plus a coat of primer prior to painting. Primer ensures the paint will adhere and also help seal down any loose plywood chips.

Planks, squares, and other shapes: Hardwood planks are expensive, but you can achieve that natural woodsy appeal by cutting sheets of plywood into planks, squares, or other shapes, then gluing and/or nailing the pieces to the subfloor. If you buy CDX plywood to finish a 10-foot by 10-foot room, you’d need four ½-in. four-by-eight sheets, at a cost of approximately $65. Add $10 for 1½-in finish nails, $15 for the subfloor glue used in installation, $10 for stain, and $15 for a gallon of polyurethane, your grand total would be about $115. The cost for hardwood, tile, or carpet for the same size room could run from $500 to well over $1,000.


Plywood Floors - Full Room

Photo: istockphoto.com

Convinced? Cool! Just keep these two points in mind:

• Outsmart plywood’s tendency to splinter by cutting planks on a table saw, with the desired side facing upward. If you prefer to cut the planks with a circular saw, however, pop chalk lines on the back of the plywood and cut from the back to reduce the risk of splintering along the edges. Both saws should be fitted with good finish-grade blades

• You can treat planks with wood bleach for a sun-kissed, weathered look, or stain them to match furniture or trim. If you choose to stain plywood floors, however, apply a sanding sealer to the surface of the planks first, which will help the stain penetrate evenly. Skip the sealer, and you’ll almost certainly end up with blotchy planks.

Creating finished plywood floors isn’t an overnight project. You’ll save money, but you’ll need plenty of time to complete the project. When you’re done, you’ll have a durable, uniquely designed floor you can take pride in.

How To: Shampoo Carpeting

Pristine, dirt-free carpets are just a few easy steps away.

How to Shampoo Carpets

Photo: istockphoto.com

Our carpets suffer the collateral damage of our busy, active lives. The daily foot traffic and those inevitable spills and stains guarantee they will need regular cleaning. The good news: The hot water extractor, a machine specially designed for deep restorative carpet cleaning, can attack deeply embedded dirt and grime to keep carpets as pristine as the rest of the décor. Of all of the machines available to homeowners for cleaning carpets with commercial shampoo—including shampooing machines and buffers with solution-moistened pads attached—the hot water extractor models are today’s gold standard for a deeper, long-lasting cleaning. When used once or twice a year on stained and heavily soiled synthetic carpets, heated water mixed with an appropriate shampooing chemical can remove even stubborn substances like ketchup, coffee, wine, pet urine, and ink.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Hot water extractor
CRIapproved carpet shampoo
Can of spot remover
Clean cloth
Vacuum cleaner

It’s important to note that, though the industry tends to juxtapose hot water extraction with steam cleaning, they are in reality two completely different cleaning methods. A steam cleaner uses—surprise!—steam along with shampoo. Critics claim can steam cleaning can actually worsen stains and damage carpet fibers, so it is more widely recommended for hard surfaces. Hot water extraction, on the other hand, forces a mixture of hot water (though not quite steaming) and carpet shampoo deep into the carpet. The solution and dirt are then extracted from the carpet, leaving the fibers and carpet base clean. Now, read on for how to shampoo carpets with this deep-cleaning machine.


First order of business: Acquiring the equipment. Deciding whether to rent or buy a hot water extractor rests on your projected usage. Prices to buy are all over the map—from under $200 up to $4,000 for bigger, more powerful models—depending on the bells and whistles included. For most consumers who devote one day to the task, the rental option is the more cost effective. Renting a machine from a big home improvement store will typically cost about $30 for the day, or $116 for the week.

Whether you rent or buy, be sure to select a machine that is approved by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). Representing carpet manufacturers nationwide, the CRI tests machines for effectiveness and those that qualify are labeled with a bronze, silver, or gold certification.

Once you’ve chosen your cleaning device, pay close attention to the directions. Use only a commercial carpet shampoo with a CRI seal of approval and make sure it is a brand compatible with your particular extractor. Do not add any other chemicals to the mix or under dilute the cleaning solution in an attempt to make it stronger.

How to Shampoo Carpets

Photo: istockphoto.com

Before you even press the start button on the extractor, clear the room to expose as much carpet as possible. Take a little time to notice and address smaller tough stains using a stain remover spray. The cleaner is sprayed directly on the stain and then either vacuumed up or dabbed with a clean cloth, depending on the product’s recommendations.

Run your trusty vacuum cleaner over the entire open space before you bring in the big guns. This will remove loose dirt as well as any gravel or sand that has been tracked into the house. At the same time, vacuuming will fluff the carpet fibers and loosen dirt trapped deep within, making your cleaning effort much more effective.

A good pre-shampoo vacuuming will also give you an opportunity to spot and pick up those little items—like rubber bands, hair accessories, and paper clips—that can jam the hot water extractor and wreak havoc on your cleaning parade.

Your basic hot water extractor is a self-contained, two-tank unit. One tank holds the clean water mixed with commercial carpet shampoo. The other becomes filled with dirty waste water as you shampoo carpets. Strictly adhering to measurement instructions, fill the clean water tank with the exact amount of water and carpet shampoo specified. Do not use more shampoo than stipulated, as this won’t dissolve well and will leave added residue on the carpet that will act as a dirt magnet.

Once you have set up your dispersal and collection buckets according to the machine’s instructions, you are ready to begin. Start in a far corner of the room and slowly walk forward, pressing the button on the handle to gently release the properly diluted carpet shampoo onto the rug. The vacuum runs as long as the machine is turned on and will suck up the residual dirty, sudsy water as you go.

Be careful:

  • Before you expose your entire carpet to any chemical solution, test the hot water extractor on an inconspicuous corner to make sure the carpet shampoo solution will not affect the color or damage the surface.
  • Do not use hot water to clean natural materials as it will shrink and destroy the fibers. For wool carpets, fill the machine with cold water instead of hot. Use hot water with synthetic carpet only.
  • For best results, do not hold the water release button down continuously but instead press intermittently to keep from flooding the carpet with excess water. Drowning the carpet will definitely increase drying time and could potentially cause subsequent mold issues.

Continue working from one wall to the other until the water being extracted appears clear. Empty the waste water tank and refill the clean water tank with solution as needed.

How long it takes carpets to dry after shampooing with the hot water extractor depends on the size of the room, type of carpet, thickness of the padding, amount of dirt addressed, and ventilation. Some experts predict 4 to 6 hours of drying time for an average sized room with good ventilation, but carpets may take anywhere from 8 to 12 to up to 24 hours to be fully dry. Beware of wood furniture coming into contact with wet carpeting; when wet, dyes from the wood stain can be released onto the carpet and create lasting marks.

If you’ve only rented the hot water extractor for one day, and you have a whole house of dirty carpets to tackle, time is of the essence. While one room is drying, empty out the waste water tank, refill the clean water tank with diluted carpet shampoo and move on to the next space.

Once you are sure the carpet pile is well and truly dry, you can run the vacuum cleaner to remove any traces of leftover cleaning residue (remember: dirt magnet). Now all that is left is to enjoy the clean fruits of your labors!


How to Shampoo Carpets

Photo: istockphoto.com

Bob Vila Radio: 4 Ways to Fix Scratched Wood Flooring

If unsightly surface scratches are driving you crazy, you may be wondering whether it's time to refinish your wood flooring. Certainly, there's no substitute for starting over, but if you're reluctant to go to extremes, try one of these quicker, easier repair methods first.

Hardwood flooring adds beauty to your home, and it’s durable enough to last a lifetime (or more). But that’s not to say the material isn’t prone to both wear-and-tear and incidental damage. Fortunately, there are a handful of ways for homeowners to fix wood floor scratches quickly and without too much trouble.

Hardwood Floor Scratch Repair

Photo: istockphoto.com


Listen to BOB VILA ON WOOD FLOOR SCRATCHES or read below:

Option one: Treat the affected area with floor wax or acrylic floor polish. However, remember to use such options sparingly. Over time, they can dull or darken wood floors, and if that happens, removal—a process that involves mineral spirits, ammonia, and hard scrubbing—isn’t very enjoyable.

You can also address wood floor scratches with a wood “renewing” product like Bona Pro Series Hardwood Floor Refresher or Minwax’s Hardwood Floor Reviver. Before you apply a renewing finish, be sure to clean the floor thoroughly and afterwards, allow plenty of time for the coating to dry. The downside? It may be necessary to reapply the coating much more often than you would like.

If the damage to the floor has eroded the existing finish and exposed bare wood, you have two options—a stain marker or, in the case of a large area, traditional wood stain. In the latter case, choose your stain carefully, apply it with a small brush or swab, and don’t forget to wipe away the excess before the finish dries!

What do you do about deep gouge? Your best bet is to fill it with pre-colored latex wood filler. Apply the product with a plastic putty knife, let it dry completely, and finish the job by sanding the patch down to the surface level of the floor. Then, to coat the repair, use varnish thinned with 10% or 20% turpentine.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free! 

All You Need to Know About Slate Floors

Weigh these important considerations before shelling out for this favorite flooring material.

All You Need to Know About Slate Floors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Natural texture, super strength, stain resistance, and blend of vibrant hues are all reasons that slate tile—the thin, uniform-cut sheets of metamorphic rock—ranks high on the wish list of flooring choices. But as far as a rigid flooring product goes, this sought-after material isn’t suitable for all homes. If you’re considering installing slate floors in the kitchen, bath, mudroom, or patio, first consult our guide so that you have a better idea of what to expect out of the material.

Known primarily for its charcoal hue and grooved texture, selecting slate for your interior or exterior flooring opens a much wider variety of choices in terms of shade and pattern. This stone boasts texture in both coloring—which can include mixtures grays, tans, rusty browns, olive greens, and even specks of purple and cyan—as well as contouring. You can keep it more natural by embracing the physical texture (and enjoy the added bonus of some slip resistance), or opt for slate tiles that have been sanded smooth. No matter your preference, all variations on the earthy material effectively bring the outdoors in wherever homeowners choose to incorporate the stone.

Their creation also contributes to the strength of the surfaces. Forged from natural minerals like quartz and calcite in extreme heat, slate is an extremely durable and solid surface that withstands everyday wear and tear. If you do accidentally drop something heavy and chip the floor, you won’t see quite a contrasting color difference as you would with ceramic or porcelain tile. One caveat: Slate is slightly softer than some other stones, so it scratches relatively easily. This makes it an unsuitable choice for floors subject to heavy abuse, like those within a garage or warehouse. However, slate remains a great choice for kitchens and bathrooms.

All You Need to Know About Slate Floors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Like other natural stone flooring, mined slate is a costly investment to purchase and install within the home. Experienced do-it-yourselfers can save a substantial amount of money by forgoing a call to the professionals and laying the floor on their own, leaving the bulk of the budget for the cost of materials themselves. These stone tiles range in price depending on how much effort was required to quarry, from around $2 per square foot (stone mined closer to the earth’s surface, and therefore easier to acquire) to as much as $10 per square foot (often a higher-end stone that is mined underground)—still a fair amount less than the price for marble or granite flooring.

If you do choose professional installation, know that the materials are the least expensive part of the cost of your new slate floors. The cost of labor typically runs two or three times the price of the tile, because the contractor has to prepare the substrate in multiple layers. Thoughtful patterns in the tiled floor will also increase the bill.

Before you commit to slate tile, take a closer look at your floor system to be sure it is adequate to handle the new flooring. Slate is both heavy and brittle, so sponginess or bounce in your existing floor could result in cracked or popped tiles—not at all what you want to see in such a big investment.

Your floor system, which consists of the framing and the subfloor, must be structurally sound and rigid enough to support the heavy weight of the slate tile. Both stick-framed and manufactured floor systems might require reinforcement and/or stronger underlayment before you can install slate tile. To be on the safe side, have an engineer or the inspector for your local building authority, assess your floor system and make recommendations, if necessary, for beefing it up before installing tile.

As mentioned earlier, installing rigid slate floors is a pricey professional job because it’s an involved process—this challenge may not be for the faint of heart. Should you choose to install the floor yourself, be sure to stock basic carpenter hand and power tools in addition to some specialty tools, such as cement board clippers and diamond blade for your circular saw. A wet tile saw will make cutting the slate simpler and far less dusty. You may also wish to buy or rent a hand-held oscillating saw for undercutting the bottoms of doorjambs and casings so you can slide the tiles beneath rather than having to notch around them.

Your slate floor will be only as good as the substrate beneath, which must be rock-solid. Five individual layers are necessary for a structurally sound slate floor. From the bottom, the layers consist of: the subfloor, thin-set mortar, cement backer board, another layer of thin-set mortar, the top layer of slate tile. Installed correctly, the substrate is optimal and the floor will last for many years.

Grouting between slate tiles on the top-most layer is generally completed after the thin-set mortar sets. Since slate is slightly porous, it’s a good idea to apply a penetrating stone sealant to the tiles before grouting. Otherwise, bits of grout that get on the tile in the next steps could be very difficult to remove and mar your otherwise sophisticated surface.


All You Need to Know About Slate Floors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Overall, homeowners who choose slate will be happy to know that this high-style flooring material is relatively low maintenance. Though the dark and textured surface won’t quickly reveal tracked-in grime, a quick daily sweeping with either a broom or dry mop will eliminate its most damaging culprit: dust and dirt. Left to collect for weeks at a time, these particles might scratch the soft stone.

Beyond the five-minute sweep on a daily basis, you’ll want to schedule a deeper clean every few months. Simply mopping up slate floors with a sudsy mixture of warm water and mild dish detergent, a neutral pH floor cleaner, or a solution designed specifically for use on stone and tile should prevent any oily build-up from exposure to kitchen grease or bare feet. And make short work of any spills by resealing twice a year: Keeping in mind that this surface material is indeed slightly porous, mop or roll on a good slate sealer in order to prevent spills from seeping into the stone and staining.

3 Steps to Prepare a Room for Hardwood Flooring

As you prep for a new hardwood floor, line up the right tools and materials, and make sure you complete these three crucial steps before you lay a single plank.

Installing New Hardwood Floors with the Help of a Trim Puller

Photo: istockphoto.com

Careful preparation is key to the successful installation of hardwood flooring. If you fail to get the subfloor clean, level, and dry before you lay the first plank, you could wind up with loose or squeaky boards, or even worse, a floor that’s prone to cupping, warping, cracking, or gapping. To ensure that the beautiful hardwood floor you install today will be a source of pride for years to come, don’t skip—or skimp on—any of these three essential stages of prepping a space for a hardwood floor.

Removing Baseboard with the Help of a Trim Puller

Photo: trimpuller.com

Do the Demolition Right
Before you take up the current flooring, remove all baseboard and door trim to make room for an expansion gap—a space that will allow the new flooring to expand as it’s exposed to heat and moisture after installation. Fortunately, demo duty can be quick and painless for both you and your space with assistance from the Trim Puller. This lightweight hand tool is a heavyweight helper in any DIYer’s toolbox because, thanks to its versatile design, it replaces a handful of single-purpose tools. Its business end, made from heat-treated carbon steel, is larger, wider, and flatter than the claw of an ordinary crowbar or pry bar, and it boasts a 15-degree integrated center wedge with a beveled edge. This combination of features not only protects walls from damage but also makes it easier to remove trim intact so it can be reinstalled or repurposed later.

Once the baseboard and other molding have been neatly removed, you can proceed to use the Trim Puller on the existing flooring. The handy tool makes short work of vinyl and ceramic tile, and lifts up carpet tack strip and edging like a charm. Note: If you have any concerns that the old flooring may contain asbestos—a distinct possibility in homes built or remodeled before 1980—consult a professional for safe removal and disposal processes.

Shape Up the Subfloor
Whether the hardwood floor you’re installing will be floating, nail-down, or glue-down, you must ensure that the subfloor—be it plywood, concrete, or plywood over concrete—is clean, dry, flat, and sound.

• Use a sander (and, if you’re dealing with a concrete floor, possibly a scraper) to rid the subfloor of paint, oil, wax, adhesives, sealers, or other material. Stubborn residue may require the use of paint strippers or adhesive removers. When you’ve finished, sweep and vacuum thoroughly.

• Conduct a moisture test using a moisture meter calibrated for your subfloor material. Test in areas that are typically prone to dampness—along exterior walls, under windows, and near plumbing—as well as in the center of the floor. Compare your readings to the hardwood manufacturer’s recommended levels, and correct problems as necessary before bringing the flooring into the space.

• Use a long level and a tape measure to determine if the subfloor is level within 3/16 inch for every 10 feet. If it’s not, sand any high spots and fill the low spots with leveling compound, then sweep and vacuum again.

• If your subfloor is plywood, check for loose or squeaky boards and repair them.

Purchase Essential Extras
Accumulated moisture can lead to mold or rot in a plywood subfloor, or efflorescence in concrete; either of these can wreak havoc with your carefully installed hardwood. To ensure that moisture won’t come up through the subfloor, put in a moisture barrier. Laying a barrier is especially important if your wood floor is going over concrete or will sit below grade. In most cases, a 6-mil moisture barrier will suffice; however, when gluing a wood floor to concrete, a trowel-applied product is recommended. Depending on the subfloor, an underlayment of foam, a film-and-foam combo, rubber, or cork may also be advisable to cushion the floor, absorbing noise and making it more comfortable underfoot.

Even after the room has been prepped, don’t jump the gun on installation! Your new wood flooring needs at least three days to acclimate to the moisture conditions of the room where it will be installed. And even though you’re probably DIYing to save some cash, don’t be cheap with materials: Be sure to purchase enough flooring to account for errors, miscalculations, cutting waste, and defects. Flooring manufacturers generally set the “installer wastage” figure between 8 and 15 percent, in addition to the allowed 5 percent for defective material. You can certainly see how the materials costs could add up. Fortunately, the multipurpose Trim Puller that is so crucial to the start of the job will set you back only $29.95 (including shipping). And, as it will not only speed the project along, but also let you reuse all those unscathed baseboards and other molding that you removed early on, it’ll be easier for you to complete this hands-on home improvement project on time and on budget.


This article has been brought to you by Zenith Industries. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

How To: Stretch Carpet

If your wall-to-wall begins to bunch, wrinkle, or otherwise come up short, try this strategy to restore its looks, comfort, and safety.

How to Stretch Carpet - Carpeted Living Room

Photo: dreamstime.com

Even the nicest wall-to-wall carpeting can start to buckle, ripple, or wrinkle over time when it loosens and lifts from the initial adhesive. Sometimes the carpet unfastens due to humidity, other times from improper installation. Whatever the cause, consider re-stretching your initial investment before you take a nasty fall due to the tripping hazard. Making carpeting taut again isn’t an especially difficult task for the daring do-it-yourselfer. In fact, this project’s most challenging aspect for the average homeowner is that it requires access to two professional tools: a power stretcher and knee kicker.

While the former looks like a mop with sharp teeth, it does the bulk of the work when either installing carpet or stretching out any wrinkles over spaces of 10 feet by 10 feet or more. All set up, the power stretcher’s head of teeth hooks through the pile and into the carpet’s backing on one side of the bumps and the base remains positioned on the other. Then, with a press of the handle, the power stretcher extends, pushing the two ends farther apart and stretching the carpet. A knee kicker possesses similar stretching talents on a smaller scale—perfect for dewrinkling in tight corners and spaces within three feet from the wall. Fortunately for the average homeowner who only looking to fix up a single room, both tools (which together retail upwards of $400) are typically available to rent by the hour or day from your local home improvement store, bringing this ambitious DIY project back to within reach.

How to Stretch Carpet - With a Power Carpet Stretcher

Photo: homedepot.com

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Power stretcher
Knee kicker (optional)
Work gloves
Flathead screwdriver
Pry bar (optional)
Carpet knife or utility knife

How to Stretch Carpet

Photo: dreamstime.com

Remove all furniture from the room. Don’t fret over fixed obstacles, such as built-in cabinets—you can work around them. Then, run a vacuum over the entire carpet; hoovering the excess dirt before you start will limit the amount of dust that shakes free while stretching the carpet.

Pull on your work gloves, and free the corner of your carpet from the baseboard tack strip by gently tugging with a pair of pliers. (Work carefully so that you don’t fray the pile fibers too much during the process.) Once you’ve undone enough of the edge for you to grab the carpet, set down your pliers and tug the carpet by hand away from the wall. Work your way along the wall for three sides of the room, leaving one side in place to anchor the carpet.

Beneath the carpet, the pad should lie short of (and not overlap) the tack strip and remain firmly secured to the subfloor. Using the pliers and a flat-head screwdriver, remove any tacks or staples that might secure the carpet to the padding—or a pry bar if they’re stubborn. Again, pull gently so you don’t tear carpet fibers. Leave tack strips in place unless rotten or moldy; otherwise, rip them out using a pry bar angled underneath the setting nails and replace them.

Brace the power stretcher’s base against a short length of 2×4 in front of the wall where the carpet remains attached. (When the power stretcher’s base pushes as its head stretches, the wood will protect your wall and trim.) Lay the machine, tooth-side down, perpendicular to the ripple or ripples. Increase the length of the stretcher’s shaft using extension poles until the head is about 6 inches from the opposite wall. Then, adjust the length of the teeth on the machine’s head via a knob or dial in order to sink them through the pile and into the carpet backing.

Press down on the machine’s lever of a handle to extend the head (teeth still gripping the carpeting) as the stretching begins. If it takes herculean effort to push the lever, you’re overstretching the carpet and could damage it. If it’s too easy, you’re not stretching the carpet enough to remove the ridges; adjust the teeth to let go of the carpeting, then lift the head and handle and start over using the appropriate force.

Continue to press the lever until you see the wrinkles disappear. Your carpeting should reach the wall, perhaps even a little further. Press its backing into the tack strip until it holds, and then release the power stretcher’s handle.

STEP 5 (optional)
Depending on how long the ripple is, you may need to reposition the power carpet stretcher a couple feet to the right or left of where you started. Repeat Steps 3 and 4.

How to Stretch Carpet - with a Knee Kicker

Photo: dreamstime.com

STEP 6 (optional)
If you’re working in a small area or a corner where the power stretcher is too large to use, employ the knee kicker (pictured at right) to finish the job. Press the teeth of this old-school tool into the carpet 6 inches from the wall, and adjust their lengths so that they hook through the pile and into the backing. Then, place your leg just above the kneecap into its padded base, and kick forward. More or harder kicks will push the head forward and effectively stretch the carpet. When you’ve worked out any lumps in your carpet, immediately fasten the section of carpeting to the tack strip.

Before you move to the adjoining walls to reattach carpet to the subfloor, use a curved carpet knife or sharp utility knife to trim any amount of carpeting material that extends past the floor. Roll the surplus carpet back toward you and cut a straight line on the backing right about where the wall meets the floor. Be sure to leave enough material to abut or tuck under the baseboard—better to have more length than cut the carpeting too short to reach the wall. A yardstick or straightedge placed atop the carpet can help keep the carpet aligned with the baseboard as you slice.

Finally, carefully press the carpeting into the tack strips on both adjoining walls.

Now you’ve got flat, smooth, safe wall-to-wall to welcome you home again. Enjoy!

How To: Remove Linoleum

If you're ready to remove your old linoleum flooring, let these instructions guide you through the process and pave the way for a new look.

How to Remove Linoleum

Photo: armstrong.com

Linoleum is a classic and resilient material, often found in high-traffic spaces like kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways. But, because the bond between linoleum and its adhesive actually strengthens over time, you’ll need a few special techniques and a good measure of patience when you’re ready to rip out an outdated style. If you’re considering how to remove linoleum flooring, follow these next steps.

A few things to take note of before you begin: While the terms are often used interchangeably—even by salespeople—linoleum and vinyl flooring are not the same thing, and they do not behave the same way during removal. Make sure to confirm that you have actual linoleum before beginning this process. Also, linoleum installed prior to 1980 likely contains asbestos in its backing paper and is hazardous to remove. Have a sample tested before you begin, and hire a qualified asbestos removal contractor to do the job if any is found.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Utility knife
– Utility scraper, floor scraper, or oscillating multitool with scraper attachment
Wallpaper steamer
Isopropyl alcohol or paint thinner (optional)

How to Remove Linoleum - Utility Knife

Photo: screwpoptool.com

Working in small sections, score the flooring into strips about 6 to 12 inches wide. If your linoleum features a tile pattern, you can use the outlines of the tiles as general guides to show where to score. Proceed carefully as you learn how to remove linoleum, and don’t cut all the way through the material—you don’t want to damage the floor underneath, particularly if it’s hardwood.

To fully remove linoleum, you’ll need to tackle both of its layers: The top is a layer of flooring material, which should come off fairly easily, and the bottom is a paper backing with adhesive, which may present more of a challenge. Remove the top layer of linoleum first; you’ll go back later to pull up any remaining paper backing or adhesive. Start by working your scraper or the edge of your oscillating multitool underneath one of your score marks. Then, push forward to bring up the top of the linoleum. Keep working in small sections until you have removed the entire first layer.

To remove any remaining backing, apply heat to the floor in small sections using a wallpaper steamer (a heat gun or even a hair dryer set on high work in a pinch). Soften a small section with your chosen heat source, and scrape up the adhesive, working at a 45-degree angle and being careful not to gouge the subfloor as you work. Move section by section until all the backing and adhesive has been removed.

If you come across particularly stubborn spots, apply some isopropyl alcohol or paint thinner to the area and allow the solvent to sit according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Proceed to scrape away the remainder of the adhesive, again working a 45-degree angle.

You can, in some instances, skip this process altogether and lay a new material directly on top of your current linoleum. But be aware that this shortcut will raise the floor by at least one-eighth of an inch. If you do move forward with removal, remember that the process is a marathon, not a sprint. Again, with patience and the right tools, you can rid your rooms of linoleum and lay the groundwork for a brand-new floor—and a whole new look.

Hardwood or Laminate: Which Is the Right Flooring for You?

Discover whether hardwood or wood-look flooring is the better pick for your place with this side-by-side comparison of laminate and hardwood.

Laminate vs Hardwood - Flooring Samples

Photo: fotosearch.com

Whatever your home’s style may be, flooring is quite literally its foundation—and often the first design element visitors notice when they step inside. Luckily for homeowners getting ready to install new flooring, today’s choices are vast. Two flooring options are particularly popular these days, appreciated for both their warm appearance and value-boosting powers: laminate wood and the real McCoy, hardwood. Though they may look similar, each one has its pros and cons. Learn more about these two types of flooring to determine which is best for your home and lifestyle before you make this significant, long-term investment.

Laminate vs Hardwood - Laminate Flooring from Home Depot

Photo: homedepot.com


Laminate floors are engineered to approximate the look of natural materials—wood as well as stone. The essential technology dates back to the 1920s, with the development of compressed wood and lamination industries, although early household laminates were used primarily as countertops. Laminate flooring was introduced in the 1970s and took off thanks to its durability and affordable price point. Versatile and long-lasting, laminate remains a popular flooring option that continues to improve in quality, appearance, and variety.

Pros and Cons of Laminate
Wood-look laminate flooring boasts UV protection and is resistant to scratches and dents, making it perfect for placement in high-traffic and sun-drenched areas. Today’s laminates can hold their own against their pricier hardwood counterparts. In fact, their appearance has come so far in recent years that it can be hard to distinguish some laminates from their natural inspiration.

That said, cost is easily the biggest selling point of laminate flooring—it typically runs half the price of hardwood. Before you spring for the best-priced laminate you can find, however, bear in mind that lower-quality—usually cheaper—laminate often looks less realistic. So, as you’re weighing your options, remember the old adage: You get what you pay for.

Laminates do offer a bonus for handy homeowners: While some hardwood floors are being tailored for the DIY market, laminate, which is considered simpler to install, has long been viewed as the go-to DIY option. Once the underlayment and/or vapor barrier has been installed, laminate can be popped into place with (depending on the product) tongue-and-groove or snap-and-lock edges, making it a fairly straightforward weekend project.

Laminate Upkeep and Maintenance
Laminate is generally simple to maintain, but it’s important to know what not to do. Avoid all detergent-based cleaners, which leave a dull film behind when they dry. Likewise, waxes and abrasives can build up residue and compromise the smoothness of the surface. Instead, in tandem with regular sweeping and vacuuming, use a store-bought laminate cleaner. Position mats at exterior entrances to catch incoming dirt, and always clean up spills quickly to help extend your laminate’s lifespan.


Laminate vs Hardwood - Hardwood Flooring

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Hardwood floors have been bringing natural beauty to interior spaces for centuries. Available in nearly endless textures, colors, and finishes, this flooring option offers an organic ambience absent in many of today’s manufactured materials. Purists swear by its warmth and refinement, and its mere presence can have a positive effect on a home’s resale price.

Pros and Cons of Hardwood
Beloved by interior designers, historians, nature lovers, and anyone who appreciates fine craftsmanship, hardwood flooring imbues a space with an enduring quality, thanks to its long history in home building.

Homeowners who swear by hardwood’s character refuse to settle for anything less, particularly when they’re remodeling an older home. But the same organic attributes that lend warmth and character to hardwood can be a turnoff for some—specifically, the way that long-term wear and tear ages wood. Unlike laminate, hardwood reacts to intense sunlight and is sensitive to high-heeled shoes, pets, kids, and furniture, all of which can dent and scrape the wood. Over time, this translates into a rustic appearance that some admire while others view as shabby or tired.

Hardwood also holds appeal for remodelers who are interested in environmental sustainability. In recent decades, the use of reclaimed wood has spiked in popularity, allowing rescued construction materials to be transformed into new structures with a built-in sense of history. As well, the ecologically conscious have the option of purchasing new lumber that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), ensuring that the wood has been harvested in an environmentally responsible manner.

Hardwood Upkeep and Maintenance
Keeping hardwood floors from aging faster than the rest of the house requires a little TLC, including regular sweeping and using both an all-purpose, no-wax wood cleaner and a restoring agent appropriate for the floor’s finish. A wax finish can be revived with additional wax, for example, but it’s inadvisable to use wax on varnished or polyurethane-finished wood. Before using any restoring agent, make sure it’s made specifically for your flooring type.

Considering hardwood’s sensitivity to sunlight, scratches, dirt, and debris, it’s wise to take extra precautions beyond a regular wipe down. Start by setting out mats and runners near exterior doors to keep dirt and moisture from being tracked onto the floor. Apply protective pads to furniture legs, keep pets’ claws trimmed, and avoid wearing high heels to prevent denting and scratching.

How To: Clean a Wool Rug

Wool rugs are a great investment that can last a lifetime—if you maintain them correctly. Learn how to give your cozy floor coverings a surface cleaning to keep them beautiful and durable for years to come.

How to Clean a Wool Rug - vacuum

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Wool rugs in a home appeal to several senses: Their vibrant colors and patterns improve the look of any space, while their soft fibers offer comfort and warmth beneath bare feet. The most appealing characteristic of wool rugs may be, however, their durability—providing they are properly cleaned and cared for. While it’s probably wisest to leave the deep cleaning to the pros, you can remove a lot of harmful grit and grime with a gentle surface scrub about once a year. Ensure that your favorite floor coverings last a lifetime with these tips for washing and maintaining a wool rug.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Rug beater
Woolite or professional rug cleaner
Two buckets
Cold water
Two large sponges
Clean bath towels

How to Clean a Wool Rug

Photo: westelm.com

Wool fibers have overlaps and grooves that can trap a lot of dirt—pounds of it, in fact. The best first step for getting your rugs truly clean is as old-school as they come: On a nice day, venture outside, hang your rug over a clothesline or deck railing, and whack away with a broom or commercial rug beater (around $20 to $25) until all the dirt comes loose. You might be amazed at how much grime flies free, plus it’s great for relieving tension!

Next, take the rug back inside and vacuum the front and back, doing at least three passes on each side to catch any remaining particles that weren’t removed by the beating. Regular vacuuming is crucial for removing dirty buildup from your wool rugs, so don’t forget to perform this classic household chore in between deep cleanings as well.

Pour a capful of Woolite or the recommended amount of a professional rug cleaner into a bucket of cold water. Fill another bucket with plain cold water. Before starting work, test a small patch of the rug for colorfastness by applying a little of the cleaning solution to it. If the colors don’t bleed, continue.

Starting at one corner, gently sponge your cleaning solution onto a 2’x2′ section of the rug, working in the direction of the nap. You want to lightly dampen the rug—do not soak it or allow it to get too wet; the same wool fibers that enable rugs to hold a lot of dirt also let them hold a lot of water. A wet wool rug will be extremely heavy to handle and will take too long to dry, which can cause it to discolor.

After applying your cleaner with a sponge, place a second, clean sponge into the bucket of plain water, and dab the section to rinse, again taking care not to soak the rug. Follow up by blotting the area with dry, absorbent bath towels—you will probably need a lot of them. When you’re finished with the first area, continue working across the rug in small sections until you’ve cleaned the entire rug.

Allow your rug to dry thoroughly before walking on it again. If you’re drying it indoors, open the windows and run a fan in the room to speed up the process. Alternatively, take the rug outside and hang it back on the clothesline to dry in the sun.


As with anything, prevention beats cure. Take care to keep rugs from getting dirty and stained in the first place by considering a no shoes/no food policy around your treasured floor coverings. With regular maintenance, your fine wool rugs will look great for years—they may even become family heirlooms that will be passed down through generations of family members—if they observe your good cleaning habits, of course.


If you have a messy accident and need to spot clean a stain, keep these general dos and don’ts in mind:

• DON’T try to rub the spot or spill. That will only grind the stain into the rug and cause the fibers to mat together or fuzz.

• DO immediately scoop up the solids, and then blot the liquid gently with paper towels, changing them as they become saturated.

• DON’T use alkaline detergents like laundry soap, because the buffers that are added to these solutions to keep their pH stable may cause colors in wool rugs to bleed.

• DO test a small, less-conspicuous area first, to ensure colorfastness.

How To: Clean Linoleum Floors

Ensure that your durable linoleum flooring looks and wears well for decades to come with this complete guide to proper cleaning and maintenance.

How to Clean Linoleum Floors - Kitchen Flooring

Photo: armstrong.com

Linoleum has been a practical flooring option for more than 100 years. While it fell out of fashion in the late 1940s, when cheaper vinyl flooring entered the market, linoleum has made a resurgence in recent years—no surprise, considering its long list of desirable qualities. This environmentally friendly, non-allergenic, and highly durable material is gentler to walk and stand on than hard ceramic tile. Plus, linoleum is also naturally antibacterial, making it resistant to mold and mildew. Properly cleaned and cared for, linoleum can easily last 30 to 40 years in a high-traffic area of the home. Whether you have linoleum floors or plan to install it, follow these steps for maintenance, and you’ll be able to enjoy your flooring for years—or even decades—to come.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Dust mop
Softbristle scrub brush
Nylon brush
Baking soda
Baby oil
Linoleum floor polish

How to Clean Linoleum Floors - Linoleum tile project from A Beautiful Mess

Photo: Sarah Rhodes and Josh Rhodes via abeautifulmess.com


Maintaining linoleum is similar to maintaining a wood floor. Although it is durable, linoleum is, like wood, susceptible to damage from excessive moisture and alkalinity. So, use only small amounts of lukewarm or cool water, and do not use ammonia-based cleaners.

It’s a good idea to dust mop daily to keep linoleum floors free of dirt, and to give them a good general cleaning once a week. To do so, first sweep the floor or vacuum thoroughly using your vacuum’s hard floor attachment. Once you’ve removed loose dirt and debris, fill a bucket with lukewarm or cool water, and use a product that’s been designed for linoleum floors, being sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not soak the floor, but rather work over it in four- to six-foot sections with a slightly damp mop. Dump out the water, and refill the bucket with clean, cool water, then completely rinse the floor with a slightly damp mop. (Detergents left on the floor will leave a sticky residue and become a magnet for more dirt.) Dry the floor completely with old towels. For a deeper cleaning, follow the same technique but use a soft-bristle scrub brush.



To avoid stains, spot clean spills as soon as possible, rinsing the area with cool water and drying it completely with a towel before allowing any foot traffic. If you do end up with stains, because the pigments in linoleum go all the way through the material, you’ll want to buff them out with a nylon brush. Wash and polish the area afterward to bring back its shine. (Obstinate stains may require repair.) Remove black scuff marks by scrubbing them away with a paste of baking soda and water, then rinsing and drying thoroughly. For tougher scuffs, rub a small amount of baby oil or WD-40 onto the stain to lift it, then thoroughly rinse and dry.



Linoleum manufacturers recommend polishing floors to protect them and keep them looking great. When the polish on your floor has dulled due to traffic and wear, first vacuum and wash the floor as you would for a general cleaning, but take special care to rinse it thoroughly. After the floor has thoroughly dried, add one or two coats of linoleum floor polish according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s extremely important to allow the polish to dry completely between coats. Take care not to move the applicator over any one area of the floor more than once or twice as this can cause streaking, which will require stripping before repolishing.


Regular Care

Conscientious care is a small price to pay for great-looking floors. With proper maintenance, your linoleum will serve you well for many, many years.

• Be sure to place doormats outside and rugs inside entrances. Dirt and grit are a linoleum floor’s biggest enemy. They will scratch and dull the finish, allowing grime to collect.
• Always use colorfast felt pads on the bottom of furniture legs to prevent stains and scratches.
• Put protection under plants to avoid water damage, and move plants periodically. Linoleum requires exposure to light in order to keep it from yellowing.

• Never put a latex- or rubber-backed rug on a linoleum floor; it will cause a stain. Use only colorfast rugs with natural backings.
• Don’t let water stand on the floor—it will damage your linoleum.
• Do not strip floors more than once a year.
• Never use ammonia-based cleaners, as they will strip the polish from the floor and damage it.