Replacing underlayment

MATERIALS: Ready-mix latex underlayment, 6d ringshank nails, 80- or 100-grit sandpaper, underlayment

TOOLS: Hammer, pry bar, jigsaw, tape measure, handsaw, trowel, safety goggles

THE LOW DOWN ON LAUAN - Lauan plywood is one of the most common underlayments. It’s inexpensive and easy to handle. However, a large variety of quality and species are classified as lauan, and some may present problems such as discoloration, indentation, loss of bond, and delamination when used as an underlayment. If using lauan look for Type 1 (Exterior). The best grade is BB, followed by CC, with OVL [overlay grade) being the minimum acceptable face grade.

Most manufacturers require a properly installed underlayment in order to honor warranties on their products. The most commonly approved underlayments for sheet vinyl and vinyl tiles are exterior plywood products grade BC or better, poplar or birch plywood with a fully sanded face and exterior glue, and lauan plywood, Type 1 (Exterior), grade BB or CC. The minimum thickness for underlayment is 1/4 inch.

Before you install underlayment, nail down any loose subflooring with 6d ringshank nails. Set all nailheads below the flooring surface. Check the seams between boards or sheets of plywood on the subfloor. If a board is higher than its neighbor, sand with a flooring edge sander to create a smooth surface. Look for high spots and sand them too. Fill any low spots with liquid underlayment— a latex gap filler that you trowel on. And if you don’t do all this? Count on soft spots and squeaks. On vinyl, high edges will show through and will wear out the top flooring prematurely.

1 IF YOU NEED TO REMOVE THE OLD UNDERLAYMENT, PRY THE EDGES LOOSE WITH A PRY BAR. Underlayment is nailed in place every 6 inches and can be extremely stubborn. A 36-inch wrecking bar will give you extra leverage. In tough cases, you may want to pry with something longer, like an ice fisherman's spud.

2 NAIL DOWN ANY LOOSE SUBFLOOR BOARDS WITH 6d RINGSHANK NAILS. Replace warped, bowed, or damaged boards. If one edge of a board is higher than its neighbor, sand it flush with a flooring edge sander.

3 MAKE SURE THE FINISHED HEIGHT OF THE NEW FLOOR WILL ALLOW ROOM FOR REPLACING APPLIANCES. The countertop may need to be shimmed up, or the old flooring removed, to allow appliances to fit. Also remove any heating vents that will interfere with the floor.

4 REMOVE THE BASE MOLDING, THEN UNDERCUT THE BOTTOM EDGES OF DOOR CASINGS to make room for the new underlayment and flooring. Use a piece of flooring and underlayment as a spacing guide. Rest a handsaw on the guide, and trim the casings. Use the same tile on each jamb as the saw may scratch the tile. If you have a lot of jambs, consider renting a power jamb saw.

5 INSPECT THE SUBFLOOR FOR LOWSPOTS. Fill any low areas with ready-mix latex underlayment. Trowel it on, let it dry, then sand it smooth with 80- or 100-grit sandpaper. Wrap the paper around a scrap of 2x4 when sanding to help ensure a flat surface.

6 MAKE A CARDBOARD OR PAPER TEMPLATE FOR IRREGULAR EDGES, then trace the template outline onto the underlayment. Cut the underlayment to fit, using a circular saw for long, straight cuts and a jigsaw for irregular-shaped cuts.

7 PUT ON YOUR SAFETY GLASSES and begin installation along the longest wall.

8 DRIVE 6d RINGSHANK NAILS ON A 6-INCH GRID ALONG THE ENTIRE FACE OF THE PLYWOOD and every 3 inches around the perimeter of the floor. Leave 1/8 inch between the underlayment sheets for expansion caused by changes in the temperature and humidity.

9 COVER THE REMAINING AREAS, STAGGERING THE PLYWOOD SEAMS. Fill the seams and any other irregularities in the subfloor with ready-mix latex underlayment. (Any irregularities will be visible through the finished floor.) Let it dry, then sand it smooth. Clean the surface thoroughly to remove debris and dust before installing the flooring material.

Installing Sheet Vinyl

Making a flooring template

MATERIALS: Ready-mix latex underlayment, 6d ringshank nails, primer, adhesive

TOOLS: Pry bar, handsaw, tape measure, compass, utility knife, flooring knife, hand roller or rolling pin, floor roller, trowel, safety goggles

Sheet vinyl is manufactured in 6- or 12-foot widths. Large areas may require that pieces of flooring be joined together. If you have to use two pieces of vinyl flooring, try to put the seams in inconspicuous areas. To eliminate cutting errors, create a template of your room with heavy paper or with a template kit offered by some flooring manufacturers. A template allows you to trace an accurate outline of your room onto the new flooring. You’ll need to find a large, level area to lay the flooring completely flat to transfer the template markings. Sweep it well before you put your vinyl on it. Some vinyls require a slightly different installation than the one described here. Follow the manufacturer’s directions closely.

INSTALLATION KITS - Many sheet vinyl flooring manufacturers make installation template kits, which normally include a roll of heavy paper, masking tape, a marking guide, a trimming knife, and a complete set of instructions. The kits make it relatively easy to lay out the flooring and can save on your material cost by reducing the mistake factor. Some manufacturers actually guarantee do-it-yourself installations if you use their kits. Be sure to ask about the warranty and installation specifics before purchasing your sheet vinyl.

CUT AN ACCURATE TEMPLATE - An accurate template is the key to a tight and well-fitting installation. Paper is cheap but vinyl sheeting isn't, so make your mistakes on the paper and get everything right before you start cutting. When working in a bathroom, remove the toilet and pedestal sink to make the template. Cut it so that it extends into areas normally hidden by these fixtures. It's easier than cutting around them.

1 REMOVE THE QUARTER-ROUND MOLDING THAT RUNS ALONG THE BASEBOARD. Remove doors. Undercut the door trim by cutting into it while the saw rests on a scrap piece of flooring.

2 YOU CAN INSTALL VINYL OVER OLD VINYL FLOORING, PLYWOOD, CERAMIC FLOORS, OR CONCRETE. Make sure old vinyl is firmly attached and wax-free. Fill embossed patterns with embossing leveler. For plywood nail down loose boards, then fill gaps and knotholes. Patch and fill concrete or ceramic to create a smooth surface. Prime the floor as directed by the manufacturer.

3 MAKE A PATTERN FROM SHEETS OF HEAVY BUTCHER’S PAPER. Place the paper's edges against walls. (Some flooring requires a 1/4-inch gap between the vinyl and the wall; follow the manufacturer's directions.) Cut triangles in the paper with a utility knife. Tape the template to the floor through the holes.

4 W0RK YOUR WAY AROUND THE ROOM, TAPING THE PAPER IN PLACE AS YOU GO. At corners, overlap adjoining sheets of paper by 2 inches and tape them together. Continue taping pieces around obstacles that you couldn't remove. Mark the seams, as shown, so you can put the pieces back together if they come apart.

5 TO FIT THE TEMPLATE AROUND PIPES, TAPE SHEETS OF PAPER ON EACH SIDE OF THE PIPE. Measure the distance from the wall to the center of the pipe, using a framing square or combination square.

6 TRANSFER THE MEASUREMENT TO A SEPARATE PIECE OF PAPER. Use a compass to draw the pipe diameter onto the paper and cut a hole with scissors or a utility knife. Cut a slit from the edge of the paper to the hole.

7 FIT THE HOLE CUTOUT AROUND THE PIPE. Tape the hole template to adjoining sheets.

8 WHEN YOU’VE FINISHED MAKING THE TEMPLATE, roll or loosely fold it and set it aside until you've unrolled the sheet vinyl.

Cutting and installing sheet vinyl

1 ONCE YOU CUT THE VINYL, YOU’LL NEED TO INSTALL IT WITHIN 3 OR 4 HOURS, as directed by the manufacturer. If you wait longer, the vinyl will lose its flexibility. When you're ready, unroll the flooring on any large, flat, clean surface—even one in another room. As you unroll it, it will be pattern-side down. When you've unrolled the sheet, turn it pattern-side up for marking.

2 POSITION THE PAPER TEMPLATE ON THE VINYL SHEET AND TAPE IT INTO PLACE. Trace the outline of the template onto the flooring with a ballpoint pen.

3 REMOVE THE TEMPLATE. Cut along the template marks using a sharp flooring knife guided by a straightedge. If you're working in the room the vinyl will go in, don't cut on the underlayment, as the scratches may show through. Cut on a piece of scrap instead.

4 CUT HOLES FOR PIPES OR POSTS USING A FLOORING KNIFE. Then cut a slit from the hole to the nearest edge of the vinyl. Make the cut on a piece of scrap underlayment to protect the surface below.

5 IF YOU CUT THE VINYL SOMEWHERE OTHER THAN ITS FINAL LOCATION, ROLL IT UP LOOSELY AND TAKE THE ROLL TO THE ROOM IT WILL BE IN. Be careful not to fold the flooring. Unroll and position the vinyl carefully. Slide the edges beneath the undercut door casings.

6 FOLD THE MATERIAL BACK HALFWAY ACROSS THE ROOM. Make sure the subfloor is clean, then apply adhesive with a notched trowel. The size of the notch depends both on the manufacturer and the application; follow manufacturer's directions carefully. Let the adhesive dry for 10 to 20 minutes.

Then fold the floor down over it. Fold back the other half of the vinyl and repeat the process.

7 FOR A FIRM BOND, ROLL THE VINYL WITH A HAND ROLLER OR AN OLD ROLLING PIN. Start in the middle of the floor and work your way to the edges.

MIXING BRANDS - Resilient flooring adhesive and seam sealer are made for specific types of flooring; adhesives are also made for specific types of subfloor. Read carefully the specifications that come with your flooring to make sure you're getting the right adhesive. Then double-check with the dealer just to make sure. Not all flooring materials and supplies are compatible. Stick with the same manufacturer for flooring material, adhesive, seam sealer, and cleanup solution. You will have an easier time and it will protect your warranty. Also, you should have a floor covering that will stay where you put it.

SEAM SEALER - If your floor requires a seam, be sure to use a seam sealer. It joins the two sheets into one, making the flooring stronger. Sealer comes in a package with a cleaner, an applicator, and two small bottles that you mix together to form the sealant. Start by cleaning the vinyl; then pour about half of each bottle into the applicator. Apply as directed. Leave any extra sealer that gets on the surface of the vinyl; it will wear away with use, leaving a level seam. Be sure to get a high-gloss sealer for high-gloss floors, and a low-gloss sealer for low-gloss floors. Ask your dealer for help.

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