DIY or DIE — Piece of Cake

DO IT YOURSELF. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Those words conjure up visions of a hunky guy and skinny little woman wearing toolbelts over their bluejeans and tee-shirts. They rush on screen, into a perfectly good-looking kitchen, wielding their sledge-hammers and wrecking-bars with determination and glee. Sound like fun? Maybe, if ya like destruction and ruination, but to an old salvage-minded scavenger, those cabinets and sheets of plywood are screaming out for rehabilitation.

But hey–if those ordinary TV actors can build great kitchen islands, put in new countertops, and hang new drywall, then anyone can do a simple job like install a new floor…even me.

Last year I found four boxes of laminate flooring, plus good underlay padding, at an auction for just $25, I snapped it up without a second thought. It would be simple to find someone to install it in the hallway. Well, as it turned out…not really. There was no show-of-hands offer when I brought up the idea. No cries of “Me! Pick me!” So it was decided that we, my son and I, would install the floor.

So began the GREAT FLOORING CAPER.   (The images below may help to show what I am talking about.)

It was clearly not possible to match the original supply of flooring, which had been used for a new house twenty or thirty years before. So we had two different types of laminate planks, half a dark cherry-wood; the new a variegated blend of wood-grains. Rather than alternate colors, it was decided that the main hall leading from the foyer would be in the cherry-wood, running vertically from the foyer; the back hall in a horizontal position, in the new material.

In the main hall the laying of the staggered planks went well, except for two problems:

1. a mid-job change in which we abandoned the original plan to continue the cherry flooring all the way to the back wall…AFTER cutting many of the planks in half in order to obtain a straight edge. The goal had been to have the back hall flooring uninterrupted. In other words, thinking of the hall as a large, fat “T,” the stem of the T one color, the cross-hall North/South wings the other color. This would have worked fine, except for my inability to Measure and cut a straight line. The original plan would have resulted in uneven cut lines, with ugly gaps. So it was back to the drawing board–this time trying to match up fitted snap-fit edges of the planks with cut edges.

2. Most of the issues we faced in matching edges and ends were due to the cut edges. I take the blame, and admit that when I set out to cut that first plank in half…I knew NOTHING about power saws, except that they are largely loud, noisy, and scary. But, without fussing over those details, I know, well…more than I did then. I watched some UTube videos, bought some clamps…and a new mitre saw (which is great, except that it has a six-inch capacity which does not work well with eight-inch wide boards. And besides…that thing is scary!)  The salesperson told us that the saw was just what we needed, and there was even a sign touting “laminate floor cutting and laying” as one of the uses for the saw.  To my limited knowledge, much of the stock of such flooring planks is eight-inches in width.)

We rushed right home and installed the saw on the workbench, which involved drilling and screw-driving, so we were more or less committed to keeping the saw.  It was relatively inexpensive, about a hundred bucks, so although it was less than perfect for the exact job we bought it for we knew it would be great for cutting narrower pieces of wood.

There are six doorways that needed special attention, which complicated the finishing procedures, including sills, framing, moldings, and edge-transition issues.

Actually, the whole project went pretty well…especially the last time we re-did the entire floor.

So what did I learn from my DIY project? A lot. I can operate a circular saw now, and a miter saw…and a hacksaw. I am learning to attach clamps to a workbench. I need better rulers…a four-foot steel ruler is of limited general use. Another thing, I sure wish I would have paid better attention in Math class.