When we finally closed on our home, the first thing we knew we wanted to do was change the flooring in the kitchen, breakfast area, living room, flex room, entryway and staircase. All of these rooms combined came out to about 1,100 sq ft of flooring that would be more of a pain to renovate once we were moved in. The existing flooring was a mix of rustic looking wood-look laminate in the entryway and flex room, white and gray porcelain tile in the kitchen, breakfast area and living room and carpet on the stairway. We weren't fans of seeing three different flooring types right as you entered the house and we also weren't fans of seeing three different colors of the flooring either (dark brown mixed with white and gray). We wanted more consistency that made all of these rooms cohesive to where there wasn't a defined boundary for each room. Needless to say, the flooring was the first item that had to go.
What the flooring looked like when we first bought our house
I think it was two weeks after we closed on our home, we began the demolition process of removing the existing laminate flooring in the entryway and flex room. Removing the flooring was relatively easy since this flooring wasn't glued down in any way. If you are planning on demolishing a non-glued down laminate or vinyl plank in your home, I would recommend the following tools that we used and we found super helpful:
1. Knee pads
These were a life-saver since you will be on your knees for the majority of this project. We used the Husky knee pads that are linked above.
The Demolition Process
Now, these were a life-saver for our hands. Who knows how many cuts and scrapes we would have without these. Our flooring did not have any nails or screws that were used to attach it, it was all tongue and groove, but we did have to use quite a bit of force to pull up some of the pieces. Two out of two homeowners would recommend using gloves. See link above.
We used this for prying up some of the harder to get boards. Any hammer will do, this is just a similar one to the one we used
You never know what pieces can come flying when you are tearing up flooring of any kind. See the link for inexpensive safety goggles
We only demolished the existing laminate ourselves and not the porcelain tile for the following reasons
1. We did not want to accidentally ruin our slab in any way when removing the porcelain tile
We did not trust ourselves to demo the tile in the proper way since we were so inexperienced. Also, once we demolished the tile, and if our slab was not level and to fill any divots, we would have to put leveler down, which we have never done.
2. It would be very dusty to remove the porcelain tile
Because of the mortar bed that porcelain tile is installed on, the entire process of removing tile becomes very dusty because you have to remove this mortar bed in order to install your new flooring.
3. It would have taken a lot of time to remove the porcelain tile
We both worked full-time jobs and we had to pack up our rent house during this time as well. We were not willing to devote the number of hours it would take to complete this project. Demo'ing the laminate flooring only took us about 1.5 hours
To have the porcelain tile demolished, we found a flooring installer that would remove the existing tile floors and install our new flooring.
This was by far the most extensive and frustrating part of the whole process if we're being honest. That might be a bit dramatic, but I'm the type of person who does not deal with stress well and I found this process to be the first world definition of stressful.
We began looking for a new flooring while we were under contract for our home. Our thought process was that we would find a flooring before we closed and then schedule a contractor to come install the flooring right after we closed and then move-in shortly after that... that would have been way to simple if it went according to plan.
Our first decision was deciding on what type of flooring we wanted. We knew we wanted a wood look flooring, but it took us awhile to figure out the type of wood-look floor we wanted. The options we could choose from were hardwood flooring, laminate flooring or vinyl plank (LVP). We ruled out hardwood floors almost immediately because...
1. The flooring cost was more than we wanted to pay
2. We wanted a more durable flooring
3. We did not want to have to refinish our flooring in 7-10 years
So, it came down to laminate flooring and vinyl plank. If we went with the laminate flooring, we wanted to go with a waterproof laminate (because they are not all waterproof). We wanted to go with something waterproof and scratch-resistant since we expect to have both kids and doggos one day. Overall, we were looking for a flooring that was low maintenance that could keep up with our changing lifestyle.
After looking at flooring for about a month, another problem we ran into was, do we want dark flooring and dark cabinets? If you have read the 'Our Home When We Bought It' post, you can see that our cabinets in our kitchen are a dark, espresso color. Personally, I didn't want our home to be dark cabinets on dark floors. This flooring would set the tone for the majority of the first floor, so it was either we go with dark floors and change the cabinets to a lighter color or, we go with a lighter floor that would compliment the cabinets. Since we were already planning on changing the flooring, it didn't make sense to change the cabinets and the flooring. We ultimately decided to go with a lighter floor that would pair nicely with our existing cabinets. Also, dark floors show more imperfections than lighter floors whether that be spills or dust. Nothing against darker flooring, it just all comes down to personal preference.
We then began researching places that had waterproof laminate flooring or vinyl plank options. The difference between laminate flooring and vinyl planks (LVP) that we found when talking to various flooring places is that the laminate flooring is not always waterproof, it may be water-resistant, but not waterproof. Since this flooring would be extending into the kitchen, we 100% wanted the flooring to be durable, even against water.
Below are the places we looked at
1. Lumber Liquidators
2. Home Depot
4. Floor & Decor
5. Cabinets Plus
Out of the places listed above, Floor & Decor was the one we liked the best. They had a huge selection and they also provided stair nosings (the front edge of the stair step) that matched most of their flooring.
Choosing Our Flooring
Homeowner tip: What we would recommend more than anything is when you find a flooring you like, don't just take the little free sample that every store has, but buy 1 box of the flooring (it's usually about 20 sq ft) take it to your home, and lay it out on your floor in different areas of your house at different times of day to see if you like it. You can tape the box back up and return it to the store if you end up not liking the flooring.
The first flooring we found and liked was at Floor & Decor, so we bought a box, brought it home and placed it around the home in different locations to see how it would look. Once we brought the flooring home, it was still a little too dark. Through this whole process we felt like Goldy Locks and the Three Bears. This floor is too dark, this flooring has too much variation, until we found a flooring that was just right.
Floor & Decor: NuCore Performance Founders Gunstock Rigid Core Luxury Vinyl Plank - Cork Back
After going to many chain flooring stores, we didn't find any flooring we were sold on, so we began looking at local Austin flooring showrooms. Looking at local showrooms gave us more flooring options, but we would also be looking at flooring that was more per square foot than what we intended on paying. We validated the extra cost by not settling on a flooring we weren't 100% happy with only because it was cheaper. We really wanted to find a flooring we fell in love with.
The first local showroom we went to in Austin was The Tile Guy which was recommended to us by one of the contractors we interviewed (more on the contractors later) and contrary to the name, had all types of flooring rather than just tile. Everyone we dealt with at The Tile Guy was very helpful and helped us narrow down what we were looking for, allowing us to borrow samples to take home and ordering a box of flooring for us when we decided on a flooring we liked.
We brought the box of flooring home that we ordered from The Tile Guy, laid it out in different areas and it was close to what we wanted, but still wasn't quite it. What deterred us from choosing this flooring was there were perpendicular cross marks to the wood grain that were throughout the planks.
The Tile Guy: FirmFit - XXL Luxury Vinyl - Wheatland
When we didn't find a flooring at The Tile Guy, we tried one last place. After doing more online research we found Butler Floors in Austin to look next. Butler Floors is owned by an Aggie husband and wife team, Cindy and Rob Butler where we worked with Cindy in the showroom where she helped us choose the flooring and Rob came to our home to measure for the quantity that we needed.
We went into Butler Floors, explained to Cindy what we were looking for, and she lead us to a whole sea of options. At this point, the flooring features we were looking for was...
1. A warm, golden colored flooring tone
2. A flooring that was consistently the same color throughout
3. For the edges of each plank to be beveled
She immediately led us to the side of the showroom and started laying out multiple samples that fit our criteria.
- Left Flooring: COREtec Colorwall Timeless Luxury, Color: Sassy
- Middle Flooring: COREtec Grande Premium XL, Color: Grande Lotte Oak
- Right Flooring: COREtec Grande Premium XL, Color: Grande Goldin Oak
After the months of looking at flooring and going to multiple flooring stores and showrooms, we finally decided on COREtec Colorwall Timeless Luxury, Color: Sassy. We loved the durability of the flooring, the color and how it looked great in every area in our home. On first impression, we were sold, but we had to be 100% sure and order a box of the flooring to lay out.
It took about a week for the box of flooring to come in and when it did, we were even more in love with it! It just felt right.
We finally found the perfect flooring. Check. Now it was time to find the right contractor for the job. Although I'm an architect, I only deal with commercial general contractors, not residential flooring installers, so we resulted Yelp in our search to find someone who could install our flooring.
On Yelp, we looked for the highest rated contractors and read the reviews for each to confirm that there were no red flags before we set up a time for them to come out to our house for measurements and to provide us with a quote.
As we were walking through our project with the contractors, we had a list of questions we wanted to ask each of them to make sure we were clear on our expectations and to make sure the contractors included everything in their quote.
1. Would we need to purchase the flooring material or would the contractor?
2. Would the contractor purchase, install and paint the shoe molding at the baseboards or would we need to?
3. Would the flooring installer also demo the porcelain tile?
4. Would our kitchen cabinets be protected during the tile demolition?
5. How long would they need to demo the existing tile flooring and stair carpet and install the new flooring?
6. How soon would the flooring installer be able to start working on our home?
7. What are the expectations on what we need to purchase and what the installer is purchasing?
8. Make sure everyone is on the same page on which way you want the flooring to run
9. Does the installer/contractor recommend a moisture barrier under vinyl or laminate flooring? (We got mixed answers on this question from the installers)
10. Will the installer be hauling off any debris?
11. Will there be more than one payment for the job and when is the expectation on it/them being due?
Once all of the questions you have are answered by each of the contractors you interview, have them itemize various items in their quote. For example...
1. The square footage of new flooring they have calculated
2. The linear footage of shoe molding or quarter round they will need for the project
3. The length and number of stair nosings they will need (if you are re-doing the flooring on your stairs)
4. Make sure the contractor / installer adds in 10% waste to their quote. This is a number for cuts and
excess material that is factored in.
5. The type of transition strips that are needed between where you have existing flooring and where your new flooring is meeting it and quantity of each
6. Cost of leveler (if needed)
7. Cost of demolition of any existing flooring
Also, if your installer is good like ours was, he/she will give you a list with quantities of all of the material you are expected to purchase. If they haven't given you one right off the bat, it doesn't hurt to ask for one.
We received quotes from four different installers and they were all great in providing us with quotes within a day or two of surveying our home. We compared and contrasted each of the quotes and it ultimately came down to cost (shocker!). The installer we chose not only had the most reasonable cost, he also had great reviews and could start immediately once the flooring material was delivered.
We ordered the flooring once we received how much square footage of flooring the contractor needed and it took about two-weeks for the flooring to be delivered to Butler Floors' warehouse. Once the flooring was delivered to their warehouse, our installer and his team picked it up directly from there and brought it to our home. We did not need to store the flooring in our home and since our flooring was vinyl, and it did not need to get acclimated to our home temperature like wood flooring does.
It took about 4 days total for the installers to complete everything with the timeline broken out below
Homeowner tip: For whatever project you are doing in your home, I recommend getting a quote from more than one contractor. This way you can compare pricing between contractors and make sure all the contractors are accounting for everything you are asking of them in their quote.
Finding and Dealing with a Contractor/Installer
We would come over to the house every day after work to see the progress and when we walked into the house after day 2, our mouths immediately dropped open because we were even more in love with the flooring in person!
Progress photos after day 2
What was also great about coming over to the house each day after work was not only would we see the progress, but we could also see if there were any discrepancies we wanted to address. One of the items was the stair riser where it met our upstairs carpet. We took a picture of the area, marked it up on our phone and within an hour or two, our installer responded that they would fix it the next day. I will emphasize, make you sure you communicate what you want so your expectations are met.
Example of communication with our installer
Once day 4 was wrapped up, the only issue we kept having was that the stair nosing on a couple of the bottom steps did not feel secure when you stepped on them. We called up our installer and the next day he had his guys out to fix the problem which involved adding some more glue.
All in all, it took months to find the flooring, but only a couple of days to install and we could not be more in love with the job Austin Hardwood Flooring did and how fast they completed everything. We would definitely use them again if we had any other flooring work in our home.
Although the overall experience was great for us, we did have a couple of issues arise that I want to mention so hopefully, y'all can learn from our mistakes.
1. We requested white stair risers (the vertical part of the stair)
When we were in the process of choosing a contractor, we had just a couple more questions to ask just to make sure everything was accounted for after the initial survey was complete. We emailed Austin Hardwood Flooring to ask if white stair risers were included in the quote and if they provided the white risers or if we would have to purchase them. There was a quick response back from the installer that they provided the white risers. My assumption was that the white risers were already in the quote (I should have never made the assumption).
So, when we came over to the house to look at the progress after day 2, they had just started on the stairs and the risers were the same material as the flooring, not white. I looked at the quote the installer gave us and the white risers were not itemized out (mistake number 1). I called up the installer to let them know of the issue and they responded that it would be an additional cost to add in the white risers.
For this issue, I think there is a bit of fault on both sides, but I blame myself more for not confirming that white risers had been accounted for in the quote and not just that they would be provided by the installer.
The issue was remedied, but lesson learned, always ask questions to confirm, never assume and make sure the quote is broken out to include everything itemized.
2. We requested a moisture barrier under the flooring
Typically, a moisture barrier is not required under vinyl flooring since vinyl flooring is already waterproofed. Sometimes, a moisture barrier can even void the manufacturer warranty if placed under the flooring (check with the manufacturer). The reason we wanted the moisture barrier was for acoustic purposes rather than to protect from moisture. This barrier is just a thin 6 mil thick barrier that isn't adhered to the slab or flooring in any way, it just rests under the flooring.
So, we communicated to our installer that we wanted this barrier under our flooring and we never heard that it wasn't going to be installed (again we assumed, our mistake). So, when we toured the house on day 2 of the install, 90% of the flooring was already done and there was no moisture barrier under the flooring. We were not going to have them rip up all of the flooring they had put down just to the put the barrier underneath (especially since it wasn't required), so we just went with it.
Since then, I have left a Yelp review on Austin Hardwood Floorings' page saying how much we liked working together, we just wish this game plan had been communicated to us better. Since I left the review, Austin Hardwood Flooring has come back with a really great explanation as to why the moisture barrier wasn't used and in the end, since our flooring has a cork backing already in place on each plank, the noise turned out to not be an issue.
Lesson Learned: Again, never assume and communicate with your installer / contractor