New flooring: What dangers lurk beneath?

While it is easy to detect a scuffed, damaged, dated or worn flooring surface, it’s what can’t be seen underneath that often presents the real challenge in a flooring removal-repair-replacement project.

Wood, tile, laminate, stone and every other type of flooring must have a secure, level and sturdy subfloor. That means flooring installed to last – with proper fit, underlayment, fasteners, adhesives, thin set, grout, levelers or whatever – won’t always be easy to remove.

It also means that improperly installed flooring might be either coming up in chunks or nearly impossible to remove cleanly. The wrong kind or combination of adhesives, together with aggressive scraping, can create extensive structural damage and chaos for a surprised do-it-yourselfer. A project can quickly grind to a halt.

An experienced flooring professional already understands the potential difficulties of flooring removal and will have the right (and sometimes very expensive) equipment needed to remove flooring without damaging the underlying structure.

A pro will also be able to accurately assess any number of substrate problems that are common to homes – termites, water damage, mold, rot, original structure inadequacies, and on and on. New, beautiful flooring on old, damaged subflooring simply causes more problems and more expense, sooner rather than later.

It’s rare that a flooring professional would simply cover an old floor with new flooring material, but when that’s the best solution, careful installation will prevent gross unevenness, toe-stubbing transitions and/or thresholds from adjacent rooms and gaps in corners. I saw a DIY installation where overlaid flooring trapped the dishwasher, making it impossible to move for service.

A seriously professional aspect of laying any floor – especially stone and the large-size tiles that are currently in vogue – is in creating an even, level surface. The bigger the tiles, the more exacting the demands of proper subflooring, underlayering, and positioning. Success is a matter of skill, not beginner’s luck.

So remember that when eyeing a custom flooring replacement project, a professional usually sees the best solution.