Ready to rip up worn-out carpet and replace it with cool new cork floors? Want to ditch dingy vinyl in favor of shiny new ceramic tiles?
Good news: Installing flooring is a project you can tackle yourself. Depending on the material you choose and the size of your room, you may even be able to knock out the upgrade in a weekend. Here's a look at four floors with low degrees of difficulty, which make them perfect choices for homeowners with basic DIY skills.
1. Floating Hardwood
While even a novice DIYer can refinish hardwood floors, laying an entirely new hardwood floor is not so simple. The process requires special tools and produces dust and fumes. The degree of difficulty and potential for costly mistakes makes this something to leave to the professionals.
For homeowners looking for a DIY project, a better option is a floating floor system. Available in many widths, colors, and patterns, these floating hardwood, laminate, cork, or bamboo floors look like tongue-and-groove flooring but have simple click-lock installation that doesn't require nails or glue.
Before installing any new floor, it's important to have a clean and level subfloor. Without this important prep work, you may ruin the new flooring or end up with a sloppy result. Most floors can be installed directly over clean and smooth concrete or vinyl, but if that's not an option, you'll first want to install ¼-inch plywood. Stagger the panels and keep them tight so there are no gaps.
How to do it: Store your wood planks in the room where they will be installed for at least 2 days so they can acclimate to reduce expansion and contraction. For most floating floors, you need to cover the subfloor with an underlayment pad. Next, remove base moldings and then install the first row of planks with the tongue edge facing the wall. Leave ¼-inch space between the planks and the wall to allow for expansion (the base moldings will hide the gap). Use a tapping block to join together the planks, end to end. Keep adding rows, staggering the joints. Cut planks to size with a jigsaw and use a jamb saw to trim door casings, if needed, to allow planks to fit underneath. After the flooring is installed, replace baseboard moldings.
Vinyl flooring is popular among homeowners because it is affordable and resilient. There are two options for vinyl floors, but for anything other than a simple box-shape room with very few angles or obstacles, rolled sheet vinyl is tricky to measure and install. In most rooms, peel-and-stick vinyl tiles are a better option. Although they do not have the same seamless look, the tiles are a snap to install.
Start by applying two coats of primer to the subfloor to ensure proper adhesion. Remove base moldings. Find the room's center point and then dry fit the tiles into the desired pattern. When you're happy with the layout, remove the backing from the centermost tile and set it in place, using a wallpaper roller along the edges. Keep the tiles going the correct direction by using the arrows on the backs of the tiles as a guide. Work in small sections to add all of the tiles, making sure they fit snugly without gaps. Save cuts for the edges of the room, using a heavy-duty utility knife to make the cuts. After the floor is laid, go over the entire surface again with the wallpaper roller and then replace the moldings.
In addition to being attractive and durable, stone and ceramic tile is relatively simple to install. For the best results, it's important to properly prepare your space. Remove baseboard trim, fill any spaces in the subfloor so it's perfectly smooth, and add a water-resistant underlayment if you're laying tile in a moisture-prone space.
Spread thin-set mortar, working in small areas starting from the center of the room out to the edges. Apply mortar to the backs of the tiles with a trowel, one at a time, and lay them in place, using plastic spacers to create a uniform gap between the pieces. Use a level and a rubber mallet to keep tiles even as you work and remove mortar from the tile fronts with a wet sponge. Cut tiles with a tile saw and nippers or rent a wet saw for a large project. Allow the mortar to set for at least a day before filling in the gaps with grout. Reinstall trim and, after about a week, seal the grout to guard against stains.
Installing wall-to-wall carpeting is a cumbersome and precise job that's best left to a professional. Precut carpet squares, however, are a no-fuss alternative that even a novice DIYer can tackle in a day. Available in hundreds of mix-and-match colors and patterns, the squares can be laid wall to wall or as an area rug over any flat surface.
Measure your space to determine how many 20-inch squares you need; the modular tiles are easy to cut using a heavy-duty utility knife. Install the pieces using the included adhesive stickers, which attach the squares to each other, not to the subfloor. Although they're not as plush as regular carpet, the squares are affordable and can be replaced piecemeal if an area gets stained.