6 Ways to Prepare for Professional Wood Floor Installation

Carpenter Laying a wooden floor
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Don't just sit back and wait for the wood floor installers to arrive and create havoc in your house. Some very simple preparations on your part can help mitigate the dust, muss, fuss, and damage that wood floor installers can inevitably cause in your home. Even though your flooring company may promise to take certain precautions, the more you can do beforehand, the better.

The mess associated with flooring installation can be directly related to how long the contractor is in your home, and good preparation will ensure that the flooring company is in and out as quickly as possible. You may even be able to discuss the issue beforehand with the contractor, who may agree to lower the price if you are handling the preparation and perhaps even the cleanup. Don't be afraid to suggest this at the time you are negotiating bids for the work.

Here are six things you can do to help simplify the flooring installation and reduce mess.

Provide Dust Control

Dust is the #1 problem in flooring installation, and it is particularly troublesome if the wood flooring will be stained and varnished in place. Most floor installers will take minimum preparations to contain the dust, but their efforts are rarely perfect. You can do better: Seal off rooms that will not be sanded, not just by closing the doors but by covering the doorway with plastic sheets secured with masking tape. "Ad hoc" plastic curtains help only a little bit, while something like a ZipWall barrier system helps a bit more. But sheets of securely taped plastic sheeting over doorways, heating ducts, and other openings will prevent airborne dust from entering the room and settling on fresh varnish coats as they dry.

Remove the Doors

Any floor installer company worth its salt will remove the doors from the hinges before they begin flooring installation, but they will not necessarily safely store the doors.

Remove all doors from their hinges and stack them in a different room, with each door separated by a blanket to prevent scratching. Make sure to keep hinge pins collected together in a plastic bag. When the flooring installation is complete, you may want to handle the reinstallation of the doors yourself, so as to avoid any scratches.

Remove the Baseboards

Depending on the type of the baseboards in the room, it is usually best to remove either the entire baseboard, or the shoe moldings that line the bottom edge of the baseboards. Small ranch or colonial-style baseboards that have no base shoe moldings usually can be removed entirely, using a couple of thin pry bars. This will allow the installers room to install the flooring planks as close to the walls as possible. Some homeowners like to take this opportunity to install new baseboards after the flooring has been installed.

If your home has tall, built-up baseboards, it's common practice to remove just the small base shoe moldings that cover the seams between the baseboard and flooring around the perimeter of the room. The shoe moldings can be reused if they are in good shape, although many homeowners simply install new shoe molding at this time.

Remove the Door Trim

The case moldings and stop moldings on doorways are a bit more problematic than the baseboards. Almost no flooring installers will remove these moldings—instead, they typically cut the bottoms of the moldings in order to slip the new flooring beneath them. But a better appearance can be achieved if you remove the moldings entirely, which allows the installers to fit the flooring boards tightly around the door frame. The look will be much more uniform and polished. After the flooring is laid, you can trim and reinstall the old case moldings, or retrim the door with new moldings. This is serious finish carpentry work, however.

Prepare the Subfloor

Most flooring installers spend little or no time working on the subfloor, unless this was discussed beforehand and negotiated as part of the price of installation. If your subfloor is less than perfect—if there are dips or other flaws—you can do some prior work to secure the subfloor and fix any imperfections in it. Your goal should be a subfloor that is perfectly flat and smooth, and firmly secured to the floor joists. If the installers arrive to a well prepared subfloor, the new wood flooring will go in smooth, tight, and flawless.

Some homeowners may choose to go so far as to tear out the old flooring themselves and lay an entirely new subfloor—or at least install a thin plywood underlayment to smooth over the subfloor. This might be something to discuss with your flooring installation contractor, since doing this work yourself should earn you a discount.

Prepare an Outdoor Cutting Area

Dust and debris can be greatly reduced if your flooring installers have a suitable outdoor location to cut flooring (and plywood, if they are also installing a subfloor). An ideal spot for cutting will have:

  • Access to an outdoor, GFCI-protected, electrical outlet
  • A hard work surface, such as a concrete patio or garage floor
  • Protection from the elements; a garage or carport is ideal
  • Good natural or secondary lighting
  • Close access to an entry door to the home