Don’t Believe the Hype

In 2007, Bride and I purchased our first home. It was a modest 3-bedroom that needed some work so we got it at a good price and set about doing interesting and fun projects to update it. We did a bit of landscaping and I found a textured paint to cover the brick fireplace which the previous owners had, for some reason, painted lime green and bright white. It was weird.

Long about this time we also acquired our first dependent- the least threatening Doberman pinscher on the planet- who immediately set about wrecking stuff and creating projects for us to do. One day I arrived home from work to discover that she had chewed a hole about the size of a silver dollar into the carpet in the front room. That’s always been her M.O. She creates tiny damage that is so small you barely notice it, but so thorough that it requires the full remodel of a room to fix. But I digress.

At the time, Home Depot was running a sale on flooring and the commercials showed a lady in a nice dress installing the last piece of a laminate floor and looking back over her work with a satisfied smile.

See, this lady in a nice dress was installing the laminate floor, all by herself, in a huge room, and had a smile on her face and a look of accomplishment. The voiceover suggested that this was a project that could be done in a weekend with minimal effort and in high heels even. I figured that since I don’t wear high heels I was already at an advantage. And besides, my room was like half the size of hers. I’d have this thing done by lunch!

So we took our measurements and headed on over to the Depot where reality set in very quickly. You see, there’s a lot more to putting in a floor than just putting in a floor. You have your floor, true, but you also have your moisture barrier and padding. And there’s mold blocker, a spray that goes down on the slab. You also need a special pry bar to help clip the pieces together when you’re too close to a wall to tap it in with a hammer. You also need a circular or table saw, an angle, shims, wood filler, trim, and paint. Oh yeah, and a hammer.

This floor was to be installed as a “floating” floor. What this means is that the floor itself is not mounted to anything. The whole thing occupies space about 1/8 inch away from the wall on all sides. The edges are covered with quarter-round trim. This allows the floor to expand and contract with temperature and humidity and prevents buckling. What this also means is that you have to insert spacers and shims and make sure that the edges of the floor stay butted up against it so everything stays aligned. This gets harder to do as the floor gets bigger.

Another issue is that each box of flooring comes with the same quantity of the same printed wood grain on each piece, so you have to be careful that you don’t repeat patterns. This is easier said than done. And finally, at the beginning and end of each line of flooring installed, you have to cut it so that your patterns are consistent and everything looks natural. No, you can’t do a bunch of cuts at once. It doesn’t work that way. You have to cut and install, install, install, then cut and install, then cut again. This is how it’s done.

By the end of the first day we had installed exactly three rows of flooring and had about twelve left to go.

When I woke up the next day I was in agony. Not from the hangover; the hangover was requisite because no home improvement project is ever done without a serious bout of drinking. No, what hurt were my knuckles. They were so badly bruised that they were purple in some places and I couldn’t figure out why. Until I did. The whole previous day, I had been sitting cross-legged on the floor and moving myself around by pushing up on my fists and swinging over to where I needed to be. The first time I tried this that next day, I had a flash of pain and sort of crumpled.

As this project went on, it I began to realize that there was no way in hell that that lady of the commercial had done any of that dressed as she was and all clean and happy. Here I was, tired, sore, hurt, and broke, and only about 30% done after a full day of real work. Screw that lady and her satisfied smile. There it was, only nine o’clock on a Sunday morning, and I already needed a beer. Two even.

We eventually finished the floor, but I had to put in the trim the following weekend. My hands stayed bruised for a while, though, and I took to throwing things at the dog when she’d sniff around in there. Every now and again, Home Depot will run the same commercial whenever they have a sale on flooring and I’m telling you it’s nothing but a big, fat, lie. Don’t believe the hype.
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  • reply George Hilbert ,

    Wow!! You actually had a pretty easy time of it. The last floor I installed was a wonderful bamboo that no saw would cut evenly and had to be glued down with a substance that had no effective solvent. So, wherever you tracked it to or got stuck in it was there for eternity. This is not even to mention that the flooring came in “random lengths”, which means that you can NEVER find the piece you need with both the correct length and the right grain pattern. I feel your pain and would applaud you, but I still have some of that adhesive on me and have to be careful to not stick my hands together…

    • reply Scarydad ,

      When we moved to this house I paid the professionals to do it and it still took them 3 days. The project actually came out looking really, really good. It was just a lot more work than any of us anticipated. It also cost a lot more. $1 a square foot my ass.

      Home Depot is a liar.

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