Best and Easiest Flooring Styles for Do It Yourselfers
by Joseph Truini
Not that long ago, installing a new floor required a professional contractor. Today, you can often do it yourself with flooring products designed specifically for DIY installation.
Most modern floors are prefinished “floating” floors (they’re not fastened down to the subfloor), so you won’t need mastics, large drum sanders, or pneumatic nail guns to install them. Plus, these floors go down fast, look great, and come in a wide range of wood species, colors, textures, and prices. Here are six DIY floors to consider for your next remodeling project.
Engineered Wood Planks
For the natural beauty and warmth of real wood flooring without the hassles of sanding and finishing, consider engineered wood. This prefinished product comes in wide, long planks that snap together with tongue-and-groove joints. There’s no gluing or nailing; the planks simply float over a thin foam-rubber underlayment.
Engineered planks are composed entirely of wood, but they’re not solid wood. Each plank is a laminated “sandwich” of thin slices of wood:
- The bottom surface is a single sheet of thin wood veneer.
- In the middle, running perpendicular to the bottom veneer, are wood crossbands.
- On top is a prefinished surface of ⅛- to 3/16-inch-thick hardwood.
Engineered planks come in three styles: one-, two-, and three-strip, which refers to the number of hardwood strips adhered to the top surface. The three-strip product resembles traditional hardwood strip flooring, but most homeowners prefer the wide-plank look of one-strip flooring.
Engineered wood flooring is available in dozens of colors and nearly 20 different wood species. Prices range from $5 to $10 per square foot.
Like engineered wood, laminate flooring is made up of tongue-and-groove planks that snap together. It comes in various widths, colors, and wood-grain patterns. However, the top surface of laminate flooring is made of plastic laminate, not wood, and the core is composed of medium-density fiberboard.
Laminate flooring costs less than real-wood flooring and is resistant to stains, scratches, fading, damage, and wear. Prices vary from less than $1 per square foot for low-end products to at least $3 to $5 per square foot for premium laminate flooring.
Bamboo flooring is attractive, affordable, and durable. Most important, it’s grown and harvested in an environmentally responsible manner. Bamboo isn’t actually wood at all: It’s a grass, and it’s one of the fastest-growing plants in the world — but it looks, feels, and cuts like wood. Because it is much denser, however, it’s hard to scratch or dent.
Prefinished bamboo flooring comes in either engineered planks or solid-bamboo planks. Engineered bamboo is installed using the floating-floor method, making it ideal for DIY installation. The planks snap together and are laid over a thin foam-rubber underlayment.
Solid bamboo flooring is installed similarly to traditional tongue-and-groove hardwood flooring. It’s fastened down with nails or staples, so it’s not quite as DIY-friendly as the engineered planks.
Bamboo flooring comes natural (unstained) or in more than 50 different colors. Engineered bamboo costs between $4 and $8 per square foot. Solid-bamboo flooring costs $2 to $4 per square foot.
Floating Vinyl Sheet
Resilient vinyl sheet flooring has been around for decades and is still popular for kitchens, baths, and laundry rooms. Over the years, the product has evolved to become extremely DIY-friendly because the floating vinyl sheet floors aren’t adhered to the subfloor at all. To install, you make a paper template of the room, cut the flooring to size using a utility knife, and lay it onto the subfloor.
Vinyl sheet flooring comes in 12-foot-wide rolls, resulting in seamless coverage in all but the very largest rooms. Prices start at about $2 per square foot. Peel-and-stick vinyl tiles (starting at $1 per square foot), which stick directly to the subfloor, and snap-together vinyl planks ($2 to $3 per square foot) also provide easy DIY installation.
Cork flooring is attractive, durable, relatively affordable, and 100 percent renewable because it’s harvested from the bark of live oak trees. It’s also soft underfoot and has superior sound-deadening properties.
Prefinished cork flooring comes in both tiles and planks. Most tiles must be glued down, but the ½-inch-thick planks snap together to create a floating floor. The planks must be installed over a thin underlayment, but some have an underlayment already adhered to the underside of each plank. Cork flooring comes in more than 50 colors and about six patterns. Expect to pay between $5 and $10 per square foot, on average.
Even first-time DIYers can carpet a room using carpet squares. These individual precut squares measure about 20 x 20 inches and are installed using 3-inch-diameter adhesive “dots” that adhere the squares to each other. One dot is placed at each corner of a carpet square with the sticky side facing up. The next square is set in place tight against the first square and pressed down onto the adhesive dots. The end result is a floating floor of carpet squares all stuck together at the corners.
If the carpet gets stained, you can easily replace just the damaged squares without taking up the whole floor. Plus, carpet squares come in a dizzying array of colors, patterns, and styles, so you can create a truly original floor. Individual carpet squares range from $5 to $25 apiece.
Installing your own floor can save you hundreds in installation costs. Choose the flooring materials that make the most sense for your home.
About the author: Joe Truini is the author of the home improvement books Building a Shed and Installing Floors. He is currently writing for The Home Depot. To see the flooring options Joe describes in the article, click here to go to The Home Depot’s website.
This article is editorial content that has been contributed to our site at our request and is published for the benefit of our readers. We have not been compensated for its placement.