Fantastic Flooring Q&As

Is it better to use MDF or hardboard to prepare an old wooden floor for new cork tiles? If I choose hardboard, which way up should it be? That is, with the smooth surface or the rough surface uppermost? How often should this boarding be fixed into place and what type of nails should I use?

Whether to use MDF or hardboard is purely a matter of choice – I would choose the cheaper of the two, but that’s up to you. In most cases, you will find that the suppliers of the tiles or the adhesive will recommend which way up the hardboard should be laid. In many cases this is rough side up but not in every case.

I use hardboard nails for this job – this is partly because they have a head that is shaped to sink into the hardboard and not protrude above it. Additionally, they are such a length that they will not go right through the hardboard and the floorboards. The floor-boarding will be about 18 to 19 mm thick and the hardboard 3 or 4 mm thick and so the nails you use should be no longer than about 20 mm. This is so that the nail does not go right through the floorboards and damage pipes or cables beneath. Use a nail punch and hammer to drive the heads of the nails below the surface of the MDF or hardboard. I tend to nail the boards at 150mm (6 inch) intervals right across the board. However, some instructions recommend 100mm (4 inch) intervals.

I’m planning to fit laminate flooring to the living room. Would it be easier to remove the door before I do this to allow easy access for cutting the boarding around the door opening? How much do I need to remove from the door so that it opens over the flooring without touching it?

I think it’s a good idea to take the door off to get it out of the way so that you have plenty of room to work. Before you do that, use a piece of flooring as a guide to mark how much needs to be removed from the bottom of the door. Add 2 or 3 mm to this mark so that the door is clear of the floor.

Loosen each screw before you take them all out. This is just in case one or two screws cannot be removed. Remember that the door will be quite heavy, so ask someone to give you a hand lifting it off.

Take great care when cutting the bottom of the door to make a nice even cut and check that you have not removed more than the manufacturer recommends. You could use a power planer or a small handheld circular saw to do this job. While the door is off, sand the bottom and take this opportunity to paint or varnish it to match the rest of the door.

We live in a seven year old modern house and have recently developed a problem with creaking floors on the upper floor. We understand that the house was not built with proper floorboards but with some modern material. We would be most grateful if you could tell us what is likely to be causing this problem and how we can rectify it. It is rather an intrusive sound and we are keen to have it put right. Your advice in this matter would be much appreciated.

It is almost certain that the floorboards upstairs are made from either flooring grade chipboard or MDF. This is tongue and groove boarding which is available in 8′ x 2′ sheets. Most manufacturers recommend that the tongue and groove joints are glued together when the boarding is laid. If this is not done, the joints may squeak if the nails securing the boards become slightly loosened. It may be possible to overcome the squeak by screwing the boards down. When doing this take care not to damage any pipes or cables running under the floorboards. If screwing the boards down does not solve the problem, the only other solution would be to remove the boards and replace them following the manufacturer’s instructions, although I have heard that dusting the joints with talcum powder may help!

I would like to lay laminate flooring in the bathroom. I’ve found a suitable flooring but I’m not sure about how to fit it around the pedestals for the wash basin and the lavatory. Do I need to leave 10mm expansion joints where the flooring touches these two items or can I cut the flooring so that it is a tight fit? If I do leave a joint, how should I disguise it?

It is important to ensure that the flooring will withstand the type of wear it will get in the bathroom, so check the label – a water resistant laminate would be best. When it comes to fitting around pedestals for the wash basin and the lavatory pan an ideal way is to lift these and refix them on top of the flooring. However, this is generally quite a tricky operation and so, in most cases, it will be easier to cut the flooring around the pedestal involved. Yes, you do need to leave a 10mm expansion gap at these points. The recommended way to hide these gaps is to fill them with bathroom quality silicon mastic. I would guess that white would be the best colour as it will match the ceramic pedestals.

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