Monday, June 28, 2010

DIY: Laminate Part II

If you have been wondering if I left my basement looking unfinished, fear not. I have continued on quest to install laminate flooring. When I last left you, I had ripped up the carpet, removed the tack strips, and hammered out the nails. Then, of course, I swept the floor.

Then next step is laying down the underlayment. As far as I know, there are two reasons for underlayment. The first is to cushion the floor. The second is simple barrier protection. You want something between the subfloor and the floor you are installing. For most subfloors, you just need a foam underlayment. But when you are in a basement, you also need a moisture barrier. And as I mentioned before, the underlayment under the carpet I tore up lacked a moisture barrier. So I bought nine hundred square feet of two-in-one underlayment, which contains the moisture barrier. I rolled it all out and cut it up to cover the entire floor. The tip to cutting underlayment is to use scissors, and not an utility knife.

The next step would be to start laying the laminate tiles. But being the obsessive person that I am, I first considered what I would need to lay the laminate. If you think about how the laminate will be laid down, you can easily see that you will need to cut the laminate in several instances. First, you will need to make crosscuts and lengthwise cuts (known as rip cuts as I learned) as you get to the walls of the room. You will also need to make partial cuts when you get to pillars and odd corners. Given the number of cuts that will be needed, a hand saw is clearly out of the question. A table saw would be ideal, since it offers the ability to make both cross cuts and rip cuts with both accuracy and a straight edge. Unfortunately, it is also quite expensive if you do not plan one using it for future projects and do not have storage space for it. Then there is the miter saw, which gives the accuracy but is unable to make long rip cuts. What is left? The circular saw is left. It has the ability to make all different kinds of cuts, but relies heavily on freehand movements, so the edges are difficult to keep absolutely straight. But there are solutions for that.

There are laser fitted circular saws that show you where you are cutting. Not a bad idea, but it still requires that you have a steady hand. Even if you are able to correct your sawing path you will not end up with a perfectly straight cut. There are also straight edges that you cat buy that allow you to run the edge of the circular saw against. That provides a straight cut, but you then have to make another measurement between the saw blade and the straight edge to ensure a correctly sized cut. For me that doubles the time for cutting and introduces more error than necessary. I do not plan on buying any more laminate tile than I absolutely need and do not want to waste any more than necessary. So what is the answer? The answer is a self made saw guide. This is simply and piece of wood, say six inches wide with another small piece of wood, say one inch wide, screwed onto it. You then run the circular saw against the small piece of wood as a guide, rip cutting some of the bottom wider piece of wood. What you are left with is a saw guide made just for the circular saw you are using. After that first cut, every time you run the saw along that narrower piece of wood, you will not cut any of the bottom wider piece of wood. In fact, the saw blade will run flush to that bottom piece. This means that you can line up your desired cutting line to the edge of the bottom wider piece of wood and know that you will cut on the line every time. It probably does not make any sense the way I have described it, so I will post pictures later. It took me looking at several pictures before it clicked in my mind.

Once you have made the saw guide, which I did, you just need safety glasses, some clamps, and a table. I borrowed clamps and used an old Target coffee table that had nice overhanging edges I could clamp onto. I do wish I had a taller table, since it is only twenty inches high, so it is a little hard on my back.

Next: Using the circular saw.