Multitude of Sins

The slideshow below is of some long concrete steps where I replaced the carpet with a hardwood floor. In my opinion the carpet was a bit unsightly, mostly due to it’s subpar installation, but that’s neither here or there. I’d like to concentrate this post on what that carpet is covering.

01 Carpeted Staircase02 Carpet Removed from Staircase03 Bare edge staircase04 Spindles removed from staircase05 Patching staircase06 Wood installed on Staircase07 New spindles installed on staircase08 Finished view of staircase09 closer finished view of wood staircase

The thing about carpet is that it can cover over a multitude of sins; un-flat, un-level, broken, cracked and dirty subfloors, debris from uncaring workers (click pic on left for example) along with generally sad construction practices. Unfortunately, I’ve heard builders gladly, and too often announce, “don’t worry about it, the carpet will cover.” To a certain extent it will, but even the plushest, most fuzzy carpet around will have it’s limitations. Combined with the even some of the best construction practices, an unforgiving carpet can produce an unsatisfactory result. 

I first started in the flooring business by installing carpet, some 37 years ago next week (March 27th). My Dad the carpenter, would attempt to get under my skin by asking two questions. First he’d ask, “what happens when you cut a carpet short?” The first time he asked I replied seriously with some options available to correct the misdeed, the first option being to simply stretch the material to fit. He’d then quickly add the second question- “what happens when you cut wood short?” He abruptly then answers his own question saying, “you throw it away”. Then he’d laugh, as if he proved some point. Even though he would play the same game on me a number of times over the years, I only fell for it once. 

While the issue is clearly not as black and white as my Dad makes it out to be, his point is well taken that wood is generally regarded as a much less forgiving material than is carpet. My point is, that when installing hard or resilient surfaces, the floor that it covers, the subfloor, needs to be flatter, smoother, cleaner, dryervirtually sin-free for a successful installation. 

Those tolerances dont only apply to the subfloor, as you can see in my slideshow above. In this case it involves the wall on the open side of the stairs. Best case scenario - the wall would need to be patched, textured and painted to match as close as possible to the original. These are services I offer for a complete turn-key project. No need to call the drywall guy and the painter, or even the railing guy as in this case, to get your project completed.

believe its important for the customer to understand what to expect or be prepared for when replacing flooring, especially carpet. I normally quote upfront, the cleaning of subfloors by mechanical grinding because there is no subfloor as it stands that is worthy of having a finished floor covering adhered to it. Be wary of any contractor not willing to mechanically grind surface contaminants from your subfloor. The cleanest concrete floor out of the box is most likely contaminated with at least a curing agent. Something the floor manufacturer requires be removed prior to a directly adhered installation.     

Until I can remove an existing floor covering I have no idea beyond cleaning what else might need be done to get that subfloor in shape. It’s probable that it may need to be flattened, high areas ground down and low areas filled. I say probable because in my experience, eight times out of ten some flattening is necessary. Cracks may need to be filled and in may cases, especially in that of ceramic tile or stone, subfloor movement at that fracture or control joint will need to be suppressed.

Hopefully this blog post will help shed a little insight on what might be under your carpet and what type of subfloor preparation to realistically expect.

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