Dear James: I like the appearance of a hardwood floor, but I think that installing one is beyond my expertise. I saw some hardwood parquet tiles for do-it-yourself installation. Is it really easy to do? — Loretta G.
Dear Loretta: Packaging with the words “do-it-yourself” is accurate. A hardwood parquet floor is attractive and installing one should not exceed the skill level of most homeowners. The crisscross patterns of the small pieces mask slight misalignment during installation. It is certainly simpler than installing strip hardwood flooring.
Actually, hardwood parquet flooring is often more attractive than traditional strip hardwood flooring. The individual parquet tiles are usually 12 by 12 inches in size and are available in a range of patterns and wood types including walnut, ash, teak and oak.
Most residential parquet floor tiles range in thickness from 5/16 to 3/4 inches thick. The thicker hard wood tiles are more durable, but they will raise the floor level more. No matter what thickness parquet tiles you select, you will have to saw the bottom off of the doors and the casings so you might as well select as thick as your budget will allow.
The two main choices that you will have are: 1) tongue-and-groove or smooth butt edges and 2) pre-finished or unfinished. For an inexperienced do-it-yourselfer, pre-finished tongue-and-groove parquet tiles are best. Some even come with self-adhesive backing, but installing them in manually applied adhesive is not difficult and is durable.
As with most home improvement jobs, the initial surface preparation is essential for a professional-looking finished job. Remove all the furniture, floor registers, baseboards and shoe moldings. Although you will swear that you will not forget which ones are from which wall when you replace them, place some tape on each one and mark its location.
Hardwood parquet floor tiles can be laid over most existing flooring that is in good condition. Sand off any high points over a plywood floor. If you are placing the parquet tiles over old resilient tiles (any type), be sure to strip off all of the old wax and fill in any cracks or gouges.
To accurately cut off the bottom of door opening casings, so that the parquet tiles fit snugly under them, lay a scrap piece of tile on the floor. Using a handsaw let it slide on top of the tile piece as you saw off the casing. The thickness of the saw blade will provide just enough clearance over the finished parquet floor.
The key to a professional-looking job is the layout and placement of the first row of parquet tiles in the center of the room. If you chose the tongue-and-groove type, they will only fit together one way, so the rest are easy.
First find the center of the room. Drive a tiny nail into the floor at the center point of each wall. Tie taut chalk lines across opposite walls. Where they intersect is the center. If you are lucky, they will be perpendicular at the intersection. If not, adjust the location of the nails a little until the strings are perpendicular. Now snap the lines to mark the floor.
Dry-fit a test row of the tiles in one of the floor quadrants to make sure that they line up properly. Remove the tiles and apply the adhesive along one chalk line. Make sure not to cover the line. Place the five or six tiles in the adhesive and tap them with a rubber mallet to bed them into the adhesive. When you get to the walls, leave a small gap, which will be covered by the baseboard.
Send your questions to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.