Floor laying is a job that many builders hand over to the specialist but Roger Bisby explains why he is reluctant to kiss goodbye to what can be a good earner and shares his favourite tools for the job.
My customer was fairly adamant that they didn’t want scotia or quadrant around the edge of their new oak flooring because it always makes the flooring look like a retrofit. Funny that because you would never have seen an engineered oak floor a 100 years ago so in a way you might as well ‘fess up. But orders is orders and besides, I had a cunning plan. Removing the skirtings was never going to go well. They were fixed with cut nails and I doubted very much that the 9inch skirtings would come away in one piece let alone go back, so my proposal was to cut the undersides with a Fein Multi-tool and slide the flooring underneath. Before the invention of the multi-tool, it would have been an almost impossible job but with just two good wood cutting blades and a reasonably slow cutting speed to prevent the blade over-heating it took me less than four hours to go all round.
This made me £150.00 more expensive than the specialist flooring guys before I started because they quote £24.00 per sq metre to lay site unseen. That is brave and a tight price on a small area like a hallway and the only way they could make it pay is to bung in a few extras such as £25.00 for each door trim and £85.00 for the mat well.
Notwithstanding the skirting board cutting, I agreed to match their price and the job was mine. The laying went like a dream, maybe not the best dream I have ever had if you consider the full range of dreams available to the average man, but certainly well short of a nightmare.
There are many ways to fit flooring with tongue and groove now being complemented with clever interlocking systems which, almost, eliminate the need for glue. Feeding under the skirtings on four sides of a room means that you are always going to need to glue a joint somewhere but the interlock system means that you won’t have to bother with ratchet straps or wait for glue to dry.
So having tackled the hall the customer declared themselves “well happy” and I have now got the job of doing three more rooms which, at the same metre-age price should be a breeze. Happily none of those rooms is a kitchen. I am not a fan of wood flooring in kitchens because the work triangle is always going to look tatty way before the rest of the floor and reviving it requires sanding and a two-pack varnish and you will never get away with a patch. The alternative is to use an oiled floor (my preferred choice) because it is much easier to revive with a light rub down and two coats of oil. The only drawback is that oiled wood can absorb stains from things such as tea and red wine so you have be sure to wipe them up immediately. The bottom line is that there is no such thing as a perfect floor and from a tradesman’s perspective, I hope there never is because we all need the work.
My essential floor laying kit
Knee pads – I use Snickers D30 pads, they even have an optional activity tracker to tell you when you have worn them out.
Track saw – Choose your brand. Mine is a Makita and it is one of my favourite tools.
Multi-tools – There are so many around these days and, though the Fein is still generally thought of as the best, it is more about picking the right blades and using the speed control.
Hultafors Talmeter – This is a tape measure with a difference. The stainless steel extender allows you to take precise measurements and scribe them directly onto the board. Forget millimetres this thing is much more accurate than that.
Laser line – You can use any laser level to establish the crown line. A chalk line also does the job but it gets smudged easily. The laser can also do the right angles saving you a lot of bother.
Roofer’s square – I have a Stanley but the Faithfull from Toolbank is really good. You need a large square to set out the mat well.
Work-light – This might sound obvious but you need to lay the floor in the most extreme light so any defects or marks will show up immediately. It is too late when the customer spots a damaged board in the middle of the floor.