In the era of YouTube, Pinterest and reality television, it’s easy for consumers to get caught up in the trend of do-it-yourself (DIY) home remodeling. Although it may appear that people can, in fact, “try this at home,” one thing DIY homeowners should keep in mind is the difference between reality TV and reality.
Although DIY flooring products are more cost-efficient and, in some ways, more marketable than professional installations, they can — and should in several cases — still be installed by professionals.
“Manufacturers are always looking for an easier way to install their products for both a professional type of installation as well as a DIY type of installation,” said industry veteran and FCI editorial director Jon Namba. “On one hand, you have the marketing department, whose job is to sell the products. On the other hand, if [the manufacturer] has a technical department, they receive a lot of phone calls and spend a lot of time explaining the proper installation techniques.”
Common DIY Flooring Issues
In most cases, the appeal of doing a DIY home project over hiring a contractor is due to cost savings and the belief that it’s as easy as it looks.
“On television and YouTube, it always looks easier than it actually is, and many times, the hosts of these shows install products incorrectly,” said Namba. Another concern with DIY flooring projects is when consumers purchase lower-priced products off of the Internet, there are usually no warranties for these products, he added.
Phil Green, founder of Edge Strip Kits, says the biggest drawback of YouTube is that anyone can post a DIY video. “There is no oversight as to proper flooring installation, and with that comes misinformation disguised as professional advice,” said Green.
The fact that more flooring manufacturers are targeting their products to DIY consumers is another factor, Green adds.
“I believe the newer, ‘loose laid’ vinyl planks and laminate flooring are a direct result of catering to a wider audience when it comes to flooring,” he said. “Installation tools like a hammer, tape, and saw are usually something the average homeowner has. There are tricks of the trade that only come with multiple installations but on a whole, the people will accept some small deficiencies in their own installation that they may not if it was installed by a paid professional.
One of the biggest common mistakes many DIY consumers make is not understanding the skill level involved and the tools required for a proper flooring installation.
“Many [flooring professionals] spend thousands of dollars to do a proper installation,” said Namba. “Yes, the industry has made some products more DIY-friendly, but even these products when installed professionally turn into claims for the manufacturer.”
Almost all DIYers don’t understand hardwood floors and moisture, Namba adds.
“Most consumers don’t have moisture meters, and TV and social media platforms don’t even discuss the importance that too much moisture or the lack of, affects wood flooring,” he said.
Another common flooring mistake Green found that consumers make is with the layout and starting point. “One of the biggest issues is proper floor preparation and knowing how to layout and start the installation,” he said. “Some people might start and find that the floor is moving crooked towards a wall or they have ridiculously small cuts that are also noticeable as well.”
DIY Horror Stories
For many flooring installers, mistakes made by DIY consumers have led to some pretty epic horror stories.
“There have been so many installations that we’ve had to step in and take over due to the consumer getting in way over their head,” said Namba.
“On the carpet side, we’ve had DIY homeowners install the tackless strip around the edges of the wall backwards, and they couldn’t understand why they couldn’t keep the carpet tight to the walls,” he said. “We’ve also had consumers install floating floors with all of the end joints aligning over several rows instead of staggering end joints, which gives no structural integrity to the overall floor, or they end up breaking the joints due to improper installation.”
Green says he’s gotten a number of calls to come and fix a job that a DIY homeowner started and couldn’t finish.
“I recall a time where the homeowner thought they could add concrete over an existing to encapsulate a hot water floor heat system that the homeowner had installed himself,” said Green. “He then found out that because of the added height of the combined floors, he could not open his front door!”
Thankfully, Green was able to fix the problem. “I wound up removing and raising the front door so that flooring could be installed,” he said.
Hopefully, those DIY homeowners learned a valuable lesson from their mistakes: when in doubt, skip YouTube and call the experts.