Since buying our little Funhouse last March, my Beloved Barbara(TM) and I have been slowly but surely renovating the place, inside and out. Mostly, our changes have been cosmetic, as we've been stripping the floors in the kitchen, hall, and main bathroom with vinyl tile. But for the large living room-dining room area we wanted something better, and so decided to try setting down laminate wood flooring. We had heard good things about it's appearance, durability, and ease of installation, so it sounded like just the thing for us.
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Knowing and trusting Costco, we decided to try the brand sold there: Harmonics Flooring Harvest Oak Laminate Flooring. Harmonics flooring laminate products are sold only at Costco, and come in three varieties: the aforementioned Harvest Oak, Warm Hazelnut, and Golden Aspen. We found the Harvest Oak the most attractive; your mileage may vary. The flooring is sold in boxes of 20.85 square feet total, with 9 planks per box. Each box runs $35.99, although Costco runs coupon specials on them periodically at $8 off each box, making the end price $27.99 or about $1.35 per square foot.
We loved the appearance of this flooring, and also really liked the fact that these floor planks are made in the USA. They come with padding pre-attached to the underside, which means that you don't have to lay it down before installation as you do with some brands. So, we bought 15 boxes and brought them home, excited at the new look they would add to our home.
Before you install your new floor, you'll need a power saw to cut them, measuring tape, deadblow hammer, a marking pencil, and a special laminate flooring tool kit. The latter usually includes plastic spacers, a tapping block, and a plank pulling tool for handling tight corners. The premise for this type of flooring is fairly simple. It's not secured to the floor, but "floats" upon it's surface. All the planks lock together to hold the entire floor in place, and as a result you need to allow a bit of leeway at the edges to account for expansion and contraction. The quarter round is attached to the wall but should only rest upon the floor; don't nail it to the planks! If you are installing over concrete you may need to lay a vapor barrier, but we installed over a plywood subfloor.
We wanted to start right away, but the manufacturer strongly suggests you allow the planks to acclimate to room temperature for 48 hours before you install. We used this time to review the installation instructions and watch the install video on the manufacturer's website.
Once it came time to install, we followed the suggested pattern and laid the planks at one full length, one two-thirds length, and one one-third length. These particular planks are designed with a multiple smaller plank pattern, so this seemed to work best. We followed the directions to a T, and that's when the trouble began. The manufacturer recommends cutting and laying staggered series of cut planks. You then snap the next series of planks tongue to groove at a 45 degree angle and press them flat until they snap in.
Following these instructions, you need to gently tap the planks on the ends, placing the tapping block on the edge and striking it with the hammer to protect the plank. Our problem was that the planks did not seem to fit together properly on the sides. They would snap and lock but then were so tight that gently tapping the planks on the ends would not budge them. To get the planks to snap in end to end, one needed to give a series of hard blows to the tapping block; gentle taps were not working here.
Thinking it might be one bad box, we opened another only to get the same results. Even when we managed to get a plank tapped all the way in to the end of the preceding plank, the fit would not always be seamless and we wound up with gaps. This necessitated disassembling not one but a whole series of planks because of the way they interlocked. This was very frustrating because when we did get a section down, the flooring was beautiful to behold.
Harmonics Flooring offers tech support, so we called them to see if we were doing something wrong. To our surprise, they only offer support Monday through Friday, leaving us even more frustrated than when we started. Don't they realize many people work during the week and only have time for projects on the weekend?
Thanks to Costco's liberal return policy we had no problem getting a refund for the entire lot. We went to another brand, finally settling on Pergo, which was a snap to install. Pun intended, of course.
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