Pros: easy to lay down, looks good, water resistant, no floor prep
Cons: hard to cut on corners
This review is for TrafficMaster Allure Dark Bamboo vinyl resilient plank flooring. I was not able to write a review for the dark bamboo model but essentially the review is for the flooring itself not the flooring pattern so i put it under Summer Pine.
The TrafficMaster Allure (not the Ultra Allure) is a vinyl flooring in plank form with various patterns. It is a Home Depot exclusive DIY product -- that itself might turn people off because many people have a negative view of "Home Depot" labeled products.
The technology is not exclusive to TrafficMaster (parent company Halstead International) - other flooring companies have the same technology. I believe Armstrong also has the same technology.
What is this technology? Good question -- It's a completely vinyl product in plank dimensions (rectangular in shape) rather than square - it is flexible and is installed as a floating floor; some older advertisement has the planks almost folding over itself to show the flexibility but a number of years have passed since Trafficmaster came out with this product and having worked with this product it is flexible but it isn't a proverbial contortionist. This is advertised as water resistant but the downloadable PDF installation instruction say it is "waterproof." On the Home Depot site it says it is not waterproof however. It is scratch resistant and can go over existing flooring no matter what it is or where it is. You can even install it in damp areas - because it is vinyl you can even install it in the basement w/o and subfloor prep. Warning - if you are installing over ceramic tile or a floor and have real/faux grout lines they suggest you fill the line with some kind of floor leveler. When I installed it I did not fill in the grout lines of faux brick paver floor. It is touted as the easiest floor you can lay. Minimal tools necessary.
So many advantages plus it has a 25 year warranty - but be forewarned. For that warranty to be honored you'll have to follow the installation instruction to the "T," so I've read in those DIY blogs.
My project involves laying down this floor in the entryway floyer and stairwell hallway - the hallway with the stairwell was tough not a straight up retangle or square.. it is C in shape but the foyer is relatively square. It is off about one inch on one end - somewhat a pain and as an relatively inexperienced DIYer it required some thought on my part. FLOOR PREP -
Although touted as no prep - you'll have to fill in grout lines or any embossing if you decide to leave the existing floor. I did not. My regular floor did have some embossing but I am taking a shot that it would not show through the new floor. I did find a bit of a pit which i filled in with some epoxy. I let that set for a day.
Baseboard floor trim removal - you'll want to remove the trim below carefully to protect the bottom of the walls and if you want to save the trim (which i did) to cover over sides when you're done. This was probably the hardest part. It is easier to remove if you plan to have new trim. if you don't want to make crazy cuts around the bottom of the door frame you'll have to saw the bottoms off so the planks can be squeaked underneath so it will have a cleaner look. I did'nt do that, opting to cut the plank into into the shape it needed next to the door frame and now i wish i would have sawed the bottoms of the door frame. You might want to mop and vacuum the area prior to plank installation so you don't get dust in the glue strips. Each plank is covered by some non stick tissue paper but nothing attaced to the lip themselves - you'll inevitably get dust on it but to keep it at a minimum mop and vacuum prior to installation. You'll want to measure the room so that by the time you reach the other side you won't have small fractions of a floor to put down. Personally I would opt to have at least 3" to finish off the floor. I'll have to admit I didn't measure prior to starting but with some luck it worked out. TEMPERATURE - The manufacturer suggests acclimating the planks for about 2 days before install. You can just leave it in the box. During installation turn up the heat so that the glue strips are warm so they'll stick to one another. I did the install during the fall & winter months so i turned it up about 75 or 78 degrees.
The planks themselves measures and covers 36" x 6". Each plank is offset about an inch over and under with glue so each plank can stick to one another. In essesnse the planks are installed over each other on offset lip. The 1" top lip is half the thickness of the 1" bottom lip of the next plank. It is somewhat hard to describe... so basically you'll put the top lip over the bottom lip of the planks.
The planks can be scored and snapped. The top is harder to score (which is beneficial against scratches) than the bottom. you'll have to do 2 - 3 passes before it can snap easily. Snapping straight lines is easier than round snaps for round edges. for rounded edges i used utility tin snips cutting a little at a time for the desired shape. it was by no means perfect.
One case covers 24 square feet. Order or buy 10% more than you'll think you need. You'll have some wasted pieces you can't use and you might make some mistakes. I made a few mistakes but not so much that I ran out of planks. Also if you ever need to replace a plank for whatever reason you'll have some.
Tools they say you'll need - utility knife, measuring tape, straight edge. They recommended a 100 lb roller.
The tools you'll really need - utility knife, measuring tape, straight edge, cardboard (to lean and cut against), knee pads (save your knees!), and tin snips or vinyl floor cutters (like scissors).
Really no glue necessary!
The tin snips or some kind of snips come in really handy to cut out various shapes of door frame/ trim. way better than cutting it with a razor.
I didn't use a roller.. including hand pressure i also put on some socks and dragged my feet acting as a roller to secure the seams. Initially when the product came out there were complaints that the glue didn't stick - the manufacturer seemed to have re-formulated the glue as I had no problems with any planks becoming unglued.
THE INSTALLATION - You'll be essentially installing a floating floor - it only gets attached to itself. Assuming you've done all the floor prep - You'll have to start on the left corner no matter which wall you'll want to lay the planks from the top and not the bottom up - although i had to work backwards on the hallway with the staircase which really screwed me up. When I put down the first plank i cut the lip off and started with the full thickness on the corner. You're supposed to leave at least 1/8" for "expansion and contraction" - prior to installing I looked at some online videos from other DIYers who have put this floor down and one said you didn't have to leave much space since it was vinyl but the instructions say otherwise - I didn't so i'm stressing if the floor will buckle in the Summer time with the heat and humity. Anyway you should leave at least a 1/8" for expansion. Some DIYers for the first row put on the bottom of the plank double-sided tape to hold the first row in place. when I put down the second plank you'll want everything to be tight so tightly butt up the plank and laying it down. Subsequent rows you'll want to butt up the top and bend the end upward while continuing to press down the side for that tight fit. you should search for the online videos and watch them. They are extremely helpful. Also you'll want to stagger the planks so you won't have seams running the same line across. This is the same logic as if you were putting down hardwood flooring or laminate flooring. This will ensure a more secure floor and more authentic look as it mimics hardwood flooring (assuming you're using the hardwood version - there are also tile versions).
I did the foyer, an inbetween area, and the staircase hallway. The staircase hallway was a bit of a challenge and my planks did not come out straight as I had to work backwards in a certain area so i could have a single plank row running front and back so that affected it. In hindsight i should have put down a chalk line so i can adjust that row to bring it back to center. Once you go astray you'll inevitably affect the rest of your planks... so needless to say i had some gaps. Those gaps I filled with wood putty just so i don't have to look at the blue gray glue strips - if I had done nothing it would have filled with dirt eventually. I am glad I filled it with wood putty. It is still noticeable but it's alot better. I have gotten compliments on the foyer part - if you do it perfectly you might even get a surprised look if you tell them it's not hardwood but vinyl. You'll spend alot of time putting down this floor. Yes the installation is easy but you'll definitely put in the time to make it perfect. Your legs will never be the same.
The planks - once you press them down you can forget about taking it up without the risk of tearing and destroying the vinyl.
I think for the most part if you have an area that is high traffic and may encounter some water and you're on a budget the planks are the way to go.
Also i suggest walking on it or sliding on the floor with socks on so you'll use your body weight as a pressure roller to get good adhesion.
update - 8/2/11 - well it's been about 6 months and we have experienced a pretty harsh winter and some pretty hot summer (so far). it got up to about 102F here in NYC and pretty nasty humidity. I was afraid that it might buckle and the seams would come up. I have had no problems with that whatsoever. it seems to be holding up well and i can't see any discernible scratches. Maybe some scuff marks but it's in my hallway and not so much traffic though. I think it's a great product.