We’ve all experienced the hype after watching Fixer Upper on HGTV, but before you go and rip up your floor to install the distressed vintage oak you just have to have, take a look at what you should actually install by yourself.
With the different types of floors out there comes various levels of difficulty for each one. There are certain flooring projects that you could absolutely take care of after some YouTube tutorials, even if you’ve never seen a hammer in your life.
There are other types of flooring projects that you should absolutely leave to the professionals due to the level of detail, consideration, and work that is involved.
I’m going to break it down so that you can see what you can install by yourself and what you should leave to the trade professionals. Keep in mind that this is not a tutorial on how to install the materials we talk about. I want to familiarize you with what goes into installing them so you know whether or not you can do it by yourself.
With that in mind, let me explain the levels of difficulty - see which one suits you the best:
Everyone always picks on the beginner. Maybe it’s because the only time you’ve ever touched a tool was to hand it someone who knew what they were doing. Don’t worry, there is no shame in being a beginner! We all have to start somewhere so it means that you have the fun of learning to look forward to.
You have some experience under your belt for these projects. Maybe you’ve owned a home for a while and did some projects in your day, or you just really know your way around the toolbox. In any case, the jobs of a weekend warrior are tougher and require more time, patience, and know-how.
The top of the food chain. You are an expert installer or a trade professional. Maybe it is your career or you’ve just been doing it for years, either way, you have the experience and wisdom to complete even the hardest jobs with any of the tools you need.
I know what you’re thinking, “But Rob, how are you judging each of these materials and how difficult they are to install?!”
Fear not, I will judge each material on the time it takes to complete the project, the tools required, the preparation of materials and the floors and the aftercare involved.
Each of these variables reflects the difficulty of installation because you will need more of each with the more difficult jobs. More time, more tools, more prep work, and more maintenance after installation is required for certain jobs more than others.
If you are at a beginner level and really want to tackle the harder jobs, you can walk into a store, buy everything you need and do the job yourself. But you deserve the best quality so look over this information to determine whether or not the floor you want is something you could handle.
Now that you’re familiar with which level of difficulty you’ll fit into and how each material will be judged, let’s dive in and see what you can (and shouldn’t) install!
Advice for the Novice
As a beginner, you might have just bought your first home or you're doing your first remodel. Either way, you are inexperienced. What can you install by yourself? Well, order some pizza and get ready to Google some tutorials because even though you can certainly handle these projects, you’ll want to familiarize yourself first.
Here are some flooring projects you can handle yourself:
- Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)
These materials are known for being easily accessible to beginners. They are very easy to work with and usually require a simple click into place before being laid down.
When it comes to time, make sure you set aside enough time to install these materials - maybe an afternoon or a weekend depending on your confidence level.
Outside of a mallet to make sure everything is secure and locked into place, there aren’t any tools you should have on deck for laminate or LVP.
There are some tools to consider for certain types of LVP like WPC or SPC but we’ll get there soon enough!
As for preparation to install laminate or LVP by yourself, just make sure the sub-floor is clean, smooth and free from any moisture.
The maintenance of these materials is just as easy as the install itself. Both of them are known for their scratch-resistance and durability for high traffic areas of the home. Be wary of the floor being exposed to moisture because they are both water resistant, not waterproof. Check out our fantastic video for more detail on those differences and more specifics on laminate and LVP!
Advice for the Weekend Warrior
By no means are you a rookie, but you’re not quite a trade professional either. Maybe it is just because you don’t have access to certain tools or you don’t have the time to really invest in home improvement skills. Either way, you can certainly handle some intermediate jobs around the house.
Here are some jobs you can handle, on top of the Novice projects:
Luxury Vinyl Tile
SPC and WPC
What puts these materials on a more intermediate level is that they require more specific tools, maybe some more know-how and experience, but most of all - more time.
Tools and materials to take into consideration can range from simple things like grout, adhesives or mallets and nails all the way to stone-cutting saws. The project can get more labor intensive with the addition of more intricacies or larger projects.
The more prep work and care required for tile installation increases the time you’ll be spending on this project. From making sure the sub-floor is prepared and laying all of the materials, to making sure they are secured and protected, you’re increasing the time spent as well as room for error.
These materials demand more of your time, resources and concentration making them perfect for the DIY Weekend Warriors out there who have more experience with preparing and executing longer, more involved projects.
Luckily, the maintenance for materials like tile, hardwood or other vinyl products can be just as easy as laminate or LVP! However, each of these materials has their own levels of moisture protection. They need consistent preventative maintenance so that you can preserve the longevity and durability of your floor.
Advice for the Expert
The career professional. The Big Kahuna. You have the background and the resources to complete any flooring job someone throws your way. You can complete all of the jobs that a Novice or a Weekend Warrior can handle and then some.
Here is what people mean when they say “You should leave it to the professionals”:
Anything On Walls! (Cabinets, Backsplash, etc..)
Let’s start by saying that anything that you’re installing vertically is automatically made more difficult because of our friend, gravity.
When it comes to cabinetry or an intricate natural stone backsplash in your kitchen, you are working against gravity. That particular type of work already requires another level of craftsmanship and gravity just adds to the difficulty.
Natural Stone needs to be carefully handled and properly sealed to protect it especially if you are using it as a floor or counter top. It can be used anywhere but the more it is used the stronger protection it needs. The sealant is typically replaced every 6-12 months depending on usage.
The increased prep work, time, maintenance and craftsmanship required for natural stone have made it a difficult job best done by the pros.
Sheet vinyl is deceptively difficult. It requires acute precision to cut the vinyl to the outline of the room and measuring everything to order. The sub-floor also requires a good amount of prep work that calls for another level of consideration and accuracy.
Carpet has been done by people with less experience but if you want to make sure it is done properly, leave it to the experts. It often needs to be stretched a certain way to fit the room and specifically cut to fit all measurements correctly.
If you want to find out more about why all of these materials can be as difficult as they are, check out the articles that focus on each one specifically! Be sure to consult the professionals at your local retailer to get a better sense of the project you have in mind.
We can help you narrow down your options and help guide you to the best design for your home and your budget.
The better sense you have of the project as a whole and what it will require of you later down the road, the better a decision you will make on whether or not you can handle the job 100% by yourself.