Jess and I have always wanted hardwood floors. We could afford the flooring material if it was on sale, but we couldn’t afford the installation fees. Being the lovers of DIY, renovate the bathroom floor ourselves. The product we chose was COREtec One which is a click-type floating floor that has a dense bamboo foam backing and a PVC top. The top of this material is stamped to give the relief of woodgrain. For an additional fee you can get cork added to the backing, but we cheaped out and have had great results, even on a concrete slab this flooring stays warm and is softer than tile or wood. It is industrial quality and has a 10-year commercial limited wear warranty. We tested our ability to lay COREtec flooring in a small upstair bathroom. The results were great and with the right tools and a little ingenuity it wasn’t very hard at all.
The first step was to remove the strip holding the carpet down to the linoleum and Lauan floor of the bathroom. I always hated these kinds of transitions. You must use a flathead screwdriver and hammer to uncrimp the metal to pull back the carpet so you can then pull out the nails holding the metal strip to the floor.
Then we used the removed the molding in the bathroom. Using this long-bladed utility knife, I scored the silicone caulk on the top and bottom of each piece of trim. Then using a prybar and hammer, removed the trim. I then had to pull up the carpet in front of the bathroom as well, so the hammer and a regular prybar were used there. We decided that in this particular bathroom, we’d leave the Lauan and linoleum and just place the COREtec on top.
We decided we’d like the boards to be long-ways from the entrance of the bathroom. One of the most important steps is to layout and measure first! Each box of COREtec has a limited number of patterns, so it is highly recommended that you pull planks from several different boxes to avoid repeating patterns too close together. With COREtec you don’t want to end up with a tiny sliver less than 2 inches wide as it won’t stay down well. We measured to see how many boards we’d need between the wall and the cabinet, then when we got past the cabinet, we measured wall to wall. We picked a number that would allow us to have at least 2 inches on every side. To cut the pieces long-ways (a process called ripping) I used my 60-inch bandsaw with a wood blade in it. A note on this… My bandsaw is advertised as a “(9-inch bandsaw” and all the documentation said that in big letters on the front. That means there’s 9 inches between the saw blade and the other side of the saw (in the center of the machine). But when I went to the local big box hardware store I realized that there’s no such thing as a “9-inch bandsaw blade”. The blades are labeled in accordance with their circumference. So my saw technically uses 59.5-inch blades. I recommend buying several of these as I broke a couple with all the cuts I had to do.
For smaller cuts, I used my junior coping saw/mini hacksaw. I recommend getting a few extra packs of blades for this guy as well. For our whole house, I went through one and a half packs of extra blades. This was really helpful for small notches or tweaks to cuts I had made on the bandsaw.As you can see in the pic, I am wearing kneepads. This is essential for floor work! The ones I have have a great snap for putting them on quickly. This is good because you adjust them to the right size once, then the quick snaps can be used to put them on and take them off without a lot of wasted time getting them comfortable again.
Using pencils to mark the wood-side of the COREtec, I used an uncut piece of COREtec as a straightedge to make sure I didn’t waver too much, then I cut it by hand ripped each piece by hand on the bandsaw. Then, using a carpet knife to score the coretec and the edge of the countertop to snap it, we were able to quickly cut some pieces to lay. Since COREtec is a floating floor, you want to leave a 0.25″ gap from each wall to allow for the house to settle without damaging the floor. We got a hardwood floor laying kit that had a block, pull-bar and spacers in it. Placing the spacers all between the COREtec and the wall, we began laying the floor. Since COREtec snaps together in only one way, be careful to measure and cut the board to have the correct side where you need it. I screwed up many aboard without triple checking this first.
You want to start laying the flooring if possible as those are the most likely to be straight. Most walls in homes are not straight. If you can’t start on the outside wall, start on the longest or with the right-hand side so you can clip the floor in to itself as you go. Place the spacers against the wall first. I found using cheap packing tape to keep them in place so they don’t move when you use the hammer and block to
We made our way across the floor until we got to the toilet.
Moving the Toilet:
The next step was to remove the toilet. So we turned the water to the tank off at the wall by turning the knob all the way closed and flushed the remainder of the water in the tank. There was still water in the tank so before disconnecting the hose from the wall, I grabbed a small plastic bucket to catch the remainder of the water from the tank. I also used this bucket to scoop out the remaining water in the bowl as well. I didn’t want that splashing around all over my carpet and subfloor. The next step was to remove the old bolts. This is always a pain because men piss inevitable piss on the floor and sides of toilets and the piss as well as humidity from hot showers will corrode the bolts and rust the nuts onto them. I had to get my Dremel out and buy some new metal cutting disks. The designers over at Dremel are brilliant with their design of the EZ Lock Mandrel for the cutting wheels. This mandrel allows the cutting blades to flex about the shaft a small distance without snapping. This was amazing to me as my whole life I’ve been breaking these stupid cutting wheels, finally someone designed the perfect solution to this annoying problem! If only they would solve the whole rusted bolts problem…. I digress. Basically, I used the Dremel to slice the nuts in half on both sides of the bolt, then used pliers to pry off that broken bolt part from each side, being careful not to ever apply pressure with the plyers to the porcelain. That can crack and ruin a toilet.
Once the bolts were free, I lifted the toilet and tilted it so I could clean the soft wax off the bottom before moving it into the hallway. Always be careful moving toilets. The tanks are bolted to the bowl and if you don’t pick them up from the base you’ll crack the porcelain and need a new toilet. The wax seals the porcelain toilet to the plastic PVC flange on the pipe in the floor to prevent poo water from leaking. . I highly recommend wearing gloves because 1. It’s where the poop goes and 2. the wax is incredibly messy. Once that wax gets on something, it isn’t coming off easily, including your hands. You can wash then 100 times and still feel it. And when you remove a toilet, use a wad of old towels or rags to stuff into the open sewer pipe to prevent too much sewer gas from coming up. We moved the toilet just far enough away to work in that area and places it on a plastic bag so it wouldn’t damage or get wax on the new flooring.
When you replace the toilet, you’ll need a new seal and new bolts. Buy these BEFORE you move the toilet. I hate the wax rings for toilets because you get one shot to put it on correctly, and you don’t really know if you did it right until weeks later when the floor is ruined from underneath from leaking poop-water. I prefer this foam gasket kit which comes with the new bolts you’ll need too. This replaces the wax, so use a putty knife (one you don’t really care about) to remove the wax from the toilet flange in the floor.
We made great time laying the new floor due to all the straight cuts and good measuring plan we had. The tougher part came when we had to cut the circular hole for the toilet pipe flange. My solution was to use the gasket I bought to replace the wax ring under the toilet as a template and laid the boards flat across the hole and traced the new gasket on the boards. Cutting the with the bandsaw was fast after that. Click in the last bit of flooring, whack the pull-bar a couple of times to make it cinch tight, and then remove the plastic spacers from the perimeter of the walls.
Install the new foam gasket and bolts on the toilet flange. It turns out that since we laid the COREtec on top of the Lauan and linoleum we had a perfect amount of space for this gasket to work with our toilet. Set the toilet on the bolts and tighten snug, but not too tight. If you overtighten the bolts, they’ll crack the porcelain and you’ll end up buying a new toilet.
If the gasket is too tall and your toilet rocks back and forth and you can’t tighten the bolts any more without risking damage to the toilet, then you have two options and I tried them both. You can buy toilet shims, which are plastic wedges you can shove under the toilet every couple inches to even it out. I didn’t really like this option as it didn’t support the entire toilet and if the gap was too small to hide the whole shim, I had to cut off the visible part with a utility knife. I scratched the floor pretty bad doing this and it still looked terrible. The better option is to buy or make a toilet spacer. I used scrap COREtec to build a toilet spacer by tracing the hole like I did before on some COREtec, but then after I cut the hole and put everything in place with the toilet on top I traced the outline of the toilet. Then I used the bandsaw to cut just inside the lines by about a millimeter or so. This made for a much more stable solution.
Either way you go, shims or spacer, you’ll likely have to clean up the look with caulk. Now some people (including me) say never caulk the base of a toilet in case there is a leak. But since I am using the foam gasket,I know there won’t be a leak. So I caulked around the edge of the toilet to hide the shims and the gap in one bathroom, and then to hide the edge of the COREtec spacer I made in the other.
Once finished, you must put the trim back on and caulk it, then figure out how you want to have the transition back to carpet in the hallway look. To nail the trim back on, you’ll need a nail gun. After researching extensively, I decided that an electric nail gun was easier and cheaper, but would not do a good job at all. So I had an excuse to buy this air compressor and this pneumatic air gun. I cannot stress enough how this tool changed my life. Using the nail gun, I finished the bathroom in literally about 2 minutes. In the past this type of thing took me about half an hour to do. The trick here is to make sure you’re using enough pressure to get the brads fully into the trim without the heads sticking out. If the heads stick out then you have to manually hammer them in with a nail set which is a pain. When nailing against a cabinet or a wall, you can angle the brands pretty much anywhere, into the floor to the wall but when nailing the trim by the tub only shoot brads directly into the floor, NEVER into the tub. It can crack your fiberglass or acrylic tub and that ain’t cheap.
After the trim is back up, use some silicone caulk (this stuff requires a caulking gun) to seal it back on the top as well as on the floor to make it water-tight. Use one of these caulk-spreading tools to get a nice consistent finish. Since COREtec is waterproof, you should feel confident about any spills or wetness on the floor.
Finishing the edge of the carpet is covered in another post.