DIY Flooring options

Darren Palmer has a broad portfolio, having studied fine art & graphic design, originally working in advertising and owning his own graphic design company. After succumbing to his true passion, Darren now operates his own interior design studio and has been a judge on numerous seasons of The Block.

As a builder I make a very good designer. I’m not bad at the DIY stuff but I’m certainly no master. I’m ok with a screwdriver, hammer or anything relatively manual, but unfortunately I have an aversion to circular saws so I like to keep the DIY works at home exclusively to things that are easy to carry out.

My house is the perfect DIY project but with the aforementioned constraints in place I wanted to look at what options I had to replace the flooring. I needed to cover an old, yellow, worn and tired timber floor downstairs, and the strangely mismatched red timber used in the upstairs renovation.

As far as DIY options go that don’t require a saw, you have vinyl plank or vinyl sheet.

In a previous home I used vinyl sheet to good effect and the Vinyl Sheet range has a number of interesting printed finishes that replicate concrete or tiles for a really high value price point. There are timber looks too but if you’re after a timber look the product I used in my own home is unbeatable.

The Home Sweet Home vinyl plank range is so timber-like it could fool most people. The printed representation of the timber is a very high resolution with lots of grain detail. The emboss and the matt finish being the final flourish that makes the product look like an engineered timber board when laid. There are two embossed finishes, one with a more heavily embossed, sandblasted timber look, the other, featured on the Taupe board I’ve used, has a more floorboard timber like emboss that picks up the light beautifully.

One of the best qualities of the vinyl plank is its ease of installation.

The “score and click” type that I chose fits together perfectly, clicking together on each edge, allowing for a snug fit every time which also keeps the entire floor in place without unsightly gaps.

The scoring is one of the main reasons I chose to use vinyl plank as you can cut the surface of the plank once or twice and then snap it in your hands to break the board to the correct length. This means you can install your floor on weekends or after hours as long as you keep the banging to a minimum.

The process is pretty easy, given I can do it I’m sure most people can.

Starting in the top left or right corner of the room you need to align the boards with your prominent straight edge. This might be a hallway or living space, whatever it is try and make sure your boards run in line with the walls as any slight discrepancy will start to add up over the length of the house.

With my installation I started on the right hand side as the right hand side of the boards have a straight edge, whilst the left hand side has the 5mm clicking edge exposed making it necessary to start by trimming these edges off.

Start with a full board and work your way across. The section that you cut off when you hit the opposite wall gets used to start the next row of boards which keeps wastage to a minimum. Should you end up with offcuts of full boards, keep them as you never know when you might need a shape or end piece. The only useless boards are ones missing a clicking edge on 3 or more sides but even they can be useful when you are tapping boards to meet. If you are tapping a board to close a gap (the boards make a satisfying clicking sound when they are in the correct position), always remember to use an offcut between the hammer and the board to minimise damage to the surface or edge.

As all walls aren’t necessarily plumb you need to measure both sides of the distance between the board and the wall.

If you’re fortunate enough to live in a house with perfectly made walls that are at 90º to each other, one measurement and a line drawn with your 90º set square will do the trick.

From time to time you will end up needing to cut 10s of millimetres or inches off your boards. This is where your pliers become useful as you can bend the boards at the scoring point working your way up the score to break the board where you might otherwise find it hard to get enough leverage with only your hands on the small pieces of board.

In laying my own floors in my own home I learnt that vinyl plank’s the perfect DIY product because you can plug away at it when you have time, on the weekends or even after the kids go to bed. You can do it little by little and before long you have rooms and eventually the whole floor of your home complete. It creates such a sense of accomplishment and the transformation you can achieve yourself will astound you.