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Luxury vinyl taking over from laminate flooring

Aug 18, 2023

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Q What’s the best option for a hard-surface floor in an active house? We’re moving to a new place with our five kids, and we want to get rid of carpet in the bedrooms.

A One of the best hard-surface floors is generically called luxury vinyl. It comes in both plank and tile shapes. It’s taking over from laminate flooring for several good reasons.

First, luxury vinyl is flexible, so undulations in the subfloor are no issue. Laminate, by contrast, is rigid and requires a subfloor that’s flat within 1/4” in a 10-foot circle. Without this, laminate floor will bend downwards under foot when you walk on areas that are not fully supported.

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The second reason I like luxury vinyl is durability. While most look remarkably like wood, the surface is almost indestructible – much tougher than finished hardwood in my tests.

Early versions of luxury vinyl were free-floating, click-together designs, but something better exists now. Generically called “loose lay vinyl”, these types have no interlocking edges, but go down with a special adhesive. There are two reasons this is superior to free-floating click floors.

Anchoring with an adhesive makes for a perfectly solid floor underfoot. No crinkling noises when you walk on it, and no movement. But the adhesive that’s used for installation is not permanent. While strong enough to secure the flooring indefinitely, if damage occurs you can simply pry up the bad piece, peel it up off the subfloor, then glue down another plank or tile. Try this same thing with any kind of interlocking floor and you’ll need to lift the entire floor up to the damaged piece before replacing it and putting the old boards back down.


Choosing trades for restoration

Q Do you know of anyone in the Montreal area who could replace rotten windowsills on our cottage?

A Although I don’t know the Montreal building scene, there are effective guidelines you can follow to find the kind of person you need no matter where you live.

The first thing to understand is that not all carpenters are suited to restoration work. Many are only interested in new projects beginning from scratch, and this is not the kind of temperament needed for success with your situation. What you need is someone with experience installing trim, and without fear or prejudice about the slow progress and unpredictability of restoration work.

I sometimes manage projects remotely for clients restoring older homes and I follow a three-step process for finding good people with a heart for restoration. I’ll begin by looking for tradespeople online or asking at building supply outlets if the project is happening in an area I’m not familiar with. Remember, you’re looking for someone with specialized skills, the ability to think outside the box, and a proven track record of success with work that requires care and attention to detail.

With half a dozen people in mind, I call each one asking them how they feel about restoration work. There’s typically a love-it or hate-it mentality present, so this whittles down the list of candidates quickly.

Next, I ask for photos of previous restoration jobs. Any carpenter in the business of restoration will have photos to show. None will likely cover work exactly like what you want done, but you’re looking for crisp workmanship and a pleasing appearance.

The final step is to ask for and check references from previous clients. If you’ve gotten to this point with two or three carpenters, you’ll probably find nothing but glowing reports. But just the same, checking references is a great final safety move to ensure good results. Clear, knot-free cedar makes the best replacement window sills. Wood repair compounds are also useful for applications like this where areas of rotten wood are rebuilt rather than replaced.

Steve Maxwell loves a well-finished wood floor, but has a hard time passing up the new super-durable flooring options. Visit him online at for thousands of home improvement articles and videos for Canadian homeowners.

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