Well, the deed is done!

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During the past two weekends, Slav and I installed the NuCORE LVP flooring in our basement master bedroom:

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and the living/media room!

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In the last update on our basement renovation, we painted the basement ceilings and walls snow white. We had picked out flooring for the basement weeks prior, and having finished surfaces finally allowed us to move forward on the installation!

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The flooring we chose for the basement is NuCORE LVP flooring in Driftwood. We like it because 1) it is LVP with cork backing and we want something waterproof on the basement slab; 2) it’s only 6.5 mm thick and saves head room in the already-low-ceiling basement; and 3) it offers the highest scratch resistant rating (22 mil wear layer) among similar products. This floor will stand the test of puppy paws!

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An additional perk about the NuCORE is the locking system – instead of tongue and groove, it has channels on both long and short ends. With this locking system, every plank is locked and tapped in place without the need of a pull bar or a tapping block. It ensures a seamless look and therefore DIY friendly to flooring newbies like us.

Slav and I never installed floors. We watched some videos and followed the principles: 1) the long side of the floor boards should run parallel to the long wall of a room; 2) staggering the seams. NuCORE requires neighboring seams to be at least 8 inches apart; and 3) leaving 1/4″ space around the perimeter of the room while avoiding skinny boards (narrower than 2″) on both sides or short boards (shorter than 8″) on either end. These requirement are pretty straight forward so we quickly geared up for the installation.

Preparing the concrete slab

Before the exciting work of actual installation, the first step is always the boring prep. LVP flooring has to be installed on very leveled surface without significant holes or slope. Although our slab was pretty even, near the bathroom doorways, there were quite some settling. Slav leveled the low spots with cement mix, and filled holes and control joints throughout the basement.

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After the cement dried Slav came back and smoothed everything out with spatula and sanders. He also did a thorough cleaning with vacuum and mop to make sure the slab is a debris-free and dust-free.

Underlayment over the slab

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The supplier of the NuCORE flooring, Floor and Decor, recommended the Sentinel Protect Plus underlayment to go under the NuCORE. Because NuCORE is a locking and floating type of floor, the underlayment needs to be fairly rigid with high crush-resistant. I do not know how other brands of underlayment would work with NuCORE, but with Sentinel this underlayment is the only suitable one.

From my understanding, underlayment under basement flooring usually serves three purposes: 1) moisture barrier – for which lots of people use 6mil plastic in addition to underlayment; 2) cold insulation – so the flooring stays warmer in winter; and 3) sound barrier – so the flooring feels softer and prevent it from making clicking sound against the concrete slab beneath. The cork backing on the NuCORE flooring resists to rot and provides sound and cold insulation, so technically we could skip the underlayment all together. On the other hand, adding underlayment does not hurt and should improve the sound and cold insulation, so we still decided to use it for the peace of mind.

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Laying underlayment is pretty simple. We followed the included instruction and laid them perpendicularly to the flooring direction. We cut the 4′ wide roll to size, pieced the seams together, and taped them down with this underlayment tape. The long seams actually comes with built-in adhesive to connect neighboring pieces. But the connection is fairly wimpy so I still recommend to use underpayment tape on top.

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If the subfloor (in our case, the basement slab) is even and debris-free, the underlayment should go in like a breeze. It is also easy to cut around the nooks and crannies too.

The underlayment provided a clean, soft and warm surface to work (and walk) on without shoes.

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Laying down the planks

Before putting down the first plank, we measured the width of the room to make sure that the last line of boards will not be too skinny. We were lucky that both of our rooms had more than 2″ space left when we started with a full-width board. Once we have the layout planned, we opened a few boxes to make sure that we have the full spectrum of wood patterns on hand. The Driftwood color of NuCORE has six basic patterns that are printed on the plank in both directions as well as shift longitudinally. So we have more than 10 patterns to work with.

I took the initiative to plan the layout, select boards, and set them in place. Slav cut them to size and tapped them in place. These boards are easy to cut on the short direction with a razor blade pocket knife. I tried to work a couple rows ahead of him, while taking mini breaks to clean up the empty boxes and vaccum the underlayment ahead of him. It is always pleasant to work together. We are both very methodical thanks to years of training in research laboratories. We also tend to focus on different aspects of the project and pay attention to different details. Our similarity in work ethics and differences in tactic makes working with Slav a really enjoyable experience.

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To floor around the framing Slav cut the boards using oscillating saw. It made very clean cut without ripping the cork backing.

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For longitudinal cuts such as some corners or the last row, table saw worked perfectly.

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Transitions between rooms

There are three transitions we need to install between the rooms. For perfect match we got NuCORE transition moulding in Driftwood color. It comes in a kit with a channel and concrete anchors. In the picture below, you can see the channel placed between the bathroom tiles and the bedroom flooring. Slav drilled into the slab and secured the channel against the tile, then laid flooring against it on the other side.

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After both side of the flooring complete, the moulding was snapped into the channel to complete the look. It can be popped off easily when it is time to replace it.

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Finishing the stair landing

We decided to continue the flooring all the way to meet the bottom of the stairs. There were quite some cutting to do in this narrow (37″ wide) space.

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Underlayment was down:

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And the flooring! We used long enough planks that span the entire width of the landing here to add strength.

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The cost and a supply list

For slightly over 500 sqft space we used 28 boxes of flooring ($53.4 per box/19 sqft) and 6 rolls of underlayment (~$50 per roll/100 sqft). Adding on the transition mouldings and one roll of underlayment tape, the total material cost is about $1900. It does not include the cement product we used to level the slab, so I’d say that on average NuCORE costs  ~$4/sqft to install.

Time-wise, it took Slav and I, both of whom without prior experience, two 9-hour days to complete the installation. Again, this time frame does not include the leveling of the slab, which takes time to dry and polish. During the first 8-hour day, we installed the flooring in the bedroom (22′ x 10′), while really taking our time to figure out the layout, get familiar with the process, and establish a cohesive work flow between us. The media room and all three floor transitions took another 10-hour day.

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Just a friendly reminder, the installation is on the hands and knees, so I will highly recommend knee pads and gloves. It also put quite some stress on lower back. We did not do the work in one weekend – the two work days were on two separate Sundays, and we felt exhausted after each day. So if you could find more help – even just with carrying boxes or cleaning up periodically – take it.

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Aside from knee pads and gloves, we used the following:

Measuring tape, marker, pencil

Pocket knife (to cut the planks and open packaging)

Speed square (to assist the cut of the planks). I used a plastic one to avoid scratching the planks.

Oscillating saw (to cut irregular shapes and angles)

Table saw (optional, to cut longitudinally. A shape pocket knife and a long ruler together should work too)

More Befores and Afters!

Before I check out, allow me to remind you (and ourselves) of where we started:

The bedroom before:

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The bedroom now:

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The media room before:

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And now:

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The landing before:

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The landing now!

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Isn’t it much better? We love love love the color of the flooring, which is perfect in every lighting situations. We have only lived with the new floor for TWO days and I already start forgetting the ugly befores! It feels that the basement has always been this way and it should. It is such a joyful DIY victory!

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