Evaluate Your Floor Before Re-Covering It

Follow these steps to determine your needs.

Replacing an existing floor can instantly change the look of a room, but before you tear up what's underfoot, take these steps to see what's needed before buying new floor covering:

Step 1: Decide whether you need to replace the floor or can make simple fixes.

In some cases, a little touch-up work can bring your floor back to life and be much less expensive. Wood flooring, for example, can be refinished. Carpet that has buckled can be re-stretched and reused unless the padding underneath has disintegrated.

Look for wear, chips and cracks in your flooring. A floor can sometimes be re-grouted if the problem is the grout line and not the tile itself.

If you push on a tile floor and it wobbles, it may not be securely attached. With hardwood floors, warping at the edges can indicate the same problem.

Step 2: Consider the height of the existing floor and its relationship to adjoining floor surfaces.

If new carpet in the living room will be higher than the existing hardwood dining-room floor next to it, for example, you may need to shingle the edges of the line between rooms so that a slope for the carpet is created to eliminate the height difference.

The kitchen is particularly prone to height issues if you have a built-in range or dishwasher or if there are built-in cabinets over the refrigerator pocket. Appliances and exterior doors can limit how much a new covering can elevate a floor.

Step 3: Look out for asbestos.

In older homes, flooring that includes sheet vinyl, vinyl or asphalt tiles, or any covering with a paperlike-backing, mastic adhesive or glue, may contain asbestos. Before the mid-1980s, manufacturers added asbestos fibers during the production process to strengthen flooring and enhance its durability.

When it was determined that inhaled asbestos dust can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, the Environmental Protection Agency instituted a ban on asbestos-containing materials and products in 1989. Manufacturing companies sued, and the ban was overturned in 1991, but the use of asbestos largely fell out of favor.

Professionals remove old flooring in a way that doesn't allow asbestos to get into the air, so plan to let them do this particular job.

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