A Job Well Done Today is the Best Prep for Tomorrow

By Wayne Lee, Middle Tennessee Lumber Co.

Have you ever taken a moment before starting a job to ask yourself, “What is my best approach here?” During a recent installation I worked on, it quickly became evident that the previous techs hadn’t taken that key step. Instead they just added… and added… and added…and added to the problem.

I was out doing an installation for a friend. I do this during my free time to keep my knowledge and skills up to date, but sometimes that means fixing or correcting years of problems.

This particular home was from the 1970s and the previous homeowners had never brought the home up to today’s designs and standards. Take a look at the wall paper behind the ice box; if that does not say 1970, I am not sure what will. They also have blue bathtubs and toilets in the home, as well as sparkle texture ceilings (if we hit it with light, it would look like a disco ball).

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The new homeowners were doing a top to bottom remodel in the home, so Scott asked if I could help him with the floors. Now here is where the fun begins, removing four layers of sheet goods, ¼ inch underlayment and press board. The first layer came off great and I was thinking, “I got this…no big deal.” While that top layer was easy, the ¼ inch underlayment was much more difficult to say the least.  Between the nails, screws and staples, they used glue to get one layer to stick to the next.

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The next two layers of sheet goods were a bit of a task. Someone added drywall screws to stop the movement in the press board that had gotten wet from what I assume was the dishwasher leaking.  It is a huge pain to remove wet press board, or should I say try to get it up in large sheets. The only way I could remove it was with a circular saw and a roofing shovel.  I cut the last layer of sheet goods and press board into 2×4 foot sections and worked it up with the shovel. After four to five hours of cutting, prying and asking myself, “Why would someone do this?” it was all cleaned up and ready for new plywood.

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So back to my opening question, do you stop to think about what is best to do before you start the job? I could have taken the top layer off and it would meet the manufacturer’s guidelines for flatness. However, the best approach was to remove the two additional layers of sheet goods and that rotten press board.

If the last flooring tech had taken the time to remove the press board, this would have been a better performing floor. Their version of a fix was a ¼ inch layer of underlayment with a ton of screws, staples and 6p ring shank nails. Then, the next tech compounded the situation by just gluing the next layer of sheet goods to a substandard subfloor.

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We chose to take the extra time to make it right and keep it right. We added a new layer of ½ inch plywood, keeping a 1/8 inch gap around the new plywood. This gave us a new subfloor combined of 1 inch and we used 2 inch titanium screws.  We hit each joist and made sure we kept the joints apart. The new subfloor is extremely flat and ready for many years of home improvements.

The moral to this story, don’t just do the bare minimum. Instead, make sure the work will last a lifetime to provide your customer with the best possible experience… and so the next tech will not have to deal with a mess!