When floating floors first came out, the installation process was a new concept. In that day, they had tongues and grooves, but they were a pain to install. The installation instructions called for glue to be applied to the groove’s bottom and the tongue’s top. The viscous quality of the glue made it difficult, at best, to push the planks tightly together. We had to use tape on every plank to hold it tight. Sometimes tight joints were a real challenge if you didn’t have the strength to displace the glue. This was a common floating floor installation before straps.
Once straps were “invented,” installing floating flooring became so much better and faster that it finally made sense to keep installing them. I was impressed that the straps had the power to displace the glue and squeeze the planks tight. Not only that, but the straps had the power to push the glue into the pores of the plank making the bond stronger than ever before.
I bought a few generic straps after that first floating floor installation. I quickly found out that I did not have enough. I determined that 16 was the magic number to have on hand – per person.
Floating floors eventually evolved to click-lock mechanisms instead of tongue and grooves. This accommodated the skill level of the installers at the carpet stores, where floating floors chiefly were sold. So, I now had a sizable investment in straps and no use for them anymore.
Along came long strip tongue and groove floors. Some manufacturers of these products offered specialized tapping blocks for their flooring to use to tap them together. Unfortunately, even when using the tapping blocks, the same problems arose as with the old tongue and groove floors – pushing them tightly together. In a moment of inspiration, I used my straps and they worked well. A few years later, I recall installing a glue-down plank floor and being inspired by the mental math of how similar the installation technique is for floating floors as it is for glue-down floors. This was where a new world opened up for me. I was now able to begin using my straps for “regular” glue-down and floating installations.
The same result came about. I was much faster than before and had zero gaps in my floors. I also had so much experience with the straps that I began to see other reasons straps were advantageous. One was that no tape was needed, and another, even more important factor, was the awareness that no pre-finished wood flooring manufacturer encourages using tape.
By this time, my original straps were getting old, and I sought to purchase new ones. Flooring suppliers had none to sell (or special order), and the only straps I found were either cheap knock-offs online or a super expensive brand I couldn’t justify buying because I needed at least 16. (This is the number of straps where one can install a whole house by himself/herself with no trouble.)
It was then that I considered making them myself. If I were to make them myself, my intention would be to make them even better. I began by listing off a few inadequacies with my old straps, in an effort to make them better. I made prototypes, collected feedback from my installers and some of my peers, and then decided to market them to other installers. Once everyone understands how much easier straps can make a glue down or floating installation, they will become a common tool for the toolbox.
Here are some examples of ways these floor straps may be used on a wood flooring installation:
1. Long halls. I would dry fit three rows (up to approximately half the width of the hall) down a long hall and cut the lengths of the boards after cutting all of the jambs at the doorways. Then stack the boards on the opposite side to spread glue on the floor. After setting the three rows into the glue, I would lay the straps out on the flooring about three or four feet apart. Then, set the straps starting at one end of the hall and work to the other end. When done, the entire hall can be moved easily to your chalked line with no boards separating, gapping, or coming apart. This is the phase where wedges or expansion spacers can be set along the wall of the first row of planks. There is no need to use cement nails to hold blocks in the floor to secure the alignment – ditto for wood subfloors.
Then spread the glue on the remaining half of the hall and place the remaining flooring. When you get to the other side of the hall width-wise, additional wedges or expansion spacers lock it all into place. If desired, the straps can be left until the next day or pulled up and used in adjoining rooms.
2. Kitchens. Instead of using pry bars, wall jacks, screwdrivers, or wedges when installing the last boards under a toe kick in a kitchen, straps can be the ultimate friend. The most obvious reason is that the toe kick material is usually thin and not firm enough to enable a pry bar, wall jack, etc., without damaging them. The frustration of watching the toe kick flex as you apply force to the tools is avoidable with the straps. Straps do not need to push against the toe kick at all. With both ends secured under each toe kick, the strap part of the mechanism takes all the strain to bring your boards together.
3. Bowed or tight boards. Where you normally might use the straps every three or four feet apart, it is possible to use them as close together as you need to get a stubborn board to comply with its future home. You can exert a lot of pressure in a small area with straps. In some cases, I’ve set buckets of glue or bundles of flooring on the leading edge of the row to keep the straps from lifting the boards when many straps are close together. With a bit of practice, popping up the leading edge of a row just won’t happen, and the force of the straps can be added together for maximum “squeeziness” (a technical term I just made up).
These tricks are only a few of the many ways floor straps can make your next installation easier. I feel grateful to have turned a thought in my head into a tangible tool that can help other installers the way it helped me.
Angelo DeSanto is the owner of Dande West in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.