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Tommy Mac discusses installing hardwood floors over concrete.

Tuesdays with Tommy: Installing a Hardwood Floor over Concrete

Although it's a fairly common project -- and a very reasonable DIY one at that -- installing a hardwood floor over concrete can nonetheless stump even those with a few notches on their work belt.

The reason? Well, there's more than one way to skin this cat.

In this week's Tuesdays with Tommy, the veteran woodworker addresses the flooring dilemma and raises a few points that any who dare take on this project would do well to consider.

The Problem

Jordan from New York: What is the best way to go about installing a hardwood floor over concrete? Is there an advantage to using a plywood subfloor over a sleeper system? What other factors should I be considering?

The Answer

Tommy: Good question. One of the things that you need to consider when looking at these two systems is your head height. If this is a floor with a lot of doorways and openings, you need to keep the head height in mind. If you start building up the sub flooring too high you can end up adding 4 inches to the height, which poses a problem with doorways and openings. The same goes for stairways. If there's too much thickness, you'll have a problem with that bottom stair and you may end up having to change it.

It it were me personally, I'd find something I could attach to the concrete and then lay down my plywood and put the flooring over that.

With concrete, you should also be putting down a moisture barrier first, like DRYLOK or something similar.

To see one way to install a hardwood floor, take a look at this How To Video.

How safe is your carpet?

The Case For Carpet

An interesting release by carpet manufacturer Desso calls to attention the 300 million people worldwide who suffer from asthma. With the finger of blame pointed at poor indoor air quality in homes and buildings, Desso is advising homeowners to choose carpet over other flooring options because it will absorb dust instead of releasing it.

Desso also cites another alarming statistic, and this one from the World Health Organization: more than 2 million people die every year as a result of polluted indoor and outdoor air.

Alarming indeed.

But before homeowners go out and buy up rolls of carpet, consider the quality of the product being purchased and know that carpet has shouldered its fair share of blame for poor indoor air quality in homes. A known source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carpet manufacturers have had to clean up their acts in order to ensure the safety of their products.

Want to know if your carpet is safe? Check to see if it's "Greenguard" certified, for starters. Although they are not the only certification program in town, Greenguard-certified products have made a name for themselves by keeping the air inside homes clean and healthy.

Have you had your carpet checked for VOCs?

Adhere the Curl Stop to the back corner of a rug to prevent curling.

How to Keep Rug Corners From Curling

Ok, this is one of those little inventions that has you smacking your head and asking, "Why didn't I think of that?"

The Curl Stop is a boomerang-shaped, adhesive-backed plastic product that attaches to the underside of your rugs to keep them from curling up. And anyone who owns rugs knows exactly what I'm talking about.

These things are dirt cheap, too. $17 for a pack of 4.

It's not just aesthetics we're talking about here, either. How many of you have tripped over the upturned corner of a rug? That's what I thought. Ok, you can all put your hands down now.

Kudos to inventors Charlie Bongiovanni and Randy Fleniken for making a serious improvement to homes everywhere.

Win $15,000 just by having a dirty carpet!

Win a $15,000 Home Makeover By Showing Off Your Dirty Socks

This is certainly a new one. BISSELL Homecare, Inc. just launched its White Sock Test to interest people in finding out just how clean (or dirty) their carpet truly is.

To enter, put on a clean, damp white sock and do a little dance and twist in a high-traffic, carpeted area of your home for 30 seconds. Take a photo of the bottom of your sock and upload it to www.Facebook.com/bissell to be randomly entered for a chance to win a $15,000 home makeover.

Daily visitors to the BISSELL Facebook page can look for chances at instant-win prizes like the BISSELL ProHeat2X, discounts on bissell.com purchases and $25 Visa gift cards.

The point of all this? To teach us that our carpets need more than a once-over with an aging vacuum cleaner sporting worn-out bristles.

And to gross out the world with image after image of soiled socks. My guess is the winner will be a dog owner. My socks never recover from an encounter with a dog-bearing carpet.

Good luck to all entrants! May the dirtiest sock win!

Getting Dents and Scratches out of Hardwood Floors

A few months ago I went to the National Home Builder's Show with the Renovate Your World team to get a feel for new products on the market. While there, we met with the group from Lumber Liquidators to see their hardwood flooring displays. I didn't need new floors at the time, but was in the process of selling my condo with three years of wear and tear on its beautiful oak hardwoods. There were definitely some scratches and dents I needed to fix -- or cover up with carpet.

I happen to mention this to John Jakob, the Director of Merchandising, who was showing me around. And he turns to me and says he has a trick for my knicks -- wax paper and an iron!

I have to tell you that I just tried his technique and it's pretty good (see the before and after pic)! Here's what you do:
1. Warm up your iron to high heat.
2. Tear off a piece of wax paper to cover your dent. Place over the scratch.
3. Place a towel over the paper and start ironing the towel. Use pressure and go over it a few times.
4. Lift up towel and paper and see how it looks. Mine is definitely less noticeable.

Do you have any tricks for your hardwood floors? Getting out stains, scratches -- or preventing them? Tell us!

Cheng-inspired home features like this concrete fireplace are now only an online search away. Photo by Matthew Millman

Designer Concrete at the Push of a Button

If there's one thing designer Fu-Tung Cheng has taught us, it's that concrete isn't just for foundations. With his work appearing in home improvement magazines across the world, Cheng's mastery of the medium for just about any application is second to none. From countertop to fireplaces to water features and more, Cheng has made us all warm up to this once cold and passionless material.

For those who want a touch of Cheng in the home but can't afford to hire the designer personally, there is now a "Find-a-Contractor" feature on CHENG Concrete's website. Searches will turn up Cheng-certified contractors--called CHENG Members--in your area. These are professionals who have been trained in the art of Cheng concrete manipulation. Think of them as a first generation of students, taught by the master. Like Cheng himself, many CHENG members have gone on to win awards for their design and work.

Take a moment to check out the finder tool to see if there are Cheng-trained concrete professionals in your area. Maybe you can turn that dream of a designer concrete countertop into a reality.

Do you have any Cheng in your home?

Dancing Like a Little Star Dancing Like a Little Star
Photo By Greg Vazzana Our daughter likes to hang from this pole as much as she likes to dance with it.

Dancing with the Stars in your Living Room

Ever wonder what it would take to have your own dance floor?

I created this "Dance Experience" in my daughter's room for just a few hundred dollars, including materials. Luckily we already had a hardwood floor and very solid walls. The ballet bar can hold me up and I weigh five times as much as my five year old so it should be pretty safe.

If you have the room you can create a small or large home dance studio. I found this great reference online if you do not have suitable floor. How to make a dance floor.

And for those of you want to add new hardwood floors to any room see this hardwood floor preparation guide.

We bought our ballet bar and mirror set at Pottery Barn Kids but you may find it for less at a local kids furniture store.

Now I just need to take dance lessons myself to become a professional ballroom dancing champion so I can be on Dancing With the Stars, too.

Wish me luck.

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