Friday, April 30, 2010

DIY Project: Costco's Harmonics Brazilian Cherry Laminate Review (PICTURES)

Back in February, we bought a lot (and I mean a lot) of Harmonics Brazilian Cherry laminate from Costco. At the time, it had $8 instant rebate and when you are buying 60 boxes of laminate, that savings adds up! We chose the Harmonics Brazilian Cherry laminate from Costco for several reasons, but mainly because it had the look we wanted at a reasonable price. We want to move, and knew that the carpet would have to go before we could even think of showing our house when we list it for sale. We didn't want to go too cheap to detract from our re-sale value.

How'd we do? We spent several days on this project and experienced several noobie mistakes. This review/photo essay will let you know how we did.

Step 1: Move everything out!

It goes without saying that you need to move everything out of the room that you are going to be laying laminate in. Our big noobie mistake was assuming that we could empty out our daughter's room quickly and get to work. This was a big mistake, since removing the bed, dresser, desk, chest... and tons and tons of toys was a huge time sink. The next room that we lay our Harmonics Brazilian Cherry laminate in will be completely emptied out the night before we intend to lay the floor. Plan ahead and take everything large and cumbersome out well before you intend to start.

Pulling the staples and banging down any nails that had popped up wasn't so bad. This was my job, considering hubby had to put together the saw. We started late - around 10:30 AM on a Saturday - and spent most of the day emptying out the room, moving and taking furniture apart, pulling up the carpet, etc.

Step 2: Mix those boards

After we made sure that the floor had no low spots, we brought in 9 boxes of the Harmonics Brazilian Cherry. Since you must mix the boxes to make sure that you don't lay a bunch of dark planks and then light planks, resulting in a goofy looking floor, I took the time to mix all of the boards at once. After the saw was assembled (delayed due to hubby having to work for 3-1/2 hours), we started the process of laying the laminate.

This is what the floor looked like on Monday (bear in mind, we started on a Saturday). Notice - it is only about half done at this point. We had some issues with cutting a board to go around the closet door (top right corner of picture). We spent extra time cutting that board right because it is the finishing touches that matter most. This piece and the pieces where the register vent is were hard to cut because my husband needed a different saw blade than the ones we had on hand. This meant that we could not go any further on Sunday when we started in earnest to lay the floor. Living in a small town means the hardware store closes early. In our case, it also meant the nearest Home Depot or Lowe's was an hour away.

Step 3: Give yourself a break, life happens!

We stopped here, halfway through, because our daughter's spring concert was that night. We continued laying the laminate flooring the next night and finished except for two stubborn boards by the door. Our pull bar lost its angle and we were unable to snug the last two boards into place. We left them until the next night - a Wednesday - because I needed to buy a more heavy duty pull bar. I literally walked up to the sales associate at Lowe's and said that I had 1,000 square feet to go and I needed a pull bar that could take our hammering without bending. I bought a heavy duty pull bar for about $7, which allowed us to finish the job.

Left to do: Put the room back together, including the other closet door. We re-installed one door to be sure that it would hang properly and also to determine how much shows when the door is opened/closed. To avoid an unsightly gap, we cut a few boards closer to the wall with less of a gap, but still leaving room for expansion.

To protect our Costco Harmonics Brazilian Cherry laminate investment, we'll need use floor protectors under the bed legs, dresser legs, etc. to avoid scratches. We will warm the room up a bit with an area rug and finish the look with some moulding to cover the gap we needed to leave for expansion. We love the look!

Things I learned about laying laminate flooring

1. I need to hit the gym! There were a few stubborn boards that I was unable to snug together. I left those for hubby.

2. It takes at two! It is best if you can work in concert. I do not touch power tools and frankly, my math skills are suspect. This meant that my hubby was the one measuring and cutting all of the boards. If the board cutter can stay ahead of the floor layer, the flooring will go down like a dream. Really, once we established a rhythm, the Brazilian Cherry laminate practically laid itself.

3. Don't underestimate the number of spacing wedges you'll need to ensure the proper gap to allow for expansion. The ones provided in an installation kit are not enough. We ran out of wedges before we were really comfortable that the floor would not move.

4. Read the instructions! I am generally not an instruction reader, but I did read the instructions at least twice. Laying laminate does take a bit of skill. We chose to lay in a suggested pattern and you had to lay the pieces in a certain order, which wasn't as logical as 1-2-3. Don't bonk! Read and/or re-read the instructions, paying special attention to that section that discusses things that will void your warranty.

5. Though we did not do so in this instance, you should paint before you pull up the old flooring. This should be a no-brainer, but... if you are going to drip and drizzle paint, it should be on the old carpet. We plan to paint our son's room first, then lay the Brazilian Cherry in his room.

6. Take note of any odor issues. In our daughter's room, an ill pet left some spots that were less than fresh smelling. Despite hiring a professional (Chem Dry), the scent never left. Once we tore up the carpet and padding, we discovered that the odor permeated through the padding, but thankfully not into the subfloor. Tear up your old floor the day before you plan to lay your laminate to make sure that you have adequate time to correct any issues. For us, this was key since we were not sure if we would need to correct an odor issue before laying flooring.

7. Don't cheat! It is the finishing touches that buyers will notice. We had several places where it was nearly impossible to cut and hammer a board home, but we perservered. One board in the closet is not even one inch wide, which required my hubby to rip a small piece of the laminate sideways.

8. If you are going to spend a lot of money at Costco on laminate, consider upgrading the $50 to the Business Membership so that you earn cash back. In our case, upgrading cost us $50 and we earned $48 by doing so. We will surely make the extra $2 and more to come out ahead this year.

9. When they say to buy extra, they mean it. You will screw up boards, particularly if you are a noob to laying laminate floors. You should keep extra anyway in case you need to replace just one board later on down the road. It is the best way to ensure that your floor will still be uniform in color.

Do you love the look of the Harmonics Brazilian Cherry? We do! We shopped around for laminate for a month before settling on this brand and grain. It was the most affordable laminate that we liked and it had the longest warranty. We are very confident that this floor will retain its beauty for a very long time.

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Disclosure: Pinching Abe is not a DIY professional. Always read your instructions and be safe by wearing safety glasses as directed. Neither Costco nor Harmonics solicited this review and I was not compensated for this blog post. The pictures and the opinions stated herein are 100% my own.


Unknown said...

We're installing ours now, in the "golden aspen". We did rent an undercut saw, for around the doors (we had 8) since we did the LR and hallway. Good idea! We stripped up our carpet, got the foor smooth, undercut the doors, and started installing. Great flooring from the reviews we read, good for our purposes, DIY, fast install (should be done tomorrow) and couldn't afford engineered wood or hard wood...

JosephWalker said...
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V Green said...

We are considering putting this in our great room (Living & Dining area). I've read a few places that this floor should not get wet but since we eat in the dining area for all meals, not sure how that will work since I typically wash the floors once a week. I was under the impression that laminate was okay with being washed? Any input would be appreciated!

Pinching Abe said...

Yes, V. We have this laminate in our dining area. I have not yet had any issues. I do have a floor steam mop, but you just set it on the super low setting. Or you could use it with a wet mop head and no steam. But no issues. Really, you shouldn't let water sit on it and a quick swipe of the steam mop is fine for me. Always follow manufacturer's instructions for cleaning as you can unintentionally void the warranty. Just clean any wet spots up quickly. We will be tiling in our kitchen area, mainly because of the water issue. Our laminate is laid well away from the dishwasher and sink, the main worry for water leakage.

Debbie said...

Sooo... two years later, can you tell me how your Harmonics floor is holding up? We're looking at getting this in our house and I'm wondering how it looks two years later. Scratches? Water issues? Thanks

Debbie said...
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Pinching Abe said...


It is holding up well. We do have some light surface scratches (Match box cars). Just be sure to put felt down on your furniture's feet to help avoid scratches. I can't see the scratches unless I'm down on the floor looking at it, though.

We don't have water damage, mainly because I do a very light damp mop, per the manufacturer's instructions. Avoid any standing water on the floor because it can get in between the planks and cause damage.

Anonymous said...

We installed the same floor 3 years ago. I would say its only ok. It scratches really easily and water has ruined it in some places (kids left wet/snow shoes on it). I also learned that we probably installed the planks to tightly together. We left room around the outside for expansion, but even still it is lifting in some places.It's beautiful, but not good for a family with kids and pets. It can not get wet, even if you clean it up right away it lifts.

Pinching Abe said...

Definitely do leave ample gaps at the room's edges and at doorways. When we were finished with laying all of the floor, we bought matching transitions from Lowe's (a special order - $30 per) from our kitchen to dining area and in doorways. I must say, it looks great! I have received numerous compliments on the flooring when friends and family walk into my home.

We used corner round around each room and painted it a nice white. I recommend getting pre-primed if you can because painting it is a huge pain. If you use a latex based paint any oopsies either wipe up great or can be easily picked off once dried. Acrylic paint will not come off, so bear that in mind!

Anonymous -- I am sorry your floor is lifting :( Can you cut transitions into doorways if you carried it through?

If you are considering buying this type of flooring, just be sure to account for waste by adding 10%. When we finished, we had some boards left, though my hubby was getting worried toward the end. I had someone contact me a few years ago looking for some boards because he was a little short.

Toolboxjesse said...

I am currently in the process of installing the Harmonics Sunset Acacia throughout my home and found this blog. I have installed about 1200 SF so far and it's going well. I did invest in a laminate cutter for $120, and that has sped up installation time and reduced mess from sawdust.
My question to you after viewing the photos- where's the vapor barrier? It's explicit in the installation instructions that it must be installed under the laminate, and the warranty will be voided if you were to file a claim. I think the sheeting might also help the product slide as it expands an contracts. It certainly made it easier to make small alignment corrections as I was building the floor.
Just curious why you chose to install without the vapor barrier.

Pinching Abe said...

We only did a vapor barrier where we needed one -- that is, where our (God rest his soul) cat had peed and it had gone through to the subfloor. We tried many methods to get that smell out including sanding and baking soda. The very thin plastic sheet underneath that section was used.

Since this was laid many years ago, I don't recall all of the instructions that came with, but I don't recall it requiring a vapor barrier throughout. I could be wrong, though. Thanks for stopping by!

aagp said...

I need to replace a few planks of my brazilian cherry due to water damage. Would you know where I can purchase them? My costco doesn't carry it anymore... Ty

Pinching Abe said...

I am very sorry to hear of your predicament! I have seen folks asking on places like Craigslist and Askville.

What I might suggest is you try to take a piece with you to try to get a close-ish match and if the room isn't too large, pull the full boards and swap them out for the new box and hopefully you will get something that looks OK. My hope is that since when you laid it you likely took from several boxes as you went to make sure it was well-mixed that you can mix the new box in with the old flooring and hopefully get something that looks nice.

Unknown said...

Do you have any extra boxes of harmonics Brazilian cherry by any chance? Or know where/who I can find some?

coffey said...

Southeastern Salvage in Knoxville, Tn. I just bought Sunset Acacia last week. They had your color too. It was beautiful.

Unknown said...

I installed the "Skyline Maple" in two rooms. We have dogs and cats. While out, one of our cats coughed up a fur ball. Unfortunately it landed on the seams where the boards meet. The floor was buckled. It also dents easily. It sickens me this floor didn't work out for us. If you need a box or two for repairs to your floor, I'm the one to call. If you know someone that would like to install a light colored floor please contact me through the blog or at I have 90 new unopened boxes. 35 of those are on a pallet wrapped in the original plastic. I saw the floor advertised with the $10 off coupon so I went to Costco to purchase the remainder of the floor I needed. To my dismay the floor had been discontinued. Costco said to call Harmonics and see if they had any left in the warehouse. They had 625 boxes. They would not ship it to Costco, I had to pick it up at the warehouse in Oroville CA or pay the freight charge. If that wasn't bad enough they would not honor the $10 off coupon that Costco was offering. I'm willing to work out a fair dollar amount for those interested.

Anonymous said...

How many Square feet was that room the room that you installed the laminate?

Pinching Abe said...

About 12x12.