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.
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