Laminate flooring is the big floor success story, having become very popular recently. It’s quick to lay, hygienic and easy to clean, and gives a light, airy and contemporary feel to a property.
Although there is a vast range of prices and quality levels to choose from, the best quality boards can be very expensive.
Engineered board is made from real wood that’s been put together in a factory (hence ‘engineered’).
Layers of wood are glued together in a similar manner to plywood, and with the same benefits – strength and light weight with very economical use of the wood.
The uppermost board, the face, is where the best quality wood goes and it can, to an extent, be sanded back and retreated like real wooden boards.
Reusing secondhand flooring
A good floor idea, if you are lucky enough to find some, is to reuse secondhand engineered wood to get a premium product without the extra cost. In fact, as there’s not a big secondhand market for laminated flooring, it’s possible to pick it up for nothing if you know where to look.
And our case study family, the O’Brien* family from Liverpool, knew exactly where to look.
Freecycle delivers the goods
“Freecycle works really well in an urban environment like this,” said Ray O’Brien, referring to the online email group where people can post items that they no longer want, and other people who can make use of them, can pick them up.
“When someone advertises something on our local group you can at least be sure that it’s going to be not too far away, so even if you decide you don’t want what’s on offer, you haven’t wasted too much time and effort,” said Ray.
The downside of having an active group in a rather densely populated area is that there can be fierce competition for desirable articles and Ray was surprised that that wasn’t the case with the engineered wood laminate boards.
“It helps that I work for myself, from home, so I can respond as soon as I see things coming up,” said Ray, “but no-one else seemed that interested anyway, according to the bloke I got it from.”
One man’s problem is another man’s goldmine
A plumbing problem had caused a small flood in the lounge-diner of a house down the road so the ends of the boards close to the patio doors, were water damaged. It had caused the boards in that area to swell up, expand, twist and lift.
“It was all an insurance job,” said Ray, “the whole lot had to come up even though most of it was ok, it had been down for about five years so just replacing the damaged boards wouldn’t have been any good, they would never have matched. The only downside was that I had to take all the boards, even the warped ones.”
“But when I got them back home I realised what a good deal it was. The manufacturer and model were printed on the back so I looked them up, they are still available, and I worked out that I’d ended up with about five hundred quid’s worth of top quality stuff.”
Laying the laminate boards
Having got the boards home it was a case of putting them to use in the home office that had just been built on the back of the house, in place of the old outside toilet and coal store.
“That was pretty straightforward,” Ray explained, “because it’s a rectangular room with right-angled corners, so all I had to do was cut the boards to fit and lay them down.
I used the best condition boards, the flattest ones, and the only tricky bit was using the boards with the closest fit to the gaps I had, but that was only because I was trying to keep enough boards back to do another room.”
Laying the last board is often a problem but as well as having no skirting board, so the last board could just drop in, Ray borrowed some clamping straps from a friend.
“Usually you’re knocking the boards together with a metal last and a hammer,” said Ray, but you can’t swing a hammer close to the wall on the last board.
These straps have metal clamps at each end that sort of fit the tongue and groove of the boards.
One end slots into the first board you put down and the other onto the edge of the board you’ve just laid. Then you wind the ratchets on the straps and it slowly draws the boards together. Perfect for the last board!”
Bathroom gets the royal treatment too
Ray did, in fact, end up with enough boards to cover the floor of the family bathroom, even though he knows that real wood isn’t at its best in a damp environment.
“No,” he agreed, “it’s not perfect but it’s been down for a year and I make sure any water spillage is cleared up straight away, so far so good. And as it was free, it doesn’t really matter!”
So, thanks to Freecycle, reusing engineered floorboard turned out to be a great floor idea all round for the O’Briens.
* names have been changed