What’s under your feet (or however you get around) is as important as anything when it comes to home. That’s why this fall, we collaborated with The Home Depot on an A to Z guide that’ll give you the confidence to make flooring choices you’ll love. Check out the A to Z handbook here.
If you’re accustomed to figuring out or completing home improvement projects on your own, knowing when to ask for help can, er, be a challenge. But one small slip-up, or one warning sign ignored could potentially snowball into a much bigger issue down the road, which might not only derail your project, but put your whole house in danger — particularly when you’re talking about flooring.
The Home Depot has a team of licensed flooring installers who can help with anything from carpet to hardwood. But it’s helpful to know what situations might constitute a red flag — here are 5 problems to be aware of that could necessitate help from experts (be they an exterminator or contractor).
Problem: You’re removing potentially hazardous old flooring
Many types of flooring and flooring adhesives common in the mid-20th century didn’t adhere to the environmental and health-conscious practices of today. This is particularly true when it comes to asbestos black mastic: a type of adhesive used well into the late 1970s that contains a fibrous material (asbestos) which can cause mesothelioma, a type of cancer.
If you remove old vinyl, tile or linoleum and see a black, thick adhesive, do not try and scrape it up, scrub it or grind it off. Instead, ask an expert to come in and assess the situation. If it is asbestos black mastic, a professional will likely advise you to leave it in place — not remove it!— and cover it with sealant and new flooring.
Problem: Your house has serious structural issues
Ah, older homes: they’re full of charming details and enough character that we can overlook their minor imperfections — until those flaws turn into major problems. If you’re preparing for a flooring job and notice any of the following, it’s best to call in an expert:
- A sloping or sagging floor, which can indicate weakened or broken floor joists
- Doors and windows that stick when you try to close them, which can indicate issues with the home’s foundation
- Paint that’s blistering on the walls, which can point to excess moisture in places it shouldn’t be, like the walls and floors
- Major cracks in existing tile, which could signal foundational issues
- A chimney that’s leaning significantly or has cracks in the external mortar
Fixer-uppers can be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make an existing, perhaps historic structure wholly your own, but if the bones of the house aren’t right, you’re likely in for future headaches.
Problem: You notice some creepy crawlers
No one likes to think about little critters scuttling into their homes, but when it comes to flooring projects, some types of bugs are more important to check for than others. Namely: termites. If you see any collections of small, translucent wings around the perimeter of your home, tiny holes in your structural wood or “mud tunnels” through damaged wood, termites have probably taken up residence, and need to be dealt with promptly.
Problem: You don’t understand the instructions
Most flooring materials — laminate, vinyl, grout, you name it — come with extremely specific instructions for how to complete a proper installation, and must be followed to the letter or you risk losing your warranty (yikes!). If you feel completely lost after digging into the instruction manual, don’t take a “try it and see!” approach. Ask an expert for a consultation before you make a mistake that can’t be taken back easily.
Problem: You have water issues
Water damage is a nightmare for homeowners, particularly when it comes to flooring. If there’s any history of water damage inside a home (basement flooding, slow-leaking refrigerator line, etc.) or you notice any signs of water damage — water rings on the ceiling or walls, a mildew-like smell inside the room where you’re planning to work — it’s best to ask an expert to assess the situation before you lay the first tile.
Problem: Your safety is in jeopardy
If there’s ever a point where you feel in over your head — a tool that’s a little too unfamiliar, a material that’s become unmanageable, or you run into a potentially dangerous unforeseen problem (like sketchy electrical wiring or crude, previously-done renovations), call in an expert to help. There’s no need to try and be a hero.