A step-by-step guide on how to buy flooring in a digital world.

Flooring. Seems like a simple enough item to purchase, right? Just pick a material, color, preferred installation, and BOOM! A beautiful floor appears right before your very eyes. Not so fast. Before you get to the aesthetics of your flooring, it is absolutely imperative to do one of three things: research.

Flooring is a large investment, which requires additional diligence to ensure you make the right decision. Part 1 of our online flooring guide will walk you through the process of how to buy flooring and do the right research.

  1. Inspect the Subfloor. You need to understand the subfloor, hands down. The type and condition will affect subfloor preparations and may dictate the flooring that is best for your project. Here are five questions to ask when inspecting your subfloor:
    1. Is it clean?
    2. Is it smooth?
    3. Is it structurally sound?
    4. Is it level?
    5. Is it dry?
  2. Look for Clear Specifications. Make sure the products you’re looking at list wear-layer, installation method, width, and length. The wear-layer, which is the top layer of material above the tongue of a plank, is the best gauge of the quality of the product. Sometimes, this is hidden by retailers to hide inferior quality, so be on the look out.
  3. Think about Installation. Are you more of a DIY savant, or prefer a professional to take the lead? This is one of the first questions you will need to answer as you prepare for your flooring project. Your answer to this question will determine the type of floor you pick, as some floors are better suited for DIY installations (click floors, for example). Your retailer should be able to help you decide which route is best for your, based on your installation experience and subfloor conditions.
  4. Check for Easy Installation Instructions. Regardless of whether you install your own floor or hire an installer, you want to make sure the installation instructions are easy to follow. A reliable retailer should have these available for download in an easy-to-find location.
  5. Read the Warranty. All flooring should come with a clearly written warranty. Be careful of weakly written warranties! One of the most important things you can do is read the warranty for your floor in its entirety before purchasing. Many big-box stores and online retailers offer weak warranties, often masked behind promises of “50 year” or even “lifetime” protection. Read what the warranty covers, and most importantly what the retailer will do if you need to make a claim. It is often in the fine print that you will find these long warranties exclude nearly all real-life circumstances.
  6. Ask about Installation Accessories. Typically, a good retailer will offer a recommended adhesive and underlayment, as well as transition moldings to match your flooring. Especially with adhesives, it’s important to look for established brand names, such as Taylor or Bona.

That does it for Part 1 of How to Buy Flooring Online. To learn more about online floor buying, read Part 2 and Part 3 where we discuss floor samples and ordering.