Robert Lamoureux: Composite deck planks, laminate flooring

Robert Lamoureux
Robert Lamoureux

Question No. 1 


I live in Canyon Country and have a second-floor deck outside in my backyard, which I’ve neglected for too long. The deck planks are in horrible condition and in need of replacing. I watch a lot of DIY shows and clips, and recently saw one where they were using composite material — they said it was plastic and wood. In your opinion, is it all they say it is? Is it more expensive and do you need the special stapler tool they mentioned? Also, is this something a homeowner can do if they are somewhat handy? My last question is, do you think that this would be the best way to go or to replace the planks and then put a waterproofing system down? I’ve read your articles on the technical aspects of that, but not sure which way to go.

Michael T. 

Answer No. 1 


It all depends on what you are trying to achieve. You didn’t mention what is below this deck, so consider the water going through the slats as it is currently, I’m sure. Composite is a great product — you’ll only need to be sure that the framing below is 16-inches on center. If not, the composite system won’t make the span so you’d need to add joists to meet this spec. First and foremost, though, be sure that your framing and joists are in good condition before installing any new materials. If you have wood rot or failure of some kind, it will be necessary to update the framing for safety. Remember that this is an upper deck so safety is of utmost concern. If you want to go with a waterproofing system and close up this deck area, it will require once again, making sure that your framing is in good condition and then ⅝-inch plywood needs to be installed. There are many other factors, including, if this deck is off of a room with a door, you’ll have to consider the height of the threshold of that door before installation. You’ll never want to end up flush with the threshold, or you’ll encourage water intrusion. The pitch of the new waterproofing install is of utmost importance, so water is directed away from the home. Many things to consider so if you aren’t very proficient at something like this, I highly recommend a licensed and insured contractor for the job. The extra money will be worth it to have it done properly, and avoid water intrusion issues. Good luck. 


Question No. 2 


I live in Santa Clarita and am a do-it-yourselfer. I have been reading your articles for quite some time and before I begin my next project of putting laminate (Pergo) flooring in an upstairs bedroom, I’d like to seek your sound advice on the proper preparation for this. I don’t want to hear loud noises downstairs due to the laminate floor upstairs. Is this even possible? They also say that I need to have the product in the house for a few days ahead of time. Is this really necessary? Last question is whether the baseboards should be removed and set on top of the new flooring or should we install up to them and add quarter round? I only want to do this once, so I’d like all the tricks that a do it yourselfer needs, since I’m not using an authorized installer. 

Jorge J. 

Answer No. 2 


Yes, bring the product into the house for a minimum of 48 hours to acclimate. Since this has wood in it, it will behave as wood and expand. You’re much better off being patient in this process, so you have the best results. Absolutely for the best effect, pull your existing baseboards and install the flooring, then replace the baseboards. The look will be much better than adding in quarter round, by far. Remember to leave the quarter-inch gap, to allow for expansion and contraction. For additional sound dampening, you can glue cork to the existing plywood, and then there is a foam underlayment that can be purchased with the flooring, for additional dampening. Know that with the additional cork, you may have a height issue at the door frames and doors, in which case you’ll need to trim these areas for proper fitting. Not a big deal if you are handy — just be patient for a proper finish. Good luck. 


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