Flooring Questions

mjlbNovember 17, 2012

I am considering buying a 900 sf condo and reselling after fixing up. The unit is on the first floor, over a heated garage. The building is steel and concrete.

The unit is about 40 years old and needs new flooring throughout (and lots of other stuff). Currently there is a mix of carpet, vinyl, and ceramic tile on top of concrete. My first thought was to do tile in bathroom with hardwood elsewhere. However, I seem to remember that hardwood over concrete is not a good idea, unless it is a floating floor. But how does one deal with the difference in material height when the subfloor is concrete slab?

The other thought was to do tile. But since I'm in a fairly cold climate, I would want to put electric heat under the tile. I've done this in my own tiny bathroom and it was inexpensive. But if I extrapolate to 900 sf, seems like it would be VERY expensive. Is there a different way of handling electric radiant heat over larger areas? And again, how would one deal with the additional material height when the subfloor is a concrete slab?

Thanks so much for your comments (or direction to more info).

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Transition strips will handle the height differences.

A condo that old will need some electrical upgrades. Be sure to get an estimate from an electrician that is licensed for multi family to see if it's actually possible to upgrade the condo enough for a modern kitchen as well as being able to do the in floor heating at all. Lots of older places don't have the juice to be able to upgrade anything, and without doing a whole building upgrade, a modern kitchen can't be a reality at all.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 6:50PM
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I'm not crazy about transition strips -- especially at the entry door to the unit. Is there an alternative?

I don't the electrical for the kitchen will much of a problem. All the units have modern kitchens now -- it's just that the original cabinetry was cheap, and the appliances are old. Radiant heat is another issue tho' -- especially since I think it would add to the floor height differential.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 9:09PM
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The only way a transition strip would not be needed is when the two(or more) different types of flooring meet at the exact height and have relatively the same expansion rates. Otherwise, the difference in height will be a problem as will the gaps created when the two materials expand/contract at different rates.

There are many different types of transition strips. For instance, I installed hardwood flooring and had both slate and ceramic tile meeting that hardwood. I actually crafted transition strips from extra pieces of the hardwood flooring.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 1:12PM
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I didn't pose my question very well, but handymac states it better:

What I would like to do is to maintain the same floor height from common hallway into the unit. But my proposed finishes (engineered wood or radiant-heated tile) are thicker than the existing finishes (carpet, vinyl). I'm picturing the need to grind down the concrete to allow more room for the thicker finish materials. But that seems ridiculous. Is the only solution to live with a rather noticeable transition strip?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 2:45PM
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The structural concrete floor is a common element; it's not yours to remove. But you may be able to increase the height with a gypsum or concrete underlay.

I used to obsess about removing transitions till I noticed no one seemed impressed by my transition-free floors.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 4:46PM
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I would be impressed, Worthy!

Part of the reason for my concern is that this unit will likely be used by someone elderly and I don't want to increase the trip hazard.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 6:08PM
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"I don't want to increase the trip hazard."

Best give them bare concrete or sheet vinyl goods then

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 1:58PM
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meow! but I get your drift, brickeyee!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 2:29PM
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Electric heating mats under tile are intended to warm the floor so your feet stay warm. It gets turned on with a manual timer switch while you are in the room. Don't expect this system to heat a bathroom room full time.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 8:16AM
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Hi Reno -- the unit has heat and a/c by heat pump. I was thinking of supplemental heat -- only if I put in tile. But that's moot for this project, as I'm now leaning toward engineered wood flooring.

I still am curious tho' if any way to scale electric radiant heat. When I researched 'warmly yours', etc. on-line, there seemed to be no economy of scale. So for an entire apartment, it would be awfully costly.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 1:31PM
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