Posted in Adventures in Home Ownership!!

Rolling Chair Mat

September 29, 2014 - 11:44 am

Today’s post will feature our quickie project from the weekend, because the tiling is on a timeout.

One of the little projects that has been malingering around here is making a rolling chair mat for David. Our carpets are super squishy, enough so the chair mats we had cracked immediately when we sat in our desk chairs.

I’m still suffering with carpet and making plans, but we purchased a box of laminate floor months ago for David’s mat, and it’s been buried in his closet. We excavated it last week when I was helping him get things bait more orderly, and it got put on the weekend task list.

The laminate strips are 48” long, which is a generous size for a floor mat. We decided to cut two down to the right size to fit between his desk legs so he wouldn’t roll off. 38” was the absolute widest, but to make it easier to fit we went with 36”. So first there was marking:

2014-09-28 12.36.50-2.jpg

I like making lots of marks:

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And then using a square to average them out:

2014-09-28 12.39.32-2.jpg

Note that I mark with sharpie. I do this because the kerf of my saw blade is about the same width as a wide tip sharpie. “Kerf” is the term for what gets turned into sawdust when you use a saw to cut something. There is a width to that cut, and it’s important to bear that in mind when measuring and marking to avoid sadness.

So here are the two boards that will become the extension of the mat. Notice also that I only marked one. I’ll be cutting them together, so as to be pretty certain of having them end up the same size:

2014-09-28 12.39.50-2.jpg

Next we set the saw up on a table in the driveway:

2014-09-28 12.45.51-2.jpg

Note the safety glasses, and the fact that I store the saw with the blade lock engaged. Also the saw is well clamped to the table, so it won’t start wandering from the vibrations when I start cutting. 

Plugged in the saw. I like tying the two cords in a knot where they join, so it’s harder to unplug them accidentally when walking around:

2014-09-28 12.45.46-2.jpg

Here’s my flustered assistant after I announced he would be doing the cutting: 

2014-09-28 12.45.53-2.jpg

When I put the flooring on the table I discovered it was just a little too wide for the saw to make it through in one cut: 

2014-09-28 12.47.33-2.jpg

You can kinda see that the boards are stacked, and they extend a little bit past the blade slot in the table. This means I shouldn’t really make that cut if I were following proper safety guidelines, and I wasn’t going to start David out on a chop saw by making a tricky cut. He got to support the long end of the boards, and make some practice cuts on pallet wood scraps instead.

I completed the cut by cutting as much as I could, then rotating the boards and cutting from the other side to complete the cut. Kids, don’t try this at home.

Next up was assembly. This laminate floor is click-lock, which means it doesn’t require glue when used as a floor. That’s excellent in normal situations because it means individual boards can be swapped out if they get damaged, but for our application we need it to hold together when squished by a task chair wheel into a thick carpet. That means we needed to glue.

So we laid out boards:

2014-09-28 12.54.08-2.jpg

Ran a line of glue down the joint:

2014-09-28 12.54.29-2.jpg


and clicked them together by inserting the top board at an angle:

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And then flattening them out:

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Not too much glue, because it can keep the joint from closing all the way. There is too much on the edge here:

2014-09-28 12.54.42-2.jpg

and that leads to glue forcing its way out through the seams, and the boards not fitting properly: 

2014-09-28 12.55.37-2.jpg

We wiped off the excess glue on top, then pulled the boards apart and wiped some of the glue out of the joint, and then they went together nicely. In an ideal situation there would be exactly enough glue to fill the spaces in the joint but not enough to overflow. In practice, with manufactured flooring, less tends to be more. The surfaces are going to fit together pretty tightly such that the glue will make a good bond. Too much actually makes the joint weaker, and creates a noticeable gap between boards.

Having a sponge, clean water, and a towel around is essential. There will be glue going where you don’t want it.

Last up was attaching the chair lip:

2014-09-28 13.08.21-2.jpg

We used the tape measurement to get it pretty much centered on the boards. Note that this particular floor allowed us to install boards cross-wise to each other. I decided this might further reinforce the joins between the long boards, so that’s what we did. 

Then we waited. It started curing on the porch for about 8 hours:

2014-09-28 13.14.16-2.jpg

then was moved gently into place to finish curing overnight. I apologize in advance for the poor lighting and messy state of D’s office, but here’s the mat doing its job: 


David’s happy with it, and it seems completely solid. It’s more attractive than those plastic mats, and *much* less expensive. I believe the box of laminate was about $25. 

I may pull it out and use my laminate trimmer to round off the edges and remove the joint lips. Then again, it seems fine as is, so I may not. I’m pretty confident this will hold up to the job we’re asking it to perform until we decide to afford to replace the carpets with hardwood or laminate.

* * *

For them what wants to know what the tile did wrong, here is the update: 

I was 4 tiles away from done with the project when I broke one. For which there was no spare. I purchases two spares originally, and these are 12×24” tiles so that should have been plenty, but our layout for this room had to make several rearrangements due to Surprise! issues that came up during the construction, so I had ended up with no spare tiles.

Actually, I was about 6 tiles short of what I wanted, but I rearranged the layout to use the leftover travertine mosaic tile from the upstairs bath in a way that would cover the bathroom nicely. And for a bonus I got away from fussy cuts around the plumbing fixtures.

I’ve spent the whole project terrified of breaking a tile. I made sure they were handled carefully, only put down on a mat or on cardboard, and generally sweated from the time a tile was pulled from the box until it was on the wall. Then, during the install, I tapped one with a rubber mallet to help settle it into the mortar level with its neighbors, and it fractured into 8 triangular pieces radiating from the center. 

I spent at least a minute just staring at it and thinking furiously about what to do before I could bring myself to pull the broken pieces off the wall and scrape off the mortar.

When I pulled it away I discovered that there was a joint in the hardibacker that wasn’t level, and where I hit the tile was over the piece that was deeper. The lip between the boards was apparently enough, in combination with the tap from the mallet, to break this tile.

While I was scraping and cleaning up and trying not to cry I came up with a strategy. Plan A was to call the supplier and see if possibly maybe they had more of this tile we had purchased on super markdown closeout. Plan B was to extend the travertine mosaic tiles to cover more of the wall behind the tub. 

I just got off the phone with the supplier and she has one more box she’s holding for me, so phew. I don’t have to make a drastic rearrangement of my thinking. Also, meh. I am so tired of big tiles. But only about four more pieces to attach to the wall, and DONE. I like done. Well, done with the wall. Still have to make the slate vanity counter and the slate window sill and half wall ledge. Anyway. Much progress was made.

Tile will be done soon. Possibly tomorrow, if I can get the layout done today and the grout tomorrow. Then contractors come back. Then it’s a bathroom, and the planned construction on the house is officially complete. 

I call the first bath in the new tub— I’ve earned it!!!

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March 7, 2015 11:44 am

This is brilliant. I have inline-skate-type wheels on my chair and they make a mess of plastic matts. This seems to be a much more permanent solution. Thanks!

Jennifer Leigh

March 7, 2015 11:44 am

I would worry that the inline skate wheels, having a smaller contact surface, would strain the glue joints. I’d recommend some sort of backer board below the laminate. 🙂


August 11, 2015 11:44 am

So, after 5 months or so of having my own version of this the only issue I have run into is that I kick the edge of it while walking through the house.

A LOT, heh. When I applied the backing board I should have wrapped the edges to keep it flatter. The boards have added a slight curve when they were glued down so the edge leaps up from the carpet a bit.

Ahh well, the things we learn. 🙂 Still saving the carpet nicely tho!

Thanks again!

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