The Moment I’ve Been Dreading Has Arrived: Office Teardown

I’ve been putting this off for at least two years now, but I finally had to bite the bullet and get it done: I had to tear-down my home office and move it in order to get my floor fixed. We moved into this house in 2001, and finished the basement later that year. We put down berber carpet, which at the time seemed like a good idea because basements tend to be cold. Then we got a little puppy named Keiko – and after a few months that berber carpet was covered in stains (house-training a puppy is a messy business). It was also problematic for me to not be able to roll my office chair from computer to computer – for a while I had a custom-cut piece of Plexiglas on the floor, but over time that cracked and broke.

Not wanting to pay another $500 to replace it, and realizing it was a bit demoralizing to be working surrounded by urine stains, it was time for a renovation to my home office. In 2006 I hired a carpenter, and he sub-contracted a flooring company (Underfoot Floors in Calgary), to re-do several key parts of my office. He built a custom set of shelves for me, and the flooring company ripped up the berber carpet and installed a hardwood laminate floor. For a while, everything was great – but then I started to notice that as I rolled my chair across the floor, it would seem to catch on the floor. Over the next year, I’d find little chips of broken hardwood laminate – bit by bit, I was destroying the floor. The entire point of going with the hardwood laminate was to get something tough enough to stand up to a rolling office chair. I brought in the carpenter and the flooring company, and there was a lot of shoulder shrugging and finger-pointing.

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This is what the floor looked like after a couple of years worth of my chair rolling over it.

The problem was two-fold: the underlay that Underfoot Flooring used was quite thick. I had asked for a thick underlay in an attempt to plug up some of the awful insulation problems that Bay West Homes inflicted upon us when they built the house – on a cold day, my basement would be a good 15 degrees Celsius colder than the main floor. You could hold your hand along the baseboards and feel freezing cold air blowing in. Knowing nothing about flooring, I didn’t realize that by having the thicker underlay would cause the floor to move up and down more. You’d think that the flooring professionals would have pointed this out to me, right? No such luck. The particular flooring that I selected – completely based on colour and design, because hey, what do I know about flooring – turned out to have a bevelled edge, meaning that the pieces didn’t lock as tightly together as the indestructible Pergo flooring I had back in my condo. Again, I had no clue – Underfoot Flooring knew this was going in a home office, so I trusted their advice about the flooring options I had.

In early 2008 someone from Underfoot Flooring came in (after much griping on my part), examined the problem, and said the best thing to do was to replace the broken boards – which they’d send someone out to do at their cost – and find a surface to put under the chair so it wouldn’t happen again. I was dreading ripping apart my office, so I put it off for months and months. I tried to get in touch with Underfoot Flooring again in late 2008, but struck out – no one was answering their phone, and eventually it was disconnected. I drove past their store front, and sure enough, it was abandoned. And not in the “we’re going out of business slowly” kind of way – their store sign was still up, and inside there were still parts of their displays set up. This is a “we don’t want to pay our lease and we took anything of value out of the store in the middle of the night” kind of scenario. Their Web site is still up, but the phone numbers no longer work.

So, with much grumbling and groaning, I tore down my office last night in order to make room for someone to come in and replace the broken floorboards. Here are a few photos of the process…

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Just getting started with the tear-down…

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All my technology…gone! OK, well, one computer remains, secure on a shelf.

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And here I thought I kept my office fairly clean. Yuck!

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So…much…technology.

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Putting it all back is where the real nightmare begins!

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Most of the problem was the very thick underlay the flooring company used – it had far too much “give” and the floor-boards would move as I rolled over them in my chair, catching and breaking.

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All done! Everything is fixed.

And now I’m faced with the daunting task of re-assembling my whole office…it’s hard to know where to start, there’s so much work to be done. I still need to find something to go underneath my office chair – I’ve been looking at interlocking gym floor-type materials but I’m not sure how well they’ll work, and they’re expensive. I’m going to use this opportunity to simplify my office a bit – the Logitech 5.1 surround sound system will probably be replaced by a simple 2+1 speaker setup. And if Windows 7 were out now, I’d probably use this opportunity to tear down and re-build all my computer systems…but the timing isn’t right for that. I have quite a lot of work ahead of me this weekend…

  • Cold Flame

    The trick, if you can do it with your Aeron chair, is to get rubber wheels put on it. Herman Millar (COI is their dealer here I think) might be able to get them for you? The plastic ones chew the heck out of anything they go on…

  • Cold Flame,
    Thanks for the suggestion – someone else said the same thing on DHT. I had no clue I could get different wheels for this chair! I think though that the problem would still happen, even with rubber wheels, so I bought some garage floor tiling to build a new floor top for my chair to sit on. I haven’t installed it yet…I’ll report back when I do.

  • Cold Flame

    I just did a quick search and found this:

    Caster: The option of one of three different casters is available for the Aeron chair to adapt to any style flooring. The casters choice is a standard caster, deep-carpet caster or hardwood caster. A standard caster works perfectly with most low pile office carpets and have a wheel that is 2 ½ inches in diameter. The deep-carpet casters have a larger wheel of 3 inches in diameter to help prevent snags and to move better across their thicker carpets. Hardwood casters have a thin rubber coating on the wheels that gives excellent traction on hardwood and non-carpeted floors, as well as prevents damage to the floors.

    You’d be very surprised how much of a difference they would make. I have a few chairs at work that have rubber wheels/casters, and it’s amazing how much smoother they are to move around. They don’t seem to catch on anything, and because the rubber has it’s own “give”, it might just solve the problem.

    The garage tiling will likely also work… Definitely let us know the outcome.

  • mrozema

    Funny, I was going to suggest the same thing about casters designed for hardwood flooring. I remember my Ikea chair (http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/S19817087) had an option to buy different caster types.

    The garage floor tiling you found is flat? I took a very quick look around and only found stuff with that aluminum checked pattern. Not so good for the office chair 😉

  • I emailed a company out of Victoria about getting the softer wheels – but here’s the thing; it’s too risky to switch out the wheels and HOPE that it works. Because if it doesn’t, and the floor chips, I have no more spare boards to replace them…not would I want to re-do all the work I’ve just done. So that’s why the added flooring is a must-do. I’ve installed the garage tiles – they’re plastic and have slightly raised bumps on them, but I can still roll around pretty easily. Amazingly, my floor chipped again when I was installing them. I’m thinking I picked the worst flooring ever made.

  • Cold Flame

    To be honest Jason, even with the raised bumps on the garage tiles, the rubber wheels that the hardwood casters offer will make it more comfortable rolling over those anyway. I absolutely HATE plastic wheels on chairs, even when it is on a carpeted surface and would much rather have rubber casters given the option to choose.

    One day when I can afford an Aeron chair for myself, I will accept no less than to have the hardwood casters put on, at any cost to me. Money well spent in my opinion!

  • I ordered the rubber wheels…so we’ll see if they help. 🙂

  • The garage floor tiling you found is flat? I took a very quick look around and only found stuff with that aluminum checked pattern. Not so good for the office chair