How to Install Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is actually quite simple to install, even for a complete amateur. If you’ve been looking to replace your flooring but balking at the cost of having to hire a craftsman in order to do so then we’ve got a guide that was made exactly for you.

Follow it carefully, and you’ll soon have a floor you can be extra proud of since you did the whole thing yourself.

Victoria, Homethods Author
Victoria

1.) Prepping the Surface

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The first thing you’ll need to do is remove whatever is on the floor in the room you’re planning on working on.

Removing carpet is relatively straightforward. Pull the baseboards, and use a razor knife to cut down deep enough that you can pull a section of it. Pull along the walls to remove the staples or glue holding it down. Roll it up and take it out.

Removing old laminate or hardwood is a bit more intensive, but pretty much anyone should be able to do it.

If you’re replacing tile, you’re in for a long demolition job. See if you can borrow a power chisel from someone, it’ll still take most of a day but it can be done relatively quickly. If you’re working by hand, make sure you have a few days where you won’t need the room.

Once you have a bare floor in front of you, you’ll need to make sure that the floor is prepared properly.

Make sure that the floor is level as well, especially if the room was previously carpeted where it doesn’t matter as much. Use a 36” or 48” level to be sure, otherwise you’re going to be looking at problems in the near future. A self-leveling compound can be applied easily to cover up minor problems.

On wooden subfloors, pound in or pull out any remaining nails or staples as well. If you opt to pull them, go over the floor with a magnet of some kind to make sure nothing remains. Nothing is more frustrating than having your new laminate flooring permanently scratiched.

Once the floor is ready, then we can get on to the installation.

2.) Getting the Laminate Ready

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Hopefully you measured the square footage before pulling the floor and won’t have to wait for your laminate flooring to arrive, but you need to get precise dimensions. You should purchase about 15% more square footage than your calculations indicate. This will account for scrap or material that gets damaged along the way.

Ideally, the floor will sit about a quarter inch back from the wall. Baseboards will cover the final part of the gap.

Cut the flooring before you get started. The less cutting you have to do on the fly, the better off you’ll be. It’s a simple task and most of the DIY-inclined should already have the tools they need in the garage or workshop.

Once you’ve got everything ready, you can move on to the underlay.

3.) Putting Down the Underlay

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While some people might opt to use plastic sheeting… don’t. Use a high-quality underlay in order to attain the best results.

If you pick the right underlay, you’ve solved a lot of issues that might crop up with moisture and other problems in the near future. The right underlayment will be resistant to mold, protect from moisture, have its own adhesive, and be thick enough to add a little bit of extra padding under the floor.

Cutting the underlayment is simple, just use a razor knife. Lay it down, you’re going to be going all the way to the walls with the matting in order to make sure the whole room is covered. Then use the adhesive backing to set it down after you pull off the cover.

You’ll still want to lay down tacks, brads, or trim nails to make sure it’s held down. Place them every six inches along each side, and maybe drive a few in the middle for good measure.

Once the underlayment is in place, the real fun begins.Putting Down the Underlay

4.) Laying the Boards

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Attaching laminate boards will be an odd task at first, but you should be able to get used to it quite quickly. The boards each have a tongue and groove side and they slide together.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It’s a little bit more complex than it seems at first but after laying down a couple of rows you should be able to get a handle on the process quite quickly. If you don’t have the tools around at all, you can actually purchase kits with everything you need but a mallet for a low price.

How easily it installs will depend on the specific boards you went with. Some brands will snap together with an amazing amount of ease, while others might require specialized tools and a mallet to put together.

In any case, a quality pull bar is going to be wanted when you get to the edges. It’ll allow you the leverage you need in order to get the boards snapped into place properly because your hands are going to have trouble fitting.

If you followed our instructions on cutting, or the advice of anyone who knows what they’re doing, then you’ll still have the short pieces needed, you should set these aside with the “long” piece from the end of each row.

You’ll use them to start the next row, in order to make sure that the boards have a pleasing, staggered look rather than running like a grid.

Begin by using a couple of small pieces or spacers from a kit in order to make sure that you have the desired spacing around the walls. Your baseboards should be thicker than any of the laminate floorboard, so this way you’ll know the gap will be hidden when you’re finished.

Lay down the first piece, placing it parallel to the longest wall is generally better looking at the end of the process. Place the entire row, ensuring that it’s tight against the spacers and running completely parallel to the wall.

Take the short end and attach it to the beginning of the first board in the row. If the flooring you’ve got is obstinate, you’ll need to use your mallet and either a scrap piece of wood or a tapping block. Truthfully, you should use the block either way in order to ensure a snug fit.

Repeat this process over and over in order to get the whole floor covered. Remember to start with the small piece from the end of the row each time. There is one caveat to that, if the small piece is shorter than six inches or so you may want to cut some different sized pieces from some of the excess you ordered.

Once you’re on the last row or two, you’re going to find out that your tapping block is pretty much useless. At this point, you’ll need the pull bar. 

Place the short end against the side of the plank facing the wall, and use the mallet to hit the larger side. Move down a couple of inches and repeat the process until you hit the end of the board and then move on and repeat.

It’ll take a few hours, at least, but someone with a little bit of skill should be able to manage laying this floor down in a few hours once they get going. Enlist a friend for help and you can get it done even faster.Laying the Boards

5.) Reinstall Baseboards

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Depending on whether you saved the baseboards from when you removed the floor, you now have a couple of options. We strongly recommend just replacing the baseboards entirely, especially in an older house.

Cut them to fit and make a 45° angle to the interior on each side in order to ensure a smug fit. The exception for this is when they’re butted against a door frame, where you’ll want to leave the end flat. With the proper angles, you’ll have almost seamless corners.

Afterwards, take a finish nailer and attach the baseboards to the wall. Don’t worry too much about it if you don’t have one, as even a cheap one will work just fine.

If you don’t want to bother with a finish nailer, use a couple of nail punches and trim nails to secure the boards.

In either case, attach the nails at six to eight inch intervals and make sure that you put the last one an inch or less from the edge. If you cut the angles properly, then you’re in good hands since they’ll wedge tight against the corners, and the nails can cover up for any minor mistakes you made with the angles.

Once the baseboards are back up… you’re done. Enjoy the rest of your day, and your newly installed floor.Keep In Mind

Conclusion

Every prospective home handyman should give installing their own flooring a shot at some point. Unlike tile or vinyl, laminate flooring is pretty much newbie proof: if you mess up, it won’t fit and you can fix it immediately. Do it yourself, save some money, and walk tall on the beautiful new floor you’ve just put in yourself.

References 

  1. http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/rooms-and-spaces/floors/how-to-install-underlayment-and-laminate-flooring
  2. http://www.homedepot.com/c/how_to_install_laminate_flooring_HT_PG_FL
  3. http://www.hgtv.com/design/decorating/design-101/how-to-install-snap-together-laminate-flooring
  4. http://www.armstrong.com/flooring/laminate-installation-guides.asp
  5. http://www.wickes.co.uk/how-to-guides/how-to-lay-laminate-flooring