7 Tips for Installing Laminate Flooring

Builders and homeowners know that laminate flooring is durable, highly stain-resistant, affordable and a great DIY project.

One definite advantage is that laminate flooring can be installed using the floating-floor method — where the planks aren’t fastened down using nails or glue. This method makes the installation of laminate flooring one of the quickest and easiest floors to install.

To make the project run smoothly, be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, store the laminate floor in or near the room where you will be installing the floor. This helps the boards become acclimatized to the house and prevents warping or cracking.

Emerge2 wants to share some tips from flooring and renovation experts to help you install your laminated floor.

Tip #1: Start at the door

One of the toughest parts of installing a laminate floor is making it work around doorways. To reduce the difficulty, start your laminate flooring project on the wall with the most doorways. You’ll still have to undercut the jambs and trims but it’s a lot easier to start at a doorway than end up at one.

Tip #2: Start with a flat surface

The key to installing laminate flooring — or just about any flooring — is in the preparation of the surface underneath. Laminate floors do not work well on uneven surfaces. As a result, it’s vital to make sure that your subfloor — the surface underneath your laminate floor — is smooth and flat. The best way to do this is to crawl around with a straightedge to find any areas where the floor is an 3/16" higher or lower than the rest of the floor.

For high spots, use a belt sander with a coarse-grit belt to smooth out and flatten the floor. If the variances are extreme, you will need to rent a commercial floor sander.

For dips, use a trowel and vinyl floor patch to add height. Purchase the fast-drying floor patch if you want to lay the floor on the same day.

But here’s the key: Avoid self-leveling floor compounds, particularly if you’re installing the laminate floor in an older home. It will take a lot of self-leveling to even out an out-of-level home.

Tip #3: Install proper underlay

To install a laminate floor well, you need to install a proper underlayment — a thin, hard layer — that protects your laminate floor from moisture that can seep up from sub-floors, such as concrete. Any moisture absorbed by laminate will cause the boards to expand and warp.

Underlayments also help insulate noise, keep more consistent room temperatures and help create the smooth surface that’s required for good laminate installation.

Most underlayments are made of either cement board, wood or foam, but most flooring professionals prefer plywood. It’s cheap and easy to install. It comes in large sheets that are placed down to cover the floor, and it is easily secured into place with screws.

Tip #4: Follow the longest wall

Flooring experts suggest placing the laminate boards in the same direction as the longest dimension of the room. Not only does this help the room look longer and larger, but it reduces the number of cuts to the boards (to help them fit) and the material waste associated with these cuts.

Tip #5: Measure first and last

Before starting the installation, measure the width of the first and the very last row. Having these two rows at approximately the same widths will make the floor look more balanced and it will prevent either row from ending up less than half the width of one full plank — which can compromise the integrity of that row and the floor. When you start installing the first row, make sure the edge with the tongue faces the wall, and the grooved edges face out into the room.

Tip #6: Leave a gap

Laminate flooring expands and contracts with humidity, so it’s vital to leave a gap between the floor and the baseboard moulding. A gap of a ¼ inch is sufficient enough to allow the flooring to expand and contract and won’t cause buckling. When re-installing the shoe moulding, be sure not to nail into the floor, but into the baseboard.

Tip #7: Pay a bit extra

While cheap laminate flooring can appear to be a deal, consider paying a bit more for better quality material. The cheapest laminate has a higher chance of being defective right out of the box. Also, through usage, cheap laminate can warp, buckle and even become permanently stained. To get a better product, ask your local hardware experts for suggestions.

Also, purchase approximately 15% more laminate than you expect you will need. This will allow you to replace any boards that get damaged during the installation — this happens — and allows you to cover any potentially inaccurate measurements.

If you have any questions or need more information, feel free to visit Emerge2 for assistance. We would be happy to help you in any way we can.