Laminate flooring is a wonderful and cost-effective option for flooring because it so closely resembles hardwood and tile. Generally, it is a fairly easy to moderate “do it yourself” (DIY) project that is beneficial for a number of reasons; cleaning becomes easier with laminate hardwood flooring; it can be more aesthetically pleasing; and it can add value to a home. Laminate flooring products are also very popular in environments that need to be kept extremely free of dust and allergens that can lead to respiratory discomfort.
Here is a basic guide if you decide to move forward with the laminate flooring installation process. Please remember that this is a general guide to give an overview of the installation process. Remember to always follow the recommended installation methods provided by the flooring manufacturing when they differ from this guide.
Evaluate your current flooring
Determine whether or not you are able to put the laminate wood or laminate tile over your current flooring. Although most laminate floors are considered floating (in order to allow for expansion and contraction from temperature and humidity changes), some underlying surfaces can leave laminate floors looking uneven. There have been reports of installing wood laminate flooring over very thin carpeting, such as indoor/outdoor carpeting used on patios, however, many manufacturer’s recommend full removal of existing flooring (unless it is cement). Even thin carpeting can have areas that can cause peaks or valleys in laminate wood flooring and laminate tile flooring. For the best results, subflooring should be flat, providing a solid base for your new laminate wood flooring.
If you decide to remove old carpeting, follow these quick steps, pre-installation:
- Grab the carpeting from a corner in the room and pull from the tack strip.
- Cut a 3 foot strip with a utility knife and roll.
- Continue cutting 3 ft. strips until the carpet is removed and then proceed to remove the carpet padding with the same steps.
Prepare for installation.
- Fill any holes and level all bumps or lumps.
- Carefully remove all baseboard (if necessary). The drywall may not meet the floor in some areas. If this occurs, create a solid wall surface with a 2- to 3-inch wide facing strip of ¼“ plywood slid in between the subfloor and drywall.
- Measure the area you want to cover and add approximately 10-20 percent to account for waste (generally caused by mis-cuts). To avoid ending up with an unusually narrow board at the finish wall, measure the distance between the starting and ending walls. Divide by the width of the board. To balance the room, add the amount left over to the plank width and divide by two.
- Generally you will need to wait 24-48 hours to let the laminate flooring material acclimate to the humidity and temperature of the room. Remove any plastic wrapping material from the boxes and lay them flat on the floor with enough space around to allow for air flow. (Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines!)
- Check the height of the new floor against all doors that open into the room before you install your flooring. You don’t want to end up with another project on your hands!
Install the flooring
Keep in mind that exact laminate flooring installation may vary according to the type of laminate floors you choose.
1. There are many variations of vapor barrier and padding with vapor barrier attached. If installing on a concrete slab you will need a vapor barrier. Begin by laying the vapor barrier and/or padding one row at a time from the longest wall of the room. Joining the underlayment together varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, some will have you butt each row against the next and others will have you overlap rows. Always follow the instructions from your specific manufacturer!
2. If you choose to leave the door jambs in place you may need to trim the bottom of the jamb to allow the laminate flooring material to slide under it for a clean appearance. Lay a piece of the laminate flooring flat on the subfloor against the door jamb and use a “flat” saw or a coping saw resting on the laminate flooring to cut the door jamb, parallel to the subfloor.
3. Installation of the first row will vary depending on your specific application (room dimensions, any designs in the flooring, etc.), however it is generally thought of as a best practice to begin installing the first row parallel to the longest wall in the room. Place a laminate flooring spacer (approximately ½” thick) against the wall every 12 inches and push the first flooring plank against them. This allows for the expansion and contraction of the flooring and provides a solid base during installation. Don’t worry, these gaps will later be covered by the baseboard.
4. For each plank match the locking mechanism and lock the flooring into each adjoining plank. Note – There are many different manufacturers of laminate flooring and almost as many different locking mechanisms. Please be 100% sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the locking process. It may be necessary to use a tapping block to securely lock each plank together, again, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.
5. When installing subsequent rows you will want to stagger the joints. When installing a new row, offset it six to eight inches so the joints at the ends of the planks are not lined up row to row (which can weaken the floor and create a too-uniform look).
6. The last plank will generally need to be trimmed to fit. To mark the width of the last plank, place a laminate flooring plank directly over the next to last plank, and place another plank on top of that. Slide the top plank to the flooring spacers along the wall and mark the middle plank down the middle with a pencil. This will give you the width of the last plank. Rip cut the plank along this line and install.
7. Enjoy your new laminate flooring!