Installing New Laminate Flooring

Over the past 20 years, laminate floor technology has improved by leaps and bounds.  Today’s laminate flooring is stronger, lasts longer, is more beautiful and looks more like real hardwood flooring.  Laminate is great because it doesn’t need to be sanded, stained, finished or even nailed to the floor.  It’s also resistance to stains, fading, dents and scratches.

Available in a huge selection of colors and finishes, laminate was originally designed to appear as other materials such as wood or ceramic.  Over the years laminate flooring has also become much more favorable due to the fact that you can lay it down on top of existing flooring so removing your old flooring may be optional which can save you time and money.

Although nearly all laminate flooring planks consist of some actual wood fibers, the majority of the laminate plank material is made from resins and aluminum oxide.  The upmost layer is made from aluminum oxide because it must stand up to the harsh conditions of everyday traffic and the occasional accidental drop.  One disadvantage of laminate is that it will expand and contract with changing levels of humidity.  The fact that laminate “floats” on top of the existing flooring helps handle the expansion and contraction, but laminate is not recommended for bathrooms or laundry rooms which are areas of higher average humidity.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

Next, we will cover what you’ll need to handle your own laminate installation project.  The following is a list of tools and materials we recommend:

  • Laminate Flooring
  • Barrier Sheeting
  • Laminate Flooring Glue
  • Polyethylene Tape
  • Flooring Underlayer
  • Adhesive
  • Polyethylene Tape
  • Molding or Baseboards
  • Threshold Molding
  • Plastic Sheeting To Protect Furniture
  • Spacers
  • Safety Goggles
  • Hammer
  • Tapping Block
  • Measuring Tape
  • Gloves
  • Utility Knife
  • Pencil
  • Pull Bar
  • Square
  • Router
  • Miter Saw
  • Power Drill
  • Dividers
  • Hand Plane
  • Laminate Cleaner
  • Vinegar (White)

We recommend you consider getting a laminate floor installation kit (around $20) which will include the tapping block, spacers and pull bars which will help pull the planks of the laminate together.

PREPARING FOR INSTALLATION

Once you have all of the tools and materials to complete the job, the next step is to prepare the surfaced of the existing flooring.  The sub-flooring should be as flat as possible. If you have existing carpeting, it and its padding need to be completely removed.  If the sub-flooring is not 100% flat, you’ll need to grind/sand the high spots down to level and/or fill in the low spots with a leveling compound.  The flatter and cleaner you can make the sub-flooring installation surface, the better the job will look once completed.

After you have prepped the installation surface, next you’ll need to remove all trim and doors where you will be installing the new laminate flooring planks.  The underlayer material is very important as it is what dampens the sound of the floor and traditionally, laminate flooring is louder than hardwood.

We recommend that you purchase 10% more surface area of laminate flooring planks than the dimensions of the installation area.  If the relative humidity of the room you plan on installing laminate is greater than 45%, we recommend leaving at least a ¼ inch gap, known as an expansion zone which will allow for the planks to expand.

Also be sure to check the height of the new floor in comparison to any doors that open over the new laminate to ensure no doors touch the new higher flooring surface area.  If they do touch, you may need to trim the bottom of the door for clearance.

Depending on the laminate brand and type, it may be necessary for the planks to be left in the room where you will be installing it for a few days in order to acclimate the material allowing it to expand or contact to its most common size.  Manufactures also recommend that the room be kep at 65F degrees for 5 total days which include 2 days before installation, the day of installation and 2 days following installation.

INSTALLING THE NEW LAMINATE FLOOR

First you should set your spacers along all walls to create the expansion zone.  You will want to install your new laminate flooring starting from the left side of the room and working your way to the right wall. Lay down the first row of laminate planks along the edge of the left wall pushed up against the wall spacers.  When you get to the end of the first row, you’ll need to measure and cut the final plank to fit up against the room’s corner.

Next you’ll want to use the leftover plank you cut from the last piece of the first row as the first piece in the second row, only if it’s more than 8 inches in length.  Connect all of the planks of the second row by the short ends, then angle the row so it will slide into the groove of the first row and push it into place, connecting it completely with the first row.

After the second row is locked into place with the first row, start with a fresh plank for the 3rd row and measure/cut the last plank in row 3.  Keep repeating the process until you get to the last row.  If you’re lucky, you won’t need to cut the entire final row length wise, but the odds are very likely that you will need to adjust the width of that final row to fit.

If your type of laminate flooring required adding an underlayer that was several inches larger than the dimensions of the actual floor, you’ll need to trip the excess underlayer material to make it even with the top of the floor surface.  Next you will want to remove all spacers.  After the spacers have been removed, you can begin adding the molding.  It’s critical that the molding is only fastened to either the wall or the sub-flooring and not the new laminate flooring.  This is so the molding does not keep the laminate for expanding and contracting over time.

FINISHING AND CLEAN UP

If you have any transitions to other rooms, install T-molding in those doorways.  Often times, the manufacturer will include finishing pieces for transitioning to other flooring types.  You’ll also want to add end molding to areas where the laminate finishes at sliding doors.  Once that step is completed, you’ll want to sweep the floor clean and then clean over it with a damp mop.  If you had to use any glue or adhesive in your installation, use a clean dry towel to buff away any leftover residue.

That’s it!  You’re new laminate floor is finished and ready for years of enjoyment.  Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.