Preparing for Laminate Flooring Installation

You’ve researched flooring options, shopped around, and finally made a purchase decision. Now the next step: get prepared for your flooring installation. Installing laminate floors is much easier to than most other flooring types because of its mechanical locking system and ability to “float” floors on top of virtually any surface. But, it still does not mean that you can go ahead and move ahead without proper preparation.

Laminate installation preparation is important because it saves you the effort of repeating steps due to mistakes and miscalculations, while all the while saving wasted time or money. We have listed a few laminate installation preparation steps for pre- and post-installation:

Prior to Installation

  1. Plan the Design
    Plan out any layout and design decisions before starting to work. Any abrupt or sudden changes madee may cost you time and money, so make those decisions sooner rather than later.
  2. Remove All Furniture
    Remove all furniture from the area where the flooring installation will take place. Make sure to empty the contents of bookshelves, trunks, and cabinets prior to moving.
  3. Remove Baseboards, Moldings, Trim, and Door Frames
    Moldings and baseboards should be removed prior to laminate installation. The tongue and groove laminate planks are easy to finesse together onto the open areas of the room, but special considerations needed to be made around doors and walls. To remove baseboard, simply take a pry bar or the backside of a hammer and gently pull to disconnect from existing wall. To remove doorframes, use a handsaw and a plank turned upside down.
  4. Make Sure the Ground is Even
    Most manufacturers recommend that the floor be flat to within 3/16” in a 10-foot radius, according to the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA). To make sure that the ground that you are installing the laminate on is flat, use a leveling laser (¼” scale marked on the face). You can also use a spacer.

    To level out high spots, NALFA suggests sanding or grinding the high spots of the floor. To fill in low spots, use patching compounds that are intended for this use.
  5. Check for Lemons
    Examine each floor plank for grade, color, finish, quality and defects. Always order more planks than what you measure for, as its possible that there’s one plank  in package with some sort of defect.
  6. Acclimate the Planks
    Once laminate flooring arrives, expose the planks to the area where you will put them for 48 hours before installing them to let them adjust to the climate. Keep the room at least 65°F (15°C), with floor surface temperature around 60°F. Also, indoor humidity should be maintained between 45 to 65 percent during the pre- and day-of installation process.
  7. Radiator and Heating System Mindfullness
    If installing laminate flooring over heating systems, make sure to follow the directions from the manufacturer of your radiant heating system. Concrete floors with radiant heating systems must be cured for at least six weeks prior to installation. Remember that the heating system must be turned on two weeks before the installation. Two days before the installation turn the system off for until two days after installation is complete.

Installation Day Preparation

  1. Subfloor Preparation
    Though laminate floors are known for their ability to be installed above almost any type of flooring, you must make sure the current sub-floor meets the requirements for installing laminate flooring.
    • Make sure that the area where you are installing the laminate planks are smooth, dry, and clean. Sweep, vacuum (for ideal use use a dry vac) to ensure there are no loose materials.
    • The floor must be devoid of defects such as loose boards or squeaks. If this happens, secure them using screws.
    • If installing over concrete floors, make sure that the concrete floor is fully cured and dry. For installing over wooden sub-floors, moisture content must be 12 percent or less. Also, for a more stable installation, install the laminate floor planks perpendicular to the wooden sub-floor planks. If installing over vinyl, secure the vinyl first by stapling it to the sub-floor.
  2. Make Appropriate Safety Precautions
    Be sure to work with puncture-protection gloves, safety goggles, and a facemask. Particles and chemicals suspended in the air may make breathing and opening your eyes a bit hard later on.
    • Since you will be handling sawdust throughout the installation process, remember that it is very flammable especially since it is mixed with aluminum oxide. Keep heat sources away from the room you will be working on and do not smoke while working.
    • Search out an "escape zone." An escape zone is an uncontaminated place where you can breathe fresh air, treat your wounds, and wash your hands, face, or eyes if needed. A bathroom is usually a good escape zone.

Post-Installation

  1. Air on the Healthy Side
    If you are sensitive to dust and odors, good ventilation should be established for 48 to 72 hours after installation. Be in the know by having a plan.
  2. Reinstalling/ Touching Up Trim
    Baseboards, trim, and woodwork that were removed during the installation process need to be reapplied. Re-secure with nail gun or a finish nailer. Painted baseboards and woodwork may need patching or paint retouching post-installation.

Following these laminate installation preparation steps will help to ensure a smooth laminate installation process.

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