Installing Laminate Floors

Sara Miller
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Time Investment: 8 - 12 hours
Cost: $500 - $1,000
Difficulty: Moderate

Laminate flooring is a multi-layer flooring product fused together with the use of heat and pressure. This flooring material is a popular choice for many residental and commercial spaces due to its lower cost, durability, ease of installation (in comparison to other flooring materials like hardwood and tile), and aesthetic appeal. In fact, many laminate flooring mimics wood and stone with a photographic applique.

Do-it-yourself laminate installation projects are straightforward and feasible for most homeowners. Installing flooring yourself allows you to cut the total project cost by not having to hire contractors. 

The key to installing laminate floors is patience. There is no need to hurry if you want to get the job done right. The popular adage, "haste makes waste" is very appropriate here; and in this case, "haste makes a mess." 

Tips for Installing Laminate Floors

  1. Plan The Layout: Before anything, plan out how you want the planks to lay on the floor. Many experts can say that beautiful installations can usually be made when planks are parallel to light and doorways. For hallways however, put the planks parallel to the walls of the hallway, regardless of where the light hits.
  2. Measure the Room: Next, measure the width of the room where you will be installing the laminate floors. By doing this, you can figure out how the wall-lined planks will end up. For example, if the last row's width will end up having a measurement of less than two inches, you might want to consider shortening the first row's width to accommodate the last row. Gauge the space’s overall square footage with an online flooring calculator
  3. Prepare Planks: Because laminate flooring is made from natural cellulose fibers, the material will expand and contract with changes in humidity and temperatures. DIY Network suggests to “acclimate the flooring in the house for 48 hours before installation.” Lay out each of the planks on the floor so that air can circulate around the laminate material.
  4. Prepare the Floors: If existing floors need to be pried out, remove all base boards and place them out of the way. Clean the subfloor so it’s free of dirt and debris. If installing new flooring on top of a new concrete floor wait until its fully cured and dried. then sweep away any debris. Next, remove trim and doors.
  5. Cutting and Sanding the Planks: If you need to cut or sand the planks, it is a good idea to do it in a room other than the one you are working in. In doing this, you will combat airborne dust that could become a hazard to your installation and the overall air quality. Also, be careful when cutting the planks as you can cause chipping. Utilize a table saw, backsaw, carbon-tipped blade power tool, or mitre saw to cut laminte planks.

    Underlayment Installation: If you are using both standard foam and moisture-proof underlayments, make sure that the moisture-proof barrier goes between the subfloor and the standard foam. If using a combo underlayment, make sure the moisture barrier faces the subfloor. Roll out the underlayment so that it fits tightly against each wall. Be sure to pull and stretch out wrinkles, trim the excess foam around the edges, and tape the seams together with duct tape.
  6. Many manufacturers include installation kits with custom spacers, pull bars, and glue. These installation kits are included to make the installation process easier. Before gluing the planks, lock them together and add spacers between the planks and walls to make room for expansion and contraction. Be sure to follow the instructions that come with the installation kit to keep your new floor's warranty valid. 
  7. Apply the Planks: Match tongue to groove, apply glue to the groove joints of each plank, and tap them with adequate force into place. Work from left to right. Make sure the pieces ars secured tightly together and that there are no gaps along the length of the planks. Wipe excess glue with a damp rag. A pull bar will help you to fit the last row tightly. Some water-based glue may cause some swelling and unevenness, but the planks will eventually configure together.

While installing subsequent rows, stagger the joints of the flooring. When starting a new row, offset it six to eight inches so the joints at the ends of planks are not lined up row to row.

Tips from the Pros

  • Keep in mind, some kits instruct you to stay off your floor for a number of days.
  • It is important to keep laminate clean to avoid dust and dirt particles scratching the surface over time.
  • Maintain a dry environment. Prolonged, sitting water causes the laminate planks to warp or swell.