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Installing Laminate Flooring

  Installing laminate flooring
 

Laminate flooring has many advantages: This stylish European import is quick to install, durable and easy to clean. It is ideal for installation over many existing floors including old resilient flooring and is suitable for installation over wood or concrete subfloors and basements. Laminate floors are also very versatile and can mimic a variety of materials, including wood, stone and tile. For additional information on laminate flooring, download our PDF or watch our laminate flooring video.

 

Easy to install, laminate flooring requires a reasonably flat, smooth base such as vinyl, plywood, tile or hardwood flooring (carpeting must be removed). The planks are designed to be snapped together along their interlocking edges, creating a floating floor where no nails or glue are required to secure to the sub floor.

 

The planks sit on a foam underlayment and are held in place by their own weight. This underlayment can be purchased separately or pre-attached. An additional moisture barrier is recommended for laminate installations in basements or other high moisture areas.

 

Preparation

 

• Use above or below grade. Glued planks are generally approved for use in full baths.

• Seal edges of floor if likely to get wet in kitchen.

• Cover ground or underside of joists with 6-mil plastic in crawlspaces.

• Test concrete by taping plastic patch to surface for 72 hours.

• Wood and parquet flooring installed over concrete must be removed before installation.

 

Safety

 

• Check with your building inspector before installing laminate stairways. In many areas, laminate stairs
  fail to meet code.

• Never install over any floor that has a drain or sump pump.

• Fill any depressions greater than 3/16 inches. Floor must be level within 1 inch over 6 feet.

 

Savings

 

• Always keep a few extra pieces in case damaged areas ever need replacement.

• Averaging in price from $3 to $6 per square foot installed, laminate is less than half the cost of real wood, 
  tile or stone.


WHAT YOU NEED FOR THIS JOB:

TOOLS:

MATERIALS:

 


Step 1: Install moisture underlayment

Install moiture underlayment If your laminate flooring has a pre-attached underlayment you may still need a moisture barrier if installing over concrete. Most laminate requires a sheet 6 mil thick, but use whatever your floor manufacturer recommends. Overlap the seams by 8 inches or as recommended. If your laminate does not have pre-attached underlayment you can purchase one with the required moisture barrier. Do not install a moisture barrier over a wood subfloor as this can sometimes result in mold, mildew and a warped floor.
  

Step 2: Acclimate the planks for 48 hours

Acclimate the planks for 48 hours Two days before you begin work, take the packages of laminate into the room you are flooring. Set the thermostat at a normal temperature for the time of year. Put the unopened boxes flat on the floor or stack them three or four high, log-cabin style. After 48 hours, they will have adjusted to the temperature and humidity of the room.
  

Step 3: Undercut the jambs

Undercut the jambs Instead of trying to cut flooring to fit around door moldings, installers cut away part of the jamb and slip the floor underneath. To do this, put a piece of flooring upside down on foam underlayment next to the jamb. Put a trim saw on the plank and cut at least 1/2 inch into the jamb. Pop out the waste with a screwdriver or chisel.
  

Step 4: Calculate the end-plank widths

Calculate the end-plank widths

Divide the width of the room by the width of the plank. This ensures that the last plank, which generally must be cut to width, will be at least 2 inches wide. Unless you enjoy dividing fractions by fractions, make the measurements with a metric tape measure. (You don’t have to understand metrics to do this.) If the remainder is less than 50 mm, the last plank will be less than 2 inches wide. You will need to trim the first plank to make the last plank wider.

 

Use the formula in the next step to plan the cut.

  

Step 5: Trim the first row

Trim the first row Even if you don’t need to adjust the width of the final plank, cut the tongues off the planks you may use for the first row. If you need to adjust the width or would simply like planks to be the same width at either end of the room, add the width of a plank to the width you calculated in the previous step. Again, use the metric system. Divide by 2 to get the plank width and then lay out the cut using the metric tape measure.
  

Step 6: Start the second row

Start the 2nd row Cut the first plank in the second row so the ends of the planks are offset from row to row. Cut the plank to length as directed by the manufacturer. If making the cut with a circular saw, guide the saw with a layout square, as shown here. Set the plank aside.
  

Step 7: Roll out the underlayment

Roll out the underlayment Some planks have underlayment that is already attached. Other planks require you to roll out the underlayment separately. Roll a single strip of underlayment alongside the wall where you could start laying flooring.
  

Step 8: Install the first plank

Install the first plank It is easiest to assemble the first two rows when they are a couple of feet away from the starting wall and then slide them into place. Start with a full-length plank (tongue removed in Step 5) with the groove facing into the room. Snap the tongue of the piece you cut to length in Step 6 into the groove in the edge of the first plank.
  

Step 9: Begin snapping the planks

Begin snapping the planks

Snap the third plank into the end of the first plank. Put down a fourth plank, snapping the end into the end of the second plank and leaving a slight gap between the long edges of the two planks. Kneel on the first plank to hold it in place while you work. Lift the edge of the third plank about 1 inch off the floor. Pull the plank towards you, while pushing down on the first plank right next to the seam. The planks should snap together. Repeat on the next two planks.

 

CLOSER LOOK: The right fit

 

Different brands of flooring fit together differently, so follow the directions that come with the flooring you buy. For the brand shown here, put the tongue into the groove, with the groove plank flat on the floor and angle up the edge of the other plank. Press the plank flat to snap the pieces together. The pieces snap together on both the ends.

  

Step 10: Continue installing the floor

Continue installing the floor Continue laying the first two rows across the length of the room. When you get to the last plank, put a spacer against the wall and cut a plank to fit in the opening. Put the plank in place, then snap it into the end groove, as shown, using a hammer and pull bar (made by the manufacturer). Slide the assembled rows against the starting wall.
  

Step 11: Scribe the wall contour

Scribe the wall contour Because this is the first time that the rows are rigid, it is also the first time you can see how the first row fits against the wall. If the gap between the wall and the planks is wider than the expansion gap, scribe the wall contour on the planks in the first row. Do this by setting a compass to the dimension of the largest gap, plus about 1/2 inch. Guide the compass along the wall to mark the planks.
  

Step 12: Cut the planks

Cut the planks

To cut along the line, disassemble the rows, following the manufacturer’s directions. Number the bottom of the boards in the first row so that you can reassemble them in the same order. Cut along the scribed line using a jigsaw with a laminate blade, which is designed to minimize chipping. Reassemble the rows when you are done cutting.

 

WORK SMARTER: Making the cut

 

Laminate flooring chips easily. Making a cut with a minimum of chipping depends on the tool you choose:


Jigsaw: Cut on good side of board. Use a laminate blade (designed to minimize chipping).


Circular saw: Cut with good side down and saw riding on floor-side surface. Can cause chipping on top surface.
 

Table saw: Cut with good side up. Can cause chipping on surface against the table.

  

Step 13: Start the third row

Start the 3rd row Once the first two rows are in place, begin the third row. Cut a plank to length so the end falls at least 8 inches from the end of its neighbor in the second row. Put a spacer against the wall, put the plank against the spacer and snap the plank into the edge of the second row. Work your way across the room, laying a single row. Snap the ends of the planks together first and then join the sides.
 

Step 14: Snug the gaps

Snug the gaps If you see a gap anywhere along the edges, close it by tapping the edge with a hammer and block. When you reach the end of a row, cut plank to fit and put it in place against a spacer as before. Work your way across the room, installing one row at a time. Unroll additional underlayment as you need it. Butt underlayment seams, but never overlap them. Tape the seams if recommended by the manufacturer.
 

Step 15: Trim the final row

Trim the final row Trim the final row to fit. Start by assembling a row directly on top of the row just laid. Take a piece of scrap and if the bottom lip of the flooring is wider than the top lip, break off the bottom lip. Hold the scrap against the wall, put a marker against the opposite edge and pull the scrap and marker along the wall to mark the planks. Trim the planks with a jigsaw. Caulk the edge with silicone caulk.