Installing Laminate Flooring



Laminate flooring has many advantages over other flooring options, such as hardwoods, tile or stone. It's very durable, easy to clean and installs quickly. In fact, most DIYers can complete an entire room in one day. Planks can be cut with a hand saw or circular saw, so no special tools are required. Most laminate systems have planks that simply snap together with a tongue-and-groove system. 


An underlayment is required before laying the planks in place. Some laminate products come with an underlayment already attached. If the product you selected doesn't, roll out a layer of it separately as you go.


The flooring doesn't have to be glued down. The floor floats on the underlayment and is held in place by the quarter-round moulding installed on the edges. 


Its appearance is really just an image applied to the surface of the plank, so it can be manufactured to give the appearance of different hardwoods, tile and stone. It can be installed in almost every room in your home, because it can be installed over wood or concrete subfloors. 


When shopping for laminate flooring, measure the room's length and width to calculate the amount of product needed. Remember to add 10 percent to the total to allow for any waste or missed cuts. 


For additional information on laminate flooring, download our PDF.





Step 1: Preparation

After removing the existing flooring and quarter round moulding, check that the subfloor is solid, flat and clean.


For concrete subfloors use a patching compound.


For a wood subfloor be sure to remove any protruding nails and replace any damaged wood.


Some laminate flooring products come with an attached underlayment. If the product you select does not, you can buy the underlayment separately.

If you are installing the flooring below grade or in a room with high humidity or moisture like a bathroom or laundry room, you’ll need to lay down a vapor barrier before you install the flooring.


Some underlayments come with an attached vapor barrier eliminating the need to lay down two separate products. This barrier will prevent moisture from seeping into the fiber board of the flooring, which could cause it to warp.


The next step is to lay out the unopened boxes of laminate planks in the room. This will allow them to acclimate to the room’s temperature and humidity. They should acclimate for at least 48 hours.


Step 2: Prepare door jambs

It’s much easier to cut the trim around doorways than it is to cut the flooring to match the moulding’s irregular shape. Once cut, the flooring will just slip under it leaving a more finished look.


Take a plank of flooring and a section of the underlayment, if needed, and lay it finished side down next to the door’s moulding. This will show you how high up the moulding you need to cut. Trace a guide line along the surface of the moulding with a pencil.


There’s a specially designed tool that allows you to make this horizontal cut easily, called a jamb saw.

If you don’t plan to take on a project like this often and don’t care to own a jamb saw, you can rent one at your local Home Depot Tool Rental Center.

Step 3: Plan the first and last rows

For best results, install flooring parallel to the longest wall or focal point in the room.


Measure the width of the room from this wall and divide the distance by the width of the planks. This will tell you what the width of the final row of planks should be.


It’s important to allow for a 3/8-inch gap along both walls to allow for expansion of the flooring.


If the last row is going to be less than 3 1/2 inches wide, consider distributing the width needed between the first and last rows.

To calculate the width needed for the first and last row, add the width of a full plank to the width needed for the last row. Divide that number by two and cut each plank in the first and last row to that width. And don’t forget to allow for the 3/8-inch gaps along both walls.


By also trimming the first row lengthwise, these edges of the room will match.


Step 4: Cut the first and last rows

Before cutting the planks, confirm the cutting instructions for your particular flooring product.


Typically, you will cut with the finished side up. Using duct tape will allow you to mark the plank more easily and reduce splintering.


You can cut the planks using a table saw, miter saw, circular saw or hand saw. Use a finishing blade for the cleanest cut.


But don’t worry, moulding will cover all the cut edges when the project is complete. Using clamps will help hold the planks steady while cutting.


Step 5: Install the underlayment

If your particular laminate product didn’t come with an attached underlayment, you’ll need to start by rolling out two rows of the underlayment and trim it to size with a utility knife.


The underlayment should meet but not overlap.


Overlaps in the underlayment result in bumps under the flooring. Duct taping the seam will hold the underlayment in place and help maintain the vapor barrier.


Step 6: Install the first row

If the door to the room is located on one of the shorter walls, start laying the planks on the door side of the room. This will ensure you have the clean, uncut edge at the threshold.


Begin the first row of flooring by placing the planks with the tongue side facing the wall. Install the second plank next to the first by aligning the tongue into the groove and press the plank down to snap it in place.


When you come to the end of the first row, cut the length of plank needed to complete the row. When measuring, remember to allow for the 3/8-inch gap at each end.

All laminate flooring will expand and contract due to temperature and humidity fluctuations. To allow for this expansion, place 3/8-inch spacers along the wall to leave a consistent gap around the edges of the floor.

Step 7: Install the remaining rows

Use the remainder of the planks you cut at the end of row one to start the next row, as long as it’s longer than 1 foot. If it’s not, start the row with a plank cut to a length greater than 1 foot.


Start the second row where you started off the first. This will stagger the seams, which results in a more natural looking appearance. It also gives the flooring added stability.


The seams should be staggered at least 6 inches from any adjacent seam.

Hold the long side of the second row plank at an angle and feed the tongue into the groove of the installed row. Press down and snap the plank into place.


Since the fiber in laminate flooring products is susceptible to water damage, it’s important there be no gaps in the seams. Some products require you to use a tapping block to close these gaps.


Continue snapping planks into place until the row is complete, trimming the last plank to size.


Lay each row beginning with the remnant pieces longer than 1 foot from the row before, until the room is complete.


If you’re using a separate underlayment, install additional rows one row at a time as needed.


Once the laminate has been installed, remove the spacers, install a matching threshold and install matching quarter-round mouding to the walls using finishing nails.