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.
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 subfloor.
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.
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.
Two days before you begin work, take the packages of laminate into the room you’re 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.
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 in. into the jamb. Pop out the waste with a screwdriver or chisel.
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’ll need to trim the first plank to make the last plank wider. Use the formula in the next step to plan the cut.
Even if you don’t need to adjust the width of the final plank, cut the tongues off the planks you’ll 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, then lay out the cut using the metric tape measure.
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.
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’ll start laying flooring.
It’s easiest to assemble the first two rows when they’re 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.
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.|
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.
Because this is the first time that the rows are rigid, it’s 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.
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’re 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:
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, then join the sides.
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.
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.
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