How to Install Laminate Flooring
Time Required: Over 1 day
Most DIYers can install an entire room with laminate flooring in one day. Planks can be cut with a hand saw or circular saw, and most laminate flooring comes in planks that simply snap together with a tongue-and-groove system.
Laminate can be installed in almost every room in your home since it doesn’t have to be glued down. For additional information, download our PDF, and read below for instructions on how to install laminate flooring.
Tip: An underlayment is required before laying planks. Some laminate flooring options comes with an underlayment already attached. If the product you selected doesn't, roll out a layer of it separately as you go.
- After removing the existing flooring and quarter-round moulding, check that the subfloor is solid, flat and clean. Fix concrete subfloors with a patching compound, and for wood floors, remove protruding nails and replace any damaged boards.
- If you are installing the flooring below grade or in a room with high humidity or moisture, like a bathroom or laundry room, lay down a vapor barrier before you install the flooring.
- 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.
Tip: 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.
- 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.
- If needed, take a plank of flooring and a section of the underlayment and lay it finished side down next to the door’s moulding. This will show you how high up you need to cut the moulding.
- Trace a guide line along the surface of the moulding with a pencil.
- Use a jamb saw to make this cut. You can rent jamb saws at your local Home Depot Tool Rental Center.
- 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. 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. Don’t forget to allow for the 3/8-inch gaps along both walls.
- Before cutting the planks, check the cutting instructions for your particular flooring product.
- You can cut the planks using a table saw, miter saw, circular saw or hand saw.
- Typically, you will cut with the finished side up. Use duct tape to mark the plank more easily and reduce splintering.
Tip: Use a finishing blade for the cleanest cut. But don’t worry, moulding will cover all the cut edges when the project is complete. Use clamps to help hold the planks steady while cutting.
- If your laminate product didn’t come with an attached underlayment, roll out two rows of the underlayment and trim it to size with a utility knife.
- The underlayment should meet but not overlap, as 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 one 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 look. 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 is susceptible to water damage, make sure there are no gaps between 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 one 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 and install a matching threshold and quarter-round moulding to the walls using finishing nails.