How to Install Laminate Flooring

Wondering how to install laminate flooring? You're not alone. Laminate flooring has become one of the most popular options for DIY homeowners looking for an inexpensive, easy to install alternative to traditional wood flooring. And no wonder-laminate flooring is durable and comes in a wide range of colors and styles.

How To Install Laminate Flooring And Get It Right

Laminate flooring is typically installed as a "floating" floor, meaning the individual panels connect to each other, but not to the walls or subfloor. The tongue and groove design of the panels holds them together, and the baseboards hide the unsecured edges. Here's how to put it all together:

  • Before you begin. Stack the boxes of laminate flooring in the room where they'll be installed at least 48 hours prior to installation. This will give the material time to acclimate, helping to guard against contraction or expansion during installation.
  • What you'll need. Beyond the flooring and underlayment material, you'll need: packing-type adhesive tape, hammer, ¼" wooden spacers, pry bar, tapping block, tape measure, and a power saw with fine-toothed blade.
  • Rip out, clean up. Remove any existing flooring and carefully remove baseboard molding for future re-use. Clean the subfloor to remove all debris and dust.
  • Install underlayment. Roll out sheets of the underlayment material to cover the subfloor. Use tape to seal seams between sheets. Some manufacturers call for butting the seams together and others call for overlaying the seams-check your documentation. If you're installing on a concrete subfloor, you'll need to put a moisture barrier down first.
  • Adjust doorjambs. For any doors in the room, lay a piece of flooring down and mark the doorjambs where there's overlap. Cut away the overlapping section of doorjamb with a flat saw.
  • The first row. Lay the first row of flooring parallel to the longest wall in the room. Use ¼" spacers between the flooring and the wall-don't worry, the baseboard will cover the gap. Cut laminate flooring to fit using a saw. If you're using a circular saw, cut the flooring with the finished side down. If you're using a handsaw, cut it with the finished side up.
  • Continue installation. For each section of flooring in the following rows, line the groove in the side of the section with the tongue of the previous section. Press the too sections together and press down. The flooring pieces will make a clicking noise as they lock into place. You may need to tap gently with a hammer to get pieces to lock together-use a tapping block or scrap of flooring to protect the flooring from damage.
  • Stagger the rows. Offset the size of each row as you progress across the room. If the sections come in different lengths, be sure to stagger the different sizes. If not, cut sections of flooring into 1/3 and 2/3 of their original length and use the smaller pieces to offset the rows.
  • The final row. The final row of flooring will have to be trimmed along its length to fit. Lay each piece over the previous row and measure the amount of trim. Make sure to leave a ¼" gap and to trim from the tongue-side so the groove will be left on the finished piece.
  • Clean up. After installation is complete, remove all spacers and replace the baseboard trim and any door thresholds.
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