How To: Install Laminate Flooring
With the right tools and some basic skills, you can learn how to install laminate flooring this weekend.
Laminate flooring enables homeowners to get the look of wood for less, and it’s easy to install. In fact, tongue-and-groove or snap-and-click joinery makes the installation of laminate flooring ideal for the average do-it-yourselfer. If you’re at least moderately handy, own some basic tools, and are able to follow directions, then you can follow these instructions for how to install laminate flooring.
Step 1: Getting ready
Before you tear out the old flooring, make sure you have on hand the necessary tools and materials for the project, because once you begin, a trip or two to the home center will only cause stress and delays. As you measure the room to determine its square footage, plan on purchasing 10% more than strictly necessary in order to account for boards that will be cut for end fittings.
Step 2: Acclimate the new flooring
Floors shrink and expand as temperatures and humidity levels change, so at least one week prior to installation, you’ll need to begin acclimating your flooring to the conditions of your space. Lay flat or stack the boards in the room where you plan to install them. Don’t forget to remove any plastic packaging; doing so promotes air circulation, which aids in the acclimation process.
Step 3: Prepare your subfloor
Remove and store base moldings before doing anything else. Then, working from the edge of one wall, carefully start lifting up the old flooring. As you go, remove nails and staples (or tack strips, if you are pulling up carpeting). Clean up debris and inspect the surface of the subfloor for areas in need of repair. Installing over concrete? Make sure it’s completely cured and moisture-free.
Step 4: Lay the underlayment
Some laminate flooring is sold with pre-attached foam underlayment (also known as a vapor barrier). Otherwise, underlayment sold separately may be installed one strip at a time, starting with the longest wall. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on forming butt edges and sealing seams.
Step 5: Trim the door jambs
Once the underlayment is down, there’s one additional preliminary step to undertake: trimming the door jambs. To accomplish this, lay down one plank so that its edge runs along the side the jamb. Mark the board and using a hand saw, cut parallel to the floor, creating a cut-out that allows the board to fit neatly under the jamb for a clean, professional look.
Step 6: Install the flooring
Install planks parallel to the longest wall. Remember, the first plank is the most important—position it so that its groove faces the wall and is flush to a corner of the room. To allow for natural expansion and contraction, place half-inch spacers between the board and the wall at intervals of 12 inches. Once that’s done, proceed one plank at a time, matching tongues to grooves and gently tapping for a snug fit. (Avoid damaging board edges with your hammer or mallet by using a rag or tapping block to soften the impact.) For a lasting, attractive installation, be sure to stagger the end joints of adjacent boards.
Step 7: Finish up
Your last plank can be somewhat of a pain. It may be necessary to trim the board, or at least the tongue, to ensure that it’s flush. Complete the job by putting in thresholds anyplace there is a door, or wherever your laminate meets another flooring material. Last, take out the spacers you put in, then re-install your base molding. Now sit back and admire, because you now know how to install laminate flooring.
Author’s Note: Perry Miller has been a freelance writer since graduating from Missouri State University with a degree in journalism. Having worked on dozens of home renovations, Perry has completed projects from shower installation to garage rebuilds and asbestos removal. Read more at doityourself.com
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