Laminate flooring was a cheap choice until it became famous for its hardwood-looking surface. Right now, it’s one of the premium options for upscale households, joining the likes of hardwood, ceramic, and marble. It looks and behaves like vinyl on the top and has the floating nature every DIY enthusiast finds golden. Laminate planks are also affordable as it’s made of pressed wood. The photo-realistic sheet of wood grain is placed on top. A durable layer of clear plastic seals the surface afterward.
When it comes to the aesthetic department, laminate flooring can match hardwood. The top grain layer looks authentic and expensive. It also becomes waterproof if seamed well. It can withstand a fair share of battering from daily household activities. Although it bears the tongue-and-groove structure, it will need some skills to perfect.
Before performing an installation, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Laminate flooring installation tips
- Seal planks placed near water sensitive areas. The likes of bathrooms and laundry areas are a few examples. A waterproof glue can seal the tongue and groove of each plank. Failure to do this will result in the swelling of the wooden material. Such thing is the only exception as laminate planks are floating flooring.
- Before snapping one plank after the other, get a specialized woodcutter first. You will use this on the end of the rows where you need to taper the plank depending on the remaining space from the wall.
- It’s important that you remove the shoe molding if you have any before assembling the planks. Since, you’ll be leaving gaps, which will be clearer in the succeeding parts, the shoe molding will be responsible for covering.
- Always prepare the subfloor first before placing any laminate planks. The most crucial part is making the surface smooth, may it be concrete, ceramic, marble, or hardwood. This is so you’ll prevent the laminate planks from having hollow spots between the subfloor.
- Use a tapping block whenever you’re finishing a row of planks. It may seem that the tongue and groove clicked well but there would be tiny spaces left. Giving it a strong tap will close the joints.
- Rooms don’t always have proportional perimeters. Sometimes, you’ll discover that the other side of the floor is five inches narrower than the other. This will play a big factor in the cutting of the planks.
- Laminate flooring installation entails a lot of kneeling. To avoid the irritation, it’s best to wear a gel knee pad. Avoid using the one used for roofs or landscaping. The hard material would damage the surface of the planks.
- During the installation of the underlayment, always choose a tape that doesn’t produce a clicking sound when stepped on.
- Always start on the doorways where you’ll need to cut planks to fit. You have more precision on the start when your mind and body are not yet tired.
- Alternate between two rows when installing the planks. Putting one whole row before doing the other would make the process difficult. The planks may get in the way when you’re trying to snap at a certain angle.
15 steps to install laminate flooring
Once you’re ready with all the materials, you can start performing the following steps:
Step 1: Place the laminate flooring materials inside the room for at least 48 hours to let it acclimate. Laminate wood will expand and contract when exposed to different temperatures.
Step 2: Remove the baseboards and if you have shoe molding, remove it and leave the former. Use a pry bar to force the material off the wall.
Step 3: Plan the cuts ahead. No plank should be less than two inches wide to avoid chipping when the flooring is in use. If there’s any, taper the last plank and measure the remaining length up to the wall (remember the gaps on Step 8). Divide the distance by two to come up with bigger, equal pieces.
Step 4: Uneven surfaces are no-nos for laminated flooring. Make sure that you sand it or use a straight edge to check if there are dips on the floor. Don’t use any self-leveling compounds especially if your house is already old.
Step 5: Install an underlayment that will hold the laminate flooring firmly. This could be rubber or foam that will prevent any clicking sound once the floor is stepped on.
Step 6: In the case of a plywood subfloor, make sure to screw it on the joists first to remove the creaking sound.
Step 7: Assemble the first rows properly. The tongue should be on the side of the wall and the groove on the side of the installer. You should cut the tongue of the first row facing the wall but be careful not to chip the material.
Step 8: Leave a gap for expansion based on the manufacturer’s advice. This is the gap between the drywall and the first row. It will allow the flooring to expand or contract depending on the temperature. It could be 1/4 or 1/8-inch.
Step 9: Start adding planks on the second row while you alternate with the first row. Place the plank in a certain angle to snap it in without chipping any corner.
Step 10: When it comes to wall endings, cut a piece that fits to the last one. Use the off-cut piece for the next row to avoid accumulating tapered planks during the laminate flooring installation.
Step 11: Watch for debris that may get stuck on the sides of the planks after cutting. Do this before snapping the planks in as it can break the tongue if you force it in.
Step 12: After finishing the first and second row, use a cut-out of the planks as a hammering layer. This is to ensure that the flooring is tightly pressed together. You can place a tapping block before it to avoid smashing the spare material.
Step 13: Keep adding planks for the succeeding rows. After that, use the tapping block to make sure that the tongue and groove holds firmly. Place the last row in a different angle that will allow it to snap without too much effort.
Step 14: Once you finished covering the floor with the laminate wood, cut the door casings near the planks. Some cut the planks using a jigsaw to suit the casings. Yet, this would be a more difficult task. Accuracy should be achieved to ensure that it will still click perfectly to the other plank.
Step 15: Put the baseboards and moldings back if you have any. Never nail the moldings to the floor and instead attach it to the baseboard. Afterward, give the flooring a look and search for possible gaps between the planks. Clean the area once you’re done inspecting the finished project.
Precautions to be taken during laminate flooring installation
- Invest on high-density planks. This won’t get worn out fast especially if the flooring would receive too much force.
- As much as possible, avoid doing DIY installation without proper skills and preparation. It’s always best to tap the help of professionals who have the right tools for the job.
- Never insist that laminate flooring be installed on wet places like bathrooms and the laundry area. Laminate planks can only withstand a little moisture. The flooring will start to bloat if exposed to too much water.
- Professionals appreciate help from the homeowner. But if you’re not needed around, take the diligence of leaving the room where the installation is ongoing.
- Always seek installation advice to your contractor for future reference. You should ask about how long the laminated flooring would last. The installers should also inform you of the advisable period when to have it replaced. A few tips on how to keep in good condition would also matter.
- During installation, keep in mind the heavy furniture on the area. Never pull a piece of furniture once it’s placed on top of the laminate floor. Instead, lift it if you wish to transfer it to another area. Too much weight can scrape the plastic seal of the flooring. It’s best to have it removed before the flooring installation.
- If the subfloor is in bad condition, have it replaced before laying the laminate flooring. Asking the installers to proceed with the installation would be an impractical move. You’ll end up with less stable flooring.
- As much as you shouldn’t be roaming the area of installation, it’s your responsibility to keep pets away too. Pet animals can damage the flooring or leave excretion that will ruin the subfloor. It is a matter of safety as well.
- Don’t worry if the floor feels different to step on for the first time after the installation. Give it a few days to stick to the subfloor or the tongue and groove to settle. If there are sounds or drooping parts, call the attention of your contractor to have it fixed right away.
- Dealing with unlicensed flooring installers is a matter of choice. If you want a guarantee for your flooring, it’s always a good move to look for one with the right credentials.
- Make sure that you start the first rows right. This will dictate the perfection of the flooring including alignment and finesse.
- Avoid placing laminate floors under kitchen cabinets. The doors of these fixtures have to be mobile always. If you place the flooring under, the material would have damages due to scratching.
- Always seal parts exposed to wetness like those in front of the main door or bathroom. Remember that laminate flooring is made of compressed wood. It can bloat and warp when exposed to wetness. Also, focus on the areas where shoes are commonly placed.
- Don’t caulk the under part of doorjambs just to achieve a smooth and fine look. Cut the protruding sides instead. You can also cut the planks but focus on the accuracy of the measurements.
- Always measure dilation probabilities depending on the type of laminate flooring you’re working on. This is where the gaps against the wall will depend. Small rooms of about 10 x 10 in measurement can do well with a ¼-inch gap while bigger ones should be allowed half an inch.
- Like what has been mentioned above, never nail a shoe molding on the floor. If you do so, the pierced plank would move and warp. This is an unsightly condition and you would have to replace the damaged part. Keep the nailing to the baseboard or drywall as much as possible.
- In the event of defective planks, never hesitate to notify the homeowner. Never lay damaged laminate flooring; otherwise, you’ll jeopardize the project’s lifespan. Have it replaced with brand new pieces.
- Since laminate flooring is floating, tapping is the only way to ensure that it fits well. Yet, not all laminate flooring is suited to be tapped. The tongue and groove of some laminate plank types tend to crack when tapped, causing the material to lock improperly. Always read the manufacturer’s installation instructions before proceeding to the project.
- Aside from the installation itself, make sure that you check the subfloor before laying the planks. Fix unlevelled surfaces or attach wooden floors to the joist properly. You can use a grinder or sandpaper.
- Always use the right underlayment. This material sets a tiny gap between the subfloor and the planks. It adds hold and removes sounds when stepping on the flooring. Some use a foam layer or a thin layer of rubber or plywood. A combination of the two will also do.
Laminate flooring is a good option. This is as long as the installation is performed with care and with the help of experts. Keep in mind the steps mentioned above to avoid mistakes that can cause you a plank or two, or worse, the whole flooring. Always consider the quality of the flooring above anything else. With that, you’ll have a long-lasting floor to accentuate the beauty of your household. Once you’re done with every single step, you can finally enjoy the sight of your new hardwood-looking floor.