How to Install Laminate Flooring

How to Install Laminate FlooringLaminate flooring is increasingly popular due to its durability, variety of colors and styles and ease of maintenance. Laminate flooring is made of pressed wood fiberboard overlaid with a material resembling wood and covered with a long-wearing coating. It is usually less expensive than hardwood flooring, easier to install and requires less preparation of the existing floor. Read on to learn how to install laminate flooring.

Determine Floorboard and Underlayment Needs

Foam underlayment is necessary for its cushioning and sound-muffling properties. To determine your needs for both underlayment and laminate flooring, multiply the width of the room by the length to determine square footage. Add 10 to 20 percent to the total square footage to ensure you have enough to accommodate mistakes, waste and provide spare material in case of future damage to the planks.

What You’ll Need

Laminate flooring
Foam underlayment
Six-mill plastic sheeting for installation over concrete
Laminate installation kit containing tapping block, pull bar and spacers
Duct tape
Rubber mallet
Miter saw
Jigsaw
Coping saw
Crowbar
Transition strips

Preparation

Before installing laminate floor planks, open up the boxes and leave them for a couple of days to allow the laminate to acclimate to the conditions of your home. Failing to do so could cause the flooring to buckle.
Remove furniture, and use a crowbar to gently remove baseboards. Pull up carpet and padding if you have it, and remove all tack strips from the room’s perimeter. Level any substantial dips, and vacuum the floor well. New concrete floors must be completely cured before installing laminate flooring.
Lay out the flooring before installation to see how it will look and to check that you have sufficient material. Remember to take into account closet areas.

Installation

If you have a concrete floor, roll out plastic sheeting to cover the floor, and tape together with duct tape. You may wish to eliminate this step by buying a foam underlayment with a built-in vapor barrier. Some types of laminate planks come with attached underlayment.
Roll out the vapor barrier row by row, beginning at the longest wall. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to determine whether to overlap the barrier or butt the rows against each other.
Place a piece of the laminate flat on the floor and next to the door jambs. Use this piece to mark a point on the jambs that will accommodate the height of the new flooring.
Cut the jambs with a coping saw, taking care to make the cut parallel to the floor.
Your flooring will look best if you lay the boards parallel to the room’s longest wall. Place the initial plank with the groove-side facing the wall. Place ½- inch spacers next to the wall, and press the first plank firmly against them. The spacers will make a gap to allow for expansion and contraction of the flooring. Place one spacer every 12 inches down the length of the wall and at the ends of boards meeting adjoining walls.
Place tongue to groove for each plank, and tap into place, ensuring that no gaps appear between the planks. Cut the last board in the row with the miter saw. A jigsaw is handy for cutting around corners.
To create an attractive look, stagger the joints in each following row. Offset the beginning of each new row by six inches.
Use the mallet and pull bar to tap the rows together so that they fit snugly. When laying the last row of planks, measure each plank for width. Rooms are hardly ever perfectly square, so each plank may require custom-cutting to fit. Use the ½- inch spacers as you did when laying your first row.
Install transition strips where laminate flooring meets carpet, tile or hardwood floors.
Remove the spacers, and reinstall baseboard with finish nails, taking care to fasten the baseboards to the wall rather than the floor. The flooring must be allowed to expand and contract with humidity changes.
Let the floor settle for one full day.

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