Installing laminate flooring is a satisfying home remodeling project that average homeowners can do themselves, often completing a room within a single day -- or less, depending on the type of product being installed. Do-it-yourselfers now have three choices when purchasing laminate flooring:
- Traditional planks that need to be glued together according to the manufacturers' specifications. This technique ensures a very secure bond, takes the most time and requires extra time for cleanup.
- Pre-glued planks that have a water-activated glue applied to them. You moisten the glue areas before setting the plank in place.
- Glueless flooring is held in place by different types of locking/interlocking features attached to the underside of the planks. Contemporary glueless brands end up being just as secure as the traditional laminate flooring but the purchase price is often higher
In the end, your choice may depend on your budget, your time available and your personal preference. Some do-it-yourselfers like the challenge of installing flooring with glue. On the other hand, if you choose a glueless variety, there will be no cleanup and you can begin using the floor the second the final board snaps into place!
- Remove the flooring from packaging and allow it to sit for a day or two in the room where it will be installed, so it can acclimate to the temperature/humidity levels in that area.
- Remove any baseboards or wall/floor molding around the room. At doorframes, lay a plank on the subfloor up against the door jambs and use it to draw a line across them. Then cut the door jambs along that line so that your installed floor will fit nicely underneath it.
- Clean the subfloor thoroughly – sweep and or vacuum to make sure there is no dirt or debris
- If you’re installing below grade or over concrete, and you’re putting in a vapor barrier, do that according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- After that, you will also put down a separate underlayment of cork, foam or similar product to cushion the floor and absorb sound, unless your flooring comes with that underlayment attached
- All laminate flooring is installed as a "floating" floor – so you are putting it down over your existing surface, and it is not being glued down or attached in any way to the existing surface.
- Planks are typically installed parallel to the longest wall.
- As you fit together your flooring, you must remember not to butt it up tightly against walls - leave a small gap along all walls by inserting a spacer to allow for any expansion caused by changes in humidity and heat. You’ll remove the spacers and cover the gap with baseboard molding once all planks or tiles have been installed.
- Laminate flooring planks (or tiles) come with locking tongue-and-groove designs so they fit perfectly together. If they seem difficult to join, DO NOT strike the edges with anything; if you must tap them together, lay a protective board along the edge and tap that.
- Note: Planks can be a extremely difficult to lock together if your subfloor is uneven. Pounding on a plank during installation to force tongues and grooves together may damage the plank's tongues or grooves and make it impossible to get a tightly fitting joint.
- As you install each row, stagger the joints of the flooring; i.e., offset where you start six to eight inches so the joints at the ends of planks or tiles are not lined up row to row. If joints/ends are all in a row, the look will be too uniform AND the joints will be weaker.
- Once all planks or tiles have been installed and you are satisfied with the appearance, you can put baseboards back or put them in if there were none; or you can just use some quarter round or other molding to cover the expansion gaps.
- All manufacturers provide detailed instructions to make the job go smoothly. Make sure to follow those instructions closely, or you may void your product warranty.