How to Lay Laminate Flooring
With a wide range of beautiful styles, laminate flooring is highly durable, much more cost-effective than real wood flooring and easy to install too. The beauty of a DIY installation is that not only will it save you money on fitters fees, but it’ll give you a great sense of pride too as you let everyone know that it was all your own work! Even if you’ve never laid flooring before, laminate is the perfect place to start and learn how. Unlike ceramic tiles, laminate flooring requires no grout, mortar or adhesive making it a much easier and quicker process. And, unlike solid wood flooring which needs to be nailed down and is one of the hardest styles of flooring to install yourself, laminate simply snaps together and can be put in place with no hassle. In this guide, we’ll walk you through every step of the way, offering expert tips and advice to help you lay laminate flooring like a pro.
What You’ll Need
Here is a list of the tools, materials and safety precautions you’ll likely need to lay laminate flooring:
- Flooring spacers
- Tapping block
- Pull bar
- Hand saw or jigsaw
- Tape measure
- String line
- Safety goggles
- Knee pads
- Dust mask
How to Measure a Room for Laminate Flooring
When it comes to measuring your room for laminate flooring, you’ll need to be able to work out the area of the room in square metres. If your room is perfectly square or rectangular, then this will be a quick and simple job as the area can easily be calculated by multiplying the width and the height. For example, if a room is 5m x 2m, multiplying them together will show that you’ll need 10m2 of laminate flooring. However, most rooms aren’t perfectly square or rectangular, in which case you’ll also need to take into account any windows, alcoves, chimney breast and other nooks and crannies. Make sure you also take measurements halfway into your door frame. It may be beneficial to draw a rough sketch of the outline of your room and write all the measurements down. We’d recommend measuring your lengths two or three times so you can be sure they’re absolutely right. And, remember to also measure the back of door frames or room trims that you want the laminate to go underneath. We would also suggest adding an extra 10% to the area for waste. Once you have the area of your room, you then need to work out how many packs of laminate flooring you’ll need. The packs are usually labelled by their size in square metres. So, to work out the number of packs required, simply take your room’s area and divide it by the pack size. Then, round it up to the nearest whole number to get the total number of packs.
Preparation and Planning
Preparing your room for laminate flooring is one of the most important parts of the job and will make a huge difference in the quality and longevity of the floor. A general rule of thumb is that laminate flooring must always be laid on a level, smooth, clean and dry surface. Any existing carpet, tiles, vinyl and underlay flooring you have must first be lifted and removed. You’ll also need to make sure that there are no protruding nails or screws that could damage the laminate or make it uneven. When the original flooring has been removed, we’d recommend simply running a hoover around or sweeping up to remove any dust or dirt. If you can see any old adhesive make sure this is also removed by either scraping or sanding it off. You should also remove the skirting boards to ensure a clean, even finish and re-fit them later when the laminate is in. If you’re laying laminate on concrete, you’ll first need to put down a damp-proof membrane, or use an underlay with a built-in damp-proof membrane instead to help protect your floors. Lastly, a step that is often forgotten, you’ll need to acclimatise your laminate floor for at least 48 hours before you can install it. To do this, the product should be kept in the room where it’s going to be installed and in the boxes it arrived in. This will make a huge difference to the quality of your floor as it’ll help to stabilise moisture levels as naturally as possible. As laminate flooring is known to expand and contract with changing temperatures, causing gaps or peaks, acclimatising it and keeping a constant temperature before, during and three days after installation, can help prevent this.
Laminate Flooring Underlay
Although many may see underlay as an optional extra, it’s actually an integral part of laying laminate flooring and can completely transform the look, feel and performance of your new floor. Using the right underlay will absorb shock and noise effectively while adding comfort and acting as an insulator too, meaning you can save money on your energy bills. There are many different types of underlay available for laminate flooring, each with its own advantage. So, it’s important you do your research to find out which would be best for your needs. Thicker options offer better soundproofing which is ideal if you’re laying flooring in a room upstairs, where an underlay with a built-in DPM will protect your floor from moisture damage making it suitable for bathrooms or kitchens. The majority of people tend to choose fibreboard underlay for wood and laminate flooring as it offers great heat insulation and can cover small dents or protrusions in the subfloor. If your subfloor isn’t perfectly level, then fibreboard could be the one for you. To lay the underlay, you’ll need to make sure it covers the entire floor. This may require you to trim it in certain places for it to fit around any pipes. Lay the lengths parallel and stick them together with masking tape.
How to Install Laminate Flooring
Once the underlay has been installed, it’s time to move on to the laminate flooring. You’ll find that most laminate floorings have a click-system, making it easy to install as the boards will fit together like a puzzle piece. Before you start though, make sure you think about which direction you want the boards to lie in. Typically, they lay in the direction of the longest wall but if your subfloor is wooden then it’s likely best to lay them across the joists underneath.
- Starting at the left-hand corner of the wall where the door is, lay the first piece of laminate with the ‘tongue’ side facing the wall. This is the edge where the plank overhangs, allowing the next row to just click into place.
- When the first board is in place, move it away from the wall slightly so you can insert the flooring spacers between the board and the wall to create the expansion gap.
- Then, take the second board and line it up with the end of the first and press down to click it into position. Remember to maintain the expansion gap to the wall with the spacers to keep it consistent.
- Continue laying the boards this way until you can’t lay any more full boards. Then, check that the row is perfectly straight using a string line.
- To fill the gap at the end of the row, lay a full board down parallel to the first row and flip it over so it’s upside down with the groove edge still facing you but the other end against the wall spacer.
- Use a pencil and a ruler or a try square to mark a cutting guideline that’s parallel with the end of the previous board.
- Clamp the board in your workbench so it’s secure and then cut along the line with a jigsaw. Place the cut piece into position to complete the first row.
- To start the next row, use the offcut from the previous board if it’s at least 300mm long. If the offcut is less than 300mm then start the row with a new board sawn in half.
- Remember to put a spacer between the wall and laminate, then place the tongue edge of the new board into the groove edge of the previous row at a 20-30 degree angle and gently place it down to secure the rows.
- Line up the next board and lift it at an angle again then press it down to click it into position and repeat this until the row is complete.
- If there are any boards that don’t perfectly align, use the tapping block to push them together.
- Continue to lay your flooring using the same process and cutting boards when needed to ensure there’s enough space between the joins.
- For the last row, use the pull bar and hammer to join it with the previous row and ensure a snug fit.
- If you need to fill a gap between the board and the door, you’ll need to measure the distance between the outer edge of the architrave on either side. You’ll then need to measure the gap between the first row and the door and mark these measurements on a board to cut.
- Lay the board against the architrave and mark where exactly you need to trim the ends so the board can easily slide under it.
- With a jigsaw, cut along the guide marks then slide the first two rows of boards away from the doorway and join the pieces of boards you’ve just cut. 1
- Slide everything back into place so the leading board fits underneath the architrave perfectly.
Aftercare and Maintenance
When your flooring has been successfully installed, you’ll want to make sure it’s properly cared for and maintained so it lasts as long as possible. To prevent any damage occurring we recommend the following:
- Avoid oil, wax and polish.
- Use felt pads on furniture legs to prevent scratches and dents.
- Place good quality doormats by any doors that lead outside so they can catch any dirt or grit.
- Trim any pets’ nails so they don’t scratch the floor.
- Remove all outdoor shoes before entering.
- Avoid wearing high heels on the floor.
- Clean up any spills as quickly as possible.
Cleaning your laminate floor is an easy task but there are definitely some things you should avoid doing where possible. Here’s our list of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to cleaning laminate floors:
- Sweep or vacuum your laminate at least once a week to prevent the buildup of dirt.
- Use a soft-bristled brush to avoid damage.
- Use warm water to remove stubborn dirt.
- Mop the floor occasionally using a slightly damp mop.
- Use a steam cleaner as the high moisture can cause irreversible damage.
- Use a very wet mop, water and laminate don’t mix well.
- Clean your floor with harsh detergents such as bleach as this can discolour it.
- Use abrasive cleaning products or pads.
There’s not much we don’t know about laminate flooring here at Leaders Floors and over the years we’ve been asked many questions about it. Take a look at the most-asked questions about laminate flooring we get and discover the answers.