With its affordable cost, eclectic designs and incredible durability, it’s easy to see why the world at large has embraced laminate flooring in recent years as a legitimate alternative to hardwood, vinyl and carpet.
Perhaps one of the most impressive things about laminate flooring is its flexibility. It can be installed over existing ceramic tiles, vinyl and linoleum flooring (though we would never recommend installing it over carpet) and can be an effective flooring solution in almost any room in a typical household, including the stairs. We would, however, caution against installing laminate in a bathroom, due to the fact that it’s not 100% waterproof and can be damaged by moisture.
What really draws so many homeowners with the DIY bug to laminate flooring, however, is just how easy it is to install. Calling in the professionals might be tempting, but laminate flooring installation instructions are generally quite easy to follow. You just need to make sure you’re following the right guide. So, here is a comprehensive guide to laying laminate flooring that should hopefully vindicate your decision to go it alone.
In What Direction Should I Lay My Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring should always be laid perpendicular to the room’s longest wall, as otherwise, the lines between the boards tend to have a ‘bowling alley’ effect and make the room seem smaller. With the boards running along the walls, however, it can make a room seem deeper and more imposing.
Is Laminate Flooring Easy to Install?
Due to the flexibility of the design, it’s so much easier to install laminate flooring than hardwood, carpet or even vinyl flooring. Most modern laminate flooring kits require no glues or adhesives and simply ask you to lock the pieces together as a ‘floating floor’, which means there is absolutely zero chance of you accidentally glueing yourself to your new dining room floor.
During installation, it also helps that the wood used to form laminate is that much softer than hardwood, so nine times out of teen a hand saw should be all that’s required to make sizing adjustments (unless you’re working with particularly thick laminate, in which case a circular or jigsaw might be recommended).
The real benefit of laminate flooring, however, is that it’s simple enough to install that you really can quite comfortably do it yourself as long as you take your time (forcing the boards can lead to disaster) and take it step-by-step. Speaking of which.
The Stages of Installing Laminate Flooring
In any guide to laying laminate flooring, it makes sense to start by breaking down the various stages of the installation. This way, you’ll be able to make a definitive plan of action and tick off each step as you move along your journey. Also, lists are fun!
- Gather your tools and purchase any that you might be missing (this includes any equipment like kneepads that might be used for safety purposes).
- Measure the room or rooms in which you intend to lay down your flooring. Remembering to always measure twice.
- Prepare the floor and make sure that it’s free of any dirt or detritus.
- Lay the underlay.
- Lay your new laminate floor.
Laminate Flooring Tools
They say that a poor tradesman always blames their tools, but that doesn’t mean tools are unimportant. Thankfully, the vast majority of the tools required to install laminate flooring are tools you’ll probably already have sitting in your toolbox. Tools you should probably set aside for the task include:-
Handsaw; Hammer; Tapping block; Set square; Drill; Kneepads; Tape; Goggles; Pencil or pen; Tape measure; Craft or Stanley knife; Spacers; Jigsaw or Circular saw.
It might be a relatively simple project as far as DIY installation is concerned, but putting down laminate flooring can also be dangerous if you haven’t taken proper precautions. You should always take the following into account before starting:-
- Wear goggles wherever possible – particularly when cutting wood. Rogue splinters are always attracted to eyes, after all.
- Use pads to protect your knees and take regular breaks. You might not realise quite how much damage you’re doing until it’s too late.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
How to Measure for Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring measurements are calculated quite simply as long as your room is square or rectangular – simply multiply the height by the width and you’ll get your answer. However, a room will very rarely be perfectly shaped, particularly if you’re dealing with an older property. As such there are a number of additional tips you might need to take into account.
- Draw a rough diagram of the room, complete with detailed measurements.
- So you know what you’re working with, segregate the room into smaller squares or rectangles. Add those shapes together for your final measurement, but remember to add a little extra for waste.
- Always measure at least twice and remember to measure underneath the doors and any other recesses (such as fireplaces).
- For stairs, combine the depth and the height of each and then multiply it nay the length to give you the measurements for each step.
- Laminate is often supplied in packs that tell you how many metres squared the boards inside will cover.
Does Laminate Floor Need to Acclimated?
Should laminate flooring be acclimated? Given that the wood layer of the flooring is susceptible to moisture and might expand or contract as temperatures and humidity levels change, acclimatisation is indeed an incredibly important step to consider. It is, however, mercifully simple to do. For at least two days prior to your installation, simply make sure the boards are being kept in the same room and the temperature of that room is kept consistent.
Does Laminate Flooring Need Underlay?
Underlay should not be seen as an option, but as a necessity, as it will directly impact how your laminate feels underfoot and how long it lasts. It also has the added benefit of improving noise absorption and insulation, so you might also end up saving a small fortune on your energy bills as an added bonus! Laminate flooring with underlay already attached is, of course, an option, but you might want to shop around to find the best underlay for your laminate flooring if you’re after something thicker or more substantial. Also, note that if you’re laying your laminate flooring directly onto concrete, you’ll want to put down a damp-proof membrane first or opt for an underlay that includes such a membrane.
Laminate Flooring Preparation
Laminate flooring prep is absolutely key, as if the sub-floor isn’t prepared, the flooring will not only not sit quite right but the finish might also be compromised. Aside from making sure the floor is clean and clear (more on that below), the area should also be completely dry. This is particularly relevant if you’re laying straight onto freshly poured concrete. Also, make sure any skirting boards have been removed.
How to Install Laminate Flooring
- Sweep and vacuum the floor clear of any dirt as even a tiny rogue particle could cause havoc later on.
- If your laminate doesn’t come with underlay attached, you’ll want to buy your underlay separately. Cut it to size using your Stanley knife and roll it out like you’re rolling out a red carpet for your new flooring.
- Set a border where the laminate will begin and end in the room. This is often under the middle of the door. Remember, you can fix a trim to it afterwards to help it blend in better, but you’ll need to know where to start and finish your installation before you begin, so make sure you have nailed something in place to strongly demarcate the border.
- Lay down your first board against the longest wall in the room, making sure there is at least a 10mm gap by using packers. Also, make sure it’s finished side up! This might sound like an obvious point to make, but you’d be amazed at the mistakes people can make when they’re rushing a job. Rinse and repeat until you’ve finished the row closest to the wall. Make sure that the row is parallel to the wall and do likewise with all subsequent rows.
- Before you start on row number two you’re going to need to do some cutting to make sure the next row is offset. As previously mentioned, laminate is soft enough that you should be able to cut it with a hand saw. However, a circular saw will always give you a cleaner cut (unless you’re really skilled with a saw of course). Use your set square to mark where you need to cut and make sure it’s straight then get to cutting!
- Start your second row with the board you’ve just cut and lay them all flat before sliding and clicking them into the first row. If you’ve made your cut well, it should be a remarkably straightforward process. You might, however, start to notice gaps forming between the boards where they haven’t clicked in quite tight enough. In order to ensure they are secure against moisture damage, use a hammer and a tapping block to tap those wonky boards into place.
- Continue moving along row by row, making your cuts placing your boards and clicking them into one another. Eventually, however, you might reach a point where you’ll need to fit a board around a corner. Here, you’ll need to mark on the board where it meets the corner, adding the usual 10mm to allow for the gap. Use your set square to create a line and make your cut accordingly, preferably using a jigsaw. Once it’s the perfect size – lay it down.
- Once you’re all done and the spacers have been removed from the edges of the walls, finish the floor with skirting boards and place trims in the places where the laminate meets carpet in order to help your rooms blend together. Once you’ve finished that, all that’s left to do is to step back and admire your handy work!