How To Install Laminate Flooring

How to install laminate flooring/courtesy of Lowe'sIf you’re looking for a project that’ll really challenge your DIY skills, try your hand at installing a laminate floor. This large-scale home improvement will give you a feeling of satisfaction and save you some cash. Here’s how to install laminate flooring.

What is laminate flooring?

Laminate flooring, invented in the 1970s, simulates the rich look of hardwood or other high-end materials, yet generally costs much less. Laminate flooring planks comprise several layers laminated together, including (in order, from bottom to top):

  • paper or plastic backing
  • inner core of medium- to high-density fiberboard and melamine resin
  • photographic image -- most frequently of wood grain
  • waterproof protective coat of transparent plastic or aluminum oxide

Laminate floor plank samples/courtesy of Lowe's

Prep for successful laminate flooring installation

Plan where to move your furniture temporarily. If you’re doing a whole-house installation, find overnight accommodation for yourself and your family. The flooring will need to be undisturbed for 24 hours after installation.

Ensure that the surface you plan to cover – whether subfloor or the old flooring material – is clean, dry, and in good shape. Level the surface, if necessary, using a cementitious leveling compound.

Complete all wet work in the room, such as concrete or paint, and allow to dry thoroughly prior to laying the floor.

Purchase 10-15 percent more flooring material than you think you’ll need, to allow for cutting and piecing, plus a few leftovers for future repairs.

Restoration Oak laminate flooring/courtesy of Lowe's

How to install laminate flooring

  1. Remove baseboards carefully so they can be reused once the laminate flooring is in place.

  2. Install underlayment, taping seams. This thin foam layer increases floor resilience, blocks moisture, and muffles noise. You’ll need a vapor barrier, too, if your underfloor is concrete.

  3. Start your installation from one edge of the room, along the wall.

  4. Position your first row of flooring planks groove side toward the wall. Snap pieces together at an angle, tapping with a mallet for a solid connection. Trim the last piece in the row to fit.

  5. Offset subsequent rows at least 12 inches, using cut pieces from previous rows.

  6. Mix planks from 3 or 4 boxes to avoid the cookie cutter repetitive look that can be a drawback of laminate flooring.

  7. Cut the long edge of the last row to conform to the wall edge.

  8. Replace baseboards.

    Install laminate floor block/courtesy of Lowe's

Expert laminate flooring tips from Lowe’s Home Improvement

  • If you’re deciding whether you should install laminate flooring yourself, consider these questions. 1) Do you have the time to complete the job based on the area you’re working with? And 2) Is the subfloor in great condition, meaning is it level and smooth? If the answer to either question is "No," then we recommend hiring a professional.

  • Before you begin your laminate flooring installation, bring the new flooring panels into the room 72 hours in advance, so the wood planks can acclimate to the room’s temperature and humidity. Stack the flooring flat in the room(s) where it is to be installed and allow it to adjust to its new environment. Acclimating reduces problems associated with moisture, like warping and fit.

  • Be sure to use wall spacers to allow room between your flooring material and the walls of the room. The laminate flooring will expand once set in place.Wall spacers for flooring installation/courtesy of Lowe's

Pros and cons of laminate flooring

Pros: Laminate floor materials and installation give you great style at an affordable price. You can choose from the huge selection of faux woods, stones, and tiles. Laminate flooring is also easy to clean, resists dents and scratches, and doesn’t discolor from sunlight. It may be installed above, on, or below grade.

Cons: The main disadvantage of laminate flooring is that once the surface wears down, it can’t be sanded and refinished like hardwood. Instead it will probably need to be replaced. Laminate also doesn’t tolerate large amounts of moisture, such as pools of standing water from a plumbing leak. Though today’s materials are much lower in VOCs than previously, some off-gassing is still likely when you install laminate floors. Ventilate well during and after installation.

Crestridge Hickory laminate flooring/courtesy of Lowe's

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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