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wood working home>do it yourself (diy) articles>installing laminate flooring

:: INSTALLING LAMINATE FLOORING ::

Is it really that hard to install a laminate floor?  Experts would have you believe that you should leave it only to professionals and some do-it-yourself stores will tell you otherwise, that even a simpleton could do it, all you have to do is to follow the instructions.  And whilst laminate flooring is a relatively affordable flooring option at $2 psf, if you are going to spend that much time and money on a floor, you want to get it right first time.  Whilst most laminate flooring will come with a set of simple instructions, there are some added tips that you need to take note of to ensure that when you go about installing your laminate flooring, you won't be stuck with less than satisfactory results.

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:: LAMINATE FLOORING - THE DETAILS ::

There are a variety of laminate flooring options available now and not only will you have to decide on the timber floor color (or tile lookalikes too!), there are ones with bevels, ones with the underlay already attached to the underside, whether you want the hassle of glueing the boards together ot if you choose to use something with interlocking joints like Trueloc, and of course there is also the decision as to how longlasting you want it to be and the level of moisture resistance.  The more stringent your requirements, the more expensive the laminate flooring.  A thing to note about laminate floors that need to be glued - the glue joints are actually more prominent in darker floors than they are with lighter floors.

:: INSTALLATION TIP NUMBER 1 ::

Install your laminate flooring in 24 hours!  That's the claim of many laminate floor manufacturers and whilst the installation part may be true, don't expect to have the flooring delivered and then plan to install it all on the same day.  In other words, if you are going to take a day off work to start your laminate floor installation, then I would suggest you plan it 48 hours after the delivery date.  Reason being you generally need to get the floor boards into the room you are going to install it in and then take off the plastic packaging to allow the boards to adjust to the minor fluctuations in the humidity levels in the room.  That way when you do the installation, the laminate floor boards would already have had that opportunity to acclimatize.

:: INSTALLATION TIP NUMBER 2 ::

You will need to leave expansion gaps all around the edges of the room - these gaps vary from 6-12mm depending on the brand of laminate flooring you pick.  This is to allow any expansion and contraction that would occur as the weather changes, if you leave none at all, your beautiful laminate flooring will heave and buckle upwards.  You can usually get packets of small plastic spacers that work really well to keep that essential gap between the wall and the edges of the boards.  You can opt to remove the skirting boards and replace them after installing the flooring or you can leave them as is and cover the gap with beading or quad molding.  Other gaps in areas like the transitions from the laminate floor to carpet or tiled areas can be hidden with special transition pieces.  The floor needs to be able to move free of any hindrances so do not fix any part of the laminate floor to the original flooring underneath it - this includes pivots for bi-fold doors, beading.  The new floor will add about 8-14mm to the height of the floor (depending on the brand you use) - this means you may have to plane down doors as necessary to allow clearance space.

:: INSTALLATION TIP NUMBER 3 ::

Plan the layout of the floor first before you start.  As a general rule of thumb, most laminate flooring is installed lengthwise in accordance to where the light hits the room ie parrallel to the rays of light from a window.  However, if you have a long room, it's probably easiest to run the boards lengthwise across the room so you won't have to do as many cuts.  Take a look at your room, measure out and try to map out in your mind (or draw a rough sketch on paper) where possible bad angles are, areas of high traffic and high visibility zones - these are areas you want to avoid finishing with thin pieces of laminate flooring (by the way, these need to be at least 50mm or 2inches wide so do your math well at the start - you may need to saw off 25mm or 1inch of the first row to achieve this).  If you have architraves and jams for doors to deal with, undercut these to allow the boards to slip under them.  You will need a handsaw, utility knife, a sharp chisel and loads of patience.  Once you've got the clearance sorted out (including the underlayment), slip these board pieces in first - you will NEVER get them in if you leave them last.

:: INSTALLATION TIP NUMBER 4 ::

Examine your laminate floor boards carefully - reject ones with chips and nicks.  You may think that it's just a little nick and decide to use it anyway but believe me that little nick will look glaringly large against the rest of the floor!  So either reject the board or if it's on the corner, then you may opt to saw it off and use it as an end piece.

:: INSTALLATION TIP NUMBER 5 ::

Test your cutting methods - use eye, hearing and breathing equipment when cutting your laminate flooring.  If you are using a circular saw, you generally have to cut from the back.  If you are using a jigsaw, cut from the front of the board - use a fine blade (with at least 18 teeth per inch or 25mm) which cuts on the down stroke.

:: INSTALLATION TIP NUMBER 6 ::

Measure out and ensure that you get the first rows parallel to adjoining walls.  If you start off at an angle (no matter how slight), you will finish at an angle - which may not look bad at first but will amplify as you work continues.  A chalk line on the floor at regular intervals will make sure you are keeping on the straight and narrow.  Start with the first 3 rows (dry installing ie no glue) staggering the joins by at least 8inches or 200mm.  This is probably the most important step in successfully installing a laminate floor.  After you are happy with it and the joins work out, you can start to glue and wedge the first 3 rows together tightly and allow the glue to dry for an hour.  Bracing the 3 rows with lengths of timber wedged up against an adjoining wall.  If you are using interlocking laminate flooring, you can skip this bit.  Lay out the rest of the flooring, add the finishing touches ie the beading, skirting boards, transition pieces, fit the doors back into place and there you have it - perfect laminate flooring installation.

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