Learn how to install laminate flooring on your own and save on costs (it’s easier than you may think). Empty out the room and let’s get started.
Laminate Flooring Installation Project Prep
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Before getting started, consider the following preparation steps for a finished floor so seamless, guests will think you hired a professional.
1. Remove the Baseboard (Optional)
This step is optional. In most cases, you don’t need to remove the baseboard in order to properly install laminate flooring. If removing the baseboards would create too much damage to the wall or baseboards themselves, leave them be. However, it may be beneficial if you’re planning on replacing or touching up your baseboards anyway.
2. Remove Current Flooring (Optional)
Yes, you can lay laminate flooring over existing hardwood, linoleum, and tile. Though if you want to install your new floor properly, it’s best to remove any existing flooring to ensure it’s level and secure with a proper underlayment.
3. Clean the Base Floor
Inspect the base floor and remove nails, staples, and dried glue—anything that will make the laminate planks lay unevenly.
4. Undercut the Door Jambs
Use an undercut saw to create enough space underneath the door jambs so that the new laminate planks can fit securely. If you don’t have an undercut saw, any hand saw will get the job done.
How to Install Laminate Flooring Step by Step
After allowing your laminate flooring to acclimate for 48 to 72 hours, it’s time to get started! Lay down laminate flooring like a pro by following these simple steps.
Practice the Layout
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Once the laminate floor planks are snapped in, it’s difficult (and potentially damaging) to remove them. Practice different layout schemes before actually putting the pieces together. Play with different lengths, colors, and patterns. Once you configure something you like, take a picture to use as reference.
Install the Underlayment
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Adding an underlayment is an important step. It works as a protective barrier to keep moisture, mold, and mildew from building up underneath the laminate planks. This extra layer can also help with soundproofing and insulation.
If you are installing laminate flooring over a layer of concrete (a very porous material), you will need to also install a vapor barrier between the subfloor and the underlayment. A vapor barrier will provide additional protection against moisture. Some underlayments are designed to double as a vapor barrier—be sure to do your research before making a purchase.
When installing underlayment, lay each sheet side by side, and don’t let them overlap. When you’re ready, tape along the seams, and use a utility knife to remove excess material.
Install Spacers Around the Floor (Expansion Gap)
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Laminate flooring will expand with changes in temperature and humidity. Leave a ⅜-inch gap between the outer planks and the wall to give just enough space to support that movement, preventing buckling and damage in the long run.
Aim to use two spacers for each plank. You will only need to use spacers along the walls that run parallel to the long side of the planks. Simply hold the spacers in place with painter’s tape.
No spacers? No problem. DIY your own spacers by cutting down ⅜-inch plywood pieces.
Lay Down the First Row
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Now it’s time to start laying down the first row. Once you have the desired pieces selected, cut off the tongue edge of the planks that will be touching the wall. Though some planks are scratch-resistant, you’ll want to cut all planks facedown to prevent any damage to the surface. Use a circular saw, jigsaw, or table saw to make the adjustments you need.
Install the Laminate Planks One Row at a Time
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Once the first row has been laid out, it’s time to move on to the next. Remember that you want the seams of each row to be staggered for both structural and visual purposes. To do that, use partial planks of different sizes to start each row.
You will find that the last plank of each row will have to be measured and cut to fit correctly. Make these adjustments as you go to ensure you’re getting the most precise measurements possible. Use the leftover plank to start your next row.
Most laminate flooring planks have tongue and groove edges that allow pieces to snap securely in place with each other, eliminating the need to use adhesives like glue or grout. You may need to use a draw bar or rubber mallet to make sure each plank is connected completely.
Complete the Finishing Touches
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Once the final row is completed, you can remove the spacers and install a transition strip. Transition strips are used to evenly fill the gap under a door frame or between rooms where the flooring type suddenly changes.