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How to Install Laminate Flooring

Updated on June 1, 2008
Before
Before
Getting done
Getting done
Finished floor
Finished floor
Lock at an angle
Lock at an angle

One of the biggest changes you can make to a room, short of outright demolition, is to replace wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood. A wood floor will give your room a sleek yet natural appearance, a big improvement over dated broadloom. You might be surprised to learn that with the new laminate wood flooring products on the market today, this is the kind of weekend project you can do yourself.

I can't say enough good things about laminate wood floors. They are easy to install, extremely durable, basically maintenance free, and much less expensive than traditional wood flooring. It's ideal for the do-it-yourself renovator.

There are various manufacturers of laminate wood flooring, and you will likely be able to find any colour or wood grain that you would like. Anything from pale beech, to rich honey oak, to formal red cherry. There are even some that can reproduce the weathered planks of a farmhouse.

Keep in mind that flooring manufacturers tend to change their products frequently, so make sure you have enough flooring for your project. I have found myself in the awkward position of discovering a colour was discontinued, with a half-finished room at home.

The feature that makes laminate floors so easy to work with, is the tongue and groove edging. Each board locks onto the board next to it, requiring no nails, glue or staples. It's referred to as a "floating floor" because it's not actually attached to the subfloor.

Typical tools needed to install a laminate wood floor:

  • Rubber mallet
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Scrap piece of lumber
  • Circular saw or hand saw
  • Crowbar (not necessary, but handy)

An average homeowner could put a new laminate floor in a typical bedroom in only a weekend. Just one afternoon if you had a second pair of helping hands.

The basic procedure is this:

Remove any existing flooring and clean the subfloor of nails and debris, roll out a sheet of foam underlay (to cushion the floor and reduce squeaks), and then start clicking your floor boards together. The technique for this is difficult to explain, so I've included a couple of videos at the end to help illustrate.

One row of boards is laid out, hooking the ends together with the grooves. When placing the next row, the boards are hooked together at an angle, then pushed downward to snap. The easiest way to get each row together is to connect the ends first, kind of making one really long board. Then snap this together along the edge of the row already on the floor.

My photos show how I did it, one board at a time (not a whole row at a time), because I hadn't discovered that handy tip at the time.

You'll need a rubber mallet to get a tight fit, and I would suggest using a piece of scrap wood between your mallet and the floor boards to prevent scuffing.

Use your saw to shorten the boards as you reach the end of the room. Save the off-cut pieces, to start your next rows, in order to stagger the seams. That's all there is to it. A crowbar can be helpful when you're working in tight spaces near the wall, where there is no room to swing a hammer.

Now, the floor boards don't just pop together like a jigsaw puzzle. Be prepared for a little pounding to get that seamless fit. There will be diagrams on the package, to help you get the hang of locking them together. You might find the first few pieces frustrating, but you will quickly get a feel for the process.

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