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Installing Hardwood Laminate Flooring for Beginners

Updated on March 9, 2016

I’m going to take you through the steps necessary to lay hardwood laminate flooring for beginners. In fact this also applies to bamboo or cork laminate flooring as well. Installing cheap bamboo laminate flooring will cost you less but I just love the look of hardwood. If you’re reading this, you have either decided to go ahead with hardwood laminate flooring or you are still looking at your options and are reading this to see how hard it is to lay hardwood laminate flooring for beginners and to determine if you can do it. Rest easy – it’s not that hard – I’ll explain exactly how it’s done and where the pitfalls are. Ok lets get started.

1. Visiting Your Hardwood Laminate Flooring Outlet

You firstly need to measure exactly how much hardwood laminate flooring you will need. Just multiply the width by the length of each room to give you the area. Your hardwood laminate flooring retailer will most likely sell the floor boards in packs of e.g. 10. Get as many as you need to cover the area of floor you have measured and then an extra pack or two. I guarantee that like me, the first time you lay hardwood laminate flooring, you will make mistakes and waste several boards. I think I screwed up about six boards first time around. The retailer will also be able to supply you with underlay – this can come as a felt like material or a thicker cardboard like material that is better for reducing noise and helping to take up any minor dips in the subfloor. The subfloor is the floor you are laying the hardwood laminate flooring on, and can be made of concrete, floor boards or ply as an example. If you are laying the hardwood laminate flooring on cement you will also need a plastic waterproof barrier that comes in a roll. You therefore need to get as much of the waterproof barrier and underlay as you will need based on your measurements. The retailer will also provide you with certain tools that you will need to lay the hardwood laminate flooring. These include spacers and a hammering tool. Finally, you will need to decide:

  1. Whether you are going to use a moulding around the edge of the hardwood laminate flooring against the wall or skirting boards or
  2. If the room has skirting boards, are you going to rip them off the wall, lay the hardwood laminate flooring up to the wall and then replace the skirting boards with either the ones you removed or new ones. You will find that the hardwood laminate flooring will look better using this second option, but it requires more work.

Either way, your retailer will be able to supply you with the moulding or new skirting boards at an extra cost.

2. Having a Flat Subfloor to lay your Hardwood Laminate Flooring.

You will need a completely flat sub floor. You will need to check if it’s flat over a certain length e.g. get a straight piece of wood like a broom handle, place it on the ground and see if there are any dips. The manufacturers instructions that come with the hardwood laminate flooring will tell you how much unevenness the boards can handle. The first ones I installed could handle 3mm difference over a meter length of subfloor. If you have areas that have greater dips than that recommended by the manufacturer, then you need to find a solution. It rarely happens if your subfloor is made from floor boards or ply. If is does then you need to replace that area of flooring or overlay it with another flat surface like a stronger ply. Concrete on the other hand often has large dips in it over a length of surface.

This was cetrainly the case with my first hardwood laminate flooring installation. Our solution was to hire professional builders to come in and pour another layer to even up the floor. They appeared to do a good job and we assumed the required 3 mm or less difference had been achieved. Bad mistake. We should have checked because there were still two areas of the floor where the difference was more than that. But I was optimistic and went ahead and layed the hardwood laminate flooring anyway. As can be seen from the photo below, after several weeks, the slight movement in the hardwood laminate flooring caused the boards to separate at the ends in two places resulting in small gaps. Not a calamity but annoying given this was the only imperfection in an otherwise great job. So use this as a lesson – make sure the floor is flat. What we should have done after the it had dried was to buy a levelling compound that you pour over an area of the floor where there is a dip, and it self levels to make sure the floor is level. Be careful though as many of these cannot be used if the subfloor gets damp as is the case with cement if it’s in contact with the ground.

3. Tools required for Installing Hardwood Laminate Flooring for Beginners

Hopefully, even as a beginner you will have some of the basic tools required to install hardwood laminate flooring. These include a good handsaw, measuring tape, hammer, mitre box saw or mitre drop saw. Either of these last tools allow you to cut 45 degree angles in the moulding or skirting boards when installing them against the walls over the hardwood laminate flooring. And that’s it. Not much really. Of course if you don’t have these things you can drop into your local hardware store and purchase them fairly cheaply.

4. Actually Laying the Hardwood Laminate Flooring.

The simple answer to this is follow the manufacturer instructions that come with the hardwood laminate flooring. But I’m going to give you the basic idea and a few tips along the way that will make the hardwood laminate flooring turn out better. Usually you will start with one board laid in a corner with it’s end against a wall and it’s side against the second wall. You will have spacers (talked about earlier) between the board and the wall. You will use these spacers between all the walls and the hardwood laminate flooring. This allows space for the floor to expand once you’ve laid it. The moulding or skirting boards that you will install once the hardwood laminate flooring has been layed will cover up this space between the flooring and the walls. Then take the next board and push one end against the end of the first board. Hopefully the hardwood laminate flooring you will have chosen will have some form of tongue and groove system that locks each board into the next. Continue placing boards one end against the other until you reach the opposite wall. The final board, which probably won’t fit between the last board laid and the wall, will have to be cut to size so that it can fit with enough room for a spacer between it and the wall. Now the piece that you’ve cut off will become the first piece you will lay for the next row, beginning at the end you began this row with. Hopefully, that all makes sense.
There are a couple of problems you are sure to encounter.

  1. What do you do to finish off the hardwood laminate flooring boards at a doorway that leads outside? There are several aluminium door entries that can be used to finish off the hardwood laminate flooring at a doorway leading outside. Although I have found that a simple piece of C shaped aluminium channelling works well where the boards are super glued inside the channelling and the channelling is glued to the subfloor.
  2. How do you cut hardwood laminate flooring boards so they fit around door posts inside the house? The answer is you don’t cut the floorboards out so that they fit around the door posts. I guarantee you if you do this it will look shoddy as no matter how much you try – there will always be a gap between the door post and the cut out piece of hardwood laminate flooring board. And of course you can’t use moulding or skirting on a door post. So the solution is to measure the height of the hardwood laminate flooring from the subfloor taking into consideration any underlay and mark this on the bottom of the door post. Then cut out the bottom of the door post enough that the hardwood laminate flooring can slide underneath.
  3. What do you do to connect hardwood laminate flooring boards that are running lengthways along either side of an internal doorway? The easy way is to buy some T shaped moulding from a flooring specialist and place this between the two boards. The top of the T then covers the join. Another alternative which looks better is to place a hardwood laminate flooring board on one side of the doorway and then push the other board into it from the other side of the doorway. This sometimes requires a bit of fiddling and with the tongue and groove system used by the boards that I use, I ended up having to remove the tongue off one of the boards where they met between the doorway. Note also that point number 5 above should be used with either of these methods.

Once you have laid the hardwood laminate flooring, it is time to install the moulding or skirting boards over the top to hid the gap between the flooring and the walls. This is relatively straight forward and simply requires you to measure out a length of wall and cut a piece of moulding or skirting to that length and then cutting it with a mitre saw at a 45 degree angle, allowing enough length for it to join with the next piece. The moulding or skirting can either be nailed or glued to the wall.

I hope this helps anyone who is considering installing bamboo hardwood laminate flooring.

Hardwood Laminate Flooring Images

Hardwood Laminate Flooring under the Door Post
Hardwood Laminate Flooring under the Door Post
Hardwood Laminate Flooring through a doorway
Hardwood Laminate Flooring through a doorway
Gaps between Hardwood Laminate Flooring Boards due to Uneven Subfloor
Gaps between Hardwood Laminate Flooring Boards due to Uneven Subfloor
Skirting Board installed over the Edge of Hardwood Laminate Flooring
Skirting Board installed over the Edge of Hardwood Laminate Flooring

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