How to Lay Laminate Floors
Laminate Floors are strong, attractive, easy to care for and much less expensive than real wood floors. You can get them in a variety of styles to mimic the look of most types of wood. You can install laminate floors yourself with a minimum of fuss and mess.
What Are Laminate Floors?
Laminate floors are made of a series of similar looking planks that either snap together or are glued together. These planks may look like wood or other flooring materials, but they are not. Laminate floors are made of a layer of paper and a substance called melamine. It contains a photograph of wood or other substance that the laminate floor resembles. This is covered by a hard see-through layer for protection. Unless you look at laminate floors very carefully, you can't tell that it is not real wood. Laminate floors are sturdier and easier to care for than real wood. They are also much simpler to install since they do not need to be nailed down to the floor underneath. Laminate floors are often referred to as Pergo, which is a brand name. They are made by companies like Armstrong, Benjamin Moore, Bruce Hardwood Floors, Dupont, Mannington, Sherwin William and Robbins Hardwood Floors.
What You Need To Lay Laminate Floors
You may need some or all of the following supplies to build your laminate floor. Different brands of laminate flooring require different tools and supplies.
- underlayment pad
- laminate flooring panels
- tape measure
- coping saw
- saber saw
- utility knife
- wide clear plastic tape
- rubber mallet
- baseboard nails
- quarter round molding
Buying Laminate Flooring
Measure the rooms where you will install the laminate floors. You need to know the square footage. Calculate this by multiplying the length of each room times the width of each room. Keep in mind that rooms are rarely exactly rectangular and you will need extra to accommodate alcoves, closets and hallways. It is a good idea to add a little bit more to your order just in case. It is better to have too much than too little. Buy the same amount of underlayment padding as laminate flooring. Laminate floors are made in many styles and colors. Choose carefully since you will be stuck with your choice for a long time. Ask the flooring store for swatches and take them home. Compare the samples to your walls, furnishings and window coverings.
Remove the Old Floor
You must strip the floor to its base layer for the laminate floor to lay correctly. Start by removing the baseboards around the room, if there are any. Take them off carefully if you plan to reuse them after you lay your laminate floor. If you have carpeting, yank it out along with the pad underneath. All the tack strips around the edge have to go too. Sometimes the padding sticks to the floor. Be sure to get all of it off before you lay the laminate floor or the surface will not be flat and level. If you currently have hardwood floors or tile, it is possible to lay the laminate floor on top of it. However, the existing floor may not be level and you will be raising the height of the floor by a fraction of an inch when you cover it with the laminate floor and padding. This may make it more difficult for doors to open and close.
Adjust the Room To the Height of the Laminate Floor
Calculate how high the padding and laminate floor will sit off the ground. Add this to the height of any flooring that you are planning to lay the laminate floor on top of. If this is higher than the clearance of doors in the room, they will need to be adjusted or rehung. Door jambs and case openings also need to be cut to the level of the new laminate floor. Use a coping saw to cut them, then sand them down and paint if necessary.
Laying the Underlayment Pad
Roll the underlayment pad across the floor. Cut it with a utility knife to fit it into odd spaces. Leave a small amount of space around each edge. When the laminate floor is placed on top of the underlayment pad, it will squash and expand a bit. Connect the pieces of underlayment pad with wide strips of clear plastic tape. Make sure the underlayment pad lays flat everywhere.
Preparing to Lay the Laminate Floor
Pick a wall to use as a starting point. This should be the longest and straightest wall you have. There should be no interruptions in the wall for things like fireplaces or alcoves. Pick a wall that is parallel to the direction you wish to lay the laminate floor panels. You will need to make some 1/4 inch spacers for the starting wall. This leaves a small amount of space for the floor to float and allows for expansion. Cut several pieces of wood that are 1/4 inch thick or glue together several popsicle sticks. Lay these spacers at 6 foot intervals along your starting wall. Make sure that the tops of them stick out so you can pull them out when you finish laying the laminate floor.
Laying the Laminate Floor
Start by lining up three rows of laminate flooring along your starting wall. Stagger the boards at least 8 inches for a strong and attractive pattern. Cut the ends to fit with a saber saw making sure to keep about 1/4 inch space between the laminate floor panels and the walls. When you are satisfied with the pattern and fit, start piecing the laminate floor together. Some brands of laminate flooring snap together while others require glue. Apply glue only to the edges of the laminate flooring, not the bottom. The laminate floor should not be attached to the ground underneath. Build the floor outward from the starting wall. Tap each panel gently with a rubber mallet to get a snug fit. Remember to leave about 1/4 inch space at the other end once you reach the other wall. When you are done laying the laminate floor, pull out all your 1/4 inch spacers.
Finishing the Edges of the Laminate Floor
Nail baseboards along the bottom edge of the walls all around the laminate floor. You can reuse the old baseboards if you removed them carefully, or you can use new ones. Cover the 1/4 inch gap around the edges of the laminate floor with quarter round molding. This also covers up any minor errors you made in measuring. Congratulations! You are finished laying your laminate floor.
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