How to Install a Laminate Floor

Keep it simple and straightforward with these step-by-step instructions.

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Laminate Flooring With Boxes

Laminate flooring is composed of an inner core and an outer layer of wood or plastic veneer that can simulate wood, marble or granite. You can install it on top of an existing floor as long as the floor is flat and solid. The underlayment will compensate for irregularities and help keep the floor quiet. Underlayment, which also cushions the laminate flooring to make it more comfortable to walk on, comes in large rolls or as separate pieces that can be taped together.

If you plan to cover an entire floor, keep the edges ¼-inch from all walls to allow for expansion and contraction. You can hide the exposed edges with trim or molding. When measuring the area you plan to cover, add an extra 10 percent to allow for waste. And remember to check any door clearances before you install laminate flooring on top of an existing floor.

Before installation, store the flooring in the room where it will be installed for at least 48 hours to acclimate it to the environment. This will help prevent the flooring from accumulating moisture, and it will reduce expansion and contraction during installation.

Materials and Tools:

straightedge
measuring tape
pencil
marker
speed square
scissors
hammer
coping saw
circular saw with fine-tooth blade
safety goggles
clamps
laminate flooring
underlayment

Steps:

1. Remove the shoe molding from around the baseboard. Remove any doors from the area to be covered. Place a piece of underlayment and laminate flooring next to the doorjamb, mark the height of the flooring and cut out the desired area of the frame with a handsaw.

2. Install the floor underlayment. Make sure the edges don't overlap, and tape the pieces together to prevent them from shifting. Create an expansion gap between the underlayment and the walls by using spacers. If you're placing a laminate floor on top of a concrete slab, apply a polyethylene plastic vapor barrier before installing the underlayment.

3. Choose your beginning wall (the wall where you'll start installing the new floor), which should be more visible than your ending wall. Plan your installation so that any irregularities in the ending wall will be hidden by appliances or furniture and so the focal point of the room is emphasized. The planks along the edges should be at least 2 inches wide. Check your measurements before you begin to make sure the planks along your ending wall won't be too narrow.

4. Check for damage on each plank before installation. Individual planks can be difficult to remove after they're set in place.

5. Dry-fit the first three rows of planks. If your beginning wall is uneven or has contours, you'll need to trace a pattern in order to cut the laminate flooring to size. This will help keep the rest of the floor square. If your beginning wall isn't parallel to your ending wall, you can make a few cuts to compensate. When you're finished, the irregularity probably won't show.

6. When you're ready to install the floor, apply glue to the edges of each plank. Glue all the way along the long and short edges. Slide the plank into position, and use a tapping block to make the joints as tight as possible. Don't strike the tongue of the plank with the hammer; you could damage it. After installing the first three rows, allow them to dry for an hour before you install the remaining planks.

7. When you get to the end of a run and need to make a cut, you may be able to use a scrap piece of flooring. If you have to cut an irregular angle, measure the short and long sides and the point at which the angle begins. Transfer the measurements to the back of the plank, and use a saber saw to make the cuts.

8. Stagger the joints within each run so that they're at least 8 inches from the joints of the preceding run. As you get to the ends of the runs, use a pry bar to tighten the joints. You can also use a strap clamp to hold the planks in place as the glue dries.

9. Measure each wall and cut quarter-round shoe molding to length. Use a miter saw to make 45-degree cuts for inside and outside corners. Cover the expansion gap around the edge of the flooring by nailing the shoe molding into place, making sure you don't nail through the laminate flooring. You may want to use a pneumatic nailer to speed up the process. The quarter-round will add a finished look to the floor and help hide irregularities.

10. Use a reducer strip to make a visual transition between the laminate floor and the adjacent floor covering.

11. Cut the metal mounting strip to the appropriate length and secure it to the floor with screws. Cut the reducer strip to length and snap it into the mounting strip.

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