Here’s a laminate flooring guide for the do-it-yourself person.
1. Measure the Room
Measure the rooms you are going to floor to see how much flooring you will need. Add 10 percent to allow for waste. You can bring back unopened cartons if you purchase your flooring from certain stores (see below).
2. Look and Color
This one is all up to you, of course, but here are some tips. Generally, dark flooring will shrink a room and a light-colored flooring will enlarge the way a room looks.
Make the job easier and go with glueless — enough said!
Once again, this is an individual choice, depending on your budget and what type of room you are doing.
If it is for a heavily trafficked room in your own home, you might want to consider using a premium floor. If it is for an upstairs bedroom that hardly anyone sees, maybe a less expensive floor is appropriate.
If this is for a rental property you might want to go with a discount laminate floor.
5. What Brand to Use?
Once again, it’s your choice. In our region of the U.S. (the humid southeast) here is what many of Al’s customers have decided to use use over the years:
- Quick-Step floors are the most popular. Medium is the most-often used color.
- Mohawk is also very popular down here. It is a well-known name in flooring.
- Kronotex, which is available at about a dozen stores in our town, is another type of laminate floor that locals like to use.
- Trafficmaster is a very popular brand. Check it out at Home Depot.
Most people do not spend much time thinking about warranties when purchasing laminate flooring. They find a style they like at a price they are willing to pay and they buy it.
But warranties are important. So here are a few things to consider:
If you purchase your floor from one of the big stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s, you can go right back to them if you have warranty issues.
If you buy from a smaller, local store, you should check into the warranty closely. Talk to the owner of the store. Read the warranty info on the packaging. Make sure to use a well established local store, one that is likely to still be in business 10 years from now.
You should look for a product that has a warranty of at least 10 to 15 years.
7. Where to Buy Your Flooring
As you have probably already guessed, we think that the best place to buy your flooring is from one of the big home improvement stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot.
- They are likely to have a wider variety to choose from.
- They have floors in all cost ranges.
- They will take your unopened cartons back if you buy too much.
- They are easier to deal with if warranty issues arise.
Also, you can buy all the extras like trim pieces, molding, caulking, and glue for the transition pieces. You can even rent a nail gun to make installing your shoe molding a hundred times easier.
Make sure that you buy the correct underlayment for the type of floor you are installing.
The underlayment serves two purposes. It helps to muffle sounds and it also acts as a moisture barrier.
You should ask the sales person for help in deciding this because of both functionality and because of warranty issues. You don’t want to have a voided warranty because you failed to use the right kind of underlayment.
Some laminate floors have the underlayment already attached, so be sure to check with the sales person.
9. Surface Preparation
Well, you’ve finally decided on what type of floor to use and you have purchased it. Now it’s time to do the actual work!
Your new laminate flooring can be laid on top of some existing floors, like ceramic, tile and linoleum if they do not have loose spots.
Here are some preparation tips:
Sheet Linoleum: If it has tears or holes, be sure to cut them out and install a flooring patch (another reason to buy everything from one of the big box stores).
Carpet: This is pretty straight forward. Pull up the carpet. We suggest doing it in 3-foot wide strips to make disposal easier, especially if it rains and the carpet gets wet before the garbage men pick it up. Then pull up the tack strip with a pry bar. Next, clean off any dust and debris. Make sure that you scrape up any imperfections that are above the slab for both utilitarian and warranty purposes.
Plywood Sub-Flooring: If laying your new floor on top of plywood, make sure to check for loose nails and loose pieces of plywood. Be sure that the plywood is down firm so the new floor will not be noisy and also to prevent damage.
Underlayment: Start out by putting down the underlayment. Let it overlap about an inch on the baseboards. This extra can be trimmed off after all the floor is down.
Your laminate flooring boards should snap together pretty easily. The carton will have instructions on how to do it properly. A tapping block should be used when needed so the flooring is not damaged.
First Run: Begin by laying your first board running parallel with the longest wall in the room. While this is a common practice, it is not written in stone. Run one full length along the longest wall beginning with a full piece of flooring. The lip and groove should be facing the wall.
Spacers: Leave the appropriate amount of space (as called for on the packaging, usually 1/4″) up against the wall. You can buy laminate flooring spacers at the home improvement stores.
Second Run: For the beginning of your second run, cut a piece of flooring by following the manufacturer’s instructions on how much to stagger the joints between rows. Lowe’s recommends at least a 12-inch stagger in most cases.
Tip from Al: I like to do three runs at a time. The cartons can be laid out nearby, ready to use. This makes the job go more quickly. It also saves wear and tear on my knees, ’cause I ain’t getting any younger!
Warning: Always be careful when using any kind of saw. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for recommended use for that particular saw.
I use a Skill Saw with a framing blade to make my cuts. If you use a paneling blade it will get dull pretty quickly, so make sure you have some extra blades available so you don’t have to make a run to the hardware store.
I mark the cuts in pencil on the top side of the flooring board after measuring them out.
Doors: You should consider removing doors (just tap out the hinges) to give yourself good working room.
Jambs: If your flooring does not fit okay underneath the door jambs, you will have to make a cut using a jamb saw. You can buy one pretty cheap at one of the home improvement stores.
12. Trim Pieces
After you have gotten all the boards laid the final task is to get the trim pieces in place.
Cut off the excess underlayment around the baseboards and, using a nail gun, install 11/16 inch X 11/16 inch shoe molding.
We purchase shoe molding with white primer already on it and then paint it with a coat of white acrylic latex gloss. Be sure to allow enough time for the paint to dry before putting the shoe molding in place. The nail holes and corners will have to be caulked to finish the job.
The T-molding and other transition pieces need to be cut to size and installed by using something like Liquid Nails Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive from a caulk gun. Like all the other supplies, it can be purchased from one of the large home improvement stores.
We hope that this laminate flooring guide has been helpful.