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How to Install Laminate Flooring: In Easy Steps

Cheaper than wood, hard-wearing, and ideal for basements: what’s not to love about laminate flooring.

Installing laminate flooring is a cheaper alternative to solid wood floors and easier to do. It doesn’t require glue or grout because the boards slot together to create a hard-wearing surface. Knowing how to install laminate flooring saves you money while learning a new skill.

We show you the best techniques for laying laminate flooring and offer hints and tips along the way.

Key Takeaways

  • Installing laminate flooring is an affordable and easy alternative to solid wood floors, requiring minimal DIY skills.
  • Measure the room and cut laminate planks carefully, using a fine-tooth blade for a smooth finish.
  • Prepare the subfloor by ensuring it is level and installing a vapor barrier and underlayment to prevent moisture damage and improve insulation.
  • Start laying the laminate along the longest wall, using spacers to maintain a gap for expansion, and stagger the boards for a stronger, more visually appealing result.

How Hard Is It to Install Laminate Flooring?

Installing laminate flooring is easier than you might think. It only takes a minimal amount of DIY skill, and you can learn on the job. Most intermediate DIY enthusiasts can tackle this task without too many problems.

Laminate flooring is ideal for kitchens and basements because it is hard-wearing, wipes clean, and you can lay it on concrete, vinyl, and wood. However, you’ll need to install a vapor barrier (rubber or plastic sheets to stop moisture) beneath the underlayment if you put it down on concrete.

Equally, laying laminate boards in a living room helps minimize the effects of heavy footfall.

Where to Start Laying Laminate Flooring In a Room

Remove the trim and baseboards and start with the longest wall (usually the back wall), putting down the planks end-to-end. Leave a quarter-inch gap between the wall and the edge of the laminate flooring. This allows for expansion in changing weather conditions.

Top Tip

Laying your laminate flooring lengthwise makes the room look longer, and widthwise makes it look wider.

How to Measure and Cut Laminate Flooring Planks

Getting the measurements right is crucial if you want the best results. It’s always best to measure twice so that you only have to cut once.

What You’ll Need

  • Tape measure.
  • Pencil.
  • Circular saw.
  • Handsaw.
  • Fine-tooth blade.
  • Jigsaw.
  • Duct tape.
  • Sandpaper.

1. Measure the Room

Start by measuring the wall perpendicular to the way you want to lay the laminate planks. Allow a quarter-inch gap for expansion between the wall and the edge of the floating floor.

Divide the width of your room by the width of a single laminate plank to determine how many you will need. Allow a few extras for mistakes.

2. Cut the Laminate

Cutting laminate is as straightforward as other materials. A circular, miter, or handsaw will do the job just fine, although you do need a fine-tooth blade. This Freud Plywood and Melamine Blade is perfect for all laminates, including Pergo.

Try using a jigsaw with a fine-tooth blade like this Bosch Three-Piece Laminate Set for awkward contours. One tip to prevent splintering is to place duct tape on the cutting surface and always cut with the patterned side facing up.

Top Tip

It is better to cut as you go rather than first calculating all of the challenging angles. It reduces the chances of errors, and it allows for minor discrepancies.

How to Install Laminate Flooring

Luckily, laminate flooring is a dry install, so if you make mistakes, you simply unclip the boards and start again. It always helps to familiarize yourself with how your chosen product behaves when out of the packaging.

What You’ll Need

  • Floor installation kit (with spacers).
  • Tapping block.
  • Carpenter’s square.
  • Jamb saw.
  • Utility knife.
  • Spirit level.
  • Pry bar.
  • Claw hammer.
  • Tape measure.
  • Clamps.
  • Vapor barrier.
  • Underlayment.
  • Nail gun.
  • Duct tape.
  • Caulk.
  • Finishing nails.
  • Knee pads.
  • Goggles.
  • Face mask.
  • Safety gloves.
  • Shop-vac.
  • Broom.

1. Acclimatize the Laminate Boards

Open the packaging and lay the laminate pieces out in the room. Wait for 48 hours while they adjust to the humidity. This may seem insignificant, but when the laminate expands or shrinks when installed, it will ruin your floor.

2. Prepare the Subfloor

Your new laminate floor will need a perfectly flat surface. You could lay it onto a vinyl surface as long as it was smooth and not too soft. Typically, you will need to install a new subfloor; this involves removing trim, door frames, and baseboards.

You’ll also need to remove the existing flooring. Assuming the subfloor is in good condition, grab the broom and sweep the debris into a pile. Use the shop vac to get the smallest particles.

Examine the subfloor for splinters and cracks that need attention. If you lay the laminate boards onto a concrete floor, grab the caulk and fill any pits and gaps. On plywood subfloors, make sure you remove loose nails and sand uneven surfaces.

Use the spirit level to determine if the subfloor is level. If not, the laminate flooring will also be uneven. Luckily, the underlayment can sort out minor problems.

3. Trim the Door Jambs

When laying a laminate floor, there are two schools of thought for the best way to tackle intricate shapes. Some people create a jig and cut around the door jambs with a jigsaw. You should only attempt this if you know how to handle a jigsaw.

The easiest way is to cut the base of the door trim to allow for the extra thickness of the laminate. It can then slide underneath for the neatest finish.

4. Install Underlayment

Without underlayment, your laminate floor will echo every time you walk on it and transfer the cold from the material below. Underlayment is a thin but dense foam designed to absorb sound and insulate against the cold.

It also helps to even out small dips and bumps beneath the floor. If your laminate comes with the underlayment built-in, skip this step.

Roll out strips of underlayment and trim them to size with the utility knife. Don’t overlap them, or you will have an uneven surface.

You would need to install a vapor barrier beneath the underlayment in basements and in kitchens because of the high moisture content in the room.

5. Lay Your First Line of Laminate

As we said before, the best place to begin is along the length of the longest wall. However, if there is a focal point like a fireplace or bay window, you might be better starting on another wall.

Lay the first planks with the tongue (the protruding lip that locks into the groove) facing the wall. Working lengthways, place the next plank connecting the tongue and groove. Use the spacers along the wall to ensure there is expansion room.

6. Start the Second Row

Continue until you reach the end of the row, and return to the start point of the second line. Use the off-cut plank from the last one in the previous row. It staggers the joints to make them stronger.

Follow the same process as before, but remember to use the tapping block and hammer to close any gaps. You can also use a pull bar to help close the gaps. Continue laying boards until you get to the last row.

You may need to cut the boards to size to get them to fit. Try angling them so that the tongue fits in the groove and then lay them flat.

7. Finishing Touches

Once the laminate flooring is down, you will need to add the finishing touches. Remove the spacers and replace baseboards and thresholds. Add a line of caulk where the laminate meets the baseboard to get a neat edge.

Laying Laminate Flooring Tips

The professionals lay laminate flooring every day of the week, so to say they have valuable hints and tips is an understatement. We share a few hacks to make your life easier.

Check Moisture Levels

Subfloors can be cold and damp, especially if you lay your laminate flooring directly onto concrete. You can pick up a moisture meter, like this General Tools MMD4E Moisture Tester from Amazon.

Avoid laying the flooring when the moisture levels are above 12 percent and the room’s humidity is between 45 and 65 percent. Too much moisture causes the boards to swell and warp.

Check the Row Is Even

While the spacers do an excellent job of keeping a consistent gap between the laminate and the wall, it doesn’t hurt to check. Lay your head as close to the edge of the laminate and look down the line.

If the first row of planks is not straight, the rest of the floor will follow suit.

Cut the Patterned Side

Cutting the patterned side ensures that the splinters and rough edges are on the underside of the board, where they remain hidden. To minimize tear up, lay a strip of duct tape on the board and mark the line where you want to cut.

Don’t Hammer the Boards

Never directly hammer the boards, or you risk breaking them. Always use a scrap piece of wood or a tapping block to protect the edges of the laminate boards.

Stagger the Boards

Start each new row with the other half of the board that completed the previous row. It ensures that your flooring will be staggered, making it stronger. It also makes it more difficult for your eye to spot the joints.

Get the Help of a Spotter

While you may be a solo installer, it can be difficult to check that the gaps are closed along the length of the boards. Get someone to check that the joints are clean and no new ones have opened up.

Common Mistakes When Laying Laminate Flooring

So, we’ve seen the dos, but what about the things you should avoid? Knowing the mistakes in advance means you can navigate your laminate flooring project without the pitfalls.

Here are a few to be aware of:

  • Never lay your laminate flooring on an uneven surface. The maximum variance should be 0.188 inches for every 10 feet. If your subfloor exceeds this, you will have to level it out.
  • Avoid laying your boards on loose floorboards. Secure them first before installing the underlayment. If you leave them, they will cause your laminate flooring to move when you walk on it.
  • Never butt the laminate flooring directly against the wall. Use spacers to ensure there is a minimum gap of 0.25 inches. It allows for expansion in damp conditions.
  • Don’t directly hammer the edges of your planks. They have a tongue on one side and a groove on the other that you will damage beyond repair. It will cost you more because you will need additional boards.
  • Don’t lay the floor straight out of the packaging. Acclimatize your boards for 48 hours before installing them.

DIY Installation Vs. Professional Installation

Whether you hire a professional or opt for the DIY approach depends on your confidence levels and budget. Laying laminate flooring yourself will save you a packet. A professional contractor will charge between $3 and $8 per square foot.

The average professional installation could cost between $1,411 and $3,395, so tackling the task yourself has obvious benefits. However, you will get a neater finish with a contractor, and the work takes half the time.

You might also want to employ a professional if you have a complicated layout like stairs and irregular-shaped rooms. Fitting a laminate floor requires some degree of skill and the right tools. So, if you lack either, it might be better to hire someone to do the work.


What Brand of Laminate Flooring Should You Use?

You can use any laminate flooring brand you wish, but Pergo and Mohawk are the two most well-known brands.

Do You Need to Put Anything Under Laminate Flooring?

You need underlayment between the subfloor and the laminate boards. It protects the underside of the laminate, dulls the sound of footsteps, and helps even out the floor. It also insulates against the cold and dampness.

If the subfloor is in poor condition, it may also be an idea to lay the underlayment on plywood sheeting.

Can You Install Laminate Flooring On Uneven Concrete?

You can’t install laminate flooring on any uneven surface. You will need to level the concrete floor before starting your installation.

How Do You Get the First Row of Laminate Flooring Straight?

You use spacers to keep the planks in line, allowing for a 0.25-inch gap between the edge of the board and the wall.

How Soon Can You Walk On Laminate Flooring?

You should wait 24 hours before walking on your newly installed laminate flooring. It allows the boards time to acclimatize and bed in.

Score With the Floor

Laying a laminate floor in a room like a kitchen or a bathroom can immediately impact and transform the space. It is cheaper than solid wood flooring yet delivers a similar finish. You don’t need expert skills, and the tools are relatively inexpensive to buy.

If your flooring is getting you down, don’t procrastinate; laminate.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.