Installing laminate floors is usually much easier than regular wood flooring installation. Anyone with beginner handyman and DIY skills can likely learn how to handle laminate floor installation on their own. It requires less attention paid to the subfloor compared to hardwood floors, and laminate flooring is very durable and can stand up to tests such as being installed on a floor with radiant heating.
Laying The First Row
The hardest thing about installing laminate floors is getting the first row right. You’ll want to lay this entire row down and make sure it’s straight before you start with the rest of the floor. In some cases, you may be working against a crooked wall, which can be very difficult. The exterior walls of houses are usually straighter and these will provide a better way to align your flooring. You’ll need to leave an expansion gap of at least 1/8″ between the wall and the first row of laminate flooring boards. Leaving a gap when installing allows the flooring to expand a bit when it gets moist. If the wall is crooked, be sure the narrowest gap between the flooring and the wall is at least 1/8 of an inch – special spacers made for installation can help here.
You may or may not need to worry about the underlayment in the room where you’re installing the floors. Laminate can sometimes be installed right on top of the old floor, particularly if it’s a floating floor. If you need underlayment or a new subfloor, the project will be more complex. Before installing the floor, be sure to consult with the company you buy from about which products work best with their laminate flooring.
If you have carpet in the room, you’ll obviously have to remove it before installing the flooring. This is a job you may want to have a professional handle. Carpet is extremely heavy, very dirty and needs to be cut up before it can be removed, in most cases. If you’re taking up your own, just pull it away from the tack at the edges of the room and roll it up. Be careful of the tack strips; they’re very sharp and probably filthy, as well. You may also need to remove any existing wood baseboard molding before installing laminate flooring.
Once you have the floor prepared and the first row laid down, the job becomes fairly easy when adding the rest of the rows.
Finishing the Job
Most laminate floor snaps together via tongue and groove joints. You bring them together at an angle and then lower them until they’re flush to snap them in place. After you do this, you simply move onto the next plank and continue the procedure for each of the following planks. This part of installation is one of the easiest home improvement projects imaginable.
Once the floor is in, check the rows to make sure that everything is snapped together correctly. The gap at the ends of the first row should be exactly where it was when you started and the flooring should not be flush with the wall on all sides. Check with the manufacturers instructions, but in some cases, when installing laminate flooring, you may want to glue the first row down to make sure it holds fast.