Laminate Series, Part 3: How To Install Laminate Flooring

This is the third and final blog in our 3-part series on laminate.  We’ve helped guide you in How To Choose Laminate, and How To Choose Laminate Cushion.  And now, we’ll help guide you through the installation process.

Before you begin, check door clearances before installing laminate on top of an existing floor.

1: Acclimate Laminate Before Installation

Flooring can be affected by temperature and humidity.  Before installation, you’ll want to acclimate your laminate to the room in which it will be installed for at least 48 hours.

2: Remove Base Molding and Clean Subfloor

When you’re ready to begin the installation, clean the subfloor of dirt and debris.  If you’re installing on top of existing wood or tile, be sure the floors have been thoroughly washed.  If any base molding remains in the room, remove it prior to cleaning.

3: Place the Vapor Barrier and Cushion

A vapor barrier is important in blocking any moisture that could come up from the subfloor.  If your cushion does not come with a moisture barrier, you can use a 6-mil plastic sheet.

Once the vapor barrier is down, install the cushion. The edges of the cushion should not overlap.  Tape the edges together to make sure they don’t shift.

4: Trim the Door Jambs

Flooring should extend under the doorframe. Use a piece of scrap flooring to mark the depth that the doorframe should be trimmed.  Using a flat saw or a coping saw, cut the doorframe parallel to the subfloor.  This will give the frame a finished look without having to remove the whole thing.

5: Install the First Row

Choose your beginning wall, which should be more visible than the ending wall.

Laminate typically looks best when installed parallel to the longest wall.  To begin, lay the first plank down on the subfloor with the groove toward the wall.  Place a 1/2” spacer between the wall and the plank and push the plank up against it.  The spacer allows the floor to expand and contract with weather and moisture changes, rather than warp or buckle, and to have a firm base to install against.  The space created near the wall will be covered up later with base molding.  Place spacers about every 12 inches along the wall and at the end of each plank against adjoining walls.

TIP:

If installing slate or ceramic laminate designs, the width of the first and last planks installed should be equal to one another and the length of the first and last planks installed should be equal to one another.  In other words, the planks that rest along parallel walls should be equal to one another.  To accomplish this:
Width – Measure the width of the room and divide by the width of one plank.  If the remainder is less than 12 inches, trim 1/2 of the remainder amount from the first row of planks on the tongue side.  When ready to install the last row, trim the last row of planks to the same size.

Length – Measure the length of the room and divide by 46-1/2 inches, or the length of one plank.  If the remainder is less than 12 inches, trim 1/2 of the remainder amount from the length of the first plank that aligns the wall, or edge of the room.  When ready to install the last plank, trim the length of the last plank to the same size.

6: Install the Rest

Be sure to inspect each plank for damage before installation, as they can be difficult to remove after they’re set in place.

Match tongue to groove for each plank and tap it into place using a scrap piece of flooring to protect the planks. The pieces should fit snugly together and there should be no gaps along the length of the planks. Stagger the joints within each row so they’re at least 8 inches from the joints of the preceding row (lining them up row-to-row can weaken the floor and create a too-uniform look).  As you get to the end of each row, use a pry bar to tighten the joints.

7: Time for the Last Plank

You’re almost done!  The last plank will need to be trimmed to fit.  To trim the plank correctly, place one plank directly on top of the last plank installed and place another plank on top of that one.  Slide the top plank towards the wall until it sits evenly against the spacers on the wall.  Draw a line along the bottom plank (but not the installed plank – the one you set on top of that), tracing the edge of the top plank.  Rip cut the bottom plank along this line and install the plank.

8: Install Thresholds and Base Molding

Install any thresholds between the end of the flooring and any open doors where the flooring ends. Thresholds come in different styles to accommodate the kind of flooring the new laminate floor butts up against. Remove the spacers and install base molding to cover the expansion gap.

Congratulations on the installation of your new laminate floor!