How to Install Laminate Flooring

Love the look of hardwood flooring but can’t swing the cost? Laminate flooring is a good choice for an all-purpose, durable and budget-friendly addition to your home. Because it is simple and easy to install, laminate flooring is a viable option for a homeowner’s do-it-yourself project, regardless of home improvement experience.

Laminate flooring is made from a composite material that is very similar to plastic. It often resembles hardwood flooring, but doesn’t scratch or dent like hardwood, making it a great, low-maintenance option for busy families.

Laminate flooring can be installed over existing flooring (except, of course, carpeting), making preparation easy for the homeowner. It is most commonly found in rooms with plenty of traffic – such as kitchens, bathrooms, and utility rooms. It can easily be used to add to the functionality and form of any room in the home. The most important thing to remember is to take your time, measure carefully before cutting, and enlist another person for help when necessary.

The first step to installing laminate flooring is to measure the room you will be installing the laminate in. Be sure to measure as accurately as possible in order to buy the correct amount of flooring necessary to complete the project. Purchase a little extra (the recommendation is to add 10 percent to what you think you will need) in case you waste a piece or two during the installation. It’s better to have a little too much than get to the end of the project and discover you don’t have enough.

The next step is to completely empty the room you are installing the flooring in. Remove all furniture, shoe molding and baseboards from the walls and around the toe kick of a cabinet (if there are any built-in cabinets in the room). Use a hammer and pry bar to remove the moldings and base but be careful not to damage walls or cabinets. Use a vacuum cleaner or shop vac to thoroughly remove any excess dirt and particles from the floor.

Next you should install the underlayment before installing the laminate flooring. The underlayment is a rubbery, plastic sheeting that is put down directly on the sub floor, underneath the laminate. It helps level the flooring and adds a springy feel to the floor.

When starting to put down the laminate flooring, it is important to begin along the longest wall in the room. Be sure to leave a ¼-inch gap between the laminate flooring and the wall to allow for possible expansion and shrinkage due to seasonal changes. You can also use ¼-inch spacers to help with this.

Lay the flooring pieces away from the wall, staggering the joints and seams. Most laminate flooring pieces will snap into place together using a modified tongue in groove system. To create a tighter fit between pieces, use a rubber mallet and a block of wood to tape each piece into place snugly. Repeat this process until the entire floor has been completed. Reinstall the baseboard and if desired, shoe molding around the room.

Properly installed laminate flooring can last for a number of years with little maintenance required. It can add charm and simple beauty to any home and is a good home improvement project for the novice do-it-yourselfer. It is a great choice for the budget-minded homeowner.


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