Floating laminate flooring can be the solution to many flooring issues. It is versatile, easy to install, looks good, and can go in many areas where real wood shouldn’t. Therefore, I wanted to go over the basics and show you how to install floating laminate flooring. (Photography Credit – special thanks to Andy Dean for some of these images.)
How to Install Floating Laminate Flooring – Materials…
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Before we get into how to install floating laminate flooring, we should address what materials are needed.
- Enough laminate to cover the area, plus an additional 10%.
- Tool for cutting.
- Pull Bar
- Tapping block
- Rubber mallet
- Measuring tape
(Note – some flooring comes with the underlayment already attached). So, now that we have the list, lets go over a few of these items, beginning with the underlayment. Under normal circumstances all you will need is a cushion underlayment that is meant for laminate flooring. However, if you are placing laminate over a concrete slab, you will first need to put down a plastic vapor barrier, or you can use a 3-in-1 underlayment like this one*. (It comes with the tape, too. So, you won’t have to make a separate purchase).
Regular, plastic barriers should be overlapped and taped in place. Leaving this step out when installing over concrete can result in the laminate floor failing, buckling or swelling beyond the expansion gap. When using a 3-in-1 underlayment, use the instructions that come with the product.
Next, let’s go over the cutting tool. If you have a miter saw, great! If not, and you are looking for a way to get nice clean cuts on your laminate, I highly recommend getting a laminate cutter. This cutter is available a Lowe’s or you can order this one from Amazon.*
The other tools needed for laminate flooring are the essentials.* A tapping block and a pull bar are a must if you want to get the flooring straight with tight seams. You can get these as a set from Amazon.*
How to Install Floating Laminate Flooring…
Tip – It is a good idea to remove shoe molding and/or baseboards. Then, cut all of the door jambs around the area where the flooring will be installed, prior to laying the floor.
Before starting to install your floating flooring, it needs to have the time to acclimate to the rooms temperature and humidity level. That means that you need to move the planks into the room (or at least inside the house) where they will be installed. Allow them to acclimate for at least 3 days. I prefer a full week, but that is just me.
When installing flooring in a basement, I prefer to allow the planks to acclimate in the basement. The humid levels will usually be significantly different than the main level of a home. Acclimating the planks to a different level than they will be used can result in separation later. (You can see some good basement ideas in my post on mother-in-law suites).
Next, lay out the vapor barrier (if needed) and tape into place. Then, roll out the underlayment along the area where you will begin, butting the ends together and securing with tape. (If using the 3-in-1 underlayment, skip the vapor barrier).
I like to measure the width of the room to see how many boards it will take (width wise) to go from one side of the room to the other. That way, I know if I am going to end up with just a sliver of of plank being needed on the last row.
If it turns out that this is likely to happen, I prefer to divide the difference and cut the first row to resemble what the last row will look like. (For example: if my boards are 5″ wide and I am covering an 18″ wide area, I would cut the first row to be 1.5″ wide, and the last row should end up being 1.5″ wide as well). This creates a more uniform finish, but I only do this when the last row will be noticeably different. Sometimes, widening the expansion gap a bit is the best way to go.
How to Install Floating Laminate Flooring…
Laying the first Row:
Begin by creating the first two rows about 2 feet away from the start wall. Since you are starting away from the wall, place a chalk line (or pencil mark) to give yourself a straight guide.
Remove the tongue from the first row of boards with your table saw (if you skip this step, you will need to make the gap slightly wider in the next step) and lay them so that they are facing the start wall. Begin to assemble the first 2 rows, making sure to stagger the boards by at least 12″.
Once the first few rows are assembled, slide the flooring up to the wall and add spacers to create a 1/4″ gap. You can see that the tongue was removed from the first row. If you do not have a table saw, and decide to skip this step, you will need to make the gap slightly larger. The 1/4″ should be measured from the finished edge of the plank to the wall, not from the tongue. Leaving the tongue in place may require both baseboards and shoe molding to conceal the raw edge.
Continue staggering the boards and laying them out as before. Try to take boards from different boxes as you go, blending the boards to prevent any color variations from being obvious.
To keep make the boards align tightly from end to end, use the pull bar when needed. To make the boards align tightly from side to side, use the tapping bar.
Once the flooring is installed, remove the spacers and install the baseboards. (If adding shoe molding, make sure that you nail them to the baseboards and not to the floor. The flooring must be able to expand and contract beneath the baseboards without being held in place by nails. The same concept applies to caulking and paint).
You can install floating laminate over many different types of surfaces (concrete, tiles, wood, etc) as long as the surface is level. There are even a few brands that claim to work in areas like bathrooms and kitchens, where water spills may happen. I prefer them in basements and for pet friendly zones.
Where have you successfully installed floating laminate flooring? Share your experiences and/or advice with us, below. Got questions? Post them in the comments section, as well. 🙂
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