This guide will set out everything you need to know to lay laminate flooring, in an easy step by step process. Check the contents to see what we will be covering in this guide.
What is Laminate Flooring?
A man-made product that is durable and tough, available in endless textures and designs, which can replicate wood or stone at a fraction of the cost and easily installed. It comes in different thickness, widths and lengths meaning it can be used around the home in high or low use areas. It is a great choice if you want a good looking floor on a budget which you could fit.
The printed decor layer is protected by a wear layer to prevent scratching and scuffing. The durability of the laminate board is measured by the thickness of the substrate layer usually made from High-Density Fibreboard (HDF) ranging from 6mm to 12mm thick which equates to a durability rating of AC3 to AC5.
The AC rating helps to determine the suitability of the laminate to be used in high or low use rooms. For example, you might choose an AC3 rating for a bedroom which has a relatively low footfall and an AC4 rating for a hallway which has a high level of footfall.
The other important feature of laminate flooring is the click system which allows you to fit the boards together without the use of glue or nails making it ideal for home DIY.
Laminate Locking System
The click system makes it easy to join each board to the next. Each 'male' joint is angled into the 'female' joint of the opposing board. Downward pressure is applied to lock the boards in place and form a secure joint.
The design of laminate flooring is portrayed on the printed decor layer meaning that any wood or stone look is possible. You can achieve a really rustic natural wood look at one end of the spectrum to a very contemporary sleek finish at the other, the list is endless.
The other design feature to consider when creating a certain look or style is the depth of the bevel between the boards. For a contemporary look, you might want to consider choosing a less defined bevel or none at all. For a more traditional look then a more defined bevel would be more suitable.
Tools and Materials
- Laminate flooring
- 3-5mm plyboard for sub-floor
- Latex levelling compound
- Scotia/beading (optional)
- Radiator rings
- Door threshold/profile
- Flooring spacers
- Tapping block
- Pull bar
- Set square
- Mitre box
- Calculator (or any smartphone)
- Hand saw or jigsaw
- Circular saw
- Power drill (with drill bit)
- Tape measure
- Panel pins
- Wood glue (optional)
- String line
- Nails (optional)
Remember when carrying out any DIY task to wear the appropriate safety equipment to prevent injury. Of note when cutting or drilling laminate flooring boards a dust mask must be worn to prevent breathing in harmful materials.
- Safety goggles
- Knee pads
- Dust mask
As we know laminate flooring is extremely versatile and comes in a variety of thicknesses for high and low use areas. Therefore, it is important to establish exactly what specification of flooring you require before, purchasing your dream floor. Time spent choosing the correct flooring for the room you plan to install it, will save you money, time and give you the best results possible in the long term.
As a general rule laminate flooring isn’t the best option for either bathrooms or kitchens where high levels of moisture are commonplace and the danger of continued spills and moisture build-up may cause the laminate to fail and warp.
Guidance on the suitability of the flooring for particular rooms and areas within the home will be available on the flooring packaging, if unsure then simply ask the advice of specialist staff or suppliers.
Another, common question regarding suitability is whether or not laminate flooring can be used underfloor heating, again the simple answer is yes however, the temperate shouldn’t exceed 27°C to prevent damage.
Calculating how much Laminate you need
When you measure a room to calculate how much laminate flooring you will need. You need to work out the area of the room in square metres, add 10% and then divide the total by the square meterage detailed on the outside of laminate flooring packaging. This will give you the number of packs you will need, top tip always round up if left with a fraction.
Take into account any windows or alcoves, and take measurements to half-way into your door frame. If it helps, sketch the outline of your room and write your measurements down.
Before you can start to think about laying your new dream flooring you must first prepare the subfloor, on which the underlay and laminate boards will lay on. The condition of the subfloor surface is fundamental to the lifespan and overall look of your new floor.
The subfloor must be completely level, secure and free from debris therefore, old carpet and tiles must be removed and either replaced with a hardboard subfloor or concrete levelling compound on damaged concrete floors.
Lastly, the subfloor needs to be clean, dry and completely free of any debris left by repairs.
To ensure you get a professional finish around the doorway you can cut the door jambs/linings off in preparation before you start by placing the underlay and an off cut of laminate flooring on the subfloor and then taking a hand saw and cut the base of the door frame and architrave. The laminate flooring will fit neatly underneath the frame, remember to keep the 10mm expansion gap as will assist in clicking together the boards.
It is also worth checking there is sufficient room beneath the door when it is open and closed as the height of the new floor might well be higher then what was there before. The same method of using a piece of underlay and offcut of laminate on the subfloor to see if the door will clear them without rubbing is the easiest method.
High moisture levels can be a real issue for laminate floors, therefore, the ideal moisture content of your subfloor should remain below 12%. If you find that your subfloor moisture levels exceed this threshold, there are a number of methods you can use to deal with the issue and prevent damage.
- Apply a subfloor primer (concrete subfloors only).
- A vapour barrier – often referred to as a damp proof membrane (DPM).
- Alternatively, use an underlay with a built-in DPM.
Acclimatising your laminate flooring
Similar to a wooden floor, laminate flooring should be allowed to adapt to its new environment. The room you wish to lay your new flooring will have different moisture and temperature levels to where it was previously stored. Therefore, leave the unopened packs in the room it’s going to be laid for 48hours prior to installation.
Warning If you are tempted to lay your laminate flooring immediately, the likelihood is it would expand or shrink, leading to your floor buckling and cracks appearing.
Benefits of using Underlay
Some might think that using underlay is an unnecessary luxury that isn’t worth the additional expense. On the contrary, this extra layer between the hard subfloor and your laminate flooring provides the following benefits:
- Extend lifespan
- Extra underfoot comfort
- Heat Insulation
- Damp Proof Membrane (doesn’t come as standard with all underlays)
There are specialist underlays such as fibreboard underlay which you should also be aware of if you are planning to install a laminate floor over underfloor heating or your subfloor isn’t perfect.
Laying your laminate floor
All the preparation has now been done and you are in a position to start laying your dream floor. As previously stated the locking system used with laminates floors means you don’t need to glue or secure your floor to the subfloor, therefore, creating what is commonly referred to as a floating floor. The benefits of a floating floor are extra comfort underfoot and replacing damaged boards is much easier.
Lay your underlay onto the subfloor in the same direction as you plan to lay the laminate flooring, remembering not to overlap the joints and leave a 10mm expansion gap around the edge. The underlay joints should be taped using any heavy-duty tape.
Place the first board at the top left corner, finished side up, ridge side facing the wall. It is a good idea to lay the boards so that they are parallel to the longest wall in the room. Ensure you use spacers between the wall and the board to provide the expansion gap around the entire edge of the floor.
Place the next board the same way, laying it end to end, occupying the next spot along the wall. Continue along the entire first row parallel to the longest wall in the room. If you need to cut the last board on the row then start the new row with the offcut to ensure the joints are staggered.
The second and subsequent rows are laid in exactly the same manner ensuring each board is securely locked together, the gap has disappeared leaving only the design detailed bevel. If required use a wooden block or pull bar to ensure a snug fit.
Laying laminate flooring around radiator pipes can be daunting but is really straight forward if you follow these steps.
Measure from the wall to the centre of the pipe and then measure from the nearest fitted board to the centre of the pipe.
Take these measurements and mark the centre of the pipe on the board which will be offered up.
Use your drill with a shovel bit and drill a hole in the board where the pipe will sit, then take a jigsaw and cut from the hole towards the end of the board in a v shape.
Once the board is fitted then replace the offcut and cover with a radiator pipe rings for a nice neat finish.
One of the easier obstacles to tackle when laying a laminate floor, as long as you remember the old adage of measure twice and cut once and you won’t go far wrong.
Offer the end of the floorboard up against the corner of the wall. Where the board meets the wall add the expansion gap (10mm) and mark. This will give you the width of your first cut.
Then place the board along the side of the wall to get the correct length. Using a set square mark the second cut and then cut out the entire marked area.
The floating floor has now been completed and looking fantastic its time to finish the look and cover the expansion gap with decorative edging. Edging comes in numerous decorative profiles to suit any look and is commonly referred to a scotia or beading.
To fit the laminate edging, simply apply a thin layer of adhesive to the back and glue it to the wall. Use panel pins to hold it in place.
Use a mitre box to cut a 45 degree on the edging with either a table saw or hand saw. Do the same on a second piece of edging, and glue together to create a corner.
Remember Never glue edging to the floor, as this can damage the laminate if it ever needs to be removed and will prevent the floor from float which could cause the floor to crack or buckle.
Aftercare and maintenance
To keep your new floor looking its best and prolong the life, there are some simple preventive measures you can take:
- Use felt pads on the bottom of furniture legs to prevent dents and scratches.
- Place mats underneath heavier furniture.
- Use door mats to help collect any dirt, grit and other substances that would otherwise end up on your floor.
- Clean up any spills as quickly as possible to prevent water damage
Try to keep the floor as clean and dry as possible. When cleaning use a soft broom or vacuum with the brushes down. You can mop the floor with warm water for stubborn stains but ensure the mop is only damp and reframe from using multi-use cleaning products.
Warning Never use floor polishes, wax, abrasive pads or steam cleaners as these will cause irreversible damage.
Before fitting your dream laminate flooring, please consider what preparation you need to do first, with regards to the subfloor, door frames, skirting boards or edging and the room suitability. Are there any upfront costs like additional tools or specialised underlay required?
Remember to always familiarise yourself with manufacturer guidelines before you go ahead with your installation. Finally, consider the ongoing maintenance and preventive measures needed to prolong your new floor.