How to Lay Laminate Flooring

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In this guide, we’ll be looking at how to lay laminate flooring. Further on in the article, you’ll find a list of tools you need to do the job and a couple of videos so you can see the process in action.

If it’s your first time laying laminate flooring, I highly recommend you spend a bit of time watching the videos.

In the DIYer’s perfect world, every project and room would be obstacle-free. Sadly, this isn’t the case. So you will come across a problem or two when laying laminate flooring. A few examples include:

  • Radiator pipes
  • Doors
  • Chimney breasts
  • Recesses

Don’t let this put you off fitting laminate flooring yourself, though.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the process, let’s take a look at some of the things you need to be aware of, and make decisions about, before you remove the plastic wrapping from the first pack.

Invest in a laminate flooring kit

A laminate flooring kit contains all the tools you need to make the job easier. A good one will set you back about £15-£20 but it’s money well-spent, especially if you plan on laying laminate flooring in several rooms.

In a typical kit, like the one below, you get:

  • 1 double-headed mallet
  • 1 rubber tapping block
  • 1 pull bar
  • 20(+) spacers

Acclimatise laminate flooring before laying it

The boards need to acclimatise to the room’s temperature for around 48 hours or so. Check your pack to see if the manufacturer recommends a longer or shorter time. You can spread the packs out across the floor if you have enough space. If you don’t, lay the packs on top of one another with blocks of wood (or similar) between each one so the air can circulate.

Don’t stand them ‘on end’ as they could bow.

If you’re using wood fibreboard underlay leave it to acclimatise in the same room for at least 24 hours.

Decide how you want to manage skirting boards

You have a few choices when it comes to skirting boards:

  • Temporarily remove them while you’re doing the job, then refit them when you’re finished
  • Remove the old skirting boards, do the job, then fit new skirting boards
  • Slide the edges of the laminate flooring under the skirting boards and fit beading to hide the join
  • Slide the edges of the laminate flooring under the skirting boards and don’t fit beading
  • Slide the edges of the laminate flooring up to the skirting boards and fit beading to hide the join. The biggest issue with this method is the height of the skirting board. The beading might hide more of a smaller skirting board than you’d like. For taller skirting boards, it’s not much of an issue.

Beading, also known as floor trim or edging, sits atop the laminate flooring to hide unsightly gaps where it meets the wall or skirting boards. It’s usually available in the form of long strips that match the colour and style of your chosen laminate flooring.

Choose which direction you want to lay the laminate flooring

One of the biggest worries people have when laying laminate flooring is choosing which direction it should go. It might seem petty if you’ve never had to make this decision but it’s a critical one you want to get right. After all, the flooring may be in place for many years.

You have three options:

  • Horizontally
  • Vertically
  • Diagonally

Quick-Step recommends you “…lay your floor in the same direction as the main light source in a room and in the same line as the most frequently used entrance”.

I think this is sound advice. It makes the lines in the room flow better. So, in a long and narrow hallway, you’d lay the laminate slabs vertically rather than horizontally. It also makes it easier when it comes to cutting each piece to size and creating the staggered sections.

At the end of the day, though, it’s all down to personal preferences.

If you’re laying your new laminate flooring over wooden floorboards, experts recommend laying them in the opposite direction to the floorboards and across the existing joists.

You’ll need a damp proof membrane if laying laminate flooring on a concrete subfloor

If you’re laying laminate flooring onto a concrete subfloor, you’ll first need to lay a damp proof membrane to protect the laminate flooring from moisture. Alternatively, use a laminate flooring underlay that contains a damp proof membrane.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s go through the process of fitting laminate flooring.

Step 1 – Prepare the room by removing all furniture and the current floor covering

Before you start laying your brand new laminate flooring, you’ll need to clear out the room you’re laying it in. Obvious, I know, but that’s the first step!

If the room’s currently carpeted and you want to use it again or sell it, release it from the carpet grippers, roll it up and move it out of the room. If you’re planning on throwing the carpet away, use a Stanley Knife or good quality utility knife to cut it into strips or smaller pieces (it’s easier to move and take to the tip) and place it outside.

Now remove the carpet grippers (wear thick gloves if you can). There’s a good tip in the second video below which suggests using a crowbar to remove the carpet grippers. You place the crowbar as close to the nail holding the carpet gripper to the floor as possible, and slightly nudge it to loosen the gripper. Then pull up the gripper. Doing it this way reduces the chances of the carpet grippers splintering.

Once you’ve cleared the room of the current floor covering and all the furniture, it’s time to tidy up. Brush down the area to pick up any larger items, then vacuum the floor to catch the finer debris. You want the floor to be as clear from debris as possible.

Step 2 – Lay the underlay

Laminate flooring underlay usually comes in the form of a roll or square boards. Standard 3mm polyfoam underlay rolls are most suitable for level subfloors like floorboards. While the thicker (5mm or 7mm) wood fibreboard underlay suits concrete subfloors and can help improve sound and heat insulation.

Check the label on your pack of laminate flooring for the manufacturer’s fitting recommendations. Typically, you need to leave a few millimetres between each fibreboard and the wall, and a little less between each board to allow for expansion.

Rolls of underlay can be taped together to stop them moving. Some types of roll underlay already have the tape attached.

Lay the underlay on the floor in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Leave a 10mm-16mm gap around radiator pipes and suchlike. You may need to trim fibreboards to fit the room.

Step 3 – How to lay your laminate flooring

Now it’s time to crack on with the part you’ve been waiting for – learning how to lay laminate flooring.

The slabs connect together side by side using a tongue and groove design and the edges click into place using a clicking system. It’s a tried and tested method that creates a strong surface.

Start in a corner by placing your spacers from the flooring kit between the skirting board and the laminate plank – you’ll need at least two spacers along the edge and one or two at the end. If you’re working without a laminate flooring kit, leave a 1/4 gap or use some old pieces of wood instead. You want to present the first piece of laminate flooring to the skirting board so it rests against the spacers.

Once the first plank’s in place, click the next one into position and work your way across the room. When you reach the opposite side of the room to complete the first row, measure the final piece, mark it on the back using a pencil and your square, and cut it to size using a jigsaw, table saw or standard handsaw. If the cut-off is at least 300mm long, you can to use it for the start of the next row.

Remember to leave a 1/4 inch gap around the perimeter of the flooring to allow for expansion, so don’t cut the piece to create a snug fit. Also, don’t worry too much about a messy cut if you’re covering the perimeter with beading or a new skirting board as it will be hidden when the job’s done.

Slot the final piece into position and use the hammer and pull bar from your laminate floor fitting kit to lock it into place.

If the cut-off from the first row is too short to start the second row, put it to one side to use later, cut a piece from another plank and start the second row from the same wall as the first. Put the spacer into position before you start. End pieces are usually different lengths so the pattern when you’re done isn’t uniform (like a typical brick wall). This looks better and won’t compromise the floor’s stability.

Keep repeating the process until the new floor is complete.

When you reach the final row, you’ll likely need to cut the laminate flooring planks lengthways to fit the available space. When you’re cutting it, allow for the spacers.

That’s just about it. Take a few minutes to watch the two videos below to see the process in action and to pick up some tips about laying laminate flooring.

How to Lay Laminate Flooring (video)

Installing laminate flooring for the first time (video)

After publishing this article, I found another YouTube video on how to lay laminate flooring that contains some sound advice and tips from a pro. It’s so good, I had to share it with you. Here it is.

Laminate floor installation and clever tips for beginners (video)

Tools needed for laying laminate flooring

(Some of these tools are optional – you may not have all of these in your kit so you’ll need to find an alternative)

Items marked with an * can be bought together in kit form.

How to Lay Laminate Flooring – FAQs

Can you lay laminate flooring on top of laminate flooring?

This is not recommended. Laminate flooring ‘floats’ and moves around a little. Laying laminate flooring over laminate flooring will create two floating floors which could cause problems down the line. Taking up the old flooring and laying new planks is the best way to go.

Can you install laminate flooring yourself or do you need to hire a professional?

Most people with basic DIY skills should be able to lay laminate flooring themselves. Be sure to read this tutorial fully and watch the videos through to the end so you can follow the processes and pick up a few tips.

Does laminate flooring always need underlay?

It is possible to lay laminate flooring without underlay, but it’s not recommended. Especially on top of concrete or cement subfloors. The underlay helps create a level surface and supports the locking system of the planks.

If the laminate flooring comes with an underlay attached, then you shouldn’t need to put down more. In most cases, it’s also recommended you put down a vapour layer below the underlay to protect the flooring from moisture.

Can you install laminate flooring over carpet?

While it is possible to lay laminate flooring on top of carpet, it’s not recommended in most situations. The main reason for this is because the pile of your typical home carpet is too soft for the laminate flooring’s locking system to work effectively. Over time, without the support it needs, the laminate flooring could buckle and damage the floor.

With that said, if the carpet is sturdy and low pile, like the carpet you see in commercial premises such as a hotel lobby, cinema or restaurant, then it is possible to lay laminate flooring on top. The maximum thickness of the carpet should be around ¼ inch. Anything thicker is unsuitable for laminate flooring. (source)

Can you fit carpet over laminate flooring?

This is a controversial one that splits opinion! Pros nearly always recommend removing old unwanted laminate flooring before laying carpet. But people who’ve done it appreciate the extra layer of insulation and wonder what all the fuss is about.

Perhaps the biggest issue is height. The extra height generated by the carpet and underlay might stop doors from opening. If this is the case, they’ll need to be removed and planed so they open and close freely again. Also, take into consideration your future options – if you decide to remove the newly fitted carpet and the old laminate so you can lay another type of flooring, the gap under the door will be large enough to cause an uncomfortable draught (how to draught-proof doors).

Can you lay laminate flooring over tile?

Yes, you can. As long as the floor is flat and even. You should still lay suitable underlay on top of the tile before you lay the laminate planks.

Do you need a laminate flooring kit to fit laminate flooring?

The short answer is no. However, if you’re laying laminate flooring for the first time, it usually works out cheaper to buy all the tools you need, that you don’t already own, in kit form. This includes things like a pull bar and tapping block.

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