While we specialise in professional installations that take all the hassle out of installing laminate flooring, there are certain people out there who just love the hassle. We’re talking DIY enthusiasts. So if you’re a do-it-yourself kind of person and you’re up for a challenge, here’s a quick guide to installing laminate flooring to get you started.
1. Acclimatize for at least 48 hours
Before installing your laminate flooring ,you must allow the planks to acclimatise in the room for at least 48 hours. This is because laminate flooring can expand and contract according to humidity levels in the room. You want most of this adjustment to happen before you lay the floor or you’ll get issues such as peaking or buckling.
And speaking of expansion and contraction – it’s a good idea to order 5% to 10% more than your required square meters. This will also cover any damaged boards, waste and spares for future repairs.
(PS: When you purchase your laminate flooring you’ll get a manufacturer’s installation guide with each box of laminate. If anything we say here contradicts what the manufacturer says, go with what they say.)
2. Mix them up
Colour can vary slightly from batch to batch, so the different boxes you’ve bought could contain planks with different colour shades. To avoid ending up with a patches of different colour in your floor, open all the boxes and mix the planks randomly. When you lay them you’ll be laying planks from different batches together and the small colour differences will be evened out and nobody will notice. You can do this mixing while you’re waiting for the planks to acclimatise.
3. Tools that you will need
- jig saw and miter saw
- safety glasses, dust mask and knee pads
- tape measure, pencil and T-square
- a laminate floor tapping block, pull bar, spacers and a rubber mallet
- straight edge
- silicon sealant (needed for skirting and finer detailing)
- nails, hammer and a filler for the transition profiles.
4. Subfloor preparation
Laminate should usually not be installed on any kind of existing flooring, whether that be carpet, parquet, hard wood planks or anything else (Check the warranty conditions of your chosen laminate product if you’re in doubt). So your first step is to rip out the other flooring and get down to the bare subfloor.
Then use a straight edge to make sure the subfloor is level. As a rough guide, any height difference of more than 6 mm over any 2.5 m span of floor means you need to do some levelling.
To do this, you can apply a self-levelling screed to fill in the low spots. Make sure you allow enough time for it to dry before proceeding with the next step.
5. Moisture Barrier underlay
Moisture barriers prevent any moisture in the concrete subfloor from penetrating the laminate flooring where it can cause warping. Remove any dirt from the floor, then lay down the moisture barrier, ensuring that each row overlaps. Tape the overlaps to ensure a proper seal. Moisture rises upwards and not side-ways.
6. Soundproof layer
Laminate flooring can be a little noisy underfoot, so it’s worth installing a soundproof underlay. Some soundproof layers are combined with the waterproof layer, while others are separate. If you use a separate underlayer, do not overlap the edges as you do with the moisture barrier.
Once your preparation is done and you’ve read the manufacturer’s guidelines carefully, it’s time to do the installation.
1. Where to start?
The first thing you’ll need to decide is which direction to lay the planks. Here are some basic principles:
- Lay the boards in the same direction as the longest straight wall.
- However, if you have matching flooring in a next-door room it is better to lay them in the same direction.
- For square rooms, lay the boards in the direction of incoming light or window.
Once you’ve decided on the direction of the flooring you should start from the left corner of one of the walls you choose.
2. Trim the first and last rows
If you just start laying down planks you’re from left to right you’re usually going to end up with a final row that just doesn’t fit and has to be trimmed drastically, giving a horribly squeezed look. To avoid this, measure the width of the whole floor and then subtract the expansion gaps that you’ll need to leave along either wall. Generally, expansion gaps are about 8 – 10mm, or 10 – 15 mm if the room is wider than 7 m.
Having measured the width of the room (minus expansion gaps) you can calculate how much you need to trim evenly off the first and last row.
Use a circular saw or miter saw and trim the first row. Make sure you trim the tongue side and not the groove side, because the groove side should be the side facing out to the room when you lay the first row.
3. Lay the First Row
Now that the boards for the first row have been cut to size you can begin piecing together the first two rows.
Don’t try to work right up against the wall – start about two feet away and lay out the first two rows as described below. Then push them into position against the expansion gap spacers when you’re ready.
Some principles to bear in mind: It’s important that you stagger the boards and that you maintain a minimum length for end boards. You also never want the seams of adjacent boards to be less than 20 to 30 centimetres apart.
To cut the flooring, place the plank on its face (sunny side down) to reduce chipping and use a saw blade.
To lay the flooring, proceed as follows:
- Enter the tongue of the long side of row two into the groove of row one.
- Use a slight angle and press downwards until the joint locks
- Attach the next piece of row one, join the tongue and groove of the short side at an angle and press down. Make sure the planks are perfectly aligned.
- Add the second piece of row two. Enter the tongue into the long side of the groove, slide the plank to align the end joint, rotate downwards and lock the joint. Make sure there are no gaps and no raised edges. Continue until the first two rows are assembled, then push them against the starting wall.
Add more rows until the floor is covered.
4. But there’s stuff in the way!
Don’t be put off by obstructions like cabinets and pipes that you have to work around. Use a jig saw to cut the flooring to fit and make sure you include the expansion gap around any obstacles you need to work around.
When negotiating a toilet or tub, make sure you apply a silicon sealant to form a watertight seal (though perhaps laminate is not the best choice for a bathroom or toilet after all).
5. Laying the last row
When you get to the last row you will need to cut your boards length-wise to make them fit. If you did your calculations correctly earlier on you should end up with planks that are more or less the same width as the starting row.
When marking the cut line, don’t measure from the tongue – measure from the edge. Then cut the plank along the line. The last row can be a bit tricky to lay, so a pull bar will come in handy.
6. Attach the skirtings
The last step is to attach the skirtings. Make sure you attach them to the wall, not the floor. Remember that the floor is going to be expanding and contracting, so you don’t want skirtings or any other kind of mouldings to be moving around together with the floor.
Once that’s done, your DIY masterpiece will be ready for inspection by admiring family members!
Where to from here?
To buy quality laminate flooring, visit us at our showroom near the Vaal Mall and make your choice. And, of course, if all the above instructions have left you feeling like it really is too much hassle, let us do it for you. Contact us now for a quote.