One of the many advantages of laminate flooring is that you do not need to be an expert to install it. While it is easy to install, it also requires some attention to detail during the process in order to avoid issues later.

The installation directly affects the longevity and look of the flooring, so be sure to spend quality time preparing the area in advance. Move all furniture and appliances out of the room(s), remove all previous flooring carefully to avoid damaging the under floor, plan out any detailed design work, and double check all figures relating to square footage and flooring required.

It is important to note that, laminate, like hardwood flooring, is affected by moisture in the air. As such, it is recommended that you leave laminate flooring in the home or office where it will be installed for a couple of days prior to installation. This will allow it to expand or contract accordingly.

Laying a laminate floor involves three major stages – preparation of the floor and installing the laminate flooring.

Preparation of the floor

Preparation is key to creating a strong foundation for your laminate flooring. Be sure to remove any and all materials sticking out of the sub-floor including carpet tacks, tack strip, padding, nails, staples, etc. Vacuum the floor thoroughly to remove any dirt or residual materials.

Ensure that the sub-floor, whether wood or concrete, is level and flat. For concrete, apply a thin layer of self-leveling compound to any uneven sub-floor surfaces, especially any dips greater than 1/8”. Plywood sub-floors should be checked for damage, and any bumpy wood should be replaced with a new piece of plywood.

As you will be laying the flooring underneath your doorframes, you will need to trim any doors or doorframes to accommodate the new flooring thickness.

Laying laminate flooring

If you are installing your floor over concrete, where earth is directly beneath the concrete, you will need to also install a vapor barrier between the concrete and the laminates to accommodate moisture.

Laminate flooring must be laid on an underlayment. There are a number of different types of underlay. Be sure that your supplier knows what surface you are placing your underlayment over, and they will advise you of the best type for your situation.

If you are installing over a concrete slab, place the underlayment so that it extends about 2” up the wall. The manufacturer often suggests that you tape the seams of the underlayment with packing tape.

If you are installing over a wooden floor, you do not need to tape the seams or add 2” of underlay up the wall.

In order to avoid damaging the underlay, only set up as much as you need to install a section of laminate flooring planks. Work section-by-section on your installation in order to protect the underlay and the laminate.

Before installing your laminate flooring, check ALL planks for defects or damage. Ideally, you should do this shortly after arrival so that you can notify the supplier of any issues and get them replaced, if need be.

Do not forget to leave a ¼” expansion gap between the floor and walls, pipes, toilets, cabinets, stairs, etc. Expansion and contraction of laminate floors will occur with changes in weather, and this gap is necessary to accommodate those transitions. Omission of this expansion gap could result in the floor buckling. To incorporate the expansion gap in your installation, simply place spacers between the planks and the walls. This space will be covered by trim later.

Planks are created with a tongue-and-groove locking mechanism, which makes installation easy. Simply fit the plank tongue into the groove of the previously installed board above it and rotate it downward to click it into place.

Install the floor by continuing to click and lay staggered planks row-by-row across the room. When you arrive at the final plank, you will likely need a special tool, called a puller bar, to help secure the last board in place.

Remove the spacers and install the trim. Note that the trim should only be applied to the wall and NOT the laminate flooring.