Have you ever installed laminate flooring? It’s a fairly easy DIY project… with basic know-how and depending on the room, perhaps a few special cuts in a couple of pieces, but overall with pretty basic skills, it makes for a great DIY project. Here’s what I’ve learned installing our wide plank laminate flooring… The first time I used this wide plank flooring was at our former house in the lower level entry. In that room, we went right over the vinyl floor, which is a great feature of this laminate floor, it is a free-floating floor. I am by no means an expert in installing laminate floors… not at all! However, I do have a few things I have figured out between doing a couple myself, and my knowledge as an interior designer and working with contractors on other projects. So here are a few tips I have to encourage you to try your hand at installing a laminate floor. First of all: Measuring and figuring out how much you’ll need. There will be some waste. You can minimize the waste, but for sure one must minimally figure to buy at least 10% over what the room’s square footage measures. It could actually wind up wasting a little more, depending on your room’s width/length and how many widths of laminate planks will need to be trimmed lengthwise etc. It stinks to have to stop the installation production because you ran out of materials, so it’s worth your time to try to figure this out ahead of time. Now getting the project started: As I stated above, most, (all?) laminate floors are free-floating. That means they are not connected to the subfloor with nails nor glue. They are actually floating above it… on a thin pad. Some laminates come with the pad attached on the bottom, but the one I have used in my houses did not have it attached, we needed to install it separately. Although you can go right over the top of an existing floor, obviously there are some limitations with that. Such as carpet, I don’t think you could go over carpet, unless it was an extremely low nap and glued down itself. Another issue that you would need to address before you laid laminate floor would be if the floor under was uneven or bumpy. And one more place you should not use laminate flooring is in the bathroom, for two reasons: moisture sitting on it won’t be good for it, but primarily because it is a floating floor, the toilet would not be able to seal on it… not good! In the lower level of our former house, we were able to go over the existing glued down vinyl flooring. We did need to remove the metal strip of that old floor, so that it was completely smooth. Then we carefully laid the pad. It’s not difficult, but an extra pair of hands to hold it would be super helpful. (I was fortunate to have my son helping me… ha ha or was I actually helping him? that might a more accurate way to put it!) So in this first project of laying laminate, it immediately started out with a difficult piece. We needed to cut around the patio door threshold and that actually winded up wasting most of the width of laminate boards the entire length of the 8 foot door. It was unavoidable, the wall and door threshold weren’t even, so that first piece needed to be trimmed down. In this picture above, you can actually see my son clicking in the 1st full width row of planks. We used a jigsaw for cutting the laminate planks. It worked well, allowing good control for awkward little trimming and cuts to be made. So here you can see the 3 full rows of planks, and the one skinny piece that had to go in the patio door threshold. You can also see the pad underneath. We only laid one width of pad at a time, adding more as we needed. This kept it from getting all bunched up as we walked back and forth getting more planks. The seams of the pad are simply taped together, overlapping that thin plastic flap you can see, but careful to only butt up the actual padding sides. That was the 1st install of this wide plank laminate flooring… in our former house… and the overall width of the space was 6 feet. As this particular wide plank laminate I chose is 12″ wide each plank, once we got going with full widths, it turned out to be perfectly 6 widths of boards. Now, fast forward to our breakfast room we just renovated in our new 100 year old house… It is a much wide and larger space, and the room wasn’t square. I don’t mean the shape of it, I mean the walls aren’t perfectly square, leaving a little bit of a weird angle with the floor space. You don’t notice it all, but we did need to carefully measure. The best way I figured out how to do this is to measure from close to the left corner straight across to the opposite wall, taking note of that number. Then measure from close to the right corner straight across to the opposite wall as well… is it the exact same number as the left corner? if not, be sure to make adjustments with the 1st laminate board. And actually, since this breakfast room is so long, we did that straight across measuring in a couple of points along the wall, making adjustments in that initial row of planks. I actually think we should have snapped a chalkline on the floor to work from, that would have been the best! Even though the first row takes a lot of time, it’s worth it to start out correctly, then the rest flows really easily. It’s that way with so many things… in construction and in life… the foundation must be solid, or you’re going to have major, sometimes devastating issues. Our breakfast room had carpet, so in the renovation process we did rip that out along with a ton of other things. (see the full before and after projects here.) Most of the floor underneath the old carpet was standard plywood subfloor, except one large oval space, (you can’t quite see that in this picture, but it was where originally the previous owner’s hot tub sat!!) That large oval space, about 12′ wide, was actually covered with a poured floor leveler, a cement type product. It was smooth with the subfloor, so this floating laminate plank floor was perfect for this room, as it would have been a huge deal if we needed to nail something down to the subfloor as a large part of it was concrete! Once the floor is down, then the baseboard trim can be installed. Well that is, if like in our breakfast room, the baseboard trim was off. If, like in our former house, the trim is already installed, then you lay the laminate floor and add a piece of 1/4 round or shoe molding to cover the edge. The floor will expand and contract a little, and because it is free floating, you must leave a small gap between it and the wall/trim it’s butting up against. The shoe molding will cover that gap. Just remember to attach the shoe molding to the baseboard, not the floor! Oh and one more detail about that, the shoe molding trim piece should be considered part of the trim, not part of the floor. Therefore it should be painted or finished to match the trim, NOT the floor! (a pet peeve of mine, can you tell?) If your project includes a doorway of some sort, where the floor must transition to either a doorway, a step, or even another flooring surface, you will need the appropriate type of transition piece covering over the edge of the laminate board and connecting to the adjoining piece. The store will have many options to fit most needs for that, like in our former house’s project, where the laminate butted up to the carpet, a ‘T’ molding transition piece was perfect. But in our breakfast room project, it was a unique need. The breakfast room has 2 doorways that lead to the kitchen, and both of those doorways are also a step down. Here’s what we used for the transition piece for that: I actually had my carpenter use a board and dado out a section underneath so the board would lay over the laminate floor edge on the one side, and on the step side of the kitchen it is a nice stair nosing. Since this piece actually gets foot traffic, and not wanting it to attract dirt like it would if painted white, (like the rest of the trim) I painted it in a dark brown color with heavy duty paint from Hirshfield’s. Here’s another tip: They sell tools for leveraging and pulling the pieces of laminate together. But, of course, the way we usually do it, we jimmy-rigged some tools including a rubber hammer and a scrap piece of laminate. It is very important that you do get it to properly ‘click’ together, with whatever you use, or it will pop apart at some point when you walk on it. (darn, I found this out partway through our project, when I thought I had it ‘clicked’ together but it wasn’t!) It’s also important that you don’t pound on the edge of the laminate with a hammer, where it must ‘click’ to the next piece… it will break or dent and be impossible to get the next piece to ‘click’ into the damaged part… (yep, figured this out rather quickly too!) I really like the durability of this laminate floor. I also like the rustic finish of it, and I love the 12″ wide plank look of it, I think it goes nicely with the features of the room.
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