Laminate Flooring: Installation

Back to Part 1

In the first part of this series, we discussed laminate flooring – what it is, its applications and its advantages. Here, we discuss installation of a laminate floor.

Where To Install

Because of the nature of design, there are rooms where you shouldn’t install laminate flooring. Installation of laminate in bathrooms or saunas is not a good practice, because the core of the laminate will swell and warp. Any room where there is an excess of water and humidity is a poor choice. However, if care is taken, it can be installed in bathrooms, following special installation practices. Discuss these issues with your installer.

Floor Preparation

Installation is straight forward and only requires certain precautions to insure a beautiful floor. Because laminate flooring is 5/16” to 3/8” thick as compared to hardwood flooring, which is 3/8” to 3/4”, the sub floor must be clean, smooth, and dry. The beauty of laminate is that it can be installed over concrete, wood flooring, vinyl tile, linoleum, tile, or virtually any other hard, flat surface.

An underlayerment/vapor barrier is installed on the floor prior to installation. This sheet works in two ways – it will keep moisture from coming through the sub floor if installed on concrete, and acts as soundproofing. If laminate is to be installed over a radiant floor, be sure to read any instructions from both the laminate flooring and radiant heat manufacturer before proceeding.

Always allow the flooring to acclimate to room conditions for at least 48 hours. Before beginning installation, inspect each piece for defects or damage. Insure that room temperature is at least 65 degrees.

The Installation

Laminate flooring uses unique edge joining systems for installation. There are several different types, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the brand you have purchased. Some types are simple snap together types, while others use a tap with a mallet at the end of the panels. Glue is used less often now than it used to be, making the installation much quicker and easier.

To determine the orientation of the flooring, experts say to determine the source of incoming light. The laminate planks should run parallel to the light from windows or glass doors.

A 1/8” gap is used on the beginning of installation to allow for expansion. The first row is started with a full plank. It is absolutely imperative that this first plank be straight, because any deviation from straightness is magnified over the entire installation. Planks are staggered, with second row a 2/3 plank and the third row a 1/3 plank. The finished installation should reveal the expansion gap around the perimeter.

A base shoe molding is then installed that covers the expansion gap. End moldings are used at doorways to cover the end installation. A T molding is utilized to join the laminate at doors or thresholds to other rooms on the same level.

Installation of laminate flooring is relatively easy. Follow these simple guidelines to insure proper installation.