How To Lay Laminate Flooring: A Complete Step-By-Step Guide

Dec 16, 2023

Installing laminate flooring can make a room look different and raise the value of your home. Putting in a laminate floor may seem hard, but most homeowners can do it themselves with a few simple tools and some planning ahead of time.

As professional floor experts with clients all over the UK, we’ve put in beautiful laminate floors in a huge number of homes. We’ve put together this complete guide to laying a laminate floor, with step-by-step instructions and important tips. First things first!

What Is Laminate Flooring?

Laminate flooring consists of several layers fused together under heat and pressure. The surface layer is a clear melamine resin designed to resist stains, scratches, and moisture. Below this is a decorative image layer protected by the clear top layer.

The core layer below is made of moisture-resistant high-density fiberboard (HDF). On the bottom is a backing layer to improve stability. Many modern laminates have attached underlayment to provide moisture protection and noise reduction.

Compared to solid hardwood or engineered wood floors, laminate is an affordable, durable flooring option that’s easy to install for DIYers. It can mimic the look of pricier wood and stone floors while withstanding heavy foot traffic. Most laminates today are attractive, realistic, and long-lasting.

How To Lay Laminate Flooring

Benefits of Laminate Flooring

There are many good reasons laminate flooring has become popular in UK homes:

  • Affordable – Laminate offers the look of wood or stone floors at a fraction of the cost. The durable surface resists scratches and stains.
  • Easy Installation – Most laminate floors use tongue-and-groove connections to click together without glue. This makes DIY installation straightforward.
  • Wide Variety – From wood looks to stone and tile designs, laminate comes in endless styles. You can find colors and textures to match any decor.
  • Durability – Modern laminates hold up beautifully to heavy foot traffic from people and pets. The protective wear layer resists scratches, dents, and moisture damage.
  • Low Maintenance – Laminate is easy to clean with a dry mop, vacuum, and occasional damp mopping. No waxing or refinishing needed!

With the right prep work, laminate flooring can be successfully installed over concrete, plywood, existing floors, and radiant heating systems. Now let’s go over what you need to get started!

How to Lay Laminate Flooring: Materials & Tools

Gather these supplies before starting your laminate floor installation:

Materials:

  • Laminate flooring – Make sure to purchase enough boxes to cover your room’s square footage plus an extra 5-10% for imperfect cuts.
  • Underlayment – Choose underlayment rated for laminate flooring without attached padding.
  • Transition moulding – For transitioning between rooms.
  • Quarter-round trim moulding – For covering expansion gaps along walls.
  • Foam flooring spacers – For maintaining proper expansion gaps around perimeter.

Tools:

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Table saw or jigsaw
  • Miter saw
  • Rubber mallet
  • Pull bar
  • Utility knife
  • Level
  • Eye protection, ear protection, gloves
  • Broom and dustpan

Additional supplies like a moisture barrier and floor repair products may be needed for concrete subfloors or uneven surfaces.

Materials & Tools

Once you have all the necessary laminate flooring installation products, review the manufacturer’s instructions as special tools or materials may be required depending on the system you select.

Laminate Flooring Installation Steps

Follow these key steps to properly install your floating laminate floor:

1. Prepare the Subfloor

Remove existing floor coverings down to the bare subfloor. Ensure the subfloor is flat, clean, and dry first. Address any uneven areas, holes, or cracks with leveling compound.

Vacuum away debris and dust thoroughly. Subfloors must meet flatness requirements specified by the laminate manufacturer, often 3/16” variation over 10 feet.

On concrete, make sure moisture testing falls into acceptable ranges and apply vapor barrier sheeting if needed.

If installing over a crawl space or basement, use polyethylene sheeting as moisture protection before laying a cushioning underlayment.

Allow all liquid floor repair products to dry completely according to recommendations before proceeding!

2. Lay Foam Underlayment

Roll out your chosen underlayment material according to the laminate flooring manufacturer’s guidelines. Run the underlayment in the same direction you plan to install the flooring planks.

Limit seams and overlap edges 6-8” where necessary. Pull the underlayment a few inches up walls around the perimeter. Use tape to hold seams together. This underlayment layer will provide moisture resistance, sound absorption, and a soft, cushioned surface for the laminate floor above.

For laminates with attached underlayment, skip to step #3!

3. Snap a Chalk Line

Mark parallel chalk lines to follow on one end wall to keep your first row straight and properly spaced from walls. For standard 12 mm thick laminates, leave 1/4″ expansion gap around all vertical surfaces like walls, cabinets, and pipes. Wider planks and thicker laminate floors typically require larger expansion gaps around the perimeter.

Measure out from wall to snap chalk line according to the required spacing for your floor’s thickness. Make sure lines are perfectly parallel using the 3-4-5 triangle method.

4. Assemble Your Starter Row

It’s easiest to assemble full planks for the entire first row on top of the underlayment off to the side. Connect short ends first by lowering and locking together tongue and groove.

Leave 1/4″ gap at ends which abut walls. Carefully slide completed first row into place against your chalk line with tongue sides facing the wall. Use spacers at ends and edges to maintain proper expansion space as you go.

5. Install Second Row

When second row is locked into place, you can remove the installing spacers against walls as each subsequent row holds the proper spacing when tongues and grooves fit snugly together. Continue connecting planks and ensure joints are staggered at least 6”, shuffling boards from multiple boxes. Use a rubber mallet and pull bar as needed to fully lock tongues into grooves along the length of boards.

Cut final row planks to proper width allowing for expansion space at far wall. Use a table saw or jigsaw with a sharp finishing blade to avoid chipping laminate edges if planks require lengthwise cuts.

6. Install Trim and Transitions

Once the main open floor area is covered, install transition pieces and trim. Place reducers in doorways, allowing for slight clearance under them to enable the floor to float freely. Use transition moulding between rooms and areas with vastly different floor levels.

Cover all expansion gaps along walls with coordinating quarter round trim, nailed into walls not floors!

Caulk trim lightly for an impermeable seal without limiting floor movement.

Laminate Flooring Installation Tips

Follow these top tips for flawless results from your DIY laminate flooring project:

  • Acclimate flooring boxes inside installation area for 24-48 hours beforehand.
  • Mix planks from multiple boxes while installing to maximize color and texture variation.
  • Avoid “stair stepping” distinct seams by ensuring rows are at least 6” offset.
  • When needed, carefully cut planks backward against tongue edge to avoid chipping laminate surface near finished edge.
  • Use proper expansion gaps as required and do not pin, glue, screw or adhere floors directly to any subfloor surface.
  • Check levelness frequently and use tapered wedges to correct any shifting rows.
  • Carefully remove dust and debris during the job using a broom and vacuum to avoid scratching.
  • Do not allow foot traffic until full adhesive cures as directed, generally 24 hours after install.

Professional Laminate Flooring Services

While laminate floor installation makes for a very manageable DIY project, bringing in professional installers ensures your floors start out flawlessly and stay looking beautiful for decades.

Here at Floorsanding.co.uk, our skilled flooring teams service clients across the UK. We provide complete laminate flooring services, including measuring and planning, subfloor prep, underlayment, precise installation, transitions, trim, and cleanup. All crews are fully licensed, bonded, and insured for your peace of mind.

For homeowners who want to DIY laminate but require subfloor repairs, leveling, or moisture remediation beforehand, we also offer affordable prep services ala carte.