How To Lay Laminate Flooring: 13 Steps (Pictorial Guide)

26 October 2023by


Laminate flooring offers a remarkable blend of beauty, durability, and affordability. This versatile flooring option has gained immense popularity for its ability to mimic the appearance of natural wood while being resistant to common issues like termites and moisture. What’s more, laminate flooring is a perfect choice for DIY enthusiasts. The exact art and craft of installing laminate flooring will be thoroughly covered in this detailed tutorial, from initial setup to final touches. This book will provide the skills and information required to complete a laminate flooring installation of the highest quality, whether you’re a rookie or a seasoned DIYer.

Chapter 1: Preparing the Canvas

Before diving into the installation process, laying the foundation by preparing the floor properly is crucial. This initial stage sets the tone for a successful and long-lasting installation.

Section 1.1: Acclimating the Boards

One often overlooked but critical step in the laminate flooring installation process is allowing the boards to acclimate. Place unopened laminate flooring packages in the area or rooms where they will be installed first.

  • Allow the flooring to acclimate for at least 48 hours before installing.
  • This acclimation period ensures that the boards expand or contract to match the room’s temperature and humidity, minimizing the risk of shrinkage or expansion after installation.

Section 1.2: Moisture Level Management

Moisture is laminate flooring’s arch-nemesis, and ensuring your site is moisture-free is paramount to a successful installation. Here’s a systematic approach to manage moisture:

  • Check the moisture content of the subfloor using a moisture meter. Ideally, it should be 12% on a prototype-prong test scale.
  • Different meters may have different scales, so always refer to the manual for accurate readings.
  • Monitor humidity levels within the room using a hygrometer. Aim for a relative humidity (RH) range of 45-65%.
  • A perfectly level sub-floor is essential. Any unevenness can ensure the quality of the flooring installation is maintained. Use a spirit level and ruler to ensure the floor doesn’t have more than 3mm of dips or humps over a 1-meter length.

Section 1.3: Preparing the Canvas – Cleaning

Before you can start laying down the laminate boards, it’s imperative to clean the canvas. Follow these steps:

  • Clean up any dirt or debris from the floor.. You can sweep, vacuum, or use your preferred cleaning method.
  • Ensure that the floor is arid, as moisture can negatively impact the adhesion of the laminate boards.

Section 1.4: Building a Moisture Barrier

A moisture barrier serves as a protective shield, safeguarding your laminate flooring against potential moisture emanating from the subfloor. Below are instructions on how to establish a moisture barrier:

  • Lay plastic lining on the room floor where the laminate flooring will be installed.
  • Tape the seams of the plastic lining together with moisture-resistant adhesive tape.
  • Avoid overlapping the plastic sheets, as this could lead to uneven flooring.

If you’re dealing with a concrete floor, run the plastic lining up the walls by about an inch, ensuring it doesn’t extend above the baseboard.

Section 1.5: Adding Foam Floor Padding

While some laminate flooring has built-in padding, others require additional foam floor padding. This layer serves multiple purposes:

  • It prevents small rocks and debris from causing indentations in the flooring.
  • It offers a cushioning effect, reducing noise and adding comfort.
  • Eliminates creaking or squeaking noises when walking on the floor.

To install foam padding:

By meticulously following these steps, you’ll have prepared the perfect canvas for your laminate flooring installation, ensuring a solid and durable foundation.

Chapter 2: The Art of Laying Laminate Boards

With the canvas prepared, it’s time to dive into laying down the laminate boards. This chapter will guide you through the process, from placing the first board to achieving a seamless finish.

Section 2.1: Placing the First Board

The first board you lay sets the stage for the entire installation. Orient the ridge side of the board to face the wall.

  • It’s advisable to align the boards parallel to the room’s longest wall.

Section 2.2: Using Spacers

  • To preserve the structure’s integrity, spacers are essential. You have two options for spacers: buy them or manufacture your own. 
  • Section 2.3: Building the First Row

The first row of laminate boards lays the foundation for the entire project. Follow these steps to build the first row:

  • Place the second board in the first row end-to-end, continuing along the same wall.
  • Ensure that the entire first row runs parallel to the longest wall in the room.
  • Verify that the row aligns with the walls by checking the distance from the edges of the floorboards to the wall.

Section 2.4: Progressing to the Second Row

  • Shorten the first board in the second row to create an offset or staggered pattern relative to the first row.
  • Utilize a wooden block and a hammer to softly tap the succeeding row of boards into alignment with the initial one. 
  • Steady the wooden block with your left hand and employ the hammer in your right hand to narrow the space between the first and second boards.
  • Keep tapping until the gap disappears, ensuring a snug fit.

Section 2.5: Continuing Row by Row

Repeat the process for each subsequent row, ensuring the gaps between the boards are adequately closed. It’s crucial to check the boards every third or fourth row to ensure they remain parallel to the walls.

Section 2.6: Trimming Planks for Irregular Spaces

As you approach the opposite wall or encounter rooms with irregular shapes, you may need to trim laminate boards to fit. Determine the necessary measurements for the boards you intend to shorten.

  • Utilize a table saw to trim the boards to the desired dimensions precisely.
  • A sharp miter saw is recommended for perpendicular cuts, while a table saw is suitable for narrower cuts.
  • Cutting the boards upside down for precision is often more accessible and practical.

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Where should you begin installing laminate flooring?

When installing laminate flooring, it’s best to start in the corner of the room and work towards the main entrance or the primary source of natural light. This approach ensures a visually balanced installation and simplifies the process by avoiding complex cuts or prominent transitions.   

How do you properly install laminate flooring?

Here’s the proper method: Begin by preparing the subfloor. Lay down a moisture barrier and underlayment for protection and cushioning. Then, securely install the laminate planks, leaving an expansion gap around the edges. Trim and fit as necessary, and finish the job with baseboards or trim. You’ll achieve a successful and visually appealing laminate flooring installation by following these steps diligently.

What do you put under laminate flooring?

To prepare the floor, ensure the subfloor is clean, dry, and level. Repair any imperfections, remove existing flooring, and add a moisture barrier if required. Install underlayment for stability, and allow the laminate planks to acclimate to the room’s conditions before starting the installation.

How should you get the floor ready before installing laminate?

Preparing a floor for laminate installation involves several steps. Remove any existing flooring and repair imperfections. Add a vapor barrier and let the laminate planks acclimate to the room if necessary—Lay underlayment for cushioning and noise reduction. Begin installation from a corner, allowing expansion gaps, and secure the planks following the manufacturer’s instructions.