Installing a laminate floor yourself means you can customize the look and layout to your liking. Those choices also mean you’re responsible for the way the floor looks when it’s done. Below are the major decisions you need to consider before laying down a laminate floor.
Can you install laminate flooring yourself?
The steps are similar if you want to install vinyl click flooring. The difference? Vinyl click flooring is typically waterproof and doesn’t require an underlayment. That moisture resistance can also make it more appropriate for high humidity spaces like bathrooms.
Removing the Old FloorThe first challenge of installing a new laminate or vinyl click floor is removing the old one. Carpet and any accompanying tacks must be pried up. Wood boards may need to be separated from an underlying floor (unless you’re planning to install the floor on top of an older wood floor).
Some floors may need to have a plywood layer nailed in to create a level surface. Removing the baseboards from the walls will also make installing the new laminate floor easier. After removing all of the old flooring, be sure to clean well underneath to avoid any bumps in the finished floor.
Measuring the Space
Accurately measuring a space often means dividing the room into separate areas and then surveying the length and width of these sections. Given how laminate flooring is laid out, the sections may need to be installed separately.
For starters, you need to pick out the laminate flooring that suits your taste and budget. You also need to get an underlayment. If you’re not removing and re-installing the baseboards, you probably need quarter round wood lining. To get the amount you need, measure the baseboard length and get a little extra, just to be safe.
You’ll also need to purchase transition pieces for the threshold between the rooms and possibly quarter round wood to finish the floor against the baseboards.
The underlayment keeps a laminate floor dry. Some higher quality underlayment also works as sound proofing and is mildew resistant. Standard underlayment has sticky edges, making it easy to unroll and stick down the layer as you go. Individual sheets need to be taped together to create a unified layer.
Laying the Planks
The direction you’ll lay down the panels (lengthwise or widthwise) is a matter of personal taste. Do your best to pick a flat wall and keep the lines parallel. You also need to allow for a small space that allows the wood in the flooring to expand during the warm weather. In addition to aligning the flooring with a gap, you may also need to trim out a tongue on the first row of planks.
You’ll likely need a miter saw or similar tool to size the planks and fit in the flooring. An oscillating tool can come in handy for slicing off the bottom of the wall trim when necessary to slide the plank under the molding. Smaller power saws may also be necessary to cut out the shapes that will help make the planks fit snugly against the wall. Installers often have preferred approaches to installing. Some like to keep the size of the planks fairly random so the end result appears more natural.
Others have geometric patterns they like to use. Whatever you do, try to plan it out before you buy the materials, since some patterns require more laminate planks. A rubber hammer will be useful to keep the planks in place. Joints can be tightened by using a cutoff piece of laminate to help tap in the other pieces. The last row of a room often demands a pull bar to help get it into place.
Quarter round sections of wood can create a finished look around the edges of the room. These typically need to be cut on the miter angle and nailed in either by hand or with a compressed air gun. Use caulk to fill in gaps between the quarter round cuts as well as nail divots. Installing Laminate flooring isn’t as simple as screwing together IKEA furniture.
If you’re DIY-ing for the first time, you may want to test your skills in a closet or other out-of-the-way area where perfection isn’t essential. If you don’t have the confidence or tools to properly install the flooring yourself, there’s no shame in calling a professional.