Laminate is an attractive and practical choice for flooring. It is ideal for hallways and living areas and is very easy to keep clean and maintain. There are also types of laminate flooring which are suitable for use in kitchens and bathrooms. Laying laminate flooring can be a challenge to those with little DIY experience, but with the right materials, tools and preparation, it is a job that can be managed by non-professionals. All going well, expect to spend no more than one day laying laminate flooring in a single room.
Materials and tools
So that you know how much laminate flooring and underlay to buy, you will first need to measure the room. Multiply the length by the width to get the room’s floor area. It is a good idea to add 10% for wastage, so if your room’s area is 10m2 , you will need 11m2 of flooring. If your sub-floor is concrete, you will need a damp-proof membrane to go beneath the underlay. You will also need skirting and a threshold strip that matches both the new floor and the floor of the adjoining room.
In order to cut the planks down to the correct length, you will need either a mitre saw or a jig saw. Other essential tools are a jemmy, a square, a snap off knife, a tape measure, a pencil, a hammer or mallet and plastic spacers at least 10 mm wide. For your comfort and safety, it is important to use goggles and a face mask when cutting wood, and knee pads for laying the planks.
It is essential that the surface you are planning to lay laminate flooring on is flat and smooth and completely dry. You can make sure it is smooth by fixing all screws and punch nails below the surface. Vacuum or sweep the floor to remove any loose material and check that the floor is dry. If you are laying on a concrete floor and you think there may be moisture, you should check with an expert before proceeding.
To condition your flooring boards, lay them horizontally in the room, still in their packaging, for 48 hours before you begin work. It is worth remembering at this stage that the last row of planks you lay will need to be at least 10 cm wide. In order to accommodate this, make your calculations now.
When you are satisfied that the sub-floor and laminate floor boards are in a suitable condition you can begin work by laying the underlay and, if your sub-floor is concrete, damp-proof membrane. Don’t use carpet underlay with laminate flooring, instead use either polyfoam or combined underlay, or wood-fibre boards. There is no need to glue or fix down the underlay; it should be laid as a floating floor. When placing the underlay, put it across the room, at a 90 degree angle to the laminate flooring.
Laying laminate flooring
You will be laying the planks lengthways, parallel with the longest wall and, if possible, towards the room’s main source of light. Use the spacers to create a 10-12 mm expansion gap around the edge of the room and lay the first laminate panel with the tongue to the wall. Then push the tongue on the short side of the second panel down onto the groove of the first panel. When you hear the click, the boards are connected. For the final plank in each row, place it face down next to the panel you have just laid and mark where it needs to be cut. If you are using a mitre saw, cut the plank face up. For a jigsaw, cut the plank face down.
Begin the next row either with the off cut of the last panel if it is longer than 30 cm, or, if it is shorter than this, start with a new panel which has been cut in half. This will ensure that you will get the right look for your floor by staggering the planks. Slide the long edge of the panel into the groove of the panels on the previous row, clicking the short edges in as you go.
To lay the final row, place a panel precisely on top of the last row laid. Then place another panel on top so that the tongue side is touching the spacers on the far wall. Draw a line along the edge of this panel, and then cut the first panel to get the correct width.
When you lay the boards in the final row, use a jemmy to knock in the clip together mechanism.
When you have finished laying the laminate floor boards, take away the spacers and cover the gap around the edges with your skirting. You can then put the threshold strip in position in the doorway and your new floor is complete.