Installing laminate flooring does not have to be a painful, back breaking process. In fact, choosing the style and color of the laminate is likely a much more difficult task. While every individual manufacturer will include their own instructions to installing your new laminate floor, here is a basic guide to prepare you for the next step.
Prepare the Surface Underneath
Most flooring surfaces are installed on top of concrete slabs. The most important aspect of the concrete is that it is flat. However, do not confuse flat with level. If something is level, it means that there is no slope. Flat means that there are not dips or bumps that will prevent the laminate flooring from being installed properly.
There are two methods of flattening out the concrete. The first would be to use a filling compound to minimize the dips. This can create an extremely flat surface if used consistently across the entire flooring. The second method would be to use a surface grinder to bring high spots down to a flat level. A grinder will work nicely if the floor is relatively flat to begin with and only needs minimal adjustments. Otherwise, opt for the filling compound. However, make sure that the filling compound is completely dry before installing the laminate on top as this will trap in moisture and cause mildew that can only be removed by re-flooring the room again. Either rent a commercial dehumidifier or be prepared to wait several days to continue your project.
Install the Underlay
The underlay may differ between the different types of laminate flooring. It is usually a cork or rubber material that creates a buffer between the concrete slab and the new laminate planks that you are about to install. Seams should be taped with packaging tape to make sure they remain solid in place without sliding over each other. Also, have the underlay run 2 inches up the walls as the laminate flooring will run up the walls too. Many people install a portion of the underlay and then immediately install the laminate flooring so that both steps are done at the same time. This protects the underlay from being stepped on and damaged.
Install the Laminate Flooring
Before you begin installing the laminate, there are a few things you will want to consider. For the most professional look, measure the width of the room and divide by the width of the plank being fitted. This will let you know exactly how many planks will be used. If you divide this number by 2, you will have the size of the end planks to ensure that they are of equal size. It is a small detail, but it can make a big difference. You will also want to consider the natural light source of the room. Laying the laminate parallel to the window will create the illusion that the room is larger than it actually is.
When you begin installing the laminate flooring, remember the ¼ inch expansion gap. While it may be tempting to have it fit snuggly onto the wall, the expansion gap is necessary for installation. Many have a locking mechanism that will ensure a finish without a gap.
Laminate planks install with great ease. Their locking mechanism allows them to snap together for a stable and quick hold. Hold the plank at a slight angle as the two being connected are touching. Slowly rotating the uninstalled plank will cause it to click into place. Continue attaching the planks in this manner until you reach the opposite wall.
When the opposite wall is reached and the last plank is ready to be installed, you will need to grab an additional tool. As it will be a very tight fit, a puller tool helps you to maneuver the planks with strength and dexterity that may not be possible with bare hands. To eliminate the slight gap that will remain, add a quadrant to the edges. A quadrant is a small piece of rounded wood that fits into the corner between the floor and the wall. It creates a smooth transition between the new laminate flooring and the untouched wall.