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In this guide, we’ll be looking at how to lay laminate flooring. Further on in the article, you’ll find a list of tools you need to do the job and three videos so you can see the process in action.
If it’s your first time laying laminate flooring, I highly recommend watching the videos at the end of the article. They include plenty of smart tips to make the job easier.
In the DIYer’s perfect world, every project and room would be obstacle-free. Sadly, this isn’t the case. So you will come across a problem or two when you lay laminate flooring.
A few examples include:
- Radiator pipes
- Chimney breasts
- Wall recesses and alcoves
- Uneven floors
Don’t let this put you off laying laminate flooring yourself, though.
Read our comprehensive guide on the different types of laminate flooring.
Step 1 – Planning and preparation
Laying laminate flooring is a fairly large project to undertake. So it’s important to plan ahead to make sure you know what materials you’re going to need and you have the correct DIY tools to hand.
Decide how you want to manage skirting boards
You have a few choices when it comes to skirting boards:
- Temporarily remove them while you’re doing the job, then refit them when you’re finished (and if they’re looking a bit shabby next to your newly laid laminate flooring, check out our guide on how to paint skirting boards)
- Remove the old skirting boards, do the job, and then fit new skirting boards
- Slide the edges of the laminate flooring under the skirting boards and fit beading to hide the join
- Slide the edges of the laminate flooring under the skirting boards and don’t fit beading
- Slide the edges of the laminate flooring up to the skirting boards and fit beading to hide the join. (The biggest issue with this method is the height of the skirting board. The beading might hide more of a smaller skirting board than you’d like. For taller skirting boards, it’s not much of an issue.)
Beading, also known as floor trim or edging, sits atop the laminate flooring to hide unsightly gaps where it meets the wall or skirting boards. It’s usually available in the form of long strips that match the colour and style of your chosen laminate flooring. Typically, you’ll buy both trim and laminate at the same time to ensure the colour/pattern is a perfect match.
Choose which direction you want to lay the laminate flooring
One of the biggest worries people have when laying laminate flooring is choosing which direction it should go. It might seem petty if you’ve never had to make this decision but it’s a critical one you want to get right. After all, the flooring may be in place for many years.
You have three options:
Quick-Step recommends you “…lay your floor in the same direction as the main light source in a room and in the same line as the most frequently used entrance”.
I think this is sound advice. It makes the lines in the room flow better. So, in a long and narrow hallway, you’d lay the laminate slabs vertically rather than horizontally. It also makes it easier when it comes to cutting each piece to size and creating the staggered sections.
At the end of the day, though, it’s all down to personal preferences.
If you’re laying your new laminate flooring over wooden floorboards, experts recommend laying them in the opposite direction to the floorboards and across the existing joists.
You’ll need a damp-proof membrane if laying laminate flooring on a concrete subfloor
If you’re laying laminate flooring onto a concrete subfloor, you’ll first need to lay a damp proof membrane to protect the laminate flooring from moisture. Alternatively, use a laminate flooring underlay that contains a damp proof membrane.
Acclimatise laminate flooring before laying it
The boards need to acclimatise to the room’s temperature for around 48 hours or so. Check your pack to see if the manufacturer recommends a longer or shorter time. You can spread the packs out across the floor if you have enough space. If you don’t, lay the packs on top of one another with blocks of wood (or similar) between each one so the air can circulate.
Don’t stand them ‘on end’ as they could bow.
If you’re using wood fibreboard underlay leave it to acclimatise in the same room for at least 24 hours.
Step 2 – Prepare the room by removing all furniture and the current floor covering
Before you start laying your brand new laminate flooring, you’ll need to clear out the room you’re laying it in. Obvious, I know, but that’s the first step.
If the room’s currently carpeted and you want to use it again or sell it, release it from the carpet grippers, roll it up and move it out of the room.
If you’re throwing the carpet away, use a Stanley Knife or good quality utility knife to cut it into strips or smaller pieces (it’s easier to move and take to the tip) and place it outside.
Now remove the carpet grippers (wear thick gloves if you can).
There’s a good tip in the second video below which suggests using a crowbar to remove the carpet grippers. You place the crowbar as close to the nail holding the carpet gripper to the floor as possible and slightly nudge it to loosen the gripper. Then pull up the gripper.
Doing it this way reduces the chances of the carpet grippers splintering and becoming difficult to remove.
Once you’ve cleared the room of the current floor covering and all the furniture, it’s time to tidy up.
Brush down the area to pick up any larger items, then vacuum the floor to catch the finer debris. You want the floor to be as clear from debris as possible.
Step 3 – Lay the underlay
Laminate flooring underlay usually comes in the form of a roll or square boards.
Standard 3mm polyfoam underlay rolls are most suitable for level subfloors like floorboards. While the thicker (5mm or 7mm) wood fibreboard underlay suits concrete subfloors and can help improve sound and heat insulation.
Check the label on your pack of laminate flooring for the manufacturer’s fitting recommendations. Typically, you need to leave a few millimetres between each fibreboard and the wall, and a little less between each board to allow for expansion.
Rolls of underlay can be taped together to stop them from moving. Some types of roll underlay already have the tape attached.
Lay the underlay on the floor in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Leave a 10mm-16mm gap around radiator pipes and suchlike.
Unless your room’s perfectly square, you will need to trim fibreboards to fit the room.
Step 4 – How to lay laminate flooring
Now it’s time to crack on with the part you’ve been waiting for – learning how to lay laminate flooring.
The slabs connect together side by side using a tongue and groove design, and the edges click into place using a clicking system. It’s a tried and tested method that creates a strong surface.
Start in one corner of the room
Start in a corner by placing your spacers from the flooring kit between the skirting board and the laminate plank – you’ll need at least two spacers along the edge and one or two at the end.
If you’re working without a laminate flooring kit, leave a 1/4 inch gap or use some old pieces of wood instead.
You want to present the first piece of laminate flooring to the skirting board so it rests against the spacers.
Once the first plank’s in place, click the end of the next one into position and work your way across the room. When you reach the opposite side of the room to complete the first row, measure the final piece, mark it on the back using a pencil and your square, and cut it to size using a jigsaw, table saw or standard handsaw.
If the cut-off is at least 300mm long, you can use it for the start of the next row.
Remember to leave a 1/4 inch gap around the perimeter of the flooring to allow for expansion, so don’t cut the piece to create a snug fit.
Also, don’t worry too much about a messy cut if you’re covering the perimeter with beading or a new skirting board as it will be hidden when the job’s done.
Slot the final piece into position and use the hammer and pull bar from your laminate floor fitting kit to lock it into place.
Starting the second row and beyond
If the cut-off from the first row is too short to start the second row, put it to one side to use later.
Cut a piece from another plank and start the second row from the same wall as the first. This piece should at least 300mm long. Put the spacer into position before you start.
End pieces are usually different lengths so the pattern when you’re done isn’t uniform (like a typical brick wall). This looks better and won’t compromise the floor’s stability. Play around with the sizes to see what works for you.
Keep repeating the process until the new floor is complete.
When you reach the final row, you’ll likely need to cut the laminate flooring planks lengthways to fit the available space. When you’re cutting it, allow for the spacers.
That’s just about it.
Take a few minutes to watch the videos at the end of this post to see the process in action and to pick up some tips about laying laminate flooring. And carry on reading for a list of the tools you required for the job and things you need to be aware of before you remove the plastic wrapping from the first pack.
Tools needed for laying laminate flooring
(Some of these tools are optional – you may not have all of these in your kit so you’ll need to find an alternative)
- Laminate flooring
- Beading (aka floor trim or edging)
- Laminate flooring underlay
- Wood chisel
- Circular saw (fitted with a fine cutting blade) or hand saw
- Retractable tape measure
- Knee pads
- Wood clamps (for holding the laminate flooring in place while you cut it)
- Pull bar*
- Tapping block*
- Mitre block
- Pin hammer and small nails
Items marked with an * can be bought together in kit form.
Should you invest in a laminate flooring kit?
A laminate flooring kit contains all the tools you need to make the job easier. A good one will set you back about £15-£20 but it’s a good investment, especially if you plan on laying laminate flooring in several rooms or you just want to get the job done with as little hassle as possible.
In a typical kit, you get:
- 1 double-headed mallet
- 1 rubber tapping block
- 1 pull bar
- 20(+) spacers
Frequently asked questions
Can you lay laminate flooring on top of laminate flooring?
This is not recommended. Laminate flooring ‘floats’ and moves around a little. Laying laminate flooring over laminate flooring will create two floating floors which could cause problems down the line. Taking up the old flooring and laying new planks is the best way to go.
Can you install laminate flooring yourself or do you need to hire a professional?
Most people with basic DIY skills should be able to lay laminate flooring themselves. Be sure to read this tutorial fully and watch the videos through to the end so you can follow the processes and pick up a few tips.
Does laminate flooring always need underlay?
It is possible to lay laminate flooring without underlay, but it’s not recommended. Especially on top of concrete or cement subfloors. The underlay helps create a level surface and supports the locking system of the planks.
If the laminate flooring comes with an underlay attached, then you shouldn’t need to put down more. In most cases, it’s also recommended you put down a vapour layer below the underlay to protect the flooring from moisture.
Can you install laminate flooring over carpet?
While it is possible to lay laminate flooring on top of carpet, it’s not recommended in most situations. The main reason for this is because the pile of your typical home carpet is too soft for the laminate flooring’s locking system to work effectively. Over time, without the support it needs, the laminate flooring could buckle and damage the floor.
With that said, if the carpet is sturdy and low pile, like the carpet you see in commercial premises such as a hotel lobby, cinema or restaurant, then it is possible to lay laminate flooring on top. The maximum thickness of the carpet should be around ¼ inch. Anything thicker is unsuitable for laminate flooring. (source)
Can you fit carpet over laminate flooring?
This is a controversial one that splits opinion! Pros nearly always recommend removing old unwanted laminate flooring before laying carpet. But people who’ve done it appreciate the extra layer of insulation and wonder what all the fuss is about.
Perhaps the biggest issue is height. The extra height generated by the carpet and underlay might stop doors from opening. If this is the case, they’ll need to be removed and planed so they open and close freely again. Also, take into consideration your future options – if you decide to remove the newly fitted carpet and the old laminate so you can lay another type of flooring, the gap under the door will be large enough to cause an uncomfortable draught (how to draught-proof doors).
Can you lay laminate flooring over tile?
Yes, you can. As long as the floor is flat and even. You should still lay a suitable underlay on top of the tile before you lay the laminate planks.
Do you need a laminate flooring kit to lay laminate flooring?
The short answer is no. However, if you’re laying laminate flooring for the first time, it usually works out cheaper to buy all the tools you need, that you don’t already own, in kit form. This includes things like a pull bar and tapping block.