Monday, 18 October 2010

How to...Lay Laminate Flooring

This guide will help you lay your chosen laminate flooring, to select the appropriate underlay and show you how to lay it. This is a fairly demanding project and some moderate DIY skills are needed. Depending on the area of your room, the whole job should be easily possible in less than a day. Always make sure you read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when laying your laminate flooring.


These floors are ideal for living areas and hallways. Certain ranges are suitable for bathrooms or kitchens, so always check advice given on the packaging. The boards are protected with a special resin coating finish but can be scratched by grit. Always fit a sturdy doormat at entrances and exits of all external doorways and protect furniture with furniture felt pads. Always brush up loose grit.


Measure the width of your room at the widest points and then measure the length. Multiply them together to give you the area of your room in m2. You should then add 10% for wastage.
e.g. width 5m x length 4m = 20m2 + 10% = 22m2 of laminate flooring.

To work out how many packs you need, check the pack size, e.g. 1.243m2, and divide your room size by that number. e.g. 22m2 divided by 1.243 = 17.6 packs. Round this up to 18 packs.

  • Masking tape
  • Claw hammer
  • Combination square
  • Jigsaw
  • Tape measure
  • Expansion strips
  • Underlay
  • Laminate threshold strip
  • Scotia
  • Craft knife
  • Spirit level
  • Laminate floor fitting kit
  • Saw
  • Mallet
  • Knee pads

Engineered, ‘veneered’ or ‘real wood top layer’ flooring is made up of softwood or man-made board with a thin layer of solid timber bonded to the surface. Laminate flooring is typically man-made board with a protected film.

Both types of flooring have interlocking profiles along the edges that are pushed together to give a smooth surface. Some are glued and some use a dry ‘click together’ system allowing slight movement if there’s a change in temperature or humidity. In places that get a lot of wear, laminate boards can’t be sanded if they get scratched, whereas the best engineered boards can be sanded and relacquered up to three times.

Laminate and engineered boards are more stable than solid timber. Central heating has little effect on them, so joints stay tightly closed.


Laminate flooring can be laid on any smooth, flat sub-floor as long as it is dry, firm and level. Make sure floorboards are firmly screwed down and flatten all nails with a hammer. If you have a newly laid concrete floor it must be completely dry. If you have an old, uneven concrete floor use a self-levelling compound. This is a free flowing, self-smoothing material which dries flat and level. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Before fitting any boards over concrete always put down a damp-proof membrane (DPM) to stop moisture coming through.


Polyfoam underlay
  • This is the thinnest type of underlay used under laminate flooring and is good for any firm, dry and level sub-floor such as chipboard, plywood or hardboard.
  • Prepare the floor and if necessary lay a combined underlay & DPM. Lay the underlay over the entire floor area and trim to fit, cutting a 16 mm gap around pipes.
  • Lay lengths side-by-side and secure them with masking tape.
Combined underlay
  • The advantage of combined underlay is that, whatever the sub-floor, you only have to fit one layer rather than two.
  • It is thicker than polyfoam underlay so will absorb very slight irregularities in the floor, and it provides good sound insulation.
  • Make sure you tape the joints to keep the product damp proof.
Wood fibre boards
  • This is the thickest of the underlays and should be used if you have floorboards or a slightly uneven sub-floor. It also gives good heat and sound insulation.
  • Always acclimatise the boards in the room for 24 hours before laying to let them expand or contract according to the conditions. Prepare the floor and if necessary lay a DPM.
  • Lay the boards, staggering the joints and leaving a 10mm expansion gap around the edge of the room and 5mm between boards.
TIP: Insert cork expansion strips in all perimeter gaps before finishing the edge of the room with skirting or beading to help control the natural movement of the boards


You should lay your boards in the same direction as the longest straight wall. However, if you have matching flooring in a next door room, it’s probably best to lay them in the same direction regardless. In a square room, lay the boards in the direction of incoming light.


Remove the skirting boards so that they can be re-fitted over the top of the new floor. If this isn’t possible, fit the new floor and use thin timber mouldings (sometimes called scotia or quadrant) to hide the edges . Vacuum the floor to remove any grit or dirt.


Start in a corner and lay the first row of boards along the longest straight wall - the tongue side of the board should face the wall. Place plastic spacers between the board and the wall at 60cm intervals. Make sure the spacers are wide enough to form the manufacturer’s recommended expansion gap all around the edge of the floor (usually 12mm).

The ends of the boards will be tongue and groove. Join them by using adhesive on the top of the tongue locking mechanism - note that many boards use purely click systems and don’t need adhesive. You will probably need to cut the last board of the row to fit it in. Mark it with a try square and saw it with the finished surface facing up.

Begin the second row, starting with the off-cut from the first row. Always stagger the end joints of adjacent rows by at least 30cm. Continue across the room, pushing the completed rows firmly together and adding more plastic spacers along the two side walls as you go. Fit each board together by gently tapping the edge block against the grooved side of each board, using a mallet or hammer (check your fitting instructions to see if this method is applicable).


If you need to go around any pipes, mark the position of the pipe on the board to be laid. Drill a hole about 16mm larger in diameter than the pipe and make two angled saw cuts from the board edge to the sides of the hole. Fit the board and carefully glue the small off-cut wedge behind the pipe. Make sure there is an expansion gap around the pipe.


Cutting boards to fit around architraves (the moulding around a door or cupboards) while leaving an expansion gap can be very tricky. nstead, saw out a piece from the bottom of the architrave. This will need to be cut 15mm into the architrave and the height will be determined by the thickness of the board, plus the underlay, plus approximately 2mm extra to allow freedom of movement for the flooring when laid. Then just slot your boards under the bottom of the architrave.


When you have finished laying the boards, remove the spacers, insert cork expansion strips and replace the skirting board over the new boards. Alternatively, fix a scotia or quadrant moulding over the expansion gap around the perimeters of the room. Pin the moulding to the skirting board and paint or varnish as required.

Fit a metal or wooden threshold over the edge of the flooring in all the doorways.


No comments:

Post a Comment