How to Lay a Laminate Wood Floor

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Estimated Time: 
One full day, depending on the size of the room.

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Few things have the ability to taint the first impression of a room more than a dingy carpet or aged linoleum. Throw a stain-ridden shag carpet into an otherwise beautiful room and you have killed the charm. Your floors not only have the ability to gross people out, but when neglected can become a cesspool of dust and germs. Ask any person with allergies and they will tell you dirty carpets are a major source of their suffering.

Such was the problem with Karen, our Jane-in-training. Karen's home office wasn't very functional or attractive. It had dull lighting, no storage space and an old maroon carpet that really hampered the overall appeal of the room, making it look darker and smaller than it really was.

Rather than replace the carpet, Karen wanted something a bit more modern. Her wish was a room that was more functional and appealing but within her price range. So, we suggested laminate wood flooring. Often less expensive than hard wood floors, laminate flooring also has an advantage in that it is easy to install and even easier to maintain. In fact, we managed to install Karen's in about a day (and you can too with a little help from a few of your friends). We used a popular wood laminate product called Pergo, and the type we went with came out to roughly $6.00 a square foot, or $1,500 for the entire room.

For this project no adage is truer than "measure twice, cut once." Before you pick out your flooring, take accurate measurements of the room. It is also a good idea to buy a little more flooring than you need to account for any goof ups - usually about 10% more. Also, laying a floor demands that you do a lot of trimming, so a compound miter saw is ideal to have on hand.

One last tip: since you will be spending a lot of time on all fours for this project, investing in some quality knee pads is a good idea. At the very least, protect your joints by placing a rolled up towel underneath them.

Step 1

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Remove any baseboards by placing the chisel at an angle behind the board and prying it loose. While it may seem impossible, try to inflict as little damage as possible to the wall. You can use a "shim" (a small piece of scrap wood like a paint stirrer) between your tool and the wall as you work. The key to this step is leverage, not force. Once you get in the swing of things, it'll get easier.

Jane Tip: Mark the baseboards with numbers so that when you go to put them back on, you'll know exactly which piece goes where. Also, before you put the baseboards back on you will have to remove the existing nails. If they are finishing nails, give the tips of the nails a few bangs until the heads of the nails come up on the other side, then remove them with pliers.

Step 2

If you have to remove an existing carpet, be sure to wear protective gear. Gloves, safety glasses and a dust mask are all a must here as you'll want to protect yourself from the dirt the carpet has accumulated as well as whatever spiky objects are currently keeping it in place.

Step 3

Beginning in the corner of the room, start to pry up the carpet with pliers where it meets the floorboard. Inspect what's underneath. You probably have a basic carpet pad under there, but you never know. Some people have laid carpet without a pad, directly on top of hardwood floors or on top of plyboard.

Jane Tip: Most carpets are held down with tack strips, thin pieces of wood nailed into the floor at the edges of a room. You may get lucky and discover that yours is not, but don't hold your breath. Tack strips are pretty difficult to get up. The best way to go about it is to gently tap a pry bar underneath the tack strip with a hammer and jimmy it loose. (If you discover especially nice wood floors under you carpet, protect them by placing a piece of cloth underneath the pry bar to avoid damaging them.)

Step 4

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Cut the carpet into strips or smaller pieces for easy removal.

Step 5

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Once you have the carpet up, sweep the floor underneath to remove any lingering debris.

Step 6

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Roll the foam underlayment on the bare floor and cut it to fit. Check with the manufacturer's instructions. The underlayment we chose for our project didn't need any adhesive.

Step 7

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Check with the manufacturer's instructions on complete instructions on how to lay the floor. You will likely have to begin in a certain corner of the room and work according to the grooves of the board. When you do begin, give yourself a few quarter inches away from the wall so that you can replace the baseboards with ease.

Step 8

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In a perfect world, all of the boards would fit into the floor without the need to trim. However, we know this is far from a perfect world. When you come to the end of a line, measure how much length is left between the edge of the last piece and the wall in front of it. Mark a board with this measurement so you'll know how much to cut later.

Step 9

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Cut all of the end pieces to size using a compound miter saw. Remember to wear safety glasses as sawdust can fly.

Step 10

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After the last piece is snapped into place, you'll want to replace the baseboards. We used a nail gun to speed up the process and popped the nails in about every six to eight inches.

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Karen's new wood laminate floor gave the room an entirely new look and feel. When we were done her office appeared bigger, cleaner and brighter. Wood laminate floors are a great option for those looking to make a change quickly, because you can literally have a new floor in about a day, if the underlying surface is in good shape. Also, the laminate variety is often less expensive than hard wood floors and easier to maintain. Now Karen has no excuse not to get to work!

See also:

Silence a Squeaky Floor
How to Install Baseboards and Moldings
FORUM: "I need help with scratches on my wooden floor."

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2 comments

3
Jun

We are getting ready to install laminate in our family room. We have a stone fireplace in the room and around the bottom of fireplace on the floor it is not even. How is the best way to go about handling this? Any comments will be appreciated.
7
May

I am thinking about putting laminate wood flooring in my kitchen. Do I have to take up the old tiles first or should I put the laminate flooring on top of the tiles?