Determine which direction the planks will be installed. To make the room appear larger or if installing in very small rooms or hallways, it is preferable to lay the planks parallel to the longest room dimension.
Planks can be cut with a hand saw or circular saw and most laminate flooring comes in planks that simply snap together with a tongue-and-groove system.
Prepare the Floor
After removing the existing flooring and quarter-round molding, check that the sub-floor is solid, flat and clean. Fix concrete sub-floors with a patching compound, and for wood floors, remove protruding nails and replace any damaged boards.
If you are installing the flooring below grade or in a room with high humidity or moisture, like a bathroom or laundry room, lay down a vapor barrier before you install the flooring.
Lay out the unopened boxes of laminate planks in the room. This will allow them to acclimate to the room’s temperature and humidity. They should acclimate for at 72 hours.
Prepare Door Jambs
It’s much easier to cut the trim around doorways than it is to cut the flooring to match the molding’s irregular shape. Once cut, the flooring will just slip under it, leaving a more finished look.
If needed, take a plank of flooring and a section of the underlayment and lay it finished side down next to the door’s molding. This will show you how high up you need to cut the molding.
Trace a guide line along the surface of the molding with a pencil.
Plan the First And Last Rows
Install flooring parallel to the longest wall or focal point in the room.
Measure the width of the room from this wall and divide the distance by the width of the planks. This will tell you what the width of the final row of planks should be. Allow for a 3/8-inch gap along both walls to allow for expansion of the flooring. If the last row is going to be less than 3 1/2 inches wide, consider distributing the width needed between the first and last rows.
To calculate the width needed for the first and last row, add the width of a full plank to the width needed for the last row. Divide that number by two and cut each plank in the first and last row to that width. Don’t forget to allow for the 3/8-inch gaps along both walls.
Cut the First and Last Rows
Before cutting the planks, check the cutting instructions for your particular flooring product.
You can cut the planks using a table saw, miter saw, circular saw or hand saw.
Typically, you will cut with the finished side up. Use duct tape to mark the plank more easily and reduce splintering.
Install the Underlayment
The underlayment should meet but not overlap, as overlaps in the underlayment result in bumps under the flooring. Duct taping the seam will hold the underlayment in place and help maintain the vapor barrier.
Install the First Row
All laminate flooring will expand and contract due to temperature and humidity fluctuations. To allow for this expansion, place 3/8-inch spacers along the wall to leave a consistent gap around the edges of the floor.
If the door to the room is located on one of the shorter walls, start laying the planks on the door side of the room. This will ensure you have the clean, uncut edge at the threshold.
Begin the first row of flooring by placing the planks with the tongue side facing the wall. Install the second plank next to the first by aligning the tongue into the groove and press the plank down to snap it in place.
When you come to the end of the first row, cut the length of plank needed to complete the row. When measuring, remember to allow for the 3/8-inch gap at each end.