How to lay laminate flooring
Laying laminate flooring
Modern laminate wood flooring is now a very popular choice to use in the home. It’s hard wearing, long lasting, and there is a huge variety of styles and shades to choose from. This type of flooring is easy to maintain and is ideal for high traffic footfall areas.
Laying down laminate flooring is quite straightforward, but thorough and careful preparation is absolutely vital if you want to avoid problems in the future. It’s crucial to determine if your sub-floor is suitable, especially with regards to moisture content. Laminate flooring is even compatible with underfloor heating.
Laminate flooring uses some form of click-fit, or tongue and groove fitting system – many manufacturers have patented their own designs. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions for guidelines. This guide covers Rapid Fit and Twin Clic laminate flooring. The Rapid Fit system has a wider range of options and is easier to lay - it’s ideal if you’re laying laminate flooring alone or in a large room. Twin Clic flooring needs two people to lay it.
Do I need underlay for laminate flooring?
It’s essential that your sub-floor is clean, level, and damp-proof. Laminate flooring needs an underlay whether you’re laying onto concrete or onto an old wood sub-floor. Underlay brings many benefits, such as noise reduction, heat insulation, added comfort underfoot, and an extended lifespan to your flooring.
There are a number of different underlays suitable for use with laminate flooring.
- If you’re laying onto a wooden sub-floor then fibreboard underlay is very popular as it provides excellent heat insulation. It’s also the best choice if your sub-floor isn’t perfectly level, as it will cover any minor protrusions, i.e. up to 3mm high.
- If you’re laying onto a concrete sub-floor then you need to choose an underlay with an integrated damp-proof membrane, such as foam. You can still use fibreboard, but you will need a separate damp-proof layer too.
Laying laminate flooring on concrete
Because concrete is porous you will need to check its moisture levels before laying down your floor. As a general guide you can use duct tape to securely stick down 1m2 of polythene onto the concrete and leave overnight. If your concrete is damp, water droplets will collect on the underside of the polythene.
Alternatively you can use a professional moisture metre for a more accurate reading. Concrete sub-floors should have a moisture content of 12% or less on a prong test, or 3% or less on a moisture meter. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for further details. If your concrete is too damp the cause will need to be investigated and resolved before you lay down any flooring.
If your concrete is suitable you can apply a damp-proof membrane to ensure that no moisture gets through in the future - refer to the manufacturer’s instructions. Alternatively you can choose an underlay with damp-proof protection.
How much laminate flooring will I need?
To calculate the number of packs you need, work out the size of your room in m2 (length x width = m2) and check against the coverage of the pack. Add an extra 10-15% for cutting and wastage.
Laminate flooring needs to acclimatise to the room it’s going to be laid in. Leave the unopened packs flat for at least 48 hours. Don’t stack the packs more than three high, and preferably wedge something between each pack so the air can circulate fully around them. Never store the packs by leaning them against the wall, which can lead to them bending. If you’re laying laminate flooring onto underfloor heating then lay each pack on the floor separately – don’t stack them at all.
Where do I start laying laminate flooring?
If you’re laying onto concrete, or a new sub-floor then the direction you lay your floorboards is up to you. Laying towards a light source makes the joins less visible. Laying horizontally or vertically will influence the perspective of the room, making it seem wider or longer.
Therefore it’s a good idea to ‘set out’ your floorboards prior to laying, so you can work out how they will be arranged and how wide the last edge row will be. Flooring requires an expansion gap of 10-12mm around the edges to allow the wood to expand and contract naturally over time. Failure to include an expansion gap can warp and damage the floorboards in the future.
If your skirting is at least 10-12mm thick then it can be removed before fitting and reinstalled once the laminate floor is laid down. Or you can replace the skirting with flooring trim.
To work out how many rows you need, measure the width of the room and divide this by the width of a flooring panel, allowing for expansion gaps. If the width of the final row is less than 60mm you’ll have to trim your first board lengthways to accommodate the necessary extra width. The aim is to avoid having edge boards which are too thin.
Setting out also helps with positioning boards which will adjoin pipes. Pipes should sit in the middle of the board’s width, not at the edges. This makes cutting much easier later on.
Start the first row in the corner of the longest wall and work your way back from there.