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How to lay laminate flooring

Difficulty rating: Medium

These tasks may be tricky so will suit you if you're experienced in DIY, or simply love a challenge.

Before you get started on any of our 'how to' guides, please take a moment to read through our DIY safety tips.

1. Where to fit laminate flooring

  • Laminate flooring is ideal for living areas and hallways.
  • Certain ranges are great for bathrooms and kitchens. Check details on packaging.
  • Laminate boards are protected with a special resin coating finish but can be scratched by grit. So put strong doormats at entrances and exits of external doors and brush up loose grit. Protect furniture with furniture felt pads

2. Measuring up

  • Measure the width of your room at the widest points, then measure the length. Multiply them together to give you the area of your room in m2 . Add 10% for wastage. Example: width 5m x length 4m = 20m2 + 10% = 22m2 of laminate flooring.
  • To work out how many packs you need, check the pack size - say it's 1.243m2. Then divide your room size by that number. Example: 22m2 divided by 1.243 = 17.6 packs. Round this up to 18 packs.

Watch how to measure up for laminate flooring

When laying laminate flooring, it's important to get the correct measurements. This guide will show you what to do when measuring up.

3. Choosing the right flooring

  • 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 that allows slight movement if there's a change in temperature or humidity.
  • Laminate boards can't be sanded if they get scratched. So for places that get a lot of wear, you might want to use engineered boards. 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.

4. Preparing the sub floor

  • You can lay laminate flooring on any smooth, flat sub-floor as long as it's 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 that dries flat and level. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Before fitting boards over concrete always put down a damp-proof membrane (DPM) to stop moisture coming through.

Watch how to prepare the subfloor for laminate flooring

If you are laying laminate flooring, it is important to correctly prepare the subfloor. This guide will show you which type of underlay is most suitable for your project.

5. Putting down an underlay

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 lay a combined underlay and DPM if necessary. Lay the underlay over the entire floor area and trim to fit. Cut a 16 mm gap around pipes.
  • Lay lengths side by side and secure them with masking tape.

 

Combined underlay
  • The good thing about combined underlay is that you only have to fit one layer not two, whatever the sub-floor.
  • It's thicker than polyfoam underlay so absorbs very slight irregularities in the floor. It gives you good sound insulation too.
  • Make sure you tape the joints to keep the product damp-proof.

 

Wood fiber boards
  • This is the thickest underlay. Use if you have floorboards or a slightly uneven sub-floor. It gives good heat and sound insulation.
  • Always 'acclimatise' the boards in the room for 24 hours before laying. This lets them expand or contract according to the conditions. Prepare the floor and lay a DPM if you need to.
  • Lay the boards. Stagger the joints, leaving a 10mm expansion gap around the edge of the room and 5mm between boards (fig. 1).

 

Helpful hint...

Insert cork expansion strips in all perimeter gaps before finishing the edge of the room with skirting or beading to help control the boards' natural movement (see pack for instructions).

Wood fibre underlay: lay the boards to within 10mm of the edge of the room. Leave a 5mm expansion gap between the boards.
Figure 1

6. Planning the direction of boards

  • Lay your boards in the same direction as the longest straight wall. But if you have matching flooring in a next-door room, it's probably best to lay them in the same direction.
  • In a square room, lay the boards in the direction of incoming light.

7. Before starting

  • Remove skirting boards so they can be refitted 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 (fig. 7).
  • Vacuum the floor to remove grit and dirt.

8. Laying the flooring

  • 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 (fig. 2).
  • Make sure the spacers are wide enough to form the manufacturer's recommended expansion gap all around the edge of the floor - usually 12mm (fig. 3).
  • The ends of the boards will be tongue and groove. Join them by using adhesive on the top of the tongue locking mechanism. Many boards use just click systems that don't need adhesive.
  • You'll 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 (fig. 4).
  • 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 with a mallet or hammer. But see fitting instructions to check this method applies (fig. 4).

Place plastic spacers at 60cm intervals between the wall and the first row of boards
Figure 2
The spacers must be wide enough to form the recommended expansion gap all around the edge of the floor - usually 12mm.
Figure 3
Make sure the end joints of the adjacent rows are staggered by at least 30cm
Figure 4

9. Going around the pipe

  • If you need to go around any pipes, mark the position of the pipe on the board you're laying.
  • 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 (fig. 5).
  • Fit the board and carefully glue the small off-cut wedge behind the pipe. Check there's an expansion gap around the pipe.

To go around a pipe, drill a hole larger than the pipe, saw two angled cuts and then replace the wedge with glue.
Figure 5

10. Fitting around architraves

  • It can be very tricky to cut boards to fit around architraves (the moulding around a door or cupboards) while leaving an expansion gap.
  • Instead, saw out a piece from the bottom of the architrave. This will need to be cut 15mm into the architrave. Work out the height by the thickness of the board, plus the underlay, plus about 2mm extra to allow freedom of movement for the flooring when laid (fig. 6).
  • Then simply slot your boards under the bottom of the architrave.
 
Don't cut the board around the architrave in a doorway - it's easier to remove a section of architrave.
Figure 6

11. Real wood flooring

Laying real wood flooring is very similar to putting down laminate. You'll need spacers and expansion strips to fit real wood flooring - as you're creating a floating floor you have to leave room for expansion.

Solid wood will require a little more expertise, but with care anyone can do it! For solid wood, you'll want to use tension straps, as you'll be pulling together the glue between each slat.

If you feel gluing each individual slat will be just too messy, we sell very handy self-adhesive underlay. It glues each slat automatically simply by you pressing down. 

12. Finishing off

  • When you've finished laying the boards, remove the spacers, insert cork expansion strips and put the skirting board back 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 needed (fig. 7).
  • Fit a metal or wooden threshold over the edge of the flooring in all the doorways (fig. 8)
  • When you've finished laying the boards, remove the spacers, insert cork expansion strips and put the skirting board back 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 needed (fig. 7).
  • Fit a metal or wooden threshold over the edge of the flooring in all the doorways (fig. 8).
 
Use thin mouldings to hide any gaps around the edge of the room.
Figure 7
Fit a metal or wooden threshold over the edge of the flooring in all the doorways
Figure 8
Watch how to finish off laminate flooring

Once you have fitted your laminate flooring here are some tops tips on how to finish your flooring to a professional finish.

Helpful hints...

To get a smooth edge around your radiator pipe, drill a hole 16mm bigger in diameter than the pipe itself. This will allow for expansion. Radiator pipe rosettes round the fitting off nicely.

When finishing off your flooring into a doorway, place a piece of laminate flat next to the architrave. This gives you a guide for where the flooring will come up to. Then you can saw just the right amount off the bottom of your architrave, and place the laminate firmly and snugly underneath. The video here shows you how to do this.

To finish off the laminate flooring altogether, use a threshold strip to create a neat connection between the other flooring.

Finally, you can remove the spacers and replace with cork explanation strips. These allow the flooring to expand and contract. After placing the cork explanation strips around the room, fix scotia to skirting boards to create a neat finish.

Watch our top tips for laminate flooring

Here are some useful tips for the maintenance and care of laminate flooring.

Tools for the job


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