This guide relates to both the interlocking type of laminate flooring and the tongue-and-groove variety. We will show you how to lay both properly, but much of the preparation and the finishing applies to both types.
Ah, our key word again, preparation. Prepare the floor you wish to cover by making sure it is clean and free from dust/grit and is dry and flat. Any warping in the floor will transfer to the laminate. If you are laying the laminate on a concrete floor which is not level, use a self-levelling concrete screed and allow this to dry thoroughly. Lay a waterproof membrane over the top of this before starting to lay the floor. It is possible to buy combined underlay and damp-proof membrane, giving you only one layer to lay instead of two.
If you are planning to lay laminate over old wooden floorboards, it is a good idea to line the floor with hardboard. If the old floor is pretty level, this is not essential, but even tiny differences in height between floorboards will effect the finish of the laminate flooring. You can find more info on lining a wooden floor here.
All laminate floors should have an underlay. This helps protect the laminate and also gives it a bit of spring. Underlay for laminate flooring is usually made of polystyrene and is available in several thicknesses. Butt any joints in the underlay together, but do not overlap them. Secure the joints and the edges of the underlay with tape to stop things sliding around as you lay the laminate on top.
For advice on laying tongue-and-groove laminate, see further down this page.
Where to Start
Once you have decided which way you want the flooring to run, start to work off of the longest clean edge (wall) that runs in that direction. Lay your first strip and bring the second in to butt up against the end of it. Lift the far end up slightly and using a block and hammer, knock the two strips together so they “lock”. When you get to the end of the run, measure how much you need and trim off any excess with a Jig Saw. If the offcut is longer than 350mm, you can use it to start the next row.
Connect the second row together but do not try to connect it to the first row as you go. Wait until the full row is connected and trimmed to fit, and then get some help to lift the outer edge of that row and “lock” it into the first complete row. You only need to lift the edge up about 25 degrees to allow it to slot in, then as you lay the edge back down, use a block and hammer to gently tap it home. Be careful not to damage the new outer edge as you do this.
Joints and Edges
You should always try to start subsequent rows with an off cut. This stops the joints lining up and creating weak areas in the floor. Always try to space the joints at least 200mm apart. You should also leave a gap between the flooring and wall/skirting. This will allow for the floor to expand in warm weather without buckling. Using 5 or 6mm spacers whilst laying the floor will also make it easier to fit the last row.
Once you have the first two rows laid down, glue or nail them into place. This makes laying the rest of the floor easier. Use cardboard templates to mark the shape of awkward areas such as pipes or doorframes and then transfer the marks onto the laminate for cutting.
Many of the steps detailed above for locking laminate also apply to tongue-and-groove laminate flooring. The different techniques between the two will be explained here.
Always lay this type of laminate with the tongue facing into the room and groove against the wall. Lay the first row as you would lay locking laminate and then lay two further rows without using any glue. Once you are sure that everything is slotting together properly, you can go back and disassemble these rows and glue them. Tap each section together and wipe any glue that squeezes out of the joints with a damp rag.
Use a pulling bar (often supplied with the flooring) to pull in the joints along the rows. Hook the pulling bar over the end of the row and use a hammer to tap the other end of the bar and pull the joints together. Again, wipe off any glues that is squeezed out. As you work across the room, continue to tap each row against the last with a block and mallet.