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How (NOT) To Install Laminate Flooring

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“oh, it’s so easy!”

That is what I heard over and over about installing laminate flooring. I guess if you were the average person it would be pretty simple. But I am apparently not the average person.

So instead of telling you how to install flooring, I am going to tell you the mistakes we made and what NOT to do.

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1. Don’t buy cheap

I know it’s easy to think that 99-cent per square foot flooring would be the same quality as that $2.99 flooring, but it’s not. It’s really, really not.

The first flooring we chose was a store-brand. We thought we were getting a super deal – only $1.88 per square foot! But we quickly found out why it was so inexpensive:

  • Some of the boards were warped. So they weren’t perfectly straight, meaning they just didn’t line up correctly and left gaps.
  • They didn’t lock together. When you are looking for flooring, grab two of the samples and see if you can pull them apart after fitting them together. If you can, then stay far, far away! If the samples don’t have the sides you need to try this, ask an associate to show you two pieces that do and don’t take no for an answer.
  • The underlayment was separate. The “underlayment” is what gives a sound and a bit of moisture barrier between your subflooring and the laminate planks. Some laminate has this already on the planks as a layer – this is a GOOD thing! We picked up some white stuff that was again cheap. The problem was it slid around as we tried to install the floors. It was a nightmare.
  • If you are installing over particle board or wood, and have pets or kids, think about getting a plastic moisture barrier too. Pee seeps. Ew.

We ended up taking everything back where we purchased it and bought Pergo XP instead. It was $2.88 per square foot, so yes, more expensive. BUT the underlayment was attached and the planks actually locked into eachother. It was also nice and thick – 12mm is it thickest you can buy and when it comes to laminate you want it to be thicker so it sits better.

2. Don’t install the flooring immediately.

Laminate flooring needs to acclimate to the room. I know, who would have thought you needed to introduce planks to a room and let them schmooze for a couple of days? 48-72 hours of patience is needed before laying that floor down for good.

3. Don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen.

You only need one or 2 people to install flooring. Too many will just be annoying. On this note – send the kids to grandma’s house. Do NOT try to do this with them around. Period. Might as well lock the pets away too.

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4. Don’t assume the floor is even with the walls. 

It’s not perfect. especially if your house is a little older (like 20-30 years or more). You will need to figure out how to make it all straight and make a chalk line. Basically you measure out about a 1/4 inch from the wall you are starting at from the top and the bottom and use it as a guide to line up the planks. This site explains it in more detail.

5. Don’t assume the floor is even either.

If you have particle or wood subflooring you will want to sand out those little raised edges. Also – if you had carpet there before you need to remove all of those little staples. All of them.

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Some things you need when putting in that lovely floor:

  • You need a circular table saw. Borrow one from your neighbor or rent one from the home improvement center if you don’t have one (or don’t  want to buy one).
  • You could use a fine-toothed jigsaw or a handsaw, but your cuts may not be straight on these. I found one at Home Depot for $30 (SCORE).
  • You need one of those flooring install kits. they have spacers and this tool that will help you bang the hell out of the boards without chipping them to get the joints nice and tight.
  • Mallet.
  • Patience.

DO have a drink or two. Or three. You’ll need it. 

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3 hours and $298.97 later I have a new floor in the playroom!

8 Comments

  1. We paid to have laminate installed in 2 rooms when we moved in to our house, but I think reading your post, we may try to DIY in the future!! (Slowly removing the 70s carpet!)

  2. Ugh, we learned all of these mistakes the hard way too. I wish we would have taken our flooring back to the store and exchanged it for better quality. But at that point, we were stubborn and just pushed through. Now we have gaps. Blah. Great post.. this is great advice for future laminate installers. 🙂

  3. We are going to put in laminate on our entire first floor. We are set on pergo, but we are a little concerned because of the attached pad. We noticed when you lock in the laminate the padding doesn’t completely touch and there are gaps. Does your flooring seem ok, or is there a very loud echo?

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