Laminate Flooring 101

The latest developments in laminate flooring make it possible to change the ambiance of a room in a matter of hours. The boards simply snap together to produce a long wearing, easy to clean floor that not only looks good but is good for your health. Allergy problems will be relieved when dust laden carpet is replaced and best of all carpet cleaning will be a thing of the past. Installing laminate flooring is not difficult, it can be done by anyone with a basic knowledge of measuring and sawing wood.

How It Works

Laminate flooring is a composite material, the tread layer is a stain resistant, extremely durable transparent finish. Below that is the decorative layer, this is an image that creates the appearance of hardwood, available in many colours and grain styles. Next is a fibreboard core that provides impact resistance and stability, the bottom of this layer is covered with melamine for structural stability and moisture resistance.

Each board is aproximately 5/16" in thickness, 8" wide and 54" long, generally there will be the appearance of three flooring boards wide and of various lengths from 12" to 36" depending on the brand of material. One side and one end has a tongue, the other side and end has a groove designed so they snap together in a tight joint both sideways and lengthways. As there is no standard size or interlocking design material from different manufactures generally can not be used together.

To determine the number of cartons needed calculate the square footage of the room add about 10% extra and divide this amount by the coverage listed on the carton, rounding it off to the next full carton. Most suppliers will refund full cartons, so estimate on the high side to be safe, this is especially important if several rooms are being done with the same material over an extended period of time. Most cartons will contain 7 boards and cover about 18 square feet.

The floor floats on top of a foam underlay that cushions the floor and deadens the sound. There are different types and grades of underlay for specific applications, for example when applying the floor over concrete an attached moisture barrier is necessary.

Laminated flooring can be cut with any saw capable of cutting wood, a finer toothed saw will make a smoother cut.

Basic Tools Required

You will use the square to mark out cuts around door frames, support posts, etc. It will also be necessary to make a cut line when cutting the boards to length with a hand saw.

Jig Saw

Cuts around door frames etc. are easily made with a jig saw, this is really the only saw you need, the boards can also be cut to length or ripped with this saw as well.

25' Tape Measure

The 25' tape measure is used mostly to determine if you are running parallel to the far wall by measuring the distance at each end of the run. You will also need it to measure the dimensions of the room before you order the flooring.

Pry Bar

The prybar is used in preparing the floor, removing the base boards, carpet strips etc. It is also a handy tool to nudge the floor into alignment as you are working on it.

In addition you will need a pencil, straight edge and sawhorses or a bench to support the material as you cut it. If you have a sliding miter saw and a table saw so much the better. To cut the boards to length with a table saw the use of a sled is recommended.


Start by removing the baseboards, remove any carpet and underlay, lino or vinyl tiles do not have to be removed if they are still in decent condition, no missing tiles etc. If you are reusing the baseboards check the condition of the walls, carpet is generally thicker than the laminate flooring so the area where top of original baseboards met the wall may have to be repaired and painted.

Determine the direction the boards will be running, usually this is in the direction of the longest span. Measure the distance across the floor at each end of the span, if there is a variation it will be noticable where the boards meet the wall, if it is 1" or less then split the difference and taper each of the first run of boards that amount. If there is a large discrepancy it might be better to run the boards in the other direction, or determine which of the edges will be less likely to be noticed and have most of it at that edge.

If the pattern is that of one wide board try to calculate width of first run to be the same as the width of the last run, this is not so critical with the typical multiple narrow board patterns.

Lay the foam underlay, I prefer to run it in the opposite direction of the floor boards, tape the seams with masking tape to keep everything in position.

Start at the doorway, and cut the first board to fit around and in the door frame, use the square to mark this out, leave a gap of about 1" between the new floor and the floor in the adjoining room for the trim strip. The edge with the tongue should face into the room.

Add boards to the end of the one cut for the door frame to complete the first run, these may have to be ripped to the width of the ends of the first board. Remove the board from the doorway and connect all the boards in the run, then push it all back into position. There should be about a 1/4" gap between the edges of the floor and the walls for expansion, usually the drywall stops above the floor so generally the boards can be cut even with the drywall.

To continue adding rows join the ends of the boards together first, then inset the entire length by holding it at an angle and rocking it into place so they lock together, the ends must be attched so they line up perfectly to have nice tight joints. Start the next row with the cut-off from the previous row if it is over 12" long and continue on, so waste will be reduced to a minimum.

To measure the length of the last board in the row lay it down reversed so the two tongues are together, line your square up with the finished end of the board, not the tongue, in the row and mark the one you need to cut.

When you get to the last row measure from the finished edge to the wall and rip the boards to width.

It is important to periodically check the distances each end of the spans are from the far wall, if the floor has moved it can be nudged back into position with a prybar.

Flooring Calculator

Installation Tips

The cut-offs from the first row may be used in the last row in some instances.

Odd shaped rooms may require a greater percentage of waste than a basic rectangular room.

It is easier to install long runs with a helper.

Inspect all four corners of the finished surface on each board before installing.

When measuring use the finished surface as your reference point.

Take precautions not to nail through the laminate flooring when replacing baseboard and molding.

Store the packages in the room they are to be installed in for about 48 hours to acclimatize them before installing.






Care of Laminated Flooring

Vacuum and then damp-mop laminate floors.

Do not apply wax or acrylic floor finishes.

Put down doormats at doorways that lead to the outdoors or garage to trap grit that could gradually cause light scratching.

Put protective easy-glide buttons on the feet of furniture.

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