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Laminate flooring has an inner core and a glued-on layer or layers of outer material. Many types of laminate flooring simulate wood; some look like marble or granite. A popular alternative to hardwood or vinyl, high-quality laminate flooring resists staining, wear and fading much better than wood while providing its looks and appeal. It's durable -- about 10 times stronger than a kitchen countertop -- and water-resistant, so it can be used in a bathroom as well as a kitchen or hallway.
Laminate flooring is moderately expensive, with a cost generally between that of vinyl and hardwood flooring. It's easier to install than hardwood and much more durable and good-looking than easy-to-install vinyl.
Laminate flooring usually rests on a foam-cushion underlayment and may be installed over existing vinyl flooring. Because it's not glued or nailed down, it's easy to remove if you get tired of it. The tongue-in-groove floor planks are glued together over the underlayment, and baseboards hold the floor at the edges to form what's called a floating floor.
When laminate flooring is installed, the first step is removing the baseboards. A layer of foam underlayment goes down first, and if sound insulation is required, the foam cushion is layered atop a sheet of soundproofing material.
Because the flooring expands and contracts with the weather, a quarter-inch space must be maintained all around the room. Plastic spacers, set against the wall, are used to prevent the flooring from butting up against the wall.
After the first course of flooring is set in place, a generous line of glue is applied along the groove of the tongue-and-groove edge of the next plank (Image 1). The new piece is slid into the first piece and tapped into place with a hammer and a tapping block (Image 2). Excess glue is wiped off the boards before it dries, and the next board is glued in place. Floorboards are staggered as they're installed, which makes the floor as strong as possible.