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How to Install a Laminate Floating Floor (page 2 of 3)

Installing laminate flooring is a snap — literally. A laminate floor is a "floating floor," meaning it is not fastened directly to the subfloor. It can be installed over any other tightly bonded flooring, making it ideal for retrofits.

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Check the Materials

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With your floor prepped, wood trim removed and the underlayment down, you're almost ready to begin the floor install.

But first, take the time to check out your stock. Unpack a few boxes of flooring and inspect each piece for damage. You’re looking for any chips, splinters or dust in the tongue and the grooves.

These types of small imperfections can prevent the locking edges from forming a tight seam.

Once you're satisfied with the condition of your stock, you’re ready to install.

Planning and Cutting

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Now that you have checked out your stock, there are a couple things you'll need to know before installing the first rows of flooring. The first row should be placed on the most visible wall, and it should be placed parallel to the longest wall in the room.

When you install the floor, you'll need to leave a quarter-inch space between the flooring edges and walls or any other permanent floor spaces, such as the base of cabinets. This space will allow room for the flooring to expand and contract with changes in humidity. Most laminate-flooring manufacturers provide quarter-inch plastic spacers as guides.

You really shouldn't have to make many cuts when installing the flooring, typically just for the end pieces of a row. But if you need to make a cut, no worries, laminate cuts just like wood. Use a square to mark a straight cut line.

When using power tools you should always take precautionary measures. Use a dust collector or the appropriate dust facemask. Use a saber saw to make the cut. And it's a good idea to make cuts in another area to keep the sawdust away from the installation site.

Install the First Rows

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Working from right to left, start by placing the planks with the tongue side facing the wall.

With the first board flat, angle the next board so that the tongue and groove fit together. Lay the second board flat to lock the pieces together. Install the first row completely.

Maintain a 1/4-inch space between the flooring and the wall. Most likely a cut will be made on the last plank of the row. Use the leftover from that cut to start the next row. That way the seams will be staggered for a cleaner, more symmetrical look.

Use a hammering block to gently tap pieces into place. You want tight seams.

Floor installation

Continue Installing Planks

To ensure a close-fitting seam when installing the last plank, place the piece against the wall and use a small pry bar to gently force the last piece snug against its neighbor. You want the tongue to fit into the groove.

After installing several rows, check to make sure that your flooring is straight and that the smallest gap between the flooring and the wall is no less than 1/4 inch.

If it's a bit more, don't panic. Base-shoe trim will cover gaps of up to 5/8 inch.

And here’s a tip to minimize pattern repeats in the floor: Don’t use flooring from just one box as you go. Always pull from at least three cartons while installing.

Floor construction